Thousands of women across the nation gathered last weekend for another tired rendition of the so-called Women’s March. Central to this year’s rally was the protest of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s female choice to fill the vacant seat left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We’re planning a massive, nationwide march on October 17 to send an unmistakable message of our fierce opposition to Trump and his agenda, including his attempt to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat,” the organization behind the march announced. The irony of a “Women’s March” protesting a brilliant, kind and accomplished female Supreme Court nominee and mother of seven is apparently lost upon supporters of the movement. But it wasn’t lost upon the millions of women who the march doesn’t represent.
Conservative and independent-minded women are used to being misrepresented, underrepresented and ignored. They are used to being told their votes don’t count unless they think and speak a certain way. Sen. Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa — another woman who has had to stand up to unfair criticism by a women’s movement that rejects her kind of independent thought — knows this well. While questioning Barrett during the confirmation hearings, she described the challenge of not fitting “the narrow definition of womanhood.”
“Only 100 years ago, women in this country were given the right to vote. And today, we began considering adding another woman to the highest court in the land,” Ernst said on Oct. 12. “The great freedom of being an American woman is that we can decide how to build our lives. Whom to marry, what kind of person we are, and where we want to go. I served in the Army, something not exactly popular at various points in America’s history. We don’t have to fit the narrow definition of womanhood. We create our own path.”
Countless women, including the late Justice Ginsburg, blazed a path for women to be able to think, act and vote as the individuals they are. During the Senate confirmation hearing, Barrett added to this effort. She handled the grueling hearings with dignity, intellect and grace, and showed Americans how women no longer have to embrace set molds of either being a career woman or a mom. She has fully embraced both, representing a turning point for feminism. Women who are sad and exhausted by the rancor and political rhetoric on display in Washington may recognize themselves in Barrett and feel encouraged by a new depiction of womanhood.
When asked by Ernst what she would say to those who claim she’s not an adequate replacement for Ginsburg because she doesn’t “march in lockstep with her judicial philosophy,” Barrett replied:
“There’s room on the Court for different approaches to the Constitution, and I think those approaches shouldn’t be broken down into partisan boxes, because judges are not partisan. … I think there is room, and it’s good and healthy, for different approaches to the Constitution, and to have debates about that.”
Barrett’s responses to tough questions displayed a characteristic our modern politics lacks: the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. At the Women’s March over the weekend in Washington, D.C., there was none of that. Instead of tolerating different opinions, protesters surrounded a counterprotest sponsored by Independent Women’s Forum in support of Barrett, stormed the stage, and attempted to scream over and shut down any alternative speakers by jumping on their stage.
On the final day of the hearings, Ernst gave Barrett the opportunity to offer advice for young women, including her own daughter, Libby. What Barrett said wasn’t partisan. It didn’t apply to some women, but rather, her advice included all.
“One thing I have often told my own daughters is that you should not let life just happen to you or lead you along. You should identify where your objectives are and identify the type of person you want to be and make deliberate decisions to make that happen. My dad used to tell us not to make a decision is to make a decision,” Barrett said.
“Make decisions. Be confident. Know what you want. And go get it.”