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The backlash against Judge Aqilina is a perfect example of sexist “tone policing”

The backlash against Judge Aqilina is a perfect example of sexist “tone policing”
[Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images]

Breaking news: People have some opinions about a woman’s tone at work.

Many celebrated yesterday’s dramatic sentencing of former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting hundreds of young girls over decades.

But minutes after people cheered the righteous no-BS manner of Michigan Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, the backlash began. Many men (and some women) didn’t appreciate Judge Aqilina’s harsh words for Nassar. (Notably, Aqilina said “I just signed your death warrant” as she gave the sentence.)

“I don’t care for the judicial grandstanding,” Vox‘s Matthew Yglesias wrote in a since-deleted tweet.

The reaction isn’t surprising when you consider that women’s words, demeanor, and tone are routinely policed at work. Was judge Aquilina’s sentencing “grandstanding” as many of her critics have called it? Perhaps. But judicial grandstanding in these types of extreme cases is actually pretty common. When sentencing Bernie Madoff to a symbolic 150 years in prison, the male judge called him “extraordinarily evil.” Male judges routinely pass moral judgement on female rape victims. Judges also frequently tell the criminals they are convicting what they think of their actions. In this case, Judge Aquilina gave the power to the victims throughout the sentencing in a historic way. The final word on her job performance should come from them.

KD