When I was informed that Obama had selected his next Supreme Court nomination, and that the nominee was a woman I was immediately anxious. I wanted nothing more than to share in the excitement that others around me felt but, at the same time, I knew this was going to go bad fast. As everyone around me chattered excitedly about her qualifications and experiences all I could think was here we go again…
Just like the Sotomayor bashing began not a day after her nomination, so the Kagan bashing begins… this time instead of racism we get homophobia oh, great.
Some “Choice” Quotes
[From an article that laid out "evidence" for an against Kagan being a lesbian, published by Gawker] “ Let’s just get this out of the way. Kagan has a dykey haircut. Yes, it borders on stereotype, but the easiest way to spot any lesbian is based on her tonsorial choices and Kagan’s short ‘do says more ‘Melissa Etheridge concert’ than it does ‘wash-and-go busy professional.’ That’s not good or bad, it just is.” [...] “When she worked at the University of Chicago, she played softball. There are pictures to prove it. Sorry, but softball=lesbian.” [...] “Okay, since we’re digging out the circumstantial evidence, there is a picture of Kagan from 1977 where she is wearing a plaid, flannel shirt. Sorry, but, like softball, flannel=lesbian.” [...] “The Kagan lesbian rumors aren’t new, but she’s never made a public statement denying them. Here’s the basic rule on gay rumors: If someone doesn’t deny them or won’t talk about them, then they are true.”
[This is a whole article:] “Well no wonder the White House was so concerned with anyone thinking Elena Kagan, the solicitor general, is a lesbian: Tomorrow he’ll nominate her to the Supreme Court, NBC’s Pete Williams reports. Undoubtedly, Obama has the answer to her sexuality; don’t expect anyone to share it until after she’s confirmed.“
[And a conservative blog post, for good measure:] “This is hilarious. Potential Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is gayer than the first three rows at an Indigo Girls concert, and yet the White House acts all outraged that conservative writer Ben Domenech incorrectly described the unmarried 49-year-old as “openly gay.”
Kagan is not officially so open about it, and this gives the White House a chance to pretend that Domenech is part of a right-wing homophobic whisper campaign. In the process, as Moe Lane notes, the White House reacted “in a manner that explicitly and authoritatively denies that Ms. Kagan is gay” – a denial that thereby makes it legitimate news if, in fact, Kagan is gayer than your average NCAA Division I varsity women’s softball team.”
Elena Kagan does not publicly self-identify as queer and, yet, because of her short hair, her tendency towards pant-suits, and her single status America has decided she can only be a lesbian. We (or, the media) has decided she is a lesbian and now that’s all we’re going to talk about… just as Justice Sotomayor’s Latina heritage was pretty much all anyone could focus on during her process.
I have two major issues here:
1) Who the fuck are we to project any identity onto anyone else? Not one of the people reporting on this stories knows that Kagan is queer, because she does not openly identify as queer. Sure, she might be… but she also might not be. It’s her right to keep that information private if she so chooses and its really disrespectful to us as a culture to make assumptions about her sexuality, and then base our critique of her potential presence on the Supreme Court on these speculations. Short hair, pants, and a lack of a male partner does not a lesbian make… sure, some lesbians do meet all of those characteristics, but so do some straight women. The only way we can really know the truth about Kagan’s sexuality is to hear it from her when and if she is ready to disclose… which brings me to my next point.
2) Maybe she is queer… who knows? But if she is… SO WHAT? This idea that a Latina woman, or a queer woman, or even just a woman is going to be more biased than a straight white man and, thus, should not be appointed to the Supreme Court is sexist, racist, and homophobic because it operates on the assumption that straight white men are the default perspective in society… an assumption that many Americans seem to make on a constant basis. Well, I have news for those people: men are socialized differently than women, white people have a lot of privileged in our society and thus will often develop a view of the world that is different from a non-white person’s just like straight people living in a heteronormative society (like ours) tend to see the world in a different way than queer people do. Everyone has different lived experiences, and thus, everyone brings a different bias to the table. Even people with the same heratige, the same skin color, the same sexuality and gender identification, and so on live different lives and, thus, develop different biases and lenses in which to see the world.
NO PERSON IS UNBIASED OR “MORALLY DEFAULT” so why are we acting as if a justice’s sexuality, or ethnicity, or whatever should even matter? What I am concerned about right now is Kagan’s history – what she has done, what she believes, her experience with law... you know, the relevant stuff? I just wish the rest of this country would be too.
ETA That said, there are some very legitimate criticisms of Kagan. This post in particular makes me incredibly concerned, and the fact that she is anti-equal marriage is another point of contention for me.