Op-Ed: Why is R.B.G. so notorious?


Photo credit: Ella Frey

At 85 years old, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been serving as a Supreme Court Justice for 13 years. “As long as I can do the job full steam, I will stay here,” Ginsburg said to New Republic when asked about her plans to retire.

R.B.G. is notorious, but not for being B.I.G. People don’t refer to her as a “big poppa” or expect her to throw her hands in the air like a true player. Affectionately anointed with the moniker “the Notorious R.B.G,” she is the first Chief Justice to capture the zeitgeist with movies, documentaries and the kind of celebrity usually reserved for rock stars. She is none other than the incomparable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a groundbreaking feminist that fought for women’s rights long before it was fashionable.

While, yes, it is important to commemorate R.B.G’s legacy with look-alike knick-knacks, humorous interpretations of her name and award-winning documentaries, it is also important to really understand the why behind what makes Ruth Bader Ginsburg so notorious.

After an impressive resume of academic studies at Harvard, Cornell and Columbia University, Ruth Bader Ginsburg still found herself swimming in a pool of toxic masculinity and male-dominated fields. However, Ginsburg defied the odds of her era and became the only female member of the Harvard Law Review, in addition to becoming the first female tenured professor at Columbia University.

In the 1970s, Ginsburg served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], where she argued six gender discrimination cases in front of the Supreme Court and 300 in the total of her career as a general counsel.

President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, a position in which she wrote the decision for United States v. Virginia, which stated that the Virginia Military Institute could not refuse to admit women.

Now, at 85-years-young, Ginsburg remains one of three female Supreme Court Justices, along with Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

It is because of the groundbreaking work of this woman, with her piercing blue eyes concealed by giant round eyeglasses, that a feminist institution like Archer is able to thrive. With clubs like I Am, Girl Empowering Girls and many other affinity organizations on campus, the younger generation is able to share its modern feminist voice.

It is important to recognize the struggle that powerful women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinem, Bell Hooks, Coretta Scott-King and so many others faced to secure our right to not only speak but be heard.

Women across the country should use their voices, no matter how loud or quiet, against injustices that minorities face academically, socially and professionally.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not notorious for her musical prowess or her ability to captivate an audience with catchy hip-hop rhymes. However, she is notorious for shaping the world and inspiring other women to do the same.