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How big are those robes?

May 5, 2009

As you probably know, Supreme Court Justice David Souter has indicated his plans to retire later this spring, and, as it is in the great game of politics, pundits and commentators have been speculating about who will replace him. Names of several really fascinating people have been tossed around (including my boyfriend’s civil procedure professor, Judge Diane Wood), most of whom have been women.

But apparently, too many of them are fat women (h/t David.)

Within hours after the news broke that Souter was resigning, concerns arose that [Elena] Kagan and [Sonia] Sotomayor might be too fat to replace him. A commentator on the site DemConWatch.com noted that of the three most-mentioned candidates “the oldest (federal judge Diane Wood) is the only one who looks healthy,” while Kagan and Sotomayor “are quite overweight. That’s a risk factor that they may not last too long on the court because of their health.”


At The Washington Monthly, a commentator claimed to have employed a more scientifically rigorous method: “To all the short-sighted libs who are clamoring for the youngest-possible nominee… Right idea, wrong methodology. You want someone who will serve the longest, i.e. with the greatest remaining life expectancy—and that involves more than simple age. I tried assessing their respective health prospects, and ruled out all who even border on overweight. Best choice: Kim McLane Wardlaw, whose ectomorphitude reflects her publicly known aerobic-exercise habits.”

Here are Sotomayor and Kagan. Sotomayor is a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and a graduate of Yale Law School. Kagan is the current Solicitor General (the first woman to hold that position), former dean of Harvard Law School, where she had earned her J.D. They are, as we say, qualified.

The assumption that they will immediately keel over of teh fatz is ill-informed. Yes, higher weight is sometimes related to a variety of health problems. Sometimes. Higher weight is not a health problem in itself, much less impetus for death watch. And hey, bizarre as it may sound, President Obama might have criteria for his nominee that go beyond his or her likelihood to be alive ten presidents from now.

While I would like to believe that these commentators are just looking out for their liberal brethren, something tells me that’s not the case. Campos hits the nail on the head when he observes: “For some men, the only thing more intolerable than the sight of a powerful woman is the sight of a powerful woman they don’t want to sleep with.”

If we have to see a woman in power, she better be worth looking at. She better wear high heels to the vice presidential debate, or have “publicly known aerobic-exercise habits.” She better be trying.

These women are great candidates. So are Wood and McLane Wardlaw. It would be good for the country–certainly, good for me–to have more women on the bench, even if they’re fat. Something tells me the robes will still fit.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2009 7:44 PM

    Is there a word for people who are prejudiced against fat? Are they fatists? It’s very, very similar to racism. They would never say anything about their race making them unable to do the job, why is it okay to make comments and judge their abilities by their body shape?

    • Jill permalink
      July 21, 2009 7:33 AM

      To be fair, there are plenty of people who think Sotomayor’s race impedes her ability to do the job (see Jeff Sessions).

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