When one is the first at anything, especially when one is a minority or disenfranchised, they are often labelled as a hero to those who they have paved the way for. But behind that bold heroism is years, if not decades of drive, hard work and fighting against prejudice.
On the surface, the women couldn’t have been further apart. Sandra Day O’Connor was born into a Christian family who owned a large ranch in Arizona. Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up in an immigrant Jewish family in New York City. Coming of age in era when a woman was expected to marry and raise a family while her husband brought home the literal bacon, both women defied the rules of their era by earning law degrees and dared to openly question why women were second class citizens.
Along the way, they inspired and continue to inspire generations of women in every industry to fight for their rights and the equality that is their right.
What struck me about this book is that though both Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor had very different early lives, they are remarkably similar in the paths they took, the challenges they faced and the paths they blazed for future generations of women.
Though this book has moments of being a dry academic style textbook, it is also a reminder of how far women have come and how far we need to go.
We often make assumptions based on another’s appearance. One of the factors that use to make those assumptions is the height of a person.
Today is Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s 86th birthday. Born in Brooklyn in 1933, she was part of the first generation of women in the 1950’s who sought out a professional career while maintaining a marriage and raising children. Though she facing discrimination on multiple fronts, she knew that the fight for the rights of American women was paramount. In 1993, she became the second female Justice on the Supreme Court when President Bill Clinton appointed her as the then newest member of SCOTUS.
I think the best quote to sum up Justice Ginsburg comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
Justice Ginsburg is one of the many women who paved the way for this generation of American woman. She fought for our rights and lit a fire under our collective bottoms that will never go out.
Sometimes, when we fight against an injustice, we change the world.
The new movie, On The Basis of Sex, starts in the mid 1950’s. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) is a first year law student at Harvard Law School, one of only a handful of female students among a sea of male classmates. In addition to her schoolwork, she is juggling motherhood and marriage to Marty Ginsburg (Armie Hammer), who himself is second year law student at the same university. Though she is smart and tough, she has to deal with the prejudice and rejection that comes with being a woman in a man’s world in an era where men and women lived in totally different worlds.
The film then flashes forward to the early 1970’s. Ruth is a Law Professor who is given a case to review by Marty. Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) is a middle-aged man caring his elderly mother. He is denied the right to deduct the cost of caring for his mother from his taxes because he is a man. Knowing that this case is the opening she is looking for, Ruth takes it on. The question is, will she win and open the door for American women or will they lose the case and set the American feminist movement back decades?
I loved this movie. I loved it because it is not the average bio-pic. Many bio-pics adhere to the “cradle to the grave” narrative. While that works for some movies within the genre, it would not have worked for this film. Focusing on these two very specific periods of time allows the audience to know the woman behind the title of RBG and appreciate her contribution to American history.
When it comes to social reforms, there are two avenues: protest and amending the law.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a young lawyer, the second wave of the feminist movement was at its height. While many saw the path to equality via protest, the future Justice Ginsburg understood that amending the law was just as important as public protest.
Her experience in this period of her life is documented in the upcoming film On The Basis Of Sex. Starring Felicity Jones as RBG and Armie Hammer as her late husband Martin Ginsburg, the film tells the story of the court case that would put RBG on the legal map and on the road to joining the Supreme Court decades later.
The problem with some biopics is that regardless of whether the subject is alive or dead, the facts don’t always make it to the final cut of the film. My hope (especially because RBG is still alive and kicking), is that the film (and Felicity Jones by extension) portrays RBG as she ought to be portrayed on the big screen.
On The Basis Of Sex hits theaters on December 25th.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is without a doubt an icon. Without her intelligence, veracity and legal acumen, American women would still be stuck in the same place that their mother and grandmothers were in.
The new documentary, RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, tells the story about the life and career of Justice Ginsburg. Born in Brooklyn in 1933 to immigrant Jewish parents, she came of age in an era when women were merely expected to marry and raise a family. Instead, she went to Law school. In the 1970’s, she started to gain fame when she represented parties who were discriminated against because of their gender. Those cases would eventually lead to her joining the Supreme Court in 1993, where she has been ever since.
I really enjoyed the documentary. Though Justice Ginsburg is at an age when many have long since retired, she has the physical and emotional energy of a woman half her age. The fact that she still regularly works out is a testament to the fact that age is merely a number. I enjoyed the documentary because it is not only Justice Ginsburg’s story, but it is the story of America over the past 60-ish years and how she has helped America to reach the ideals laid out by our Founding Fathers.
The standard biography is well, pretty standard: the subject was born on a certain date in a certain town or city. He or she accomplished certain things in their life. If the subject of the biography is dead, the biography will end with the subject’s passing. If the subject is alive, the biography may end with a epilogue of the subject’s present life.
Today I read My Own Words, a biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg co-written by Justice Ginsburg, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams. It starts out like any biography. Justice Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1933 to Nathan and Celia Bader. Coming of age in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Justice Ginsburg was one of the few women attending law school. After marrying Martin Ginsburg in 1954, she was part of a minority of women who juggled marriage, children and a career. After teaching at Rutgers University for many years, she was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. Justice Ginsburg created a path that many women today take for granted. The book is much more than the standard biography. It contains press from her early years(she was an editor of her school paper), interviews with Justice Gingsburg and clips of her rulings and opinions during her legal career. The problem is that I could not connect with the material. Maybe I would have been able to enjoy the book if I had an interest in law field. But I don’t and I couldn’t get into the book.