Honors English 2 Period 3
26 April 2019
How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Changed Society
“Superheroes are the best of us. Never mind all those powers or the crazy costumes. The heart of a superhero is meant to inspire” (qtd in Bernal). As New York Times best selling author and comic book author Marjorie Liu states, society admires superheroes because of the way they help and inspire people. However, heroism can be seen in many forms. When someone is able to lead a giant movement that inspires a ton of people, they are defined as a hero. Nonetheless, if someone does a simple act of heroism, and that's all they have the ability to do, to me, they are also a hero because they are doing everything in their power for a good cause with the absence of personal gain. Therefore, perhaps the best definition of a hero is someone who possesses the motivation to overcome the obstacles thrown at them in order to help others, as well as having a strong passion for something and using their motivation as a way to pursue that passion to help humanity as a whole.
Ginsburg speaking at naturalization ceremony. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ginsburg_speaks_at_naturalization_ceremony_2018_(44580901170).jpg Not many people who have a public light shined upon them can demonstrate these key aspects of heroism in the way that Ruth Bader Ginsburg does: with class and ease. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York to a middle-class Jewish family. She developed her hard-working nature and passion for equality as she grew up. She faced many tough times in her adolescence, such as when her beloved mother passed away due to cancer just as Ruth graduated high school. Nevertheless, this did not stop her from going on to achieve great things, starting when she attended Cornell University where she met her husband, Marty Ginsburg. She went on to attend Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School, where she had to endure a primarily male-dominated environment. Still, she succeeded, graduating with high honors, and became a professor of law, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals, and finally a Supreme Court Justice. Throughout her life, she always had the motivation to fight for what she believed in no matter the hardships thrown her way, as shown through the ways she handled adversity in her own life and used her motivation to help others. She always had a passion for gender equality and has spent her whole life fighting for it in order to create real, permanent change. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has used her undying motivation and never-ending passion for equality to overcome obstacles and make society more equal by providing an example and creating a path for women in law.
Ginsburg seen with her fellow (mostly male) Supreme Court Justices. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2005/10/images/20051003_d-0143-515h.html Ever since her early years, Ginsburg used her powerful motivation to overcome any obstacle she faced, but more importantly to help others. In Ginsburg’s book My Own Words, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams wrote an introduction to each section; in the section where they discuss Ruth’s early life, they write: “Instead of letting her mother’s illness interfere with her studies, Ruth immersed herself in academics, and extracurricular activities, relying on a routine of hard work, discipline, and little sleep to ‘carry her along,’ a pattern she would repeat during times of adversity throughout her life” (qtd in Ginsburg 19). While most crumble in the circumstances of emotionally intense situations, Ginsburg used her mother’s illness to give her a stronger motivation to work harder in school. Her habits she made at that hard time in her life followed her into the rest of her life, and caused her to push past whatever pressure was put on her. From a young age, she had a motivation to always work harder in order to do better, and not let anything stop her. Ginsburg’s devotion to help people rang true when she ruled on Virginia Military Institute’s policy so that they would start allowing women to attend: "Ginsburg explained that the gist of the opinion was simple. 'There are women who are ready and willing and able to undergo the tough training at VMI and they want that opportunity,’ … Cadet Makayla Diamond, 20, from Virginia was in the audience to hear the speech. 'I’m very thankful because without Ruth Bader Ginsburg I might not be here,' she said. ‘She allowed all these women to not only come here but to succeed in whatever they wanted to do”' (At VMI, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Reflects). VMI is the oldest state-supported military university, resulting in old-fashioned rules that limited many people from getting the military education they wanted and deserved. However, Ginsburg’s motivation to change this led to VMI finally opening their doors to women after approximately 158 years of being male only. This demonstrates Ginsburg’s motivation to change the things she found not right within society, which in this case gave countless female cadets opportunities to also pursue their passions. Through her actions, Ginsburg exhibits that if one works hard enough, they can push through any adversity in their life, whether that is a personal challenge or an obstacle born from gender inequality.
