Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ruth Bader Ginsburg = American Hero


When I was a little girl, I wanted to be - well, at age four, I wanted to be a cheerleader, which I think scared the bejeezus out of my feminist mom and triggered proactive action in the form of a New Moon subscription (among other things). Then, at six I wanted to be a doctor - I read a book from the Baby-Sitter's Club series that peaked my interest in Alzheimer's. After my feminist awakening at around eight, I wanted to be a lawyer, and subsequently the first female chief justice on the Supreme Court.

My hero, naturally, was Sandra Day O'Connor. I had multiple children's biographies of her. Sandra Day O'Connor was the coolest to me. I was very sad when she retired and replaced by Alito (especially after the embarrassment of Harriet Miers).

ANYWAY, one good side of O'Connor's absence is that it focuses my attention on the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsberg is incredibly smart, universally respected by her peers, and says the truth frankly and without euphemism. She is the epitome of awesome in this interview with the New York Times:

Q: Now that Judge Sotomayor has been nominated, how do you feel about that?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I feel great that I don’t have to be the lone woman around this place.
Q: What has that been like?
JUSTICE GINSBURG: It’s almost like being back in law school in 1956, when there were 9 of us in a class of over 500, so that meant most sections had just 2 women, and you felt that every eye was on you. Every time you went to answer a question, you were answering for your entire sex. It may not have been true, but certainly you felt that way. You were different and the object of curiosity. [Editor's note: This is why women's college were so important to me. Even in coed institutions, many women didn't speak up, and I often felt like Ginsberg above.]...
Q: Let me ask you about the fight you waged for the courts to understand that pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: I wrote about it a number of times. I litigated Captain Struck’s case about reproductive choice. [In 1972, Ginsburg represented Capt. Susan Struck, who became pregnant during her service in the Air Force. At the time, the Air Force automatically discharged any woman who became pregnant and told Captain Struck that she should have an abortion if she wanted to keep her job. The government changed the regulation before the Supreme Court could decide the case.] If the court could have seen Susan Struck’s case — this was the U.S. government, a U.S. Air Force post, offering abortions, in 1971, two years before Roe.
Q: Since we are talking about abortion, I want to ask you about Gonzales v. Carhart, the case in which the court upheld a law banning so-called partial-birth abortion. Justice Kennedy in his opinion for the majority characterized women as regretting the choice to have an abortion, and then talked about how they need to be shielded from knowing the specifics of what they’d done. You wrote, “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution.” I wondered if this was an example of the court not quite making the turn to seeing women as fully autonomous.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: The poor little woman, to regret the choice that she made. Unfortunately there is something of that in Roe. It’s not about the women alone. It’s the women in consultation with her doctor. So the view you get is the tall doctor and the little woman who needs him.
Read her awesome interview in the New York Times, here.
Via Jezebel and Shakesville.

1 comment:

  1. I actually got a chance to travel to another law school and hear her speak my 2L year. It was pretty amazing.

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