Books · Luminaries

Notorious RBG

“When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?”
“When there are nine.”

There are nine Supreme Court Justices.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t set out to become a feminist icon, all she wanted to excel at her job and have a wonderful life with her college sweetheart and husband looking after their children together.

She had the audacity of expecting equality, a radical notion in the sixties and often today.

I dissent.

From the hallowed halls of Harvard where she and her eight compatriots were asked why they took a seat from more qualified men (in a class of five hundred) and was not allowed into the Law Review library because she was a woman though she had made the cut, to graduating at the top of her class from Columbia but not getting a job as a woman, a Jew and a mother, to becoming the second female Supreme Court Justice, RBG’s life is inspirational.

She fought hard for men to be the primary caregivers of their children (why must only women have the right?) which open the floodgates to not discriminating against primary caregivers (usually women).

“Feminism … I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, ‘Free to be You and Me.’ Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you’re a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent.”

RBG’s brand of feminism is very simple: it’s equality for women and men. By fighting cases for men in a society that is strict about the definition of masculinity, RBG could argue that laws should not be based on gender and this allowed her to also point out cases where women were discriminated against only because they were women and not because of ability. This she knew from her own experience. Marty, her husband, was her biggest cheerleader and also the cook of the house. As a couple, they embodied the world view popularized by RBG, that they built together. A partnership of equals where both partners support their better halves in achieving personal and professional success, without allowing social norms to dictate personal choices.

“Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.” – On how she would like to be remembered.

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