Yesterday, President Obama announced that Judge Sonia Sotomayor would be his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. It seemed evident from the time that Justice Souter announced his retirement that the next nominee would be a woman. The Court is historically unbalanced in terms of gender as well as race. If her nomination is confirmed Sotomayor will only be the third woman to ever serve the court.
Last year was a tough one for women in politics. Both Hilliary Clinton and Sarah Palin were presented as caricatures and critiqued in a way that the male candidates were not. With the nomination of Sotomayor less than 24 hours old, this sort of anti-women politicking has already begun. As a woman seemed the obvious choice from the start, there wasn’t much discussion with regard to why it is so important to have balanced representation between the sexes.
In “Gender and the State”, R. W. Connell explains that gender is embedded in the history and the structure of the state. It is a fundamental component in the institutionalization of gender in society while simultaneously being constituted by gender relations. Connell points out that it can be found in the division of labor, organizational culture, symbolic systems, and patterns of hostility. He does not seem to think, however, that this highly institutionalized state gender identity is a fixed constant. Connell writes, “Gender effects are not mechanisms, fixed in their character by essential traits of men and women. No such traits exist. Gender effects are produced by social practice.” In this way, it is of particular importance that the Supreme Court sees equal representation of both men and women. Not because women have an intrinsically different style of thought or governance particular to there sex but rather that many different perspectives from the full range and diversity of genders may begin the weave themselves into the fabric of the state.