Jennifer Frey, a woman with a similar background to Amy Coney Barrett, has a few challenging ideas on what she’s been watching this week during Barrett’s confirmation hearings.


Like Barrett, I’m a successful professor and a Roman Catholic mother of many (I have six living children). Like Barrett, I see no deep or unresolvable conflict between my professional ambitions and my personal faith and family life. Like Barrett, I do not try to “do it all,” but rely on my supportive husband to do more than his fair share of domestic work and child-rearing. Finally, like Barrett, my faith and my fertility have unfortunately been placed front and center in discussions of whether I am the right person for the job.

For example, when I was first on the notoriously brutal academic job market in philosophy as a PhD student, visibly pregnant with my fourth child in my interviews, I was subjected to questions and comments such as, whether my work was really all about my religion, in the final analysis; and whether I think Catholic women can call themselves feminists. My personal favorite was when someone compared me (unfavorably) to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who was widely known for, among other things, opposing contraception mandates, even as I was in the midst of explicating and defending the views of an atheist philosopher…

…Anti-Catholicism, like many prejudices, is gendered in very specific ways.

My husband is also Catholic and a philosopher, yet his faith never once come up in any of his job interviews, and his fatherhood was never perceived as a professional strike against him. He was never asked pointed questions about his faith and feminism; his views on abortion were of no interest to anyone. When I look at how Amy Coney Barrett is treated, both in the Senate and in the press, I see that exact same dynamic from my own life in play. Politics aside, I feel a strong solidarity with her.

Barrett’s nomination raises a question: Why is a highly educated, professionally successful, Catholic mother of a large family so threatening? I think part of the reason is that, according to the prevailing cultural narrative, we are not supposed to exist.

She concludes:

If a faithful Catholic woman, who was educated in Catholic schools and has spent most of her life in Catholic institutions, can be this accomplished and successful, maybe — just maybe — the Catholic Church is not as oppressive to women as so many seem to assume.

Read it all. 

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