Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg: May her memory be a blessing


Feminist icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died of complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas at age 87, the Supreme Court of the United States announced Friday.

It was not unexpected news, but it was devastating nevertheless. The world watched her struggle through cancer for years while serving in the highest court. 

She was the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School, she founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and, of course, she was the second woman appointed to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ginsberg became a part of American culture. With movies like On the Basis of Sex, documentaries like Notorious RBG, her infamous dissent collar, an operetta — she was a household name synonymous with feminism.

The very first scene of On the Basis of Sex is hoards of men walking through the doors of Harvard Law School, and one woman standing out wearing blue. Ginsburg was one of only nine women in her class at Harvard. It was a powerful moment on screen. Many women have felt that moment, been the unmistakable female voice in a room that was overwhelmingly men. 

The movies, documentaries, books and interviews all make one thing clear: Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not going to live up to the stereotype of a 50s housewife. She was not going to sit quietly and wait for the men to speak. After she was appointed to the Supreme Court, she received faxes from some of her former law school classmates, calling her a bitch. She responded saying, “rather a bitch, than a mouse.”

She was small and shy with a soft voice but loud words. Her dissents have become infamous for their wit and passion. She wasn’t known as a feminist icon for no reason — her most passionate and scathing dissents came on women’s rights issues. 

She is why women are protected against discrimination, though maybe not to the degree she or many feminists would like. One of her first decisions as a Supreme Court Justice was a 7-1 decision saying state colleges cannot have all-male admissions policies. It was a landmark case, balanced carefully on years of precedent set by Ginsburg herself and the first woman on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor.

She was by no means perfect. She was often criticized for her stance on racial issues, her vote allowing the Dakotah Access Pipeline to be built through indigenous land and her decision not to leave the court during Barack Obama’s Presidency. 

Her death comes with concern over who President Donald Trump will nominate to fill her seat and if Republicans will call a vote for it after vehemently refusing to do so in an election year in 2016.

Her life impacted millions, and she was an example of the power, grace and grit women can come to represent. 

As is tradition in her Jewish faith, may her memory be a blessing.