Purple Politics: The Notorious RBG

By Isabella Strimling, contributing writer

Photo by getarchd.com

“Sex, like race, is a visible, immutable characteristic bearing no necessary relationship to ability. Sex, like race, has been made the basis for unjustified or at least unproved assumptions, concerning an individual’s potential to perform or to contribute to society… These distinctions have a common effect: They help keep woman in her place, a place inferior to that occupied by men in our society.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her first-ever Supreme ruling 

From a young age, I was taught the importance of female imperium and to never let the weight of sexual discrimination stop me from pursuing my goals. However, it wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I was finally educated enough to be justifiably enraged about the treatment of the female body. For years, women went without simple human rights and instead remained under the strict watch of their male counterparts, operating beneath a bullet-proof glass ceiling. That all changed when this amazingly resilient and powerful woman finally penetrated the male-dominated bench of justices and took a stand for her sex.  

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), the second woman to ever ascend to the Supreme Court, was a towering force to be reckoned with.  

Graduating from Columbia Law (after transferring from Harvard) in 1957, Ginsburg was among nine female graduates in a class of 600. In an interview, she shared that women were denied access to libraries, rarely called on in lectures, and instead called upon in disciplinary fashions to explain why on earth they had chosen to take the valuable place of a man’s presence in Harvard’s halls. Unfortunately, neither her outstanding grade marks nor champion applications were enough to trump the acerbity of sexism’s grip on the feminist movement.

Failing to find employment in even the least-respected private-sector firms of New York, Ginsberg sought out a different path, one that would eventually lead her to secure the highest rank of authority in the entire judicial branch in the United States Federal Government.

After 13 years of serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals from the District of Columbia (offered to her by Jimmy Carter), President Clinton appointed RBG to the Supreme Court as an official supreme justice, a replacement for Byron White. While serving bench, RBG quickly became an icon for female rights, taking a stand against sex-based discrepancies in some very notable rulings.

To all my fellow, female Review readers, without Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we probably wouldn’t even be here. I certainly wouldn’t be allowed to write any articles, especially not for an established paper, or be studying to enter the political sphere. But perhaps worst of all—we would almost certainly be dependent on a man for the security of our professional and personal futures. As a woman, you were meant to look pretty, pop some (male) kids out to carry the (male) last name and serve your (male) husband.

Think I’m being dramatic?

1. Until 1974, women could not have a bank account without a male cosigner.

Shocking, I know, but true. Women were unable to handle their own finances and were only allowed to have a bank account or involve themselves in accounting and financial endeavors if their male spouse was physically present to supervise. Even today, men’s names are still placed above women’s no matter if she has her doctorate and he is a couch potato, women are still inferior in the eyes of society.

2. We STILL haven’t entirely escaped the Pregnancy Penalty

For those who have not heard of the PP, it was a common practice against women in the workplace. Maternity leave used to not be a thing—if you became pregnant while employed, your company could have fired you or refused to hold your position for you. Meaning while you are away giving birth, your job may be permanently gifted to another person. Funny, seeing as giving our husband children is all that we were good for a few decades ago.

For more info regarding this theory: https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1064&context=mlr

3. Until 1996, women could not pursue a bachelor’s degree without fear of discriminatory admissions policies (US v Virginia) 

In this notable Supreme Court Case, Virginia Military Institute was criticized by the United States Federal Government for its sexist admissions policies. They refused to let women into the university based off of their interpretation of an able-bodied student. Girls just didn’t fit the description for their “intelligent, hardworking, mentally tough soldier, wanted” ad. It was a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and was determined so by majority opinion Ruth and her fellow justices, 7-1.

To read more about the case: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1995/94-1941

4. Until 2000, women did not have the right to pursue health and physical wellness, as recommended by a doctor. (Roe v Wade, Stenberg v Carhart)  

Touchy subject, I know. In the very beginning of the abortion arguments, it was ruled (in accordance with Roe v Wade) that a woman has a right to pursue an abortion if recommended by a doctor in the face of a serious health crises revolving around a pregnancy. There was a rather controversial installation of a law in Nebraska circa 2000, that stated that the performing doctor would lose their license as well as become a felon for acting as the abortionist. In a very harsh division of justices, ruling 5-4, Ginsburg helped to protect the constitutional rights of women. The law would have imposed an “undue burden” on the woman and doctor, abridging both of their rights to privacy under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Read more on the ruling: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1999/99-830

5. Until 2003, authorities administered strip-searches for female students suspected of violating rules. (Safford Unified School District v Redding)

Savana Redding was an eighth grader at Safford Middle School when she was forced into a strip-search by (male) school officials on the basis that she was suspected of carrying ibuprofen on her person—against school rules. In court, she alleged that her Fourth amendment right to freedom of unreasonable search and seizure was being violated, and the justices ruled in her favor, 8-1. But before reaching the Supreme Court, the district courts actually ruled in favor of the district and the employee for having reason for removing her pants and searching her underwear. Ginsburg gave a strong speech after this court hearing and feminism spiked dramatically in the next few years.

Full ruling: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2008/08-479

Reader, it does not matter if you are pro-life or pro-choice, democrat or republican; Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a legendary figure in female history whose life needs to be ferociously celebrated. The idea that humans deserve the same rights as any other despite the color of their skin, their body parts and their polarizations is no political matter. It is just common sense. We are all equally deserving of freedoms granted to us in The Constitution. There is no debate. RBG set the stage, and it is now up to us, the women and men of today, to carry-on her mission for equality and her passion for human rights.

To my McKendree community: I know that we have varying beliefs. I know that political discussions are tough and that sometimes, differing beliefs inspire hateful and disappointing feelings toward another. I understand. No president or leader will ever be perfect in the eyes of every voter. But in the end, are we not all humans? Do we not all deserve the exact same rights as our neighbor? I think we do. RBG fought her entire life for each one of us to have those rights.

To Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: thank you for giving me a chance to become who I want to be, free from the constraints of my sex. I chose to go to law school in awe of your ability to change the world and take the political sphere by force with grace. Though your shoes are impossible to fill, I promise to devote my being to continuing your work to the best of my capabilities. Rest in Power.

One thought on “Purple Politics: The Notorious RBG

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  1. Isabella, thanks for sharing this tribute to a woman who truly made a difference for all! It’s good to hear that you are planning to follow in her footsteps as a lawyer and build on her legacy.

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