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A Gender Emergency

Moira Donegan, interviewed by Merve Emre

Moira Donegan

In a series of conversations with Merve Emre at Wesleyan University, some of today’s sharpest working critics discuss their careers and methodology, and are then asked to close-read a text that they haven’t seen before. The Review is collaborating with Lit Hub to publish transcripts and recordings of these interviews, which across eleven episodes will offer an extensive look into the process of criticism.

Moira Donegan joins us from Stanford University, where she is a writer in residence at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Although Moira and I have corresponded about feminism and feminist writing for years, we met in person for the first time when I appeared on her podcast In Bed with the Right, which is not nearly as scandalous as it sounds; the show, which she cohosts with Adrian Daub, focuses on right-wing ideas about gender, sex, and sexuality. The three of us talked about the resurrection of various second-wave feminist writers since 2000, and I felt an increasing affinity for Moira’s critical sensibility, which is sharp and generous, curious and respectful.

Donegan has been a regular contributor to The Guardian since 2018, and her column is one of the few bookmarks at the top of my browser. Reading it has become a ritual of mine. Every week I wait to see what Moira has written about, and every week I find her expounding on the most urgent topics—the Republican primary, the Supreme Court, abortion rights, academic freedom, the legacy of the #MeToo movement—with the kind of ferocious conviction and moral clarity that makes me, along with hundreds of thousands of other readers, sit up and pay attention. Her criticism and essays, which cover the intersection of gender, politics, and the law, have appeared in The New York Times, The New YorkerThe New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and Bookforum. She has been an editor at The New Republic and n+1, and her first book, Gone Too Far: MeToo, Backlash, and the Future of Feminist Politics, is forthcoming from Scribner. 


Merve Emre: Many of the people in this room are college students. Can you narrate how you got from where they are to where you are today?

Moira Donegan: I was thinking about this on my drive up here: I don’t feel much more mature or competent or capable than I did at eighteen, nineteen, or twenty-one. I just feel like I have more information. I went to a good, not great, college. I majored in creative writing, which, as you can imagine, provided me with innumerable remunerative skills, and everyone was banging down my door for employment when I graduated. I found myself in New York. I had an entry-level grunt-work editorial job at a literary magazine. I did what a lot of people do when they secretly don’t know how to get into adulthood, which is that I went to graduate school, at NYU, where I received an MFA in fiction. Probably the one bit of actual prescriptive advice I would give to undergraduates is: do not pay for a creative writing MFA. That’s one of the mistakes I have avoided making.

But I was being paid to write and read. At the same time, I had started writing nonfiction for literary magazines. This is when I think my writing life began. I finished my MFA. I wasn’t a very good fiction writer, but more importantly, I didn’t really like writing fiction. I had a few clips writing for a group of new “little magazines,” which is a way of referring to the kind of publications that were springing up in New York City at this time, the early 2010s. They were small, usually nonprofit, often with an editorial staff of volunteers. For a long time, I had to have other jobs, and then I didn’t. Around that time, the #MeToo movement started. I was working full-time as an editorial assistant at yet another literary magazine. I was in my mid-twenties, and I was very, very angry.

Why were you very angry?

Because it felt like every woman I knew was being sexually assaulted and harassed at work, and there was no means to report it that would not incur greater professional retaliation and abuse. You could go to HR, if your company had HR, and they would almost certainly concoct a reason to fire you. You could go to the cops, but good luck with the cops. They’re quite incompetent at dealing with this kind of thing. The options were to complain and incur more violence and abuse and punishment, or to shut up and take the blow to your self-respect. I did not find either of these acceptable.

#MeToo now gets historicized as something that occurred when the Harvey Weinstein stories ran in 2017. There are a few historiographic errors there. One is, of course, that Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, who had been operating out of the South, had been using #MeToo as a guiding principle for her work with survivors, mostly in an urban Black community, since 2006. So it was a preexisting movement dedicated to anti-sexual-violence work. But for several years in national media there had also been a roiling, slow-motion confrontation with sexual violence happening across the country. When I was in college, there was a lot of activism around the inadequacies of Title IX procedures. Student activism in that era led a campaign that exerted enough pressure on the Obama administration that they reformed the Title IX rule.

