Women Still Unequal before the Law

by Carey Roberts    –show me more like this

Bad news to the Lavender Ladies at the N.O.W.: Women are still lesser to men in the eyes of the American legal system. What’s worse, it’s women who are bringing this upon themselves. Three recent events show this to be true.

First was last week’s trial of Pfc. Lynndie England at Ft. Hood, Texas. Leash-lady, as you recall, was the woman who brought dishonor and shame upon the United States military by posing with naked Iraqi prisoners, then giving the thumbs-up in a full-frontal display of sadistic bravado.

During the trial Pfc. England’s lawyer trotted out the sob story that she was an impressionable young lass who fell under the diabolical sway of her boyfriend, Charles Graner. “What mattered to her was her relationship to Cpl. Graner,” according to attorney Jonathan Crisp. And – get ready for this — “She has had and has a great deal of difficulty functioning in life in general.”

Yes, the poor dear obviously can’t be held responsible for her actions.

Then there’s the debate over who will replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. The argument now seems to be revolving around whether the nominee will be a woman or a member of a minority group.

Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have joined forces with first lady Laura Bush — all of whom fancy themselves to be constitutional law experts — to lobby for the chick pick.

Not all women are ready to jump on the female-at-any-cost bandwagon, however. Columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez fumes that the gender quota argument represents a tacit acceptance of the Neanderthal view that “A woman is not going to make it on her own. She won’t rise to the top. She can’t compete with the boys.” [www.nationalreview.com/lopez/lopez200509231057.asp]

These two cases are merely laughable or absurd. The first represented a futile legal ploy to keep Spc. England from spending time behind bars – on Tuesday she was sentenced to three years in jail. The second is an example of a pro-feminist cabal trying to stack the Supreme Court with yet another abortionist.

But in the third case, the notion of female inferiority has been adjudicated by an appeals court and is now chiseled into law.

The case involved a manager at the National Education Association who developed the nasty habit of regularly venting his spleen.

The male employees didn’t take the incidents seriously, in fact they tended to laugh the whole thing off. But the women were less capable of tolerating the abuse. The women couldn’t take the incidents like a man, so they sued for sex discrimination.

The problem with their discrimination claim was the manager was an equal-opportunity yeller — he berated male and female subordinates alike. So to make their case, the women came up with a controversial legal theory called the “reasonable woman” standard. The reasonable woman standard posits that if females experience “disparate impact,” then that’s sex discrimination.

Sure enough, on September 2 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the ladies. To conclude that they had suffered from sex discrimination, the black-robed justices wrote this Orwellian opinion: “There is no legal requirement that hostile acts be overtly sex- or gender-specific in content.” [www.littler.com/nwsltr/asap_MaleTantrums_9_05.htm]

That’s right. So a person who has never experienced a racial slight can now claim he is a victim of racial discrimination. And husbands can successfully sue for workplace sex discrimination, since they are less likely than their wives to take parental leave.

There’s no limit to this looking-glass logic. If we continue in this direction, we will soon find ourselves with differing standards of justice for every identity group. Maybe this bizarre ruling will serve as an object lesson to those who wonder why the most prominent words inscribed on the frieze of the U.S. Supreme Court building are “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Under old English law, when a wife over-spent the family budget, it was the husband who went to debtor’s prison. And during the 1800s, if an American woman committed a crime, it was her husband who did time.

The rationale was, if a woman didn’t enjoy full legal rights, then she couldn’t be held accountable for her actions. After all, rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.

But times have changed. Women now enjoy the same legal rights as men. That also means they should stop expecting to receive special treatment under the law.

So 85 years after passage of the 19th Amendment, these three cases reveal a sad truth: some women are not yet ready to assume the duties and obligations that necessarily accompanied their hard-won legal rights.

Equal rights and unequal responsibilities. That’s hardly the American way.