On Friday September 18th, 2020, the world lost a feminist icon with the passing of U.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
R.B.G., as she’s affectionately called by social media users, was the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and the only female justice from 2006 to 2009. Of these years, R.B.G. called them “the worst times” and “not a good image” for the public to see such a disparity between male and female justices in the courtroom. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
As America’s political climate turned increasingly volatile — accelerated by the 2016 election of President Trump — the tiny yet powerful Justice Ginsburg found internet fame late in life as her dissenting opinions on issues such as gender discrimination, reproductive health, and the rights of marginalised groups struck a chord with younger generations desperate for change.
In June 2013, NYU law student Shana Knizhnik launched a blog called Notorious R.B.G. in response to opinions authored by Justice Ginsburg. The play on words, inspired by rapper Notorious B.I.G., quickly gained traction online, prompting a generation of women 50+ years her junior to declare their stan-hood for the judge practically overnight. Knizhnik went on to sell Notorious R.B.G. merch as well as co-author the biography, Notorious R.B.G.: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, solidifying Justice Ginsburg’s status as both a political and pop culture icon.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s tragic death at the age of 87 has left a strong mark on the world. Amidst her battle with a recurring cancer diagnosis, Justice Ginsburg famously stated in early 2020, “I have often said I would remain a member of the court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that.” Despite her desire to hold on until the November election, the champion of gender equality passed away at home from complications of pancreatic cancer.
Over the last 24 hours, thousands of American women have expressed their concern over what R.B.G.’s passing means for their bodily autonomy and the direction of women’s rights. Women across the United States are burdened with mourning the loss of an incredible leader and ally while fearing who will be appointed in her place.
This powerful response has left many around the world wondering: What exactly did Ruth Bader Ginsburg do for the women of America?
Though the laundry list seems infinite, R.B.G. supporters have taken to Twitter to share some of Justice Ginsburg’s greatest achievements in the fight for gender equality and basic human rights.
The first post came from user @sairarahman who tweeted, “Things RBG has done for women: The right to sign a mortgage without a man. The right to have a bank account without a male co-signer. The right to have a job without being discriminated based on gender. The right for women to be pregnant/have kids and work.”
This kicked off a flood of tweets and responses adding to the list.
“The right to a pension equal to male counterparts. The right for men to receive widowers Social Security benefits,” one user replied. “The right for a woman to put her husband on her health insurance if the employer covered male workers’ wives,” wrote another. “An overlooked equal pay victory.”
Despite her reputation as a pioneer for women’s rights, Justice Ginsburg also advocated for men— an equally important aspect of gender equality.
Some also noted R.B.G.’s impact on female empowerment both at work and at home, citing that the late jurist helped women feel more confident and secure in themselves with or without a man.
“The right for women to be lawyers and law makers. The right for women to know that having a supportive spouse trumps a lousy one. The right to know that being confidence isn’t only a male thing,” replied @ekyvee.
“Thanks to #RBG women can get their own credit,” wrote one user, who told the story of her mother requiring a male co-sign on a car loan in the 1960s despite having a full time job.
In terms of gender equality, R.G.B.’s work also helped support single fathers, LGBTQIA+, and transgender men and women, as her work was encompassing of all sex discrimination, not just protection for discrimination against women.
In the same vein, @maryislandgirl noted that R.B.G. also championed the Family and Medical Leave Act, allowing both men and women to have leave as needed.
While these accomplishments scratch the surface of Justice Ginsburg’s extraordinary work, it’s impossible to ignore her lasting impact on women’s rights and gender equality for the American people.