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There was a highly publicized rape case at Stanford University, where I am now a fellow, in which the victim in that rape, Chanel Miller, published her victim impact statement and read it at her attacker’s trial. There was Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia who did a very affecting senior project in which she carried the mattress on which she had allegedly been raped by a fellow student for the entire time that she and that student had to share the campus—almost a year. There were also very high-profile civil suits against Roger Ailes at Fox News, who had been sexually harassing his on-air talent for quite some time. There was Donald Trump, who bragged about sexual assault, had been accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women, and was elected against a female candidate after a campaign that prized itself on this domineering, contemptuous presentation of masculine authority.

The political status quo around gender in general and sexual violence in particular was not sustainable. When the Harvey Weinstein stories broke and a wave of first-person politicized storytelling, primarily by women, about sexual assault began in that fall of 2017, it had been a long time coming.

You decided to create a crowdsourced document that became known as the Shitty Media Men list, which let women anonymously name men who had sexually harassed them. Are you allowed to speak about that?

I am. This has been the subject of a lawsuit, which is a very fun experience that I hope none of you ever have to endure. But that is now behind me, so I have a little more freedom to speak frankly about it.

It was a rational decision that was also made in a very irrational, emotional context. The Shitty Media Men document was anonymous. This is the source of much of the controversy. It was crowdsourced, it was easily accessible. I did not add the content to the document, but in its creation, I had tried to imagine what it would take for sexual violence to be both nameable and preventable. The silence around sexual violence gets treated as if it is the weather, as if it is a condition that happens without any perpetrators. What actually happens is that women are humiliated, ostracized, sued, fired, and threatened with violence for complaining, and those retaliations, those retributive violences—those are actions done by perpetrators. Part of my goal was to use anonymity as a way to protect women from those perpetrators and thus make speaking about this more possible.

After I made my document, I learned that in 1991 at Brown University women began writing the names and alleged misconduct of their rapists on a bathroom stall in a women’s room in the library. The administration would paint over it, and then they’d fill it back in, and they’d paint over it, and they’d fill it back in. The president of the university called them “magic marker terrorists,” which I kind of like. More recently, at a bunch of colleges and universities, students have started anonymous Instagram accounts. The form becomes a function of its time. I was working an office job and what was available to me every day was a Google spreadsheet.

I think that it is a testament to women’s ongoing solidarity, and the persistent rejection of treatment that institutions and culture frequently tell us we cannot reasonably combat. These documents, these collections of knowledge keep appearing. That to me is a testament to the indomitability of the feminist spirit and women’s drive for dignity and self-respect. I think we are put in a position as women and as feminists where we are facing institutions and, increasingly, laws that do not acknowledge our moral dignity, our inherent human worth. We have to negotiate our loyalty to higher laws. I do not want to undermine this; these are real negotiations. Doing the right thing in defiance of an institution, or in defiance of a law, has a cost, and you will not always feel equipped or be equipped to pay that cost. There is always a trade-off. There’s a trade-off if you do the right thing and get punished for it, and there’s a trade-off if you don’t do the right thing and you lose your self-respect.

There’s also the trade-off of doing the right thing and absolutely nothing happening, and that is its own variety of awful.

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Yes, there’s the trade-off of doing the right thing and seeing its futility.

I have a vivid memory of looking at the list, and seeing the names of people I knew, some quite well, and feeling both shocked that the names were there and at the same time not at all surprised that the names were there. You faced much criticism when the list came out: What about false accusations? What about due process? Is anonymity actually the right way to go about this? Looking back, how did you think about those criticisms then, and do you think differently about them now, six years after you created the document?

I think that that is, by and large, a criticism made in good faith. People have a lot of concerns about the rights of the accused, in cases of sexual violence in particular. In part, that is because of the nature of sexual violence, which frequently does not have witnesses. But it is also because of our received cultural understanding of men and women, about women’s motivations and women’s desires, that are not quite in line with reality. There is an idea that women are incentivized to lie about sexual violence, and that making these claims will get them something they want from men or from institutions. My own experiences, and observations of other women’s experiences, have taught me that making such a claim publicly does not actually get you anything that you would want. It incurs punishment. An under-discussed aspect is that it affiliates your name with both the person who attacked you and the worst thing that ever happened to you in the minds of members of your community, of everyone who knows you. It has often ruinous material consequences. So the perception of false accusations does not align with what I have observed of women’s incentives.

