Two days before the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg I face-timed my 8 year old niece to help her with social sciences homework. She had to create a superhero who embodied a power of one of the branches of government. I immediately told her that we should choose the Judicial branch and that her superhero could be inspired by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her superpower: She can sense when someone’s constitutional rights are being violated and can restore them by using the strength of the law and punishing its abusers. I was able to explain to my niece the role of a Supreme Court Justice, some of the things RBG had accomplished in her life and how hard she had to fight for them. I gave her some details on how she paved the way for the first Latina judge Sonia Sotomayor to get a seat in the highest court of the land, and for all women in the US, including her. As usual, when I introduce her to a new character or concept, my niece asks me tons of questions and engages in the conversation, this time, she was able to see herself represented and to envision greatness even more clearly in her future, which is always my goal. This is what RBG did for me, for her and for all who will come after. Her life's work was to let us imagine the possibility of success, independence and the opportunity to have a life with basic rights.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon of feminist resistance. She embodied the character of a strong, yet gentle woman who stood against all odds to fight for the rights of women and disadvantaged groups in the United States. She fought the system, and changed it, sometimes single handedly with one of her dissenting statements. In recent times of political and social turmoil, when many grew hopeless and cynical, her life itself became a symbol of a better future, of possibility. As long as RBG lives, many of us thought, there’s a chance for change. Now I can’t help but wonder, did she feel the weight of the country on her shoulders? Did she know what she meant for so many of us?
As the reality of the United States and the world seemed to get grimmer for many, an entire generation of Americans caught up on the remarkable life of RBG. Suddenly, she was a pop-culture figure. T-shirts were printed, pins were worn, books read, movies made and every other millennial woman in DC, including myself, displayed an RBG item with pride. She was a larger-than-life character who held enormous strength in her tiny frame, making so many of us feel empowered by her. There’s a lot to be said about the commercialization of someone’s image. But in this case, I am glad RBG was alive to see her impact, to see little girls learning about her life and looking up to her and to experience her legacy being passed on, as many die without understanding the magnitude of their own life.
The influence of Justice Ginsburg in my own life started when I was a student of International Relations at Florida International University. During one of my courses we dissected some important Supreme Court decisions and discussed their implications in today’s society. It became clear to me that RBG consistently challenged the status quo and fought to uphold the rights of people in this country, especially those of women. She had an undeniable power, her articulate statements transcended emotion and reason, and stuck in my head. RBG was doing it right before many did, often holding the unpopular opinion in a room full of men, defending progressive causes even when they could potentially hurt her career and reputation. This brand of fearlessness is something that I try to embody in my work, my relationships and my social interactions, something that I hope I can transmit to my niece and to every woman that I meet. There is a seat at the table, and to get it might not be easy, but when working for our goals, we must consider that everything we accomplish can make someone else feel capable and seen. Every time we pay it forward for other women and we stand up for ourselves, we honor her legacy and immortalize her name. The weight is off her shoulders and the change is in our hands.