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Remembering the Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On Friday night, our nation suffered the kind of heavy loss that each generation hopefully only has to experience a handful of times. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a household name over the last thirty years since beginning her service as the second woman to ever serve as a Supreme Court Justice. Affectionately coined by our generation as “Notorious RBG,” she has become somewhat of an icon for the forward-moving modern feminist movement. And there’s a reason for this. Many of the rights that we have as women today would not exist if it weren’t for the championing efforts of RBG. As we mourn her loss, it seems especially urgent that we remember to fully acknowledge all of the things that her relentless voice for women has done for us. Take a few minutes out of your day to think about what a world which had never known RBG would look like.

1. You would not be able to effectively challenge being paid less solely because you are a woman.

Say you realize a few years into a job that you’re making significantly less than a man who does almost the exact same work as you. Even if you didn’t know when accepting the salary rate that it was unequal to that of your male counterparts, because you might not have had access to data comparing women’s and men’s salaries, you would not be able to challenge this more than 180 days past the point of the beginning of the discrimination. This changed through the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case, in which RBG outlined the gradual nature of discriminatory pay practices and the likelihood of comparative salary information being hidden from women. Now, every paycheck you receive gives you 180 days to challenge it if you discover the pay rate is unequal.

2. You would lack the autonomy to choose what happens to your body.

RBG was a long standing champion for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion should she experience an unwanted pregnancy. She delivered countless dissents against cases which would limit women’s reproductive rights, such as a Texas law adding additional barriers for women to receive safe abortions.

 3. The law would not prohibit others from discriminating against you on the basis of sex.

Before RBG challenged it, no court had ever ruled that an individual could not be discriminated against on the basis of sex. Her well-argued points in a court case in the early 1970s suggested that the Equal Protection Clause, which says that all people should be protected equally under the law, should be applied to gender discrimination.

4. You would be classified as a dependent in many financial laws, whether or not you were the breadwinner for your family.

Between 1971 and 1976, RBG’s cases regarding a woman’s right to be financially independent sparked change across the country. After her years of work, almost all laws referring to women as dependents were deemed unconstitutional. We went from being a country where women couldn’t even pay their own credit cards to one that offers men and women equal opportunities to both be breadwinners, and for women to have financial independence.

5. You may not recognize the potential for women to one day receive equal treatment in our country.

RBG’s life was dedicated to the equal treatment of women under the law. Without her resounding spirit, grace, and tenacity, the feminist movement would most certainly not be where it is today. We as women in America would most certainly not be where we are today, celebrating all of the rights that were fought hard for.

As we consider the state of our country after losing such an influential Supreme Court Justice, just months before an election with a potential for the current president to replace her, we must give thanks to the many women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg who have given us a voice. A world without them, without the relentless resistance to gender discrimination which RBG dedicated her career to, is a world I don’t want to imagine. So as we go through our days, enjoying the many opportunities we have been granted, and recognizing the immense potential for even further advancements in women’s rights, let us remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Let us remember the ways in which she shaped the experience of being a woman in the United States.

Anne Kirby is a Senior at Furman studying Public Health and Communications. In addition to Her Campus, she is also a writer for The Paladin student newspaper, the Body Image Chair for Kappa Delta Sorority, a Consultant in the Writing and Media Lab, and Peer Minister for the campus Episcopal group. In her free time, she loves to run, read, and meditate. After college, she hopes to pursue a Public Health career focused on addressing the disparities within our system and working towards a healthcare system that holds people's needs at the center.
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