Tuesday, September 15, 2009

High Fashion in the High Court

Last week brought the debut Supreme Court appearances of Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The case before the court (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) has been closely watched, coincidentally centering on another national female leader, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the use of corporate funds in distributing a disparaging film about her during the 2008 Democratic primary presidential campaign.

Beyond the case, however, some (including me) were watching to see what the two new women on the Supreme Court scene were wearing.

There is no doubt that it is cliché and tired for women’s clothing or hair to be an item of note during substantive, important situations. However, both women clearly knew that their clothing would be noticed, so were admittedly thoughtful in their choices.

Kagan decided to challenge the tradition of the role of Solicitor General wearing morning jacket to court. Not only that – she went with a (gasp, shock!) pant suit. The law is so conservative, that a usually unspoken rule for women dressing for court is to wear a skirt suit.

Well done, Kagan. (See What Color Was Her Pantsuit? from Above the Law for another take on Kagan's outfit choice.)

For Justice Sotomayor, the only real question was what her judicial collar would look like. While described in the press as “more table-runner to Ginsburg's lacy doily,” it also was thoughtfully symbolic. (What does it say about society that Ginsburg’s is referred to as a grandmotherly doily?)

A gift from Justice Ginsburg, the collar was made in Quebec. Ginsburg enjoys pointing out that the Supreme Court of Canada has four women and a woman chief justice. I have no doubt that the symbolism in her choice for the gift to Sotomayor was intentional.

Photo is Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, the Supreme Court of Canada

The Old Boys' Club

Cross posted at www.womenforcoakley.com by BackwardsinHeels, Sept. 15, 2009

What do you call a Red Sox pitcher, two Congressmen and an NBA team co-owner? In Massachusetts politics, you call it: The Old Boys' Club. As usual, The Old Boys' Club is in full force for this Senate election. Today’s news of Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca prepping for a run for is just the latest in this series.

Of particular note is this paragraph, outlining the team Pagliuca is putting together for his race:

Among those who are advising Pagliuca and who will probably be part of his campaign team if he decides to run are: Doug Rubin, Governor Deval Patrick’s former chief of staff and the architect of his 2006 campaign; Tad Devine, a Washington-based political consultant who was a top aide to Kennedy in Massachusetts and was a key strategist for US Senator John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign; and Joel Benenson, a New Jersey-based consultant who was President Obama’s chief pollster in last year’s presidential race.
Staff from Deval Patrick, John Kerry and President Obama’s campaigns? Is this a pattern or merely coincidence? In Massachusetts, I suspect the former.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A woman can’t win if a woman doesn’t run

Cross posted at www.womenforcoakley.com by BackwardsinHeels, Sept. 14, 2009

The Hill had a great piece over the weekend, analyzing the challenges and yes, some advantages, Martha Coakley is facing as the lone female candidate in the race.
The challenges are real: cold winter election dates, a federal campaign account starting at $0, and a discouraging political history in Massachusetts of not electing qualified, female candidates.

However, as MA Congresswomen Niki Tsongas reminds us:

“…but a woman can’t win if a woman doesn’t run.”

Martha has come out strong in her first week and a half. Let’s keep the momentum going and help her beat the odds, shattering that MA Senate glass ceiling once and for all!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A seat at the table

Cross posted at www.womenforcoakley.com by BackwardsinHeels, Sept. 12, 2009

Senator Kerry and Congressman Delahunt testifying at the Massachusetts State Legislature Joint Committee on Election Laws, September 9, 2009

This Wednesday I attended a hearing of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. The Committee was hearing testimony to change a 2004 law giving Governor Patrick the power to appoint an interim Senator to fill the late Senator Kennedy’s seat ahead of the special election for the remaining term (go Martha!).

As I settled into my seat for the long afternoon, I was immediately struck by the almost entirely male committee. Out of the 17 members on the committee, only 2 were women (Sen. Joan Mernard and Rep. Willie Mae Allen). If that wasn’t enough, it took 2 hours before a woman even spoke during the hearing (the fabulous Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry).

With cameras flashing in a packed room and the critical 60th vote in the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance, the decision makers, as is all too common in Massachusetts politics, are overwhelmingly male.

I couldn’t think of a more potent reminder of why Martha’s victory is so critical.