As a woman living in 2018, it can be easy to take the rights and opportunities that women currently have for granted. These rights and opportunities were never guaranteed to women and plenty of men fought to keep women “in their place.” It was not just the natural progression of things that got women things like the right to vote, the ability to work outside the home, the right to get credit without a husband, or the right to join the military. It was the perseverance of activists and advocates that fought against the institution of patriarchy that helped get American women these rights and opportunities. Remember that for women in the United States, it has been less than 100 years since we got the right to vote.
While some women and allies took to the streets to fight for women’s rights and gender equality, some were fighting for these things in quieter, less-public ways. They were fighting in places and spaces like classrooms and courtrooms. It in both of these places and spaces that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg also known to some as the “Notorious RBG” began to fight for women’s rights and gender equality.
RBG is the new documentary directed and produced by Julie Cohen and Betsy West about the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. While Ginsburg is known more recently for her dissensions regarding certain Supreme Court decisions, the film traces her history both inside and outside the courtroom. RBG chronicles Justice Ginsburg’s humble beginning as a first-generation Jewish American and first-generation college student through her incredible career and brings the audience into her life in present day.
While this documentary only runs an 97 minutes, it packs in a lot of information presented through interviews with family, friends, admirers, and colleagues as well with Justice Ginsburg herself. This documentary does a great job introducing those who are not familiar with Justice Ginsburg to her life and career but I believe this film will also be a great watch for those more familiar with her history in the judicial world. However, this film does more that just explore her career. RBG explores Justice Ginsburg’s life outside of the courtroom and explores her family, friendships, and her love of opera. The film also highlights the close friendship Justice Ginsburg had with the now-deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. While the two judges may not have agreed on politics, they found common ground in their interests outside of the Supreme Court. Besides Ginsburg herself, probably the most important person discussed in this film is Martin “Marty” Ginsburg who was Justice Ginsburg’s husband for over 50 years. After surviving cancer very early in their marriage, Marty spent the rest of his life as not only an accomplished lawyer himself, but as Justice Ginsburg’s biggest fan and supporter. He not only supported her career but he was the person who began to champion her so that President Clinton would look to appoint her to the U.S Supreme Court.
Besides being a great documentary, I can see this film being taught in classrooms across disciplines in the future. Those educators who teach Law, Women and Gender Studies, History, and American Studies could easily add this documentary into to their lesson plans.