Lets set the stage—literally—as the lights dim and two people sit opposite from each other.
One is an older white man, and the other a smaller, seemingly frail older white woman.
“When people say Notorious RBG do you like that?” The man asks the woman.
“Yes, I’ve heard of the Notorious B.I.G., and it seems all together natural.”
Now, before we raise our eyebrows and get ready throw a hashtag on this, its important to know who this woman is. CNN recently filmed a documentary on her life based off a book entitled “RBG”. RBG proves this woman’s importance, and why she can be compared to someone such as the great Notorious B.I.G.
Her name is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a sitting supreme court justice. and although she’s put in decades of work in the legal system for women and minority rights, Ruth is only now just getting her spotlight in millenial popular culture at 84 years old.
“We have one fundamental thing in common, Notorious B.I.G and me: we were both born and bred in Brooklyn, New York.”
Ruth continues her interview, and reveals that it’s Brooklyn, New York where her story began. After graduating with a bachelors from Cornell where she met husband and longtime friend Martin Ginsburg, Ruth attended Harvard Law School shortly after women were first admitted to attend.
Ruth speaks about what it was like to be one of nine women in a class of 500 men “You felt constantly on display”, and how it was imperative she was ahead of the curve in her classes. There was an instance where she needed to check out a book from Lawson library and was told she couldn’t come in, specifically because she was a woman. Before Ruth graduated she made the Law Review, an extremely difficult feat, her second year of school.
However, this and her other numerous achievements during her time there did not warrant her a job after school. Not one law firm in Ruth and Martin’s area would hire her on—again because she was simply a woman. It wasn’t until a professor of Ruth’s strongly went to bat for her that she finally received her first job as a clerk in a law firm, It was experiences like these and her mother’s words of encouragement that would set Ruth to become on the biggest defenders of women rights in the country.
The documentary goes on to chronicle important events in Ruth’s’ life, and her fight against some of the common laws that were discriminatory against women as early as the 70’s. Such as:
- Banks requiring a woman applying for credit to have her husband cosign
- Employers in most states being allowed to legally fire a woman for being pregnant
And even more ridiculous things; the sexist list goes on and one. This was not only problematic because of how it took away a woman’s right to expand her opportunities and choices, but it also required a man to give her the thumbs up every step of the way.
Ruth fought laws like this—not by marching in the streets, but by disrupting the courtroom.
As a law professor, she founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, and co-founded the Women’s Rights Project where Ruth and her partner went to argue six cases against an all male supreme court. She won 5 out of 6 cases, which ranged from unequal pay, allowing women important roles on jury duties, to allowing women admittance into a famous all-male military academy.
But Ruth wasn’t a champion just for women; one of her notable cases involved a widowed husband whose wife had died after giving birth to their child. Stephen Wiesenfeld was told that he couldn’t receive social security benefits because they were solely for widows (women). The case was won on the argument that he was being denied the same protection as his female counterparts. This portion of the documentary is exemplary because in my mind this is one of the true definitions of equality.
Women have been on the brunt end of inequality for so long, that it is past time we are recognized for our rights and exemplary contribution to society. However, this shouldn’t exclude the injustice that our male counterparts can also face, especially those that stand with us. This proves that Ruth at her core is a law woman who pioneers the rights of all those that are discriminated or hindered by the law. This is what catches Bill Clinton’s eye to nominate her for the supreme court justice.
As the rest of the documentary rounds out, Ruth lead the charge on several issues pertaining to women and minorities. Her famous two words, “I dissent” is what she used to let the majority in the court know the liberal parties view set on a political matter. These two words allowed her to be able to argue in favor of certain positions including abortion rights, gender issues, and so many other important issues.
And the film isn’t just about Ruth’s life in justice of law; we learn about how her love of opera was so strong that she was able to appear in one! We learn of her love of art, and her personal battle with cancer—twice—and her miraculous comeback from it.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a woman who is feisty, independent, stands in her truth, and knows how to argue the hell out of a case! She is making waves in our culture today, having cameos in popular films, and having her own biopic being played by one of today’s incomparable actresses Felicity Jones. But more than that, this is a woman who has fought tooth and nail in the shadows for years, and has given minorities not only a voice, but a platform to continue our fight for acceptance and equality.