Ginsburg’s passion for women’s rights and equality drove her to create lasting change. As Bonnie Marcus wrote in her article “The Three Lessons You Can Learn From Ruth Bader Ginsburg About Ambition” for Forbes magazine: "Women in this country see Ginsburg as their spokesperson; their voice. They trust her to represent their rights and stand up for gender equality. This has become Ginsburg’s mission. It is the passion and commitment to this mission that fuels her ambition. She is not ambitious for herself but for her cause. It’s not ego driven but purpose driven. She understands her value and how she can make a difference in society. It’s her legacy" (Marcus, Bonnie). For women to have a representative that has the never-ending passion to fight for their rights is game-changing for society. Ginsburg has made a difference by making gender equality her mission, thus becoming a trusted voice for women, which shaped her legacy. With that kind of “purpose-driven” leadership guiding the way, she is an inspiration for others to stand up and fight for their rights and has thereby created lasting change in our society. Ginsburg has also shared her passion with others, as seen when she taught at Columbia University: “She also imported the seminar model she had initiated at Rutgers, teaching Columbia law students about gender and law and engaging them in actual litigation and legislation projects relating to gender issues” (qtd in Ginsburg 115). Ginsburg used the platform she had with her students to teach them about law in regards to gender equality, which led to many more students learning about those issues. Ginsburg has also fought many cases having to do with equal rights. However, one of her biggest cases was actually fighting for a man who was discriminated against due to his gender. Ariane de Vogue, a CNN Supreme Court Reporter, described Ginsburg’s approach to the case: “As a young lawyer, she blazed trails to fight laws that discriminated on the basis of gender. Ginsburg, a keen tactician, knew that it would be particularly powerful if she could show that gender discrimination hurt men as well as women. As such, she represented Stephen Wiesenfeld, who fought a provision of the Social Security Act after his wife died in childbirth” (10 Things You Didn’t Know). She won the case that discriminated against men by not providing child care Social Security benefits to widowed fathers. She not only fights for women rights, but also for absolute equality, which ultimately demonstrates her strong belief in equal rights for all, not just on the basis of discrimination against women. This case changed the lives widowed fathers across the country. Ginsburg’s strong passion ensures that she will continue to fight for what she believes in by helping, educating, and inspiring.
Ginsburg being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photograph_of_President_William_J._Clinton_Attending_the_Swearing-In_of_Judge_Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg_as_Associate_Supreme_Court_Justice.jpg Ruth Bader Ginsburg has positively impacted society by inspiring women and changing the way things were done through her constant motivation and blazing passion. Ginsburg’s motivation has led her to overcome the adversity in her life in order to create paths for women in law as well as molding strict rules to give women equal opportunities. Her determination stemmed from her passion for equality. This passion made her an inspiration, and she spread it not only by teaching it, but also by standing up for anyone facing gender discrimination, regardless of their sex. Ginsburg's passion for helping others has inspired me to take on a more vocal role in My Girlfriend’s Closet, a local non-profit charity that provides clothes to foster, low-income, and homeless teen girls. Being a board member for the past two years has led me to discover that I am passionate about volunteering and helping those less fortunate receive the basic necessities they need. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I too wish to have a positive impact on the world around me. Ginsburg truly did give all she had to something larger than herself; the impact of her motivation and passion is bigger than just inspiring women across the world. She trampled through a muddy grassland of discrimination in order to create a path for women coming after her. As a famous activist and journalist Gloria Steinem said in the documentary RBG: “She [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] is the closest thing to a superhero I know” (RBG).
Bernal , Gina. “Marjorie M. Liu Talks ‘Call Me Savage,’ Female Comic-Con Geeks, and Parnormal Romance.” The Wall Street Journal , 21 July 2010, blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/07/21/marjorie-m-liu-talks-call-me-savage-female-comic-con-geeks-and-parnormal-romance/.
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader, et al. My Own Words. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2018. Marcus, Bonnie.
“The Three Lessons You Can Learn From Ruth Bader Ginsburg About Ambition.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Nov. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2018/11/12/the-three-lessons-you-can-learn-from-ruth-bader-ginsburg-about-ambition/#1b77556e17d9.
RBG. Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, performance by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Participant Media, 2018.
"Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2007. Biography In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1000036878/BIC?u=powa9245&sid=BIC&xid=6b7e58f7. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Remarks for the Second Circuit Judicial Conference” May 26, 2016
"Ruth Bader Ginsburg." UXL Biographies, UXL, 2011. Student Resources In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ2108100885/SUIC?u=powa9245&sid=SUIC&xid=a2ca9834. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
Vogue, Ariane de. “At VMI, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Reflects on a Monumental Ruling.” CNN, Cable News Network, 13 Aug. 2018, www.cnn.com/2017/02/02/politics/ruth-bader-ginsburg-vmi/index.html.
Vogue, Ariane de. “10 Things You Didn't Know about the 'Notorious RBG'.” CNN, Cable News Network, 10 Aug. 2018, www.cnn.com/2016/10/01/politics/ruth-bader-ginsburg-notorious-rbg/index.html