I will also say that the nature of false accusations, when they do occur, is not mysterious. There’s a decent amount of data about this. They happen quite rarely. It’s estimated to be somewhere between 2 percent and 8 percent of accusations, which is not that different from the rates of false reporting for other violent crimes. They are made overwhelmingly by either scared teenagers trying to explain a pregnancy or adults with severe, demonstrable, and unambiguous mental illness. They are not made as, I think, it occurs in the misogynist popular imagination.

As revenge fantasies.

Yes, vindictive ex-girlfriends. I will say, there are people who have incentives to lie about rape, and those are rapists. There are people who have incentives to lie to themselves about rape, and those are rapists. But when we look at data about sexual violence, the overwhelming majority is not reported, and there is also evidence that a lot of it is not acknowledged.

There’s a famous study from 1988 done by sociologists who sought to square the circle around this problem of rape reporting. One explanation for the underreporting of rape is the violent retaliation faced by women who come forward. And then there’s another explanation, which is called “unacknowledged rape.” Unacknowledged rape is a phenomenon in which people who have had experiences that meet the legal definition of rape do not label those experiences as such. This is wildly common among women and men. If you ask men if they have ever raped somebody, they’ll say no. If you ask them if they have ever forced somebody to have sex with them whom they knew didn’t want to, about one in ten of them say yes.

I don’t know if any of you have read Elif Batuman’s Either/Or, but this is the premise of the whole second half of that book, which takes place in, I think, the late 1990s, early 2000s, and features one episode after another of what we would now call unacknowledged rape. It manages to give us 1999 but filtered through a 2022 consciousness about sexual violence.

I think this is a phenomenon that is easy to imagine happening in quintessentially ambiguous dorm-room consent scenarios. I will say, it happens in what look more like horror movie scenarios.

Because I am a feminist writer, because I have gone through my experience with the list and been public with strident feminist stances, I am a person to whom women will divulge their experiences of sexual violence. I consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have their trust. But I can’t tell you how many times I have had a conversation with somebody who says, “I’m so lucky. That has never happened to me. The worst thing that ever happened was…” and then they describe something horrendous, felonious, and unambiguously nonconsensual. This is, I think, a tricky ethical dilemma for the feminist, because that is a scenario in which I don’t believe the woman, because I don’t believe her characterization of what has happened. But as a critic, as somebody who’s hoping to advance a politics that has some content, I have to be able to make judgment calls. And that means putting myself in a position of really invasive arrogance.

I want to put together two words that you’ve just used. The first is strident, and the second is arrogance. I think those are interesting terms to use, given that your rise to prominence as a critic began with an act of anonymity. You were outed, or you outed yourself because you knew you were going to be outed. I wonder how that has shaped your critical voice.

The second half of the story about the list is that it was filled in by dozens, if not hundreds, of other women disclosing experiences not attached to their names. And those women are anonymous to me, too. I don’t know who put what on that document. But as the creator of the list, I had this particular, ambivalent relationship to both the document itself and to the community that formed during the flash of time when it was alive.

The public of the list.

The list was online for only about twelve hours, and it has shaped my life ever since. I was going to have my identity revealed against my will soon after I took the document down in a piece in Harper’s critiquing the #MeToo movement by an antifeminist writer named Katie Roiphe. I was alerted to this when I got an e-mail from a shell-shocked, twenty-two-year-old fact-checker at Harper’s, who did not need to be in the middle of this. I get an e-mail out of nowhere saying, We’re going to expose you, we’re going to bring this retaliation down on you.

Did she say that? Or was she just calling to say, “I’m checking this piece”?

She did not give that characterization to it. There’s what the author conveys, and then there is what the audience hears, and I was a very jittery and anxious audience. I had to decide what to do. I could have this story told by this hostile actor, or I could tell it myself. It was a story about me and not about me. Because it was about me as an avatar for all these other women who used the list and, by extension, the #MeToo movement more broadly—which was being smeared at the time as a malicious project of young women who were out for blood—I felt that I wanted to defend both myself and this anonymous community from that slander, because I saw #MeToo as a movement of urgent political and moral ambition. Frankly, I saw it as a movement of self-defense.

