HOW DO YOU SAY GOODBYE TO SOMEONE WHO GAVE YOU YOUR RIGHTS?
117 men have served with the United States Supreme Court, while only four women have ever been on the bench. On September 18th, 2020 we lost a dedicated, compassionate and impenetrable soul. Metastatic pancreatic cancer took Ruth Bater Ginsburg’s life at the age of 87 in her Washington D.C. home.
Like Sisyphus, women in the United States are constantly striving to make progress in a world that pushes them down. Ginsburg’s life was no different than the ancient Greek myth. She too overcame many setbacks. In fact, her mother originally considered Ruth becoming a high school teacher the pinnacle of her daughter’s potential. Ginsburg’s success can largely be accredited to her brilliant mind and explosive dedication.
“You can’t have it all at once. Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time, things were rough.” Ruth stated that summarization of her legacy to The Washington Post in 2014. While working at the Supreme Court, Ruth worked hard to balance time at home and at the courts. Ruth had been simultaneously unafraid to leave work early to aid a struggling child, and sacrifice time with her children to further her pursuit of justice and equality.
Life can be a difficult balancing act. Women in modern society are often made to feel guilty, either for working too little or working too much. Ginsburg spent much of her life mastering life’s great balancing act while smashing the impossible stereotypes women are often ensnared in, proving that it is possible for anyone to be successful in their chosen field and desired home life.
Women have been shoehorned into unflattering stereotypes for as long as a concept of gender existed among humans, and Ginsburg made a career of breaking such negative biases. When women were considered emotional and stubborn she became known as a moderate and consensus builder in an increasingly divisive age. When working women were referred to as selfish, overbearing and cold, she built a relationship based on mutual respect and equality. When women were considered too weak, fragile and down-trodden to achieve powerful positions, Ruth served as a law professor for two respected institutions, a co-founder of The Woman’s Rights Project at The American Civil Liberties Union, an author of important legal briefs, a judge on The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and a judge forThe United States Supreme Court.
Without Ginsburg, women in modern society would not have many of the privileges they currently enjoy. Ruth struck down a male-only admission policy of the Virginia military institute. The majority 7-1 ruling of The United States Supreme Court effectively struck down any law that denied women equal opportunities to men on the basis of their gender alone. Ginsburg’s oral dissent encouraging equal pay led to the passing of legislation preventing income inequality in 2009. In other cases she defended affirmative action which has allowed many women and other minorities to succeed in areas they would otherwise be excluded from.
Ruth Bater Ginsburg was an awe inspiring icon of equality, resilience and strength in every facet of her life. The “notorious RBG” will serve as a role model and historical icon for decades to come. Minority populations often struggle to earn just a minuscule portion of social change or success in this country. Ginsburg acts as a beacon of hope in a history that is so dark and cold for many of us.
Both as a woman and a member of the Jewish community, Ginsburg shouldered the burden of defending communities which are all too often underrepresented in The United State’s legislative system. The long road to equality is tireless and repetitive, but there will always be role models and sources of inspiration along the way. While we as a nation continue to grapple with a legacy of injustice, we can look to Ruth Bater Ginsburg for hope that this world can be changed for the better.