As any TV superhero understands it, discrimination does not discriminate. For an everyday hero, the ability to protect others from painfully unequal situations is still crucial. In today's society, a hero that works solely to protect people is hard to find. In a time when media and culture promote role models who have money or fame, a hero who looks beyond himself is rare. Even with these parameters, a hero does not require a certain number of followers or dollars in a bank account. A hero can be found in many people, though true heroes have certain special qualities that make them admirable. These heroes remain undeterred by a fork in the road and make the right decision in the face of challenging choices or trying times. These heroes must not back down from a challenge in the way of their passion and remain on the right path toward an altruistic ambition. Truly benign heroes must hold a deep-rooted affection for justice and unrelenting passion for what is right.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg being sworn in as the second female Supreme Court JusticeRalph Alswang/White House Photograph Office / Public domainFor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, determination and justice are not traits that she questions in herself, but standards that she asks of all people. Born on March 15, 1933, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was raised in Brooklyn, New York, with values of independence instilled in her by her mother from a young age. Ginsburg’s mother reminded her to always be a woman, though her definition was not traditional. Ginsburg’s duty, then, was to exemplify her mother’s revised definition for the world. Even while being constantly discouraged by classmates and faculty, along with braving the additional responsibilities of taking care of her son and her sick husband, Ginsburg succeeded in becoming one of only eight women in a class of over five hundred Harvard Law students. Despite the challenges she encountered, such as needing to switch to Colombia Law with her husband, she graduated tied for top of her class in 1959. Just when victory seemed to arrive, Ginsburg’s qualifications and smarts were not considered by employers because she was a woman. Through the discouragement, Ginsburg’s understanding of the importance of justice only grew stronger and more informed and became the motive in her career. After getting a job and becoming the first tenured female law professor at Columbia Law School in 1972, Ginsburg worked with her students and her husband to build a repertoire of cases that she could employ to argue for equality of the sexes. She built a name for herself, and by the mid-‘70s, she was arguing six sex discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, using the cunning strategy of arguing for men’s rights, alongside women’s rights, in order to win over the Justices. From there, she became a judge on the Court of Appeals in 1980, and by 1993, she was being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. Like Ginsburg, a hero must possess determination as well as have a belief in justice. A hero’s determination is their ability to carry the resilience and persistence necessary to get oneself out of a tough situation or emotional turmoil and move on to flourish. When a hero shows their belief in justice, they will do what is right for all people with a selfless and a truly benign motive. Through her ever-present determination and enthusiasm for justice and equality, Ruth Bader Ginsburg embodies heroism and inspires others.
Through hardships, Ginsburg remained determined in the heroic pursuit of her ambitions. During law school, Ginsburg, or RBG, supported both her and her husband Marty’s studies after he was diagnosed with cancer: "Cancer, which had already stolen RBG’s mother, threatened to take Marty too… So she threw everything into making sure he stayed on track in his studies… When Marty fell asleep around 2 A.M., RBG would begin her own work… Marty made it through, against all odds, and graduated… RBG made the Law Review a second time and graduated tied for first in her class" (Carmon and Knizhnik 107). Without giving up on her husband, Ginsburg propelled both of them through law school. Undeterred, she did something that few can achieve: graduating at the top of her class while also helping her husband graduate. She never dropped her pursuit of a degree and career in law, and despite the extra responsibilities of her husband’s work and the weight of the emotionally trying situation, she remained ambitious. With this ambition, she was able to achieve what she set out to do and even go beyond. When health issues and society's stereotypes of her resulted in challenges, Ginsburg remained determined in her school and work, as well as in her fight for equality. By continuing forward to become a Supreme Court Justice, she makes decisions that best benefit the people, making her not only a hero to them, but a role model for what can result from determination. In another instance of Ginsburg’s determination, the pursuit of ambitions that few supported and almost no one believed could be achieved, Ginsburg did not lose sight of her goals: “No one--not the firms and judges that had refused to hire a young mother, not the bosses who had forced her out of a job for getting pregnant or paid her less for being a woman--had ever expected her to be sitting up there at the court” (Carmon and Knizhnik 17). Ginsburg had the cards stacked against her, with few people supporting her and many people and events discouraging her. However, due to her determination through adversity, she was still able to achieve greatness in becoming a Justice on the Supreme Court. Despite the forces out of her control, she never stopped pursuing her own personal aspirations, nor her visions for the American society on a larger scale. Not only does this make her able to personally thrive, but her example of a woman who can go places influences American minds, thoughts, ideas, and values, so that society as a whole may be more empathetic, just, and equal. Even when her ambitions set her apart, she remained on track, willing to be seen for the benefit of others, making her a hero to those who fall victim to stereotyping and discrimination.