Yesterday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar shot down her colleague Tom Coburn’s assertion that the American people are less free now than we were 30 years ago, offering up some powerful illustrations of the progress women have made since 1980. “I think about whether people were more free in 1980,” she said, “it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.”
Kagan, who if confirmed would be the fourth female Justice in the history of the Supreme Court, responded, “I think that there’s no question that women have greater opportunities now, although they could be made greater still.”
Today, the Pew Research Center released a survey of attitudes toward working women throughout the world. One finding stood out:
Indeed, the United States and Germany reported an especially strong gap between the sexes on whether enough has been done to give women equality. Of those who believe in equal rights, many more American and German men believe their nations have made the right amount of changes for women, while many more women than men in those countries think more action is required.
“When you’re left out of the club, you know it,” said Prof. Jacqui True, an expert in gender relations and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland. “When you’re in the club, you don’t see what the problem is.”
This disparity in the perception of progress brings to mind Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s fiery dissent to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. In that ruling, the Court’s majority ruled that Lilly Ledbetter couldn’t collect her fair share after decades of pay discrimination because, they said, she would have had to report the discrimination before she even knew that it was taking place. At the time, Ginsburg was the only female member of the Supreme Court, and she knew what it was like to be “left out of the club.”
Introducing her dissenting opinion, Ginsburg said, “In our view, the Court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.”
This isn’t to say that those who haven’t experienced discrimination can’t understand it. But it’s a powerful reminder of why it’s so important to have a diversity of voices, coming from a diversity of experiences, in positions of power.