I wrote a piece identifying myself as the creator of the list and explaining why I had made the document. It was an interesting editorial process, because we had to race Harper’s. I sent a draft to Rebecca Traister, a very accomplished journalist I kind of knew. I sent her a cold email saying, I’m scared and you seem like the kind of person who would give trustworthy advice. And she did, she gave me wonderful advice. I gave drafts to women I had worked with at n+1 when I was there, whose opinions I also respected, and then I had to send it to my editor at New York Magazine.

And they published it.

That really is the moment that cleaved my life into before and after.

We’ve talked about the before. Now, the after: How did your voice, your sense of yourself as a critic, your sense of what you were doing when you wrote, change?

Part of that is a question about how the public is ready to receive you as a writer. After that moment, I was understood as a feminist, among other things, which had not necessarily been the direction of my work before. I’ve always identified as a feminist, I’ve had feminist sympathies, I had done some feminist writing, but that was not the main line of my career. And then it became so after. This is an event that was controversial, and also central to my notions both of morality and of my personal self-respect.

For a long time, I felt myself to be in this defensive stance. Overcoming that has been a process, because when you are on the defensive as a writer, when you are anticipating a hostile reader, that is a way to do terrible writing. I’ve learned this the hard way through a lot of trial and error. I had to cultivate a capacity to perform, in vulnerability, an authorial persona that can write more confidently than I might feel. I had to be able to imagine a readership that was willing to hear me in good faith. That was something I gained through experience, by writing enough, and by being in conversation with enough other writers, seeing responses to my work that could have been critical but were fair, that did not seem like ad-hominem attacks on either my person or, frankly, my position as a feminist. And that was very useful.

One of the most useful things I’ve received as a writer is people who disagree with me in good faith, because that was not available during the height of #MeToo, which was very heated. Some of the writing I’ve been able to do in the aftermath has been a little cooler in ways that I’ve benefited from.

The pace at which you have to produce work for The Guardian is astonishing to me. When I was rereading your columns, there were things that you were writing about in 2022 that I thought had happened in 2019.

The column I’ve written for The Guardian since 2018 has been very fast. It’s an opinion column about breaking news. When there is a gender emergency—this happens way more often than you would think—I usually have anywhere from a couple hours to a day to file between 1,000 and 1,200 words. That’s about enough space to have one thought. Sometimes I just have the same thought everybody else does, and those are the columns I am least proud of. The ones I am most proud of are the ones in which I have been able to situate an immediate instance in its relation to a broader trend.

I’m thinking of a column I wrote in 2021 or 2022. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did an Instagram Live in which she was talking about how during the January 6 attack, when she was hiding from people who might have hurt her, she was reminded of having been sexually assaulted. This is something that people with the dignity of power don’t often cop to. Women in power have to do a lot of managing of their gender in public to make their gender compatible with power. This was something that really stepped beyond the template of public womanhood that we expect from politicians. I was able to write about that gesture, and the contrast that should not be a contrast between vulnerability to violence and the dignity and gravitas we expect our politicians to embody. That was something I was able to do very quickly and I think pretty well.

Part of the convenience of my beat is the political horror that misogyny is very repetitive. A lot of sexual assault, domestic violence, and antiwoman contempt follow the same patterns. This is part of the power of #MeToo stories. It’s not that they’re so different, it’s that all of them are kind of the same. This repetitiveness and recognition is what gives this genre its emotional potency. Being able to decipher those patterns and bring them lucidly into an account of a recent event that people will forget about in a week or two has been an interesting challenge of the column.

I want to draw together two of the ideas that you’ve just mentioned. The first, the idea that a writer or a critic might be both an avatar and a defender of her publics; the second, the idea that one must craft a persona of invulnerability at a moment of tremendous vulnerability. I will now ask everyone to flip over the piece of paper that’s on your chair if you haven’t already. Moira, I wonder if, once I flip this the right way, we could look at your surprise object, which I’m almost certain you will recognize, and if we could perform a reading of it together.

