“I ask no favour for my sex… All I ask of our brethren, is that they take their feet, off our necks.”
The honourable Ruth Bader Ginsburg uttered these words in 1973 when she presented her first case in front of the Supreme Court as a litigator for the Women’s Right Project of the American Civil Rights Union. The quote came from a woman named Sarah Grimke who was an abolitionist and women’s rights activist, someone who had fought for equality the way that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her life doing.
An advocate for both men and women, she embodied the very idea of what it means to be a feminist. She pushed boundaries that were set within the law of the United States of America that infringed on the rights of its people, and dedicated her life to breaking those boundaries. Thereby, giving men and women the opportunity to claim the unalienable rights that they deserved.
When looking forward into the future, RBG envisioned a world where men and women were held to the same equal standards and were guaranteed equal rights under the law. She spent her whole life fighting to make this vision a reality, time and time again.
As a student at Harvard Law School, Justice Ginsburg simultaneously took care of her young child and her husband, who was fighting a battle against cancer at the time.
She was a revolutionary, one of less than 10 women in a class of over 500 when being a woman meant you still had to justify taking a place that could have otherwise gone to a man.
Nevertheless, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg persevered. She went on to become a director of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Rights Union. She played a role in 34 Supreme Court cases and argued six in front of the Supreme Court.
She won five out of the six, arguing for the rights of women and men and redefined the law and the discrimination within it, on the basis of sex.
She took on many titles over the years, from educator to litigator and eventually went on to become a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. She was the second woman and the 107th justice in United States history to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Through countless battles with cancer and her husband’s death, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent the last 27 years on the Supreme Court protecting and upholding the rights of the American people and the Constitution that our country was built on.
It was her dissent in Supreme Court decisions such as the majority vote against the Voting Rights Act, that made her the social media icon she is today. The more right-wing the court became, the more RBG spoke out in dissent. Her voice inspired people to take to the streets, to continue to fight for justice and pursue it, regardless of whether or not you were the majority.
Amongst many of her accomplishments was her ability to build consensus and focus on what was most important. She represented the spirit of America that goes beyond being a Democrat or Republican, she represented the rights and civil liberties of what it means to be an American.
The idea of the American Dream is something that goes back to the establishment of my country, but its exact meaning has been debated by people of all shapes and sizes.
For me, it is women like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that captures the essence of that dream. The ability to not just survive but thrive even when the odds are stacked against you. When Justice Ginsburg took the stand in front of the U.S. Senate to justify her nomination to the United States Supreme Court, she went on to say,
“I am a Brooklynite, born and bred. A first generation American on my father’s side, fairly second generation on my mother’s. What has become of me could happen only in America.”
It is these words that I hold onto, in spite of all that has gone wrong in my country in the last four years and through every difficulty we have faced as a people. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminds me every day why I am proud to be an American. It is people like her who go on to inspire others and encourage them to fight for change and do so, not by ripping the American people apart, but by bringing us together.
Her unrelenting pursuit for justice and gender equality made her the icon she was and will forever be. Even in her death, the ‘Notorious RBG’ continues to inspire the public and her memory is being honoured by those all around the world who share in her loss.
Although we might be afraid of what is to come, there are those who have been impacted by her work and her voice and will continue to honour her.
We will continue to push forward and dissent. We will speak up and fight for those who can’t fend for themselves. Her memory will be a blessing and a revolution, in the hopes that the American people will continue in the pursuit for justice and equal rights for all, regardless of their gender, race, or their sex.
Image: Wake Forest University, via Flickr