19 Sep A Tribute to RBG
Irin Carmon: And when the time comes, what would you like to be remembered for?
RBG: Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.
On September 18, 2020, we lost a giant in a tiny body. Brilliant to the end, Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to give up until her body finally failed her. Few of us would have continued to come back to work time after time when suffering catastrophic illnesses, but RBG hardly missed an oral argument or a decision while fighting multiple recurrences of cancer. Justice Ginsburg spent her life saying “Why not?” when faced with traditional barriers that gave men opportunities denied to women. Despite graduating at the top of her class at Harvard Law School while helping her ill husband finish law school and raising a child, RBG couldn’t get hired because she was a woman. Undaunted, she became a law professor and found a novel legal argument for women’s rights by taking the case of a man to show that gender discrimination affected people of both sexes. She successfully argued a series of cases before the Supreme Court before being appointed to the DC Circuit and then to the Supreme Court by President Clinton in 1993.
Justice Ginsburg quickly established herself as part of the liberal wing of the Court, but she famously shared her love of opera and intellectually sparring with her philosophical opposite, Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Ginsburg made it “cool” to be smart, and she became a pop icon, dubbed the Notorious RBG. While few non-lawyers can name any of the Supreme Court justices, RBG has been the subject of several bio-pics, and young girls dress up as RBG for Halloween. She became a role model for women all over the country, and she taught us what it means to fight for what is important.
It is fitting that RBG died on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year or Day of Remembrance. RBG made her mark, pointed the way for others to follow, and will be long remembered for making her world a better place. We must take RBG’s work as the starting point for continuing the long fight she started—women still make less than men for the same job; women are still harassed in the workplace and the world at large; women are still dismissed for their opinions, seen as harsh while men are assertive, and are expected to take full responsibility for children and homes even after working a full day. She believed in equality for all; her sisters must make her belief a reality.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Beth Orlansky is the Mississippi Center for Justice Advocacy Director