“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens. Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involves. And in thus safeguarding each woman’s reproductive freedom, the Constitution also protected ‘[t]he ability of women to participate equally in [this Nation’s] economic and social life.’ But no longer. As of today, this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions. A State can thus transform what, when freely undertaken, is a wonder into what, when forced, may be a nightmare. Some women, especially women of means, will find ways around the State’s assertion of power. Others—those without money or childcare or the ability to take time off from work—will not be so fortunate. Maybe they will try an unsafe method of abortion, and come to physical harm, or even die. Maybe they will undergo pregnancy and have a child, but at significant personal or familial cost. At the least, they will incur the cost of losing control of their lives. The Constitution will, today’s majority holds, provide no shield, despite its guarantees of liberty and equality for all.”

Do you recognize this?

I do.

What is this, for people who might not recognize it?

This is Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which was the 2022 Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the right to abortion.

You often write about court decisions concerning abortion. How do you read the opening of the defense? What draws your attention? How do you analyze a passage like this, which continues to give me goosebumps?

As somebody who writes about women’s rights and the status of women, I have necessarily had to write a lot about the federal courts, which is where women’s rights now go to die. I don’t think there will be a more important piece of writing on the question of women’s rights in my lifetime than Dobbs, at least not in the legal sphere.

Sotomayor is an interesting figure because she frequently addresses her opinions not to the legal community, but to the American public. There is a concept in legal writing called the “judicial public”—whom judges are writing for. Most of them are writing for other judges, for the judge of the court above their own, trying to persuade that person, who might be a quite idiosyncratic individual, not to overturn their decision. A lot of Supreme Court justices, when they’re writing in the majority, write for the community of lower court judges or for the Federalist Society, a community of conservative lawyers, many of whom are in their social circle and have been with them throughout their educations. This is not doing any of that. Sotomayor is writing to people like us.

What in the style of this excerpt suggests that she is writing for us and not for them? By them, I mean the judges who issued the majority opinion in Dobbs.

This is not technical writing. This is writing in sweeping historic and moral terms. It is writing about the values of the nation. It is writing about what constitutes citizenship. It is writing about dignity as well as about material fairness. It is not about the technicalities of the law or the petty little rationalizations, often quite impressive in their flights of reasoning, that this court has made to justify a lot of its opinions. This is a moral document.

It is also, we should acknowledge, a document of defeat. This is the kind of thing that feminists really don’t like to do, to admit when things are going badly or to dwell in the futility of many feminist efforts. There can be this pansy-ass denial and Pollyannaish optimism in the face of what are frankly catastrophes.

Dobbs was a catastrophe. It has made us less free than our mothers were. It will mean that the women who are in positions of authority or power or prominence now will slowly disappear from those positions as more and more of them are pushed out of the workforce. It means women who are entering public life are going to lose their mentors. It means that women and trans people who become pregnant will be denied the foundational dignity to determine the course and content of their lives. Something I appreciate Sotomayor doing here is addressing American women in a way misogyny never wants to, which is as adults.

Part of the morality, but also the defeat, comes from the counterfactuals. “Maybe they will try an unsafe method of abortion, maybe they will undergo pregnancy and have a child, but at significant personal and familial cost. At the least, they will incur the cost of losing control of their lives.” The counterfactual offers a vision of defeat, but it is this vision from which Sotomayor wins her sense of morality. Is that standard in this kind of writing?

The counterfactual is very, very hard to reason around. You can’t prove it. It’s entirely possible that if these women who are being denied abortions now were able to get them, they would not become doctors and lawyers and politicians and Nobel Prize–winning geniuses. Some of them would. But a lot of them would live quieter, more ordinary lives that would simply be endowed with the dignity of having been chosen lives. I think that’s a worthwhile point a lot of critics of these abortion-rights counterfactuals often make.

Sotomayor here is drawing our attention to an absence, to the lives that will go unlived, the possibilities that will go unfulfilled. It’s hard to see an absence. You have to gesture at the shape of it. The future that has been denied to you is not exactly a deprivation because it’s something you never had, and now it’s something you’ll never be allowed to have.

The other place where we see the shape of the absence is in the wonderful parallelism here: “A state can thus transform what, when freely undertaken, is a wonder into what, when forced, may be a nightmare.” I don’t know if that sentence stands out to you, but for me, that’s the sentence that’s been turning in my mind since I read this decision for the first time.

