RBG had no problems with her new nickname, noting with a smile that the comparison to The Notorious B.I.G. was accurate given that they were both born in Brooklyn.
RBG is a meaningful documentary for a number of reasons. Centering on the extraordinary life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it tells a larger story concerning the treatment of American women as second class citizens. This film should be required viewing for all law students.
Justice Ginsburg was nominated by President Clinton for the Supreme Court in 1993 and she won over the senators during the confirmation process even though she unashamedly endorsed the right of women to seek an abortion. More to the point, she noted a fundamental principle ignored by many politicians, namely that it is a woman’s sole role, not the government, to make decisions concerning her own body.
As Justice Ginsburg’s life was examined by Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen, you watch her successfully fight for admission to a Princeton Law School overwhelmingly dominated by male students. Though she goes on to join the Law Review during her second year, she subsequently transfers to Cornell University in New York when her lawyer husband joined a firm in that city. She was a woman who didn’t let a minor thing like sleep and raising two children get in the way when it came to pursuing her own career.
Justice Ginsburg set her own destiny when she became involved in cases where women were suffering discrimination at the hands of business and government. This included several successful arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, one of which resulted in the Court forcing VMI to finally break a barrier and admit women to their historic military school.
But what makes RGB so much fun to watch is the wonderful revelation of her as an individual. Even though she is now in her early 80s, she continues to pursue a personal policy where she will frequently not go to bed until 5 in the morning to get her work done. She has always had to be coaxed to come home to eat an evening meal, and her children laughingly noted that she remains one of the worst cooks who ever lived.
It was also amusing to discover that her lack of a sense of humor was fully handled by her late husband, Martin. During their 50-year marriage, he fully recognized that his wife’s career became more important than his, and he proceeded to play a supporting role that will gain your admiration.
Various well known people, including Gloria Steinem, gave interviews focusing on Justice Ginsburg’s devoted efforts to make meaningful changes in the American landscape. Given her lifelong quest to point out that the difference between women being placed on a pedestal as opposed to a cage, it remains revealing to note that she is only one of three women presently on the Supreme Court.
One of Justice Ginsburg’s great strengths flows from her ability to form friendships with Judges on the opposite side of many legal opinions. Though she seldom agreed with the late Justice Scalia in any decided case, they were frequently seen in public settings where they enjoyed each other’s company. That is a lesson that could help our fractured Congress rise from the political ashes.
Though she will not acknowledge it, Justice Ginsburg is obviously proud of the many dissents that she has authored. She continues to fight for the rights of the little men and women in our country, and when this wonderful film concludes it is hard to resist the urge to stand up and applaud her.