I knew Ruth Bader Ginsburg was badass, but I didn’t realize the extent of her work until I read The Notorius RGB.
She was a quiet leader. Smart. Decisive. She got s*** done.
While she eventually made a name for herself in a male-dominated political and judicial world, she dealt with loads of discrimination. In the 1960s, she graduated from law school with honors, yet couldn’t land a job.
According to this 2020 Slate interview, she had to deal with Hepeats before the term was even coined:
“It’s an unconscious bias. It’s the expectation. You have a lowered expectation when you hear a woman speaking; I think that still goes on. That instinctively when a man speaks, he will be listened to, where people will not expect the woman to say anything of value. But all of the women in my generation have had, time and again, that experience where you say something at a meeting, and nobody makes anything of it. And maybe half an hour later, a man makes the identical point, and people react to it and say, ‘Good idea.’ That, I think, is a problem that persists.”
She took care of her mind and her body. At 80 years old, she was still doing pushups and planks, all while watching PBS Newshour. When Barack Obama was President, he invited her to a dinner. She left early so she wouldn’t miss her workout.
She was always prepared – words precise, decisions final. As a writer, I loved hearing she was a master of clarity. She often said “get it right and keep it tight.” No sentence should have to be read twice.
Her lace collars are as famous as she is. The Justice’s wore the required black robe attire, which were made for men. The style allowed men’s shirts and ties to peek through at the collar, but wasn’t made for women’s clothing. In 2009, she told the Washington Post she thought it would be appropriate to wear the collars, called jabots, as something more typical of a woman.
As the collars became synonymous with Ruth, they also reflected the work she was doing. On the days she dissented, she could be seen wearing a collar filled with jewels that resembled armor.
Because of Ruth, employers cannot discriminate against employees because of reproductive choices. She fought for equal pay for women and gender equality for all, including men. One of her most famous cases in the 1970s involved an unmarried man who was taking care of his elderly mother. At that time, he was not offered the same caregiver benefits as a woman caregiver was. Ruth changed that. According to CNN, here are some other of Ruth’s most notable dissents and decisions.
Ruth was only the second woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. When she was asked when will there be enough women SCOTUS Justices, she replied with “When there are nine.” She said people were surprised by her answer. “But there’d been nine men since 1869 and nobody’s ever raised a question about that,” she said.
She became a pop culture icon making her way to memes and gifs. She was portrayed in skits on Saturday Night Live with the catchphrase “you just got ‘Ginsburned!'” She has drinks named after her, a #NotoriusRGB hashtag, and her likeness portrayed on shirts, mugs, posters, stickers and more. She died in 2020.