RBG’s Legacy

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Photo Credit: The New Yorker

Ye Ji Jong, Assistant Editor, Opinion Editor, Layout Editor

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was truly an icon and pioneer for women’s rights in America. She was appointed the second female justice of the US Supreme Court in 1933 and argued for equal rights for all genders and sexualities while extending the right to healthcare, fighting the uphill battle she faced due to her being a woman. 

Although Ginsburg is best known for her votes in support of Americans’ ability to get an abortion and to marry someone of the same sex, her impressive legal legacy can be traced back to her work with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the 1970s, when she and others challenged sex-discrimination cases that heavily governed the American family dynamic. Those laws implied a narrow view of gender roles within families that were often harmful for all genders and enforced a heteronormative and intolerant view of a family. 

An example of this would be when late Justice Ginsburg successfully overturned the law that enforced husbands being denied a spousal allowance that military wives were automatically entitled to and an unmarried man was denied a tax deduction for the expense of hiring a caregiver for his elderly mother, since that deduction was reserved for women, divorced men, and men whose wife was incapacitated or deceased. These laws ultimately decreased financial mobility and enforced harsh inequalities for men. 

Ginsburg’s unconventional yet brilliant strategy she used was to focus on how such discrimination harmed men. 

“Rather than asking the Court to examine inequalities facing women, where nine men were very unlikely to be sympathetic, she asked them to look at inequalities affecting men, because she thought it was more likely that they would recognize those as problematic,” Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford University told the Atlantic.

This attention to the law’s treatment of men was not merely strategic, but also part of Ginsburg’s long term plan of demolishing the harmful and patriarchal norms: men were the breadwinners and women were the caretakers. This shaped and molded a multitude of American households, ultimately causing all genders to suffer. By addressing issues the patriarchy enforced onto men to show how harmful it could be to women it effectively addressed the systemic inequalities that existed due to the laws being so patriarchal on a larger scale, while creating an atmosphere of tolerance and open-mindedness. 

Ginsburg’s approach also paved the way for women to gain social and economic mobility. Before the mid-’70s, women were often denied access to their own credit cards under the societal and legal assumption that the “man in the family” controlled the family’s financial assets. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which Ginsburg fought to pass, banned such discrimination. Ginsburg fought so women could have economic liberation and equality to end the legal systems that often forced them into a toxic cycle of being dependent on a man. 

RBG’s legacy extends not just to women’s economic freedoms, but also their own bodily autonomy. Her legacy is visible in abortion providers, public healthcare, gender re-assignment surgery clinics, everyone who fights for the rights to take control of their own body and not let politicians politicize and debate about the existence of human rights to marginalized communities. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not some “baby-killer.” She fought so women didn’t have to choose between work and family. She fought so women weren’t forced to quit their jobs to start a family. 

Captain Susan Struck was a combat nurse in Vietnam but was forced to choose between two options: quit or get an abortion when she became pregnant. But her choice of wanting to keep the baby got her kicked out of the military and dishonorably charged. She sued the US Government for the lack of protection and harsh discrimination against women, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg took her case and fought for change. She later helped Congress draft the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to ban the workforce from enforcing the same two decisions Captain Struck faced. Ginsburg fought for the rights of women to choose LIFE. She fought for women to have the rights to work without discrimination, purchase homes, open bank accounts, and to control their own lives and create another. 

Ruth Bader Ginsberg was an amazing woman who fought for the systemic liberation of the oppressed. The justice system and American society will always honor and remember her amazing work. Her legacy lives in all of us, as we protest on the streets and from our homes to fight for our rights. Thank you Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and may you rest in power.