The new conservative Christian woman – strong in her views, multi-tasker at home and at work – is on the rise. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a beloved icon for pop-culture and feminism alike, Amy Coney Barrett is now the symbol of ‘unflawed’ conservatism that the right had been yearning for. Femininity and what it means to be a strong woman are occupying centre-stage at present. But a perusal of Barrett’s views translates into a clear case of irony for the Republicans’ feminist moment.
Amy Coney Barrett has been projected, even during her confirmation hearing, as a woman who has struck the right balance between work and home – how she manages this was a matter of marvel for some Senators like Texas’ John Cornyn. If we look merely at the oratory allure that Barrett sought to impart on the hearing, our focus may land on her statements that declared that she would be no pawn to the President or Republicans. “Judges cannot just wake up one day and say, ‘I have an agenda — I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion,’ and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world”, she said. Barrett added that she would interpret the law as it was laid down in the Constitution. But, a little after her remarkable exposition, she turned away a chance to clarify what she thought of Roe v. Wade. The same refusal surfaced again when asked about Obergefell v. Hodges, though she vaguely described discrimination as ‘abhorrent’. But, Barrett’s identification with Antonin Scalia’s judicial philosophy gives us the answers that she did not want to directly voice in Senate. And here, we come to the real issue at hand. It’s easy to be wavered away by the superficiality of unrehearsed speeches and ‘blank-notepads’ – but when we remind ourselves to be critical of politics, scrutiny overturns the coin to reveal its underbelly.
Barrett is different from Trump’s earlier nominees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, in that she has made her beliefs loud and clear. Her association with People of Praise (though she hasn’t mentioned this) and charismatic Catholicism, her judicial views in support of gun rights expansion and heteronormativity, and that against abortion have all been out in public view. Her judicial track record meets all the check-boxes in Trump’s list for the perfect electoral stimulus. There’s no surprise as to why he wanted to expedite the nomination of RBG’s replacement – this could be the vital ticket to a win. However, it is puzzling how the GOP has drawn a parallel between feminism and Amy Coney Barrett – she is being proclaimed as their feminist icon with little to support the analogy, barring her efficiency as a multi-tasking woman. An incarnation of the conservative and a wild deviation from the feminist perspective, Barrett is sure to be under the constant scanner of comparison with RBG’s legacy strewn over the apex court. Polls and surveys have shown that the Republican Party has been way behind the Democrats in terms of votes from women – Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation might as well increase the margin to levels that could spell trouble for Trump’s run.
The Republican party’s attempts to redefine the woman as the ‘elegant’ backbone of the family, the working individual who does not let her domestic responsibilities go far from her sight, and the Christian mother, is a failed one. Barrett might be a brave and strong woman – no doubt. But, is she the face of feminism? The answer is in the negative.