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme CourtSupreme Court of the United States [Public domain]Another one of Ginsburg’s many heroic traits is her belief in justice and her heroic ability to see and strive for the termination of inequality. As an attorney, Ginsburg presented her argument for the case of Califano v. Goldfarb to the Supreme Court. In this case, widower Mr. Leon Goldfarb was denied the same social insurance that widows received. Based on Ginsburg’s argument in which she states, “Under the equal protection principle, the woman worker’s national social insurance is of no less value than is the social insurance of the working man,” the Supreme Court stated this in their ruling: “In this case, a three-judge district court held that the different treatment of men and women so mandated constituted invidious discrimination against female wage earners by affording them less protection for their surviving spouses than is provided to male employees. That judgment is affirmed” (Oyez, Califano v. Goldfarb). During the oral argument, Ginsburg helped the Justices to understand that the difference in standards between men’s and women’s applicability to insurance after the death of their spouse was unfair. In the end, she urged the Supreme Court to question the classification of gender and ultimately realize that the gap that was then created was unconstitutional and overall ridiculous. Because of the passion she has for justice and change, she ended a case of discrimination and moved America toward a more reasonable and fair society. This was heroic not only to Goldfarb and others in his situation but also pivotal in opening the eyes of the public to help them better understand inequalities and their faults. Ginsburg is not only a women’s rights activist, as she is rightfully characterized, but she understand that men are deserving, like all people, of equality and just treatment, and acts upon this value that she holds dear. Her belief in justice and drive to stop discrimination is heroic to men, women, and others who are affected by stereotyping and discrimination. Later in her career, now serving as a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg presented her opinion in the United States v. Virginia case, in which Virginia attempted to create a women-only military school to complement their men-only military school, instead of allowing women into the men-only Virginia Military Institute (VMI). In the opinion announcement, Ginsburg declares, "Under this exacting standard, reliance on overbroad generalizations of typically male or typically female tendencies, estimates about the way most women or most men are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description… To cure that violation and to afford genuinely equal protection, women seeking and fit for a VMI quality education cannot be offered anything less" (Oyez, United States v. Virginia). In her opinion, she highlights the fact that keeping women out of Virginia Military Institute, solely based on their sex, was an example of inequality, and therefore was unjust. In this statement, she also denounces the stereotyping of men and women and explains its discriminative and harmful effects. By urging people to understand others beyond perceived stereotypes, Ginsburg shows her pure belief in justice and drive to realize fairness. She is a hero to those who defy stereotypes, by giving them the ability to act based on their skills and not their sex. By acting upon her values of justice, Ginsburg shows her benign and heroic nature through her willingness to help those who fall victim to discriminatory standards and systems. In doing so, she is a hero and role model, giving people the opportunities, platforms, and justice that they deserve, but also showing her own story as an example of places one can go, regardless of sex.
Throughout her life, Ruth Bader Ginsburg maintained determination and never lost sight of justice, making her a hero to American women, men, and those hurt by unlawful discrimination. The success and change she has created on the other side of struggles serve as hope and inspiration for those watching. Through discriminative employers and the sickness of her husband, Ginsburg persisted. With her determination, she made her way up in the world of law, using her platform and her enthusiasm for justice to fight for women’s equality and equality of the sexes in cases like Califano v. Goldfarb and United States v. Virginia. When I look into my future, the possibilities are limitless thanks to Ginsburg breaking through walls previously set in my way. I aspire to make art for a living, but when I think about the possibility of becoming a starving artist, it crosses my mind that maybe art can be my side hustle, or that I can put in on hold until the “perfect” time to start. Ginsburg’s story is an unforgettable reminder to remain undeterred by inner and outer doubts. The way that she flung herself wholeheartedly into a law profession, with no wiggle room or backup plan to lean on, encourages me that as long as I put my all into my dream of becoming a successful artist, and am creative and strategic, I can surpass any doubts that I have, and work past any roadblocks that are set in my way. No one understood Ginsburg’s belief in herself, and at the time, even she did not think a woman could be on the Supreme Court, and yet, she serves justice regardless; in proving others wrong, it seems only fair that she includes showing herself what’s really possible.
Brock, Rita Nakashima. “Ginsburg, Ruth Bader.” National Women's Hall of Fame, 2002, www.womenofthehall.org/inductee/ruth-bader-ginsburg/.
"Califano v. Goldfarb." Oyez, 9 Apr. 2019, www.oyez.org/cases/1976/75-699.
Carmon, Irin, and Shana Knizhnik. Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.
"Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Newsmakers, Gale, 1993. Biography In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/K1618002136/BIC?u=powa9245&sid=BIC&xid=aa390c10. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
"Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Oyez, 12 Apr. 2019, www.oyez.org/justices/ruth_bader_ginsburg.
Smith, Jan. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Interview.” YouTube, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 16 Mar. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qbk8Z110M1o. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.
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