By the time this article is published, it will have been exactly a week since Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. She was 87 years old and had held on through colon cancer, broken ribs, and pancreatic cancer, all during her tenure on the court. Hours after her death was announced, hundreds if not thousands flocked to stand vigil outside the Supreme Court, honoring a short-statured woman who became a giant symbol of dissent in our democracy.
I’m not here to write yet another biography on Justice Ginsburg, as the news has been inundating us with those enough. I’m writing from a more emotional side, as a woman seeking entrance into a world dominated by men. I am writing as someone who shies away from the shortcuts my sex gives me, and rails at the restraints it has given me as well.
Multi-dimensional career-driven role models for women are hard to find. Most stories of career-driven women are about them having to choose between their personal life and work, since historically, brains and ambition don’t mix with starting a family. RBG wasn’t just a woman who proved otherwise by actions in her own life. She quite literally broke down barriers of gender roles with litigation, case by case. The cleverness with which she conducted these cases, with male defendants such as in Weinberger v. Wiesenfield is one of the biggest reasons why I admire her. Justice Ginsburg knew that ending stereotypes doesn’t happen overnight and that a male-dominated world of judges wouldn’t respect a woman fighting for other women over laws they believed were just. By turning to male defendants, she forced the judges to reexamine rules that put men at a disadvantage, subtly reinforcing the existence of discrimination on the basis of sex.
Justice Ginsburg believed that men and women belonged on an equal playing field, in the house and the office. Speaking from experience, one of the most annoying things I’ve ever been told is that I achieved something I worked for “because I’m a girl.” Equally frustrating is the concept of having to work twice as hard to be respected by my male peers, and then being considered a hard*ss for it. RBG worked to eliminate both these stereotypes. She found loopholes left in laws written by overconfident men and exploited them, turning over rules that assumed women belonged in the house and with the children.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not a perfect human being, nor do I want to seem like I’m painting a saintly picture because she’s passed. She was not perfect, but she was an inspiration. A shining example of a woman whose first impression was that she was fragile and quiet yet would demolish people with her intelligence in the courtroom. She was unafraid to work after going through all of those hospital visits and painful treatments. Her pain wasn’t going to get in her way because she had a job to do and people to protect. Now, hopefully, she’ll rest easy next to her husband Marty, and know that a small girl from Brooklyn left behind a towering legacy.