June 18, 2009

Sotomayor and the Belizean Grove

Nominee Sonia Sotomayor has come under fire for her membership in an elite women-only group. Some Republican senators claim that she violated Cannon 2C of the American Bar Association’s judicial codes, which states that it is inappropriate for judges to belong to groups that “invidiously” discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin. In a letter responding to concerns raised by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the nominee claims the Belizean Grove does not invidiously discriminate on the basis of sex because men are permitted to participate in events, and can probably even join if they wish to.
“Men are involved in its activities — they participate in trips, host events, and speak at functions — but to the best of my knowledge, a man has never asked to be considered for membership. It is also my understanding that all interested individuals are duly considered by the membership committee.”

This is the most flimsy defense she could possibly have concocted. The Belizean Grove advertises itself as an all-female group. Of course no man has ever asked to be considered. Jennifer Rubin notes that this is the same argument exclusive men’s groups used to exlude women:
“A few things are noteworthy. First, the condescension toward men — we let the guys come to party — is reminiscent of the “we let women be social members” excuses that exclusive men’s clubs routinely gave for decades – and which were scorned by women’s groups. Second-class citizenship for thee, but not for me. Got it?
[T]he line about “no one ever asking to join” is rich. Certainly if one declares the organization to be “all men” or “all white” or “all anything” those not in the “all” group are going to be dissuaded from seeking membership. Isn’t the mere statement of exclusivity enough to raise concerns?”

Susan Strautberg, founder of the Belizean Grove, supported Sotomayor’s statements when she spoke to Politico

“Stautberg stressed that male “spouses, partners and adult children” are permitted to go on the optional post-retreat expeditions (last year’s was to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley) and said that even though “no man has ever applied to be a member. ... If they did, we would certainly vote on it.”

They might vote on it, but no individual with a Y chromosome is getting into the Belizean Grove. And that’s perfectly fine. Why? The group was established as a networking group for women, and women only. I have scoured the Belizean Grove’s website, and there is not one shred of evidence that suggests men are welcome in the group. Indeed, the website confirms that the group was established as a group for women in response to the existence of the similar all-male Bohemian Grove.

Who does Sotomayor think she’s fooling? She is relying on old-fashioned arguments employed by discriminatory all-male groups to justify their exclusion of women. The Belizean Grove is expressly women only, and not because no men ever applied. Sotomayor should have been honest, and defended her membership in what is a seemingly harmless women’s professional group. Instead, she is insulting our collective intelligence by claiming that the group might admit men if they ever applied. The fact that this was the best defense she could patch together truly makes me doubt the strength of her intellect.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home