When is it okay to prevent a woman from speaking?

After Kamala Harris’ debate with Mike Pence, some female pundits couldn’t contain their glee that Harris had told Pence, on the few occasions when he interrupted her, “I’m speaking.” They saw this as the defining moment of the debate (or claimed to).

I wonder how these same female pundits evaluated today’s spectacle of a distinguished female nominee for the Supreme Court being treated as a bystander at her confirmation hearing, while men droned on and on for 30 minutes at at time. I imagine these particular women were fine with it. They don’t like Judge Barrett or her approach to judging. In their minds, it’s okay to keep women from speaking — to sideline them — if the women would say conservative things. “I’m speaking” is a one-way street.

However, less blinkered feminists might view the matter differently. They might not like it that Amy Barrett wasn’t given the opportunity to speak at her own confirmation hearing. She was used as a prop. By men.

This isn’t how Democrats treated John Roberts and Sam Alito. Sure, there was a fair amount of speechmaking at their hearings. But the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee also engaged with Roberts and Alito. These two nominees spoke a lot. Barrett was rarely afforded that opportunity.

I don’t attribute the difference to sexism. I assume the Democrats behaved the way they did today out of sheer political calculation. I assume that a decade and a half ago, their political calculation was different.

But I’m not a woman. I can imagine some women being turned off by the way certain Democrats — including Kamala Harris, ironically — froze Amy Barrett out of her own confirmation hearing. It wasn’t a good look.

Oh, for the bad old days when bottom-of-his-class Joe Biden tried to mix it up with stars like John Roberts and Sam Alito.

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