Harry, Sam, and the Incredible Vanishing Woman

Here’s what I’ve been thinking lately. What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court nominations?

The cartoon got me thinking. The one with President Bush looking at a free-falling Harriet Miers and saying something like “Somebody had to take the fall, Harriet”, and Miers in mid-air smiling and saying something like “You’re still the very best president that ever was!”

Except for her legal career and the fact she never married, Miers is the very archetype of the 1950’s ideal woman: deferential to men yet cheerfully ready to do their bidding, self-effacing, focused on the minutiae rather than the big problems of the world, a little dowdy in her dress as appropriate for her age, churchgoing. She’s the perfect back-to-the future woman precisely because it can be said that she is professionally accomplished but still has those traditional hierarchical family values that the right-wing loves so much.

So then, why didn’t the right love Harriet Miers? Why was her nomination killed by her own while the Democrats played ‘let’s you and her fight” and watched, smiling, from the sidelines as she went down in flames and bobbed right back up ready to help with the nomination of the next nominee?

Was she just a stalking horse from the beginning, a set up for failure so she could be superseded by Bush’s appointment of a more reliably far(ther) right justice, such as Samuel Alito seems to be? Was she an example of the worst kind of affirmative action—in which a member of a disadvantaged group is appointed to a position for which he or she is eminently unqualified so that when the inevitable failure occurs those in power can say “See, I told you so.”, and proceed to appoint someone else of their own advantaged group? Or was it something even more difficult to define because it is more insidious—the story of the incredible disappearing woman? The story that has repeated itself over and over in history every time women have ascended in power and influence? Is the covert message in the right’s opposition to Miers rooted in the deep-seated misogyny that underpins the vicious backlash that has hamstrung the feminist movement?

GLORIA FELDT is the bestselling author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the honors she has been given, Vanity Fair named her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” she was named Glamour’s “Woman of the Year,” a She Knows Media Inspiring Woman, and a Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st century.

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, she has created the most comprehensive initiative to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. The women’s leadership nonprofit offers a variety of training programs and workshops including the 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.

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