The ‘notorious RBG’ of the US Supreme Court

Initials as a name are a peculiarity normally reserved for celebrities but RBG is the exception. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the most well known of the nine justices of the American Supreme Court. Well, if you discount the odious Brett Kavanaugh.

As a nod to her status RBG has had a movie made of her. ‘TheBasis of Sex is a biopic of RBG’s life from the time she attended Harvard Law School to her first appearance in court over a case that broke ground on gender discrimination, hence the title of the movie.

Ironically it was a lifetime of sexual discrimination against RBG herself which inspired her to take on the case of Moritz v Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

A tax law which gave female carers tax breaks based on the premise that this was a woman’s job had, RBG argued, discriminated against men. She took up the case of Charles Moritz, a male carer who was denied tax reliefs, and won. RBG exposed the inbuilt legal discrimination which attributed essentialisms to gender. The political and the personal were brought together when RBG won the case.

When she started out at law school her male Professors went out of their way to make her feel guilty for taking a ‘place that could have gone to a man’. Persistently ignored during lessons when she puts her hand up to answer questions she, nevertheless, consistently gains top marks but is unable to find employment as a lawyer because she is a woman.

While the rest is history and she did overcome her gender to reach legal heights the story doesn’t end there. RBG’s hurt as a woman unfortunately really isn’t a story of her time. Watching this movie in a cinema half packed with women of all ages on a weekday afternoon I wondered whether we had all come hoping to learn something about tackling the age old crime of female discrimination.

Aside from her brilliant reasoning and fiery manner I left feeling that women still need to do the ‘one big thing’ to prove their worth while men only need do many ‘quite good things’ to be noticed.

Below is a scene from the movie with British Actress Felicity Jones playing RBG.


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