Have we finally reached a point where professional women no longer need to fear setting back the entire movement of gender equality if they speak as intemperately as some of their male peers do? Dahlia Lithwick at Slate credits this change for the recent “bizarre” news cycle focused on the “revelation that a congresswoman danced when she was in school and that another congresswoman said a bad word.”
Recalling scenes from On the Basis of Sex, the new movie about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lithwick notes that Ginsburg’s lifelong professional and personal project was to convince skeptical men that women deserved a seat at the table – which she did with relentless rationality within a culture obsessed with women’s bodies. This approach was intended not to be threatening and could therefore advance equality only so far. Lithwick argues that, unfortunately, some situations are efficiently addressed by performative irrationality, and the new generation of female legislators is proving less afraid to use that tool than they might have been in past eras:
[T]o the extent On the Basis of Sex is a reminder of how much has changed, it underscores that we don’t have to convince men to make room, we simply need to take a seat. These women in the House are, well, in the house. They don’t have to ask for permission to be there. It’s still going to be a long haul, with more pointed fingers and cries of “witch.” But somewhere along the way, as the bell bottoms were traded in for pinks hats, something changed. Women don’t have to choose between being [rebellious] Jane or [reasonable] Ruth anymore. They can be both.