By Victoria Zambello
When news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death reached campus on Friday, students were already gathered in small groups to relax on a weekend evening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As the news hit each of our phones or we learned through word of mouth, we raised a glass to the ‘Notorious R.B.G.’ We cheered her legacy and the rights of women – while promising to continue her fight for the voiceless. She carried the weight of the world on her shoulders and pummeled through every obstacle that society threw her way.
Justice Ginsburg was the light that helped my generation of women feel strong, powerful, and invincible and encouraged a generation of men to become allies to women.
If you do not know her story, you are missing a huge puzzle piece of how your sister, wife, daughter, friend, and mother have been able to live the life that they have. Without the influence of R.B.G on Title IX, female college students’ protection would be diminished. Without her persistence, my sisters would be denied the rights to have kids while working. Without her intelligence, my mother would not have been allowed to open a bank account without a male co-signer. Without her inspiration, millions of young girls and women would not have felt empowered to speak up about social justice issues.
What’s the big deal?
In 1955, Ruth enrolled at Harvard Law School at the same time as her husband Martin Ginsburg, while also taking care of their first child. It may sound like a fairly normal accomplishment to us Gen Z’s, but let’s remind each other that she was one of only nine women within a 500-person law class. Yet, that only empowered her more. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer, she responded by taking on his law work on top of hers, while also raising a child. She graduated at the top of her class, just to be denied work at any law firm because women weren’t valued as lawyers in that time.
“Over a long career on both sides of the bench — as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist — Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It’s about who we are — and who we can be,” Obama said in celebrating her in his published tribute.
In 1974, Ginsburg pushed through a decision on the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, allowing women to apply for bank accounts, credit cards, and mortgages without a male co-signer. In 1973, Ginsburg fought to have women on juries. In 1978, she battled for the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, recognizing pregnancy discrimination as unlawful. . In 1996, she argued (and won) that women at Virginia Military institute should be allowed in the same program as men.
Look around you. Your daughters, sisters, mothers, professors, coaches, athletic trainers, peers, the list goes on to the amount of groups impacted by Justice Ginsburg. The list extends over to the males’ side of son, brothers, fathers, as she used her intelligence, kindness, and hard work to remind us why it is part of our fundamental rights as humans to have equality and Justice for all.
“Feminism [is the] notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by man made barriers,” Ginsburg said in her 2016 book, My Own Words.
Why Do We Persist?
Another powerful woman, NY Congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on Instagram the day after Ginsburg died: “Here is what we’re not going to do: give up. We do not give up when the world needs us the most.”
“When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that,” Ginsburg said.
And for that reason, when I sit in my town house I am beyond grateful as I look to my right side and find a drawing my friend drew of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reading: “Just another powerful woman in the house of other powerful women.”
Thank you for allowing me to walk through life with confidence and ambition. Thank you for empowering me to never let a man or anyone else tell me I am less than I am. Thank you for giving a voice to the voiceless. Thank you for filling my niece’s life with opportunity and light.
Most of all, thank you for being the legend who changed the world.
May your legacy continue to spark empowerment throughout the world. We will keep your legacy alive.
We will persist.
Victoria Zambello is the Executive Editor for The Defender. She is a Senior Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts major with a minor in Sociology. She is a captain on the DII Varsity Women’s soccer team and involved in a variety of campus initiatives such as: TBC, SAAC, and HerCampus. You can most likely find her picking up a Starbucks cold brew for her jam packed days!