The weekend that President Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his pick for the next justice of the Supreme Court, a conversation between a self-described “feminist” and a Students for Life Action team member ended when the frustrated abortion advocate reacted with violence, striking the pro-life woman in the face.
Autumn Schimmer was holding a sign that read, “I can’t believe feminists are protesting a woman,” when she was asked to have a conversation about what feminism means to her. Soon after the assault, Autumn said to the media, “I told her that women deserve better than abortion and that women are not empowered by killing their children.” Apparently, that wasn’t what the other woman wanted to hear.
In a less charged environment, how best to empower women and what feminism means to today’s women are fair questions, which at one time lead to conversations on how to add things to women’s lives, rather than taking people away.
Feminism used to mean empowering women to take their place in society alongside men, equally equipped with access to education, justice under the law, economic opportunity and accommodation for life events. By any reasonable metric, Judge Amy Coney Barrett should be a modern-day success story; 100 years after women won the right to vote she is poised to have a vote at the Supreme Court.
A mother of seven from the heartland of America, Barrett comes not from Harvard or Yale, but from a more everyman educational environment. By merit and hard work, she has advanced, and, if confirmed, she will become the first mother with school-age children to serve on the Supreme Court.
Her status as a working mother, far from alienating women across the country, makes her one of us. Today, 72% of moms with children under 18 are employed with 55% working full time. Consider that 50 years ago, only about 50% of moms worked outside the home in some capacity.
While the second-wave feminists infamously shouted at us that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” many of the rest of us embrace an integrated life in which work and family move back and forth through our minds, hearts, and schedules.
Mothers are strong, fierce and capable, and as the head of an organization made up mostly of women who have young families, I know that to be true. As Margaret Thatcher once said, ”If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”
Judge Barrett spoke about her experience as a mother last year at the University of Notre Dame. She talked about the day she and her husband decided to go forward with their second adoption after finding out that child number five – who later was determined to have special needs – was on the way, saying:
When did the feminist of today become so defeatist?
“I can distinctly remember throwing on my long winter heavy coat, walking up to the cemetery, and sitting on one of the benches, and just thinking two things,” Barrett said. “Well, if life is really hard, at least it’s short, looking at all the graves. And then I thought, but in context, when you think about the value of people and the value of life and what’s really most important, what you can pour yourself into, that raising children and bringing John Peter home were the things of the greatest value that I can do right then, rather than even teaching, being a law professor, which I was at the time. That was what was really most important.”
As a mother of four, with two children that have the life-time condition of cystic fibrosis, that resonates with me. Life is a beautiful choice, even though there are challenges that must be faced and hard work to be done.
When did the feminist of today become so defeatist, so committed to getting rid of the best things to ensure a workday that isn’t interrupted by the joyful, chaotic sounds of life?
In January 2017, my organization was prevented from becoming a sponsor to the Women’s March because of our pro-life passion, though each year, invited or not, we have added our voices to other women, calling for equal justice under the law for all women, born and preborn. And we vote.
Politicians are always trying to corral women into a group, calling us “soccer moms” or “security moms,” but today frustration, not empowerment seems to be all the feminist movement has to offer. “I am a rage mom,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the highest-ranking woman in Senate leadership said to the New York Times. Perhaps she would be less angry if she celebrated the accomplishments of all women.
Judge Barrett’s nomination offers today’s self-described feminists the chance to look in the mirror and ask themselves whether cutting so many women out of their club was the right decision.
For her legal skills and life experience, Judge Barrett deserves a seat at the table. As a working mother, she has the skills to get the job done well because if you want someone to settle a dispute, always call a mother.