Ruth Bader Ginsburg is more than a meme. She’s more than a Saturday Night Live skit and more than a political pawn in the 2020 election.
She is an inspiration for millions of American women and girls. Thanks to her efforts and her example, women have experienced steps forward in equality in education, the workplace and their personal lives denied to them in earlier decades.
So, let’s stop for a minute, OK?
Let’s stop the political maneuvering, the jockeying for position and the fear-mongering over a Supreme Court vacancy. Let’s take some time to honor the fascinating, accomplished, fearless woman our nation just lost. Let’s celebrate her accomplishments, her zest for the rule of law, her brilliant mind and her rise to the highest court in the United States.
Only the second woman on the Court, Ginsburg was a tireless warrior for equal rights and equal justice. While she didn’t start her law career focused on equality for women, her early experience in law school shaped her career. Only one of nine women at Harvard Law School in 1956, she and her female classmates were asked by the dean why they were filling seats meant for men.
She was brilliant. She tied for first in her class — and then was denied a clerkship with the Supreme Court because she was a woman. Twelve law firms also declined to hire her.
She overcame. Not only was she eventually hired, she became a star in her field, arguing her first case in 1973 before the Court she’d join 20 years later, arguing that women have a constitutional right to equal treatment under the law.
She changed lives. Many of the freedoms women take for granted today are in part a result of her efforts. Thanks to Ginsburg, women serving in the military get the same benefits for their families as their male counterparts. Widowed fathers get their wives’ Social Security benefits, also thanks to Ginsburg. She lobbied on behalf of anti-discrimination legislation for pregnant women, and Congress responded. Women can’t be discriminated against at work based on their pregnancies.
And she persevered. The Notorious RBG — as she came to be known — captured the attention and the praise of the nation in a way few justices ever have. It wasn’t just her brilliance; it was also her compassionate approach to the law. It was her firebrand response to the question of when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court. Her answer: “When there are nine.”
Ginsburg believed women’s equality meant better financial outcomes for everyone — for men, for families, for children. She lived that belief and gave many people the foundation for brighter futures.
She also supported same-sex marriage, believed in women’s reproductive rights and worked tirelessly for equality for everyone.
And she is more than an empty seat to be filled with the first warm body of Donald Trump’s choosing before the election. Her legacy is larger than who will replace her. She deserves our time and attention to mark her accomplishments — not political jockeying.
It’s appalling that in 2020, human life and accomplishments are so devalued that politicians can’t take time to recognize an extraordinary individual.
So to Ruth we say: Rest in peace. The reasoned and just among us will try to take it from here.