Let's Get Familiar with Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Happy Sunday, everyone! We’re hoping this day is just what you need before you take on the coming week. Whether you’re boozy brunching, lying in bed, watching movies, or having a fun day out, take this #SelfCareSunday to reboot, recharge, and do whatever the f*ck you wanna do. If you’re feeling like getting out of the house, we recommend heading to the movies to see On the Basis of Sex, the powerful biographical film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
For those unfamiliar with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she became the second female justice of the US Supreme Court, so yeah, she’s a big deal. The movie goes back before Ruth’s major, iconic accomplishment of becoming a female justice to her early days as a lawyer starting with her first year at Harvard Law.Ruth graduated top of her class at Cornell University in 1954 and married her husband Martin Ginsburg the same year. Shortly after their marriage and Martin enrolling in the military, Ruth and Martin welcomed their first child, Jane. A couple years after Martin was discharged from the military, both Ruth and Martin enrolled in Harvard Law.
Work-life balance is no joke for any mom but enrolling in law school with a toddler in a time where she was looked down upon because of her gender (there were only 8 women in her class of 500) and her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer that required intense treatment meaning he couldn’t be in school is far more than a handful. How did Ruth respond to all of these challenges? Well, first of all, while being scolded from the law school’s dean for taking the place of what he saw to be more-deserving males at Harvard, she proved him wrong by excelling in her studies and becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review (the school’s prestigious legal journal). When Martin fell ill, Ruth not only attended her classes but the classes of her husband and still attended to their daughter, Jane. Can we take a second to acknowledge that this woman was taking care of her husband, her daughter, and not one but two law degrees? The story could end right here and she’d still be deemed superwoman status.
"My success in law school, I have no doubt, was due in large measure to baby Jane. I attended classes and studied diligently until four in the afternoon; the next hours were Jane's time. After Jane's bedtime, I returned to the law books with renewed will. Each part of my life provided respite from the other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on law studies lacked." Ruth Bader Ginsburg, In My Own Words.
Fortunately, Martin recovered and graduated from Harvard, no doubt largely in part to Ruth’s help but it is also a superhuman move to graduate law school while being diagnosed with a serious cancer his second year. Martin took a job at a law firm in New York while Ruth still had a year left of law school so she transferred to Columbia Law School to finish up. Again, Ruth graduated first in her class but she couldn’t find a job as easily as Martin had because she was a woman and gender discrimination was alive, well, and not illegal. Eventually, Ruth taught at Rutgers University Law School and at Columbia, she became Columbia’s first female tenured professor. Ruth was breaking the mold everywhere she went.
On the Basis of Sex focuses largely on a case brought to Ruth byway of Martin in 1970. The tax law case was brought by a man from Denver that hired a nurse to take care of his elderly mother, he filed for a tax deduction on the nursing care but was denied the deduction simply because, at the time, the law stated that basically you only get a deduction if you’re a husband caring for his wife or you’re a widowed or divorced woman. Ruth saw this as the opportunity to set a precedent against gender norms that were heavily reinforced in the law.
This movie is a must see because it’s the groundbreaking story of a groundbreaking woman. Ruth is such a crucial player in the role of women yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Imagine if she had allowed her dean at Harvard to persuade her that she didn’t deserve to be there because she’s a woman. Imagine if Ruth had given up her dream when she had her daughter, or when her husband fell ill, or the countless times she was looked down upon because of her gender. Where would that put us? Our mothers? Our grandmothers?
Let a powerful woman like Ruth live in your mind, reminding you of exactly what you are capable of. Obstacles are part of the course, they’re not meant to deter, they’re meant to push us harder. If we don’t push harder, we don’t break down those walls.
Ruth’s story is far from perfect, that’s what makes it hers and that’s what makes it strong, but if you’re looking for some major inspiration today we’d advise you get out and go see it or check out some more of her biography here.
And if you want her autobiography with her own speeches and writing (we recommend you check it out because reading her experiences from her words is an authentic connection to her world that leaves you feeling powerful), you can get it here.
Happy Sunday, my loves!