Is it sexist to question Sotomayor's temper?

Many feminists wonder if a man would get similar treatment. Actually, he might

Published July 15, 2009 7:16PM (EDT)

Here's one thing feminists are asking about the Sotomayor hearings: Would the judge's "temperament" be called into question if she were a man?

Um, maybe?

There's no denying (a) Lindsey Graham's hectoring tone, or (b) my urge to see what the Wise Latina was writing on her legal pad while waiting him out. ("Did that asshat seriously just say 'maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection'?") There's also no question that -- as Feministing put it today -- "there's a specific sexist and racist narrative that accompanies the accusations of Sotomayor as somehow angry or meaner than her male counterparts. (Because when white dudes are strong, they're just powerful. When women of color are strong, they're scary.) And it's simply infuriating to watch it play out in these hearings."

But what about John Bolton? Or, for that matter, Sarah Palin's running mate?  Yes, the "temperament" issue may be specious and fatuous (even sexist and racist) when applied to Sotomayor. (And I seriously doubt Graham, or anyone, would have had the chutzpah to tell Bolton to take a time-out.) But, to put perhaps too fine a point on it, the issue was also raised about John and John McHothead -- and found to be a matter of serious concern, not a laudable expression of power.

So, you know, I just want to make sure that we're all asking the right questions. In any regard, when Sen. Graham asks Sotomayor, "Do you think you have a temperament problem?" I think we all know the answer. Anyone who can sit through that kind of obnoxitude without (to paraphrase a Tweet from blogdiva) whipping out a blade and going all "I like to live in America" just to fuck with him is nothing but a saintly paragon of restraint.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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