Rep. Ayanna Pressley was supposed to be the rational member of “the squad,” if just by default.
That was because we didn’t really ever hear a lot from the Massachusetts Democrat — or at least we didn’t listen as much, because she wasn’t spouting arrant nonsense.
This wasn’t New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez telling us how “famed economist Milton Keynes” (smashing together the names of conservative economist Milton Friedman and liberal economist John Keynes to come up with the name of an English city) said we’d all be working 15 hours a week by 2030.
She wasn’t Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeting out something nakedly anti-Semitic.
She wasn’t Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib telling us how “we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherf—er!” Nothing she did was so identifiably strange.
This was, in a relative sense, normal. Thankfully for us “squad” watchers, who tend to like our members of the far left cantankerous and unrealistic, Pressley decided to go full squad and punt normal to the side.
The occasion was a Wednesday speech in favor of H.J. Res. 79, a bill that would attempt to extend the period for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The ERA is a proposed (and problematic) constitutional amendment that was meant to, in theory, codify equality between the genders. There’s quite a bit more to it than that, but that’s homework for those of you who want to research it and fully immaterial to Pressley going full squad.
The point is that the deadline for the states to ratify the amendment — as stipulated by the amendment itself — was 1982. Considering “E.T.” is no longer in theaters and Betamax is no longer a viable video platform, you might indeed notice this isn’t 1982.
The ERA would eventually get bogged down in the states during the ratification process in the 1970s, but there’s now an effort to resuscitate it through legislation, especially since Virginia has recently ratified it long after the deadline. (This isn’t how the Constitution works, but whatever; again, it’s immaterial.)
Thus, the stage was set. I present to you squadding, Ayanna Pressley version, in which she says “the American Constitution is sexist by its very design”:
Rep. @AyannaPressley: “The year is now 2020, and here we women are still in so many ways not fully free, still shackled.”
“We face pregnancy discrimination, discrimination in the criminal legal system … But this isn’t an accident,” U.S. is “sexist by its very design” pic.twitter.com/EduOUz4YWF
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 13, 2020
“Today I rise to affirm the humanity and the dignity of all women,” Pressley said. “I rise in strong, unapologetic, righteous support of H.J. Res. 79, which will strike the arbitrary deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment that should already be the law of the land.
“Women are strong, hard-working, bright and resilient. We are the backbones of our families, our communities and our democracy. We do not live in checked boxes. We live in an intersectionality of lived experiences and identities.”
There’s enough in this farrago of nonsense to spend an entire dissecting, but I’d like to focus on just one part of what she said next:
“In addition to pay discrimination, we face pregnancy discrimination, discrimination in the criminal legal system, sexual and domestic violence, and inadequate health care access,” Pressley said. (Emphasis mine.) She went on to declare that this supposed discrimination “isn’t an accident; the American Constitution is sexist by its very design.”
Now, Pressley didn’t lay out what “discrimination in the criminal legal system” is. It doesn’t, presumably, have to do with redress for “sexual and domestic violence,” since that’s a separate topic in her jeremiad. Does this mean, then, that the criminal justice system is biased against women?
If so, it’s doing a really good job of hiding it, since only 7 percent of prisoners are female.
According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 92.9 percent of prisoners are male. And while men commit the vast majority of crimes, there are still sentencing disparities — disparities that help women.
A 2012 paper by Sonja Starr found that, controlling for criminal histories, the offense the individual was accused of and other variables, “men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women do,” and “[w]omen are … twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted,” according to the University of Michigan School of Law.
Her study found a greater variance than other studies in the field, she said, because “the key control variable is itself the result of a host of discretionary decisions made earlier in the justice process,” including plea bargaining decisions made by prosecutors.
Starr’s study found that “more disparity is introduced at each phase of the justice process.”
While there was no way to “prove” discrimination against males in the criminal justice system, she said there was “pretty good reason to suspect that disparate treatment may be one of the causes of this gap.”
Starr said that it “is not necessarily to lock up a lot more women, but perhaps to reconsider the decision-making criteria that are applied to men.
“About one in every fifty American men is currently behind bars, and we could think about gender disparity as perhaps being a key dimension of that problem.”
There hasn’t been anything in the interim that would have significantly changed these numbers to put an undue burden on women. Is this what Pressley speaks of?
There’s plenty of unthinking nonsense in her speech that falls apart if you tug at the string hard enough, but this is the most truly baffling part. Women are unduly burdened by the criminal justice system, therefore we need to ratify the ERA? The numbers show a different story.
This isn’t to dissect the reasons behind this or to get angry about them. Rather, it’s simply to note how rubbish Pressley’s speech is.
In case you’d forgotten that she was a member of “the squad” because she wasn’t saying something unusually wrong, she certainly went out of her way to remind you.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.