Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon of sorts. She is the second woman to have been confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court and is often lauded for the sharp and direct nature of her decisions; particularly her dissents. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg, commonly referred to as RBG in recent years, was already known for her liberal viewpoints. As a lawyer, RBG had already made a name for herself in her quest for equality, especially gender equality. She had tried six cases at the Supreme Court level, winning five, and had a reputation for being one of the most brilliant minds in the legal profession.
Of course, her career didn’t start out with admiration and accolades. While attending Harvard, RBG, and other female law students, were admonished for taking the place of potential male students. The administration not recognizing that, while they had opted to make their program co-ed, the faculty was not exactly pleased with the mixed gender status. This friction seemed to provide Ginsburg with more of a reason to prove them wrong. She became the first woman to be on the Harvard Law Review and, later, the Columbia Law Review.
RBG tries to provide the audience with enough of Ginsburg’s personal history to help us understand why she has become the face of feminism for the Supreme Court Justices. It shows us snapshots of her landmark cases, her reasoning behind taking those cases, her eventual rise from lawyer to a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals and obviously her new found fame as the “Notorious RBG”. While her career is undoubtedly impressive, I was more interested in Ruth the woman, not just Ruth the brilliant legal mind. The fact that she bucked against almost every gender norm of her day – in many ways still our current reference point for gender performance – was far more fascinating.
While she chose to get married and have children, she admitted she was not great with those domestic responsibilities. Ginsburg and her husband acknowledge that “he was the one who did the cooking and cleaning and she did the thinking”. It’s clear that this traditional role-reversal made the most sense to them and their family. In addition, her dedication to the law, instead of domestic duties, is not portrayed as her prioritizing one over the other. For many women, especially women with a spouse and children, they are generally shown to be “sacrificing” their familial responsibilities in order to have the career they always wanted. But, in many cases, this isn’t the whole truth. No. In reality, women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are just not good at gender-based domestic responsibilities and chose to do something they are exceedingly good at instead. Men are able to do this all.the.time. and no one bats an eye. Seeing Ginsburg and her husband fully admit this and accept it, without justifying it, was honestly stimulating.
Ginsburg’s reputation is larger than life and can be quite intimidating. Seeing her being playful, with the recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia (yes, that Justice Scalia) was an endearing look into the life of a woman who is known for being shrewd and forthright. Although Ruth Bader Ginsburg is known for her brilliance and dedication to the law, the humanizing aspect shown in RBG was the real highlight for me.