The joy of motherhood transformed into punishment, the lower status into which abortion bans place women. This is an element of the post-Dobbs America that I can’t get over because it is an echo of #MeToo, to bring us full circle. Rape and sexual violence are very connected to abortion bans, which are also an act of commandeering your body in order to fit you into a gendered role that can have degrading implications.

I appreciate about Sotomayor’s writing that she reaches for dignity harms. A lot of people who are making these kinds of arguments can assume that material harms are more important, but dignity harms are vital to how we understand the moral wrongness of abortion bans. I think the other thing that has happened in the wake of Dobbs is that we have seen a return of an old tradition of personalized first-person storytelling by women who have been hurt by this commandeering. The classic #MeToo first-person “this is what happened to me” has now been almost replaced with the denied-abortion first person of “this is what has happened to me.”

I’m thinking of Kate Cox, a woman out of Texas and a mother of two—she’s my age—who was diagnosed at week eighteen of her pregnancy with a fatal fetal abnormality that meant not only that her fetus would not survive but that, because of the particulars of her health condition, she would almost certainly lose her uterus if she was to continue the pregnancy. Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, personally intervened to threaten doctors in the state against giving her an abortion. She had to flee to another state, which she was lucky to be able to do. That is the prohibition on coming forward about rape.

Abortion bans can be considered passive. “The state doesn’t make you pregnant. It merely removes the possibility for you to become un-pregnant.” It’s not passive what Ken Paxson did. These abortion bans are not passive. They are enforcing a condition on people. I think it’s important to make that moral distinction. This is a moral catastrophe that has perpetrators.

One place where it seems like Sotomayor’s address, or imagined address, changes is in the penultimate and final paragraphs of the decision:

The American public, they thought, should never conclude that its constitutional protections hung by a thread—that a new majority, adhering to a new “doctrinal school,” could “by dint of numbers” alone expunge their rights. It is hard—no, it is impossible—to conclude that anything else has happened here. One of us once said that “[i]t is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.” For all of us, in our time on this Court, that has never been more true than today. In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles. With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.

There’s a change in who’s addressed, isn’t there? It’s not the American public anymore. Or it’s not just the judicial public.

Yes, she begins commenting on the court itself and she makes a point that court watchers and justices have made in the past, which is that overturning Roe v. Wade undermines the legitimacy of the court. Legitimacy is an interesting phenomenon when we talk about institutional responses to women’s rights claims and when we talk about criticism and writing authority. These both need their publics to understand them as deserving the authority that they’re invested with. To have legitimacy, your authority needs to be something you demonstrate that you deserve.

In this sentence—“that a new majority, adhering to a new ‘doctrinal school,’ could ‘by dint of numbers’ alone expunge their rights”—that “dint of numbers” is a scathing phrase. Justices on the Supreme Court are not as mean to one another as I sometimes, as a court observer, would hope they would be. When there is a pointed line like that, it’s something to pay attention to. She’s saying what we all know, which is that the law does not support this decision, the facts do not support this decision, the will of the people does not support this decision, and the spirit of our constitution does not support this decision. You are not doing it because you have real legitimacy to do it. I think that’s a tricky conundrum we find ourselves in as feminists and as Americans: we’re facing organs of political power that cannot be moved by threats to their legitimacy, that are content to be seen as illegitimate in the eyes of the public so long as they have numbers.

It’s interesting that you say that, because as I think about your claim that authority has to prove its own legitimacy, I think that one of the ways that authority does that is by the tone it adopts. There is something tremendously persuasive and authoritative about her style here, about the way she impugns the majority and at the same time expresses sorrow for us, along with us. When I was preparing this document for you, I reread the majority opinion and was surprised by how weak it sounds.

The Dobbs majority opinion was written by Samuel Alito. It struck me as something that he had probably written large chunks of quite a while before oral arguments took place in December of 2021. It can be peevish, it can be sarcastic, it can be taunting, and it is not particularly robust in its arguments.

What public is that for?

The kind of demonstration that Alito is making is of his peevishness, of his disrespect for argument, and of his disrespect for the other side. That is itself a demonstration of his power. It is a demonstration of the irrelevance of legitimacy. It is a public that he’s holding in contempt.

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