Monday, June 15, 2009

That Brown Girl Needs to Check her Tone

It's probably clear by now that I'm a total NPR junkie, so I'll just admit up front that I love Nina Totenberg. And today on Morning Edition, she hit another one out of the park concerning Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

The latest Republican tactic has been questioning Sotomayor's "character" and "temperament" based on her verbal interactions in court. Although Sotomayor is generally praised in anonymous comments from lawyers in her evaluations as being "tough and unwilling to put up with guff," recent comments have also referred to her as "a terror on the bench," "nasty," "overly aggressive," and "a bit of a bully." So Totenberg decided to compare Sotomayor's "tough and nasty" questions with those asked by her male colleagues, and with those asked by male Supreme Court Justices in similar cases. It comes as no surprise that Sotomayor's questions, her verbal aggressiveness, and her tone were no more tough, nasty, or bullying than her male counterparts. The conclusion by some experts was simply that lawyers, both male and female, resent tough questioning more when it comes from a woman than from a man. Apparently white conservative politicians resent (fear?) verbal assertiveness from female judges more than from male judges as well. But I would add that this is a prime example of a WoC being reprimanded for her "tone," when being feisty and assertive, for insisting that her voice has a place in public and legal discourse. Same old whine, different context and phrasing...


  1. Anonymous6/15/2009

    i think its kind of offensive that you refer to her as a girl

  2. Bailey6/15/2009

    Um, that's obviously sarcasm, as is the entire title of the post.

  3. Yes, Anonymous, you're right. It is offensive to refer to a grown woman as a "girl" (and it happens all the time), or a grown man as "boy." And this kind of talk is cut out of the same fabric as the "you need to check your tone" talk. Which was a part of the point I was trying to make (a bit sarcastically, I admit.)

  4. Michael6/15/2009

    I thought it was interesting that there was very little coverage on the similar situation of her comments on being a Latina woman and Alito's comments on having Italian immigrant ancesters. Some coverage of that can be read here.