4 Stars – Inspiring
It is hard to imagine that the life of a quiet grandmotherly woman in her 80’s could achieve rock star status, but when you happen to be “the notorious RBG” and you sit as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court, it takes on a whole new level of meaning.
RBG is a documentary directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West about the remarkable life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka the Notorious RBG), only the second woman to ever sit as a member of the highest court in the land. Born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York City, Ruth emerged from college as a bright and intelligent light in the dark and patriarchal world of the law at a time when women were expected to stay in the kitchen rather than to challenge men in intellectual debate.
While at college she met and married Martin Ginsburg who was one of her biggest fans for 56 years until his death in 2010. In the years since his demise, when many would have assumed she deserved to retire and relax, she continued to throw herself into her work and study, and has become at 84, a remarkable hero to many in her famous dissents to the opinions of her majority peers.
Ruth was never a firebrand liberal, or a forceful voice in her beliefs, but she was strategic in her research and in choosing the right cases to carry her passion forward on behalf of women whom she felt had been mistreated by the law. In the late 1950’s and 60’s, the rights of women were minimal, and most state and federal laws gave decision-making power to husbands and male bosses. Ruth never stood on a street corner to protest, but she systematically challenged the legal system in so many ways that she became the voice of change to a new generation.
Ginsburg was appointed Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. During her first years on the bench she was a centrist in the balance of the Court, but following the appointment of two new Justices under President George W. Bush, she was pushed to the far left of the Court’s political spectrum. Whereas she had been the author of many majority opinions in her early years, she now found herself as the voice of the dissenting liberal minority.
Despite her differing political opinions, Ruth Ginsburg has been best known for her ability to engender love and respect from all members of the court. Prior to his death in 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia remarked often that his “best friend” on the court was a diminutive woman with whom he rarely agreed on the law! Scalia and Ginsburg both loved music and were often seen at events together, laughing and carrying on like school chums. Her outward charm and love for the other has always been seen as one of her greatest strengths.
After a life time of pursuing the law on behalf of women’s rights, she shows little sign of slowing down. What has emerged, though, is her stature as an iconic cultural warrior, a rare treat that sometimes only comes with the graceful passing of the years. Whether or not you agree with Ginsburg’s position on the law, she inspires the viewer with a kindness that is universally loved and respected. Supreme Court Justices rarely gain cultural or political limelight, but Justice Ginsburg is viewed by a new generation of young people as “a rock” in the shifting political tides of mainstream America. RBG gives her the respect she so richly deserves.
We often think of change as occurring quickly. But Ruth Ginsberg systematically and strategically changed the law of the land in bringing equal rights to women over decades. What are you working on to bring about justice and equal rights for those who are marginalized today?
It could be said that behind every successful woman is a man who supports her. This is certainly true in Ruth’s husband Marty. What do you think gave him the humility to be a servant to his wife and lay down his own career for hers?