Last week’s supreme court decision that the religious beliefs of corporations trump the rights of actual people who happen to be women was written by five men too old to have spent a lot of time dealing with women as equals.
Chief Justice Roberts, at 59, is the youngest of that group, meaning that even he went to law school before the gender balance among law students became roughly equal. In addition, the chief justice and Justice Scalia both went to all-boy Catholic high schools (all five of these justices are Roman Catholics).
I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it is only on the current supreme court (in which a third of the justices are women) that they have worked in a job where women are a significant presence.
After I read of the childish behavior of the young men at this year’s Texas Boys State – a program sponsored by the American Legion intended to prepare boys for future leadership roles by doing a mock legislature – I got to thinking that segregating boys from girls in such activities (there is also a Girls’ State) is part of our problem.
While the boys were running on a platform of “cold beer and titties” and coming up with draconian laws on abortion and single motherhood, the girls legalized same sex marriage, addressed rape on college campuses, and debated the minimum wage. That is, the girls took the program much more seriously.
But everyone else took the boys’ program seriously: 30 state legislators visited Boys State, according to the Burnt Orange Report, but none visited Girls’ State. It’s clear to me that most people assume our future leaders are coming from among those boys, despite the fact that the two Democrats running for governor and lieutenant governor of Texas are both women.
Given that we have a Texas Legislature dominated by men, and one that has run roughshod over women’s rights, we need to change this leadership program to encourage boys and girls interested in political futures to work together and respect each other.
During Sen. Wendy Davis’s filibuster over absurd anti-abortion legislation last year, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte – now running for lieutenant governor – made a statement on the floor that demonstrates just how good-old-boy male the Texas Legislature is:
At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?
There is one good argument for segregated programs: girls must take on leadership roles. In integrated ones, as in co-ed schools, girls are often shunted aside. They tend to do the real work, but they do it behind the scenes. But the solution to this problem is to encourage the girls in the integrated programs, rather than to separate them.
As long as the programs for boys are taken more seriously – and they will be any time there are “separate but equal” programs – there will be serious sexism in our political world.
As more and more women go into politics, push to break the glass ceilings in business, look for more opportunities in science and engineering, and generally demand to be taken seriously, it’s vital that we teach boys and girls how to work together starting at an early age.
By the way, according to Wikipedia, Justice Alito, who wrote the corporate religion decision, went to Boys State.