Sisterhood Blog

Sotomayor and the Mikveh

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

The Sonya Sotomayor bashing has reached a despicable low.

It wasn’t enough that Newt Gingrich called her a racist. No, now conservative radio host and convicted felon, G. Gordon Liddy, is going after the Supreme Court nominee’s cycle. Not her bike, her monthly one — if, indeed, she is still menstruating. Liddy sounds like a befuddled schoolboy who just learned that men and women are built with separate sets of parts:

Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.

Liddy’s consternation is a time machine ride back to the pre-feminist dark ages. We are not still shell-shocked by where babies come from, are we?

Mikveh-going women could contribute to this debate. A seeming impurity catchall for both sexes, the mikveh is halakhicly essential for conversions. It is also visited monthly by women who observe the laws of family purity; these women submerge themselves in the mikveh to clean themselves, physically and spiritually, post-menstruation — and ready themselves for sexual activity with their husbands. Some fans of mikveh believe it makes holy a woman’s cycle; some detractors feel it shames women into feeling that their body’s natural process is unclean. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism writes that mikveh staff theorize that menstruation requires submersion because “it involves a brush with death — of the potential child that was not conceived.”

Menstruating women may give Liddy the heebie-jeebies, but Sotomayor, who would be the sixth Catholic on the Supreme Court, probably won’t be dunking anytime soon.

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