Let her Memory be a Revolution
I woke up on Saturday, September 19 to my regular routine – morning coffee, trying to find the one sports sock that always goes missing in the wash before the kid has to play, and of course, checking the news. Mostly these days it’s ensuring that America hasn’t gone to war with someone or spontaneously combusted. Honestly, after the last few months, none of those things would be a surprise. As I opened my laptop and saw the first news item, my heart stopped just for a second. I saw the photo of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I knew before even reading the headline that she had died.
I felt myself start to cry, and it just kept coming. It’s always awful when someone passes who has done so much for women. You feel personally connected. The fact that this woman – so small in stature – had fought so hard, through sexism and anti-Semitism to be in a position to help shape the laws of the land was such an inspiration.
She was one of only nine women in her Harvard Law School class. After working her way up through the court system, she was nominated for Justice of the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton and was sworn in on August 10, 1993. Her time in both the lower courts and the Supreme Court saw her fight for marginalized groups and create equal laws requiring equal footing for men and women. Including discrimination on the grounds of sex when you are being employed or in the workplace.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which passed in1974 (the year I was born) meant that women were allowed to get a bank account, a credit card and a loan without a male co-signer. She led the court decision that state-funded school must admit women (in 1996, which is crazy that this was even a question).
She represented a man in 1968 who, on the bases of his gender, was unable to apply for tax deductions while caring for his mother and won. She later won cases that awarded two widowers benefits that would have automatically been granted to them had they been women.
These precedents assisted in the inclusion of an amendment added to the Equal protection Act that would not allow discrimination based on sex.
I cried because we had lost a woman who had contributed so much to the fabric of society. And I cried because I knew what this would mean politically for the US in the current climate. Sure enough, not even an hour after her passing the political fight began. It seems so inconceivable that the US has a system which means if one woman dies, it can leave in jeopardy the rights of hundreds of millions of people. It should be a lesson to us that we need to fight early and hard for what we want.
The kid found me crying and asked what was wrong. I said that everyone we knew was alright but explained to her that we had lost a very important woman and that mum was sad. Several hours later she raced towards me with Elton John’s Tiny Dancer blaring from her iPad, in itself not that unusual (she loves that song). Then out of the mouths of babes, I hear “mum check out this idiot”, and she turned the screen so I could see the leader of the free world reacting to RBG’s death. I couldn't even correct her. It’s not like she was wrong.
Thousands of people gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court the night she passed. Sad and scared for what was to come. Her legacy should be generations of men and woman who step up and fill her void. A generation who does not let her legacy be a nation left defeated by her passing, but one that mobilises in her name.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg.