Watching RBG, a documentary about the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the parallels among her being an aspiring law student at Harvard and Columbia, the cases she took on as attorney, and her role on SCOTUS are quite striking.
She tended to be dismissed out of hand at Harvard, with her and the handful of other students being asked directly why they were taking spots that could have gone to a man. Decades later, Virginia Military Institute was essentially making the same case, but the argument was met with withering criticism by RBG.
This is a wonderful film, helped by some amazing archival video showing the development of the great love story between Ruth and Marty Ginsberg, who were married from 1954 until his death in 2010. He was gregarious, while he was quiet, goofy when she was serious. Ruth is a notoriously awful cook, while Marty had kitchen talent.
Moreover, he recognized her great legal skills. Arthur Miller, their great friend, said that Marty was the greatest tax attorney in New York City, yet he left his job to follow his wife when she was appointed to the federal bench by Jimmy Carter.
During her confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court in 1993, she felt that many of the men on the Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t “get” it, didn’t understand the effect of being dismissed out of hand. Yet she was confirmed 96-3 after Bill Clinton recommended her, recognizing her stellar mind.
As she became more the liberal voice of dissent, social media dubbed her The Notorious RBG with a Tumblr page, pictures on Pinterest, T-shirts and a book describing the an unlikely recent obsession in our culture: an octogenarian Supreme Court justice.
Ruth has learned to embrace the phenomenon. She laughs at Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live while acknowledging that it is nothing like her.
Meanwhile, she is passing down wisdom to her grandchildren, including one granddaughter who was in a class of lawyers that’s about 50% female.
The film, which my wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, is touching, and educational, and, based on my laughter at the latter sections, occasionally quite funny.