Today we pay respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as RBG. RBG was born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York to a Jewish family and her life ended on September 18, 2020 due to complications from metastatic pancreas cancer. She fought until the end.
RBG attended Harvard during the 1950’s while balancing her new roles as wife and mother, and was only one of eight women in her class of 500. She was often criticized by the dean of her college for taking the spot of a qualified man. She later graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959, first in her class, after caring for her husband who had cancer. She worked through the 1970’s, serving as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU and argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1980 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter and later to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She became the second female justice and the first Jewish female justice in U.S. history. Many of the achievements RBG is credited for include reproductive rights for women, guaranteed pay equality regardless of gender, inter/multifaith equity and the banning of numerous laws restricting the LGBT community.
And while we celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg life and achievements, communities she touched, we can also recognize the injustices she faced as a woman. We can also acknowledge the need for her as a woman to not only put herself through college but to also care for her family, which at the time included a small child and a sick husband. She had to finish top of her class to be included and had to continue working as she struggled with cancer and other illnesses throughout the last 20 years of her long career.
She dedicated her life to ensuring equity for various communities - so now I sit here pondering what our next Supreme Court Justice will mean for the continued advancement of equity. We can also make mention that while there was so much that she accomplished, there is still much more work that needs to be done. How do we as a nation continue to reinforce, support and reinforce the inequities faced by so many communities on a daily basis? Whether it be the targeting of Black Individuals for incarceration, the caging and sterilization of immigrants fleeing their nation states, the lack of basic human rights for members of the LGBT community, or the continued removal of land and resources from Indigenous persons. We can do better as a society and our action is required. We can no longer sit by and wait for someone else to do the work, the work has to be done by everyone one of us.
At the Center for Women’s and Gender Equity on the UNC Campus, we have these conversations all the time. We value feminism and also work to address the problems that are still seen within this movement. As a white woman I want to acknowledge that although Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an amazing figure, her fight mostly benefited women similar to myself in identity and there is still so much more to do. We shouldn’t have to work as women until well into our 80’s while battling cancer to ensure that persons who don’t identify as a white man can also prosper in the United States of America. In a nation that is over 200 years in existence, Ruth Bader Ginsberg should not be the first woman to lie in state at our nation’s capital, and she is.
Come visit us at the CWGE to participate in these discussions and learn more about what we do.