The Reach of Ruth

By Krista Nadeau

By Supreme Court of the United States – Supreme Court of the United States (Source 2), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55329542

My mother showed me how to never back down—she had the same type of influence, to a lesser but equally commanding way, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had on countless people across the nation. 

A person in a position of power tried to exercise that power over me when I was in high school— honestly, it wasn’t uncommon back then. Shockingly, my mother took some steps in the matter that would result in months of emotional upheaval ending in the dismissal of this man from that position. My takeaway—don’t back down. Stand your ground. Fight for what is right. Let your voice be heard— okay, enough with the clichés, even if they are all applicable. 

It didn’t impact me much at the time, I was in my early 20’s when Bill Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993— the highest court in the United States. Ginsburg was only the second woman to be appointed to the bench.  The first Supreme Court was implemented in 1789. The first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed a seat on the bench in 1981.   

You’d agree that it was a long time before the United States decided a woman was worthy of occupying such an important position, albeit, not surprising because women had long been viewed as secondary in society—especially to men. 

What society accepted collectively as norms held on for too long. And then, women began to question those norms… and then, women began to challenge those norms. When Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, known as the first feminist, it, or should I say, she, changed the course of life for women and other marginalized groups. 

Ginsburg graduated top of her class from law school in 1959 and despite her academic success was looked down on by male lawyers. Having personally felt discrimination, she also spent her life prior to the Supreme Court working tirelessly for gender equality. I am grateful for her foresight— ironically, in hindsight, I see her as the icon that was the Notorious RBG. 

The Women’s Movement was sparked by RBG. In looking back on my own life and especially contemplating how it unfolded, I find myself included in men and women across the nation saddened by what the passing of Ginsburg means for marginalized groups and now concerned about her vacant seat and what this means moving forward. 

I have always been pro-woman. I never have doubted the depth of the cliché “girl power.”  But RBG did more than that— she paved the way for all marginalized groups to find their voice. If you have ever been in a group seen as less than this becomes easy to appreciate. 

I have a teenage son with autism— this is a marginalized group. Marginalized means treated as less than. Like Ginsburg did, I also did— advocate unapologetically for him, for what was right, for how I expect others to treat him. Living in a group that is looked down upon by society makes it much easier to imagine how other marginalized groups feel. It’s easier to become a voice, to be a champion for all these groups of people. I often wonder, now that I can see the blessings in autism, if this was placed in my life to lend my voice to the cause of the underdogs. 

The LGBTQ community has been profoundly impacted by the work on equality that Ginsburg did. In 2015, gay marriage was accepted as law in all 50 states. Still, a fight exists for acceptance for our LGBTQ friends and family members—there remains a lot of work as we strive for equality for all.

There are all kinds of people who hang in the periphery of society— people with disabilities, mental illness, the poor, the homeless…just to name a few. WHY do we have to fight for our voice? For acceptance? For respect?  Change…no, progress looks like chaos to some..to those who continue to hold on to those antiquated norms.

The ball is rolling, progress must happen. No matter what the future brings, women will continue the fight and hopefully, all others who want their voices heard, who want a seat at the table will continue to apply pressure to reshape old norms. 

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