Some people have an obvious brand that helps you know what they're all about. Maybe it's CrossFit. Maybe it's SciFi. Maybe it's travel. Mine is uteruses-llamas-Green Bay Packers-Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's...pretty easy to buy presents for me.
I fully embraced the meme culture of RBG. I have leggings, a T-shirt, dissent collar earrings and necklace, pins, a keychain, a plush uterus in her image, a calendar with cartoon images of her daily workout routine, and three copies of "Notorious RBG" by Irin Carmon. I dressed as her for the theme day of my bachelorette party - "historic badass women". I went with friends to the "RBG" documentary as part of one of my birthday celebrations.
But the Notorious RBG was so much more than a pop culture phenomenon. She was an intelligent, strategic, incredibly hard-working driving force for gender equity in this country who helped me to live the life I lead today.
Her work ethic was remarkable. She fought many obstacles to further her education, as was so valued by her mother who passed away from cancer when Ruth was a teenager. She essentially did double duty as a law student while her husband, Marty, was treated for cancer. She worked on the Supreme Court through her own cancer diagnoses and treatments. She continued to press on through every curve ball life threw her way to the very end. She showed up to fight for others no matter what was going on for her personally.
She was extremely smart and methodical in working toward change. In helping people with other perspectives see the importance of equality for women, for instance, she pointed out discrimination against men. One of her cases before the Supreme Court during her time as a law professor centered on the right to Social Security income for a widower after the death of his wife in childbirth, helping others see the problem with focusing on traditional gender roles. She preferred to take a slow approach to achieve goals in the right way rather than take a quick path to success. Some Republicans and other anti-choice individuals like to say that she was against the decision of Roe v Wade. However, she wasn't against the right to termination of pregnancy; she felt that using the right to privacy as its basis was weak and wanted to go about supporting it in an alternative way that would allow for less vulnerability in the longrun (the vulnerability that so many of us worry about now).
She was eloquent and full of grace. One of her most famous quotes is, "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." She didn't subscribe to negative tactics that are so common in the political landscape of today. She was able to work well with and for others who didn't necessarily agree with her, notably having a close relationship with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia prior to his passing.
Of course she was not perfect, as we can't expect anyone to be. She gave many of us hope, though, in a nation that is becoming more and more bleak in many ways. Cases she fought prior to becoming a Supreme Court justice and decisions she made after have improved the lives of so many in this country.
It's sad that the biggest reaction to her death is a political battle over filling her court seat rather than a focus on honoring her legacy. It's sad that she had to think about that at all as she was dying. It's sad that she labored for years with a tremendous weight on her tiny but mighty shoulders.
No one person can save us, but the void she left is heavy and scary for many of us. The prospect of a Supreme Court with 1/3 of its makeup of lifetime appointees selected by one president - no matter who that president is - should be a red flag to anyone and everyone. The prospect of a Supreme Court with 1/3 of its makeup of lifetime appointees selected by this particular president is a terrifying concept to many people who are tired of their rights being continually impacted by court decisions.
In her death, I feel so thankful for everything she's done, but I also fear for the future without her. I worry what decisions will be made that might limit the opportunities for and wellbeing of the baby girl I'll soon be bringing into the world.
My hope for those of us who are grieving is that we are able to carry on like Ruth, fighting diligently with both spunk and grace for the greater good no matter the obstacles we face. May her memory be a revolution.
"To make life a little better for people less fortunate than you, that's what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one's community." - RBG