How ‘RBG’ and ‘On the Basis of Sex’ narrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s perseverance in Male-dominated Society

Films about Ruth Bader Ginsburg show why we should honor her legacy.

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Focus Features and Magnolia Pictures re-released films about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg following her death on Sept. 18. “RBG” and “On the Basis of Sex” are two reasons to join hashtag ThankYouRuth in honoring her legacy advocating for gender equality.

The hashtag ThankYouRuth is now more important than ever because of the political landscape we are subjected to today. President Donald Trump selected appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg’s seat, setting the stage for a tumultuous debate in the Senate as Republicans try to confirm her. If they succeed before Election Day, it’s possible the human rights Ginsburg fought for could be revoked.

Oppression and gender discrimination are major obstacles for Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex,” but she also juggles being a mother, law student and wife to a husband with cancer. Despite being top of her class at Harvard Law School, law firms would not hire a female lawyer. “On the Basis of Sex” does not disappoint in recounting Ginsburg’s fiery determination to overcome gender inequality.

Felicity Jones plays a young Ginsburg as she passionately tries landmark court case Moritz v. Commissioner alongside her husband Martin D. Ginsburg, played by Armie Hammer. Moritz v. Commissioner argued gender discrimination involving tax code violated the Equal Protection Clause. Essentially, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturned the IRS’ decision to deny coverage to a man who wanted to stay at home as a caregiver to his elderly mother.

As the leading lawyer on the case, Ginsburg argued denying the petitioner coverage was discrimination on the basis of sex. At the time, society believed men were to work outside the home while women were supposed to stay at home. The ruling on Moritz v. Commissioner set a precedent for future cases involving gender.

A Emmy-winning documentary, “RBG,” follows Ginsburg’s career as Supreme Court justice and her status as a pop culture icon. The film opens with several news clips and quotes calling Ginsburg a “queen”— even showing clips of the 84-year-old in full work-out gear doing push-ups with her trainer. On a more serious note, “RBG” pinpoints Ginsburg’s work as revolutionary because her court opinions developed a foundation for women’s rights.

In 1970, laws allowed companies to fire pregnant women. In order to apply for a credit card, women had to use their husband’s name. Most shockingly, in several states, it was illegal for men to be charged with raping their wives. In an interview, Ginsburg said that being a woman was “an impediment,” but she refused to get angry.

At a young age, Ginsburg’s parents taught her independence. She developed diligence and had a strong will because she knew the value in working hard to achieve dreams, desires and goals. Ginsburg was a deep thinker who, in “RBG,” was described by a friend as having a “quiet magnetism.”

As shown in “RBG,” her presence as a symbolic equal rights activist and culture icon became apparent in 2013 when an admirer created a Tumblr account praising her dissent in Shelby County v. Holder and naming her "Notorious R.B.G."

In “RBG,” Ginsburg told a room full of men that she expected to see three to five women on the high court bench, and what's so honorable about Ginsburg is that she never stopped fighting for women. She believed in us, and there is something to be said for that.

Edited by George Frey | gfrey@themaneater.com

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