From the Backlist: Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

April Young Bennett: Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a role model for me about how to move change forward in a world that isn’t quite ready. She has always been uncompromising in expressing her ideals, but even as she boldly declared what should be, she consistently fought for incremental changes that brought us closer to that point. She demonstrates that you don’t have to disdain achievable “baby steps” to fight for the big goal, but that you also don’t have to abandon or deny the big goal to convince decision makers to concede to incremental change. I also love how she worked to point out how sex discrimination affects everyone, including men.

Em: To me Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed a path for Mormon feminists to be brave and to fight. We’ve been taught our whole lives to be pleasant and to get along. It’s a hard habit to break. But Justice Ginsburg did both—she disagreed without being disagreeable. She got along with people she passionately disagreed with. She was gracious, but she never gave an inch when it mattered. She was famously good friends with Antonin Scalia, while rigorously opposing his legal views time and again.

My favorite Justice Ginsburg quote is on my church bag (I had it made specially because I couldn’t find a tote that said it.) When will there be enough female justices on the Supreme Court? “When there are nine.” That’s also how I feel about women receiving the priesthood and gaining access to leadership roles. How many female apostles would be enough? Twelve. How many members of the First Presidency should be female? Three. Those groups have been all male for a long time and no one said a peep. (Except us….)

My final loved Justice Ginsburg quote:”Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.” I think that’s what we’re doing here, now. When we write for the Exponent, we’re not just saying “I think something Church leaders said, or did, is wrong.” We’re writing for tomorrow. Over time, our dissents become the popular view.

Trudy: While I often disagreed with her jurisprudence, I have a great deal of respect for her and her accomplishments. My favorite Ruth Bader Ginsburg story is about her long-time friendship with Antonin Scalia. They never let their differing interpretive models or political disagreements get in the way of a deep and abiding friendship with one another. That kind of friendship across aisles is exactly what this world needs as an antidote to the divisiveness that is all too prevalent in our society today. They showed us all that just because we disagree, that doesn’t mean that the other side is stupid or evil. If we want to honor the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we should also strive to cultivate friendships with people who are different from us. And I hope that two good friends have had a joyous reunion in the afterlife today.

Risa: Throughout her career Ruth Bader Ginsburg always affirmed that she was standing on the shoulders of giants. She acknowledged that although many regarded her as a trailblazer, she wouldn’t have achieved all she did without the women who came before her. That example helps me acknowledge that we as Mormon feminists are also standing on the shoulders of giants and should acknowledge and respect the women who blazed the trail for us, so that we can also light the path, clear the trail, and forge a way for those women who come after us.

Libby: I kind of just want to post what Nina Totenberg said.

Can this be my contribution to the backlist post?

“I dissent” t-shirt by Libby in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Violadiva: The first time I learned of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was from a poster inside the exam room of a Planned Parenthood. I was there for an exam and testing in the aftermath of a tragic assault in college. The poster was a timeline of significant developments in the course of women’s rights and care and she was listed as a key player to several pieces of legislation.

Only after this visit did I learn of her decades of contributions and advocacy for women like me. I am profoundly grateful for her dedication and genius to put helpful and necessary protections in place for women in so many spheres, among other important legal actions. I benefitted from her work and didn’t even know who she was.

May we all honor her memory by advocating for future generations of women like she did, whether they know our names or not.

#ruthbaderginsburg #notoriousrbg“

Caroline: For years I had known about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the instrumental role she had played in advancing women’s equality. But when I saw the 2018 documentary RBG, I was moved to tears to learn more about her courage, her resourcefulness, her determination, and not the least, the lovely relationship she had with her husband Marty and her friend, conservative justice Antonin Scalia. I loved how Marty was such a huge supporter of Ruth, constantly encouraging her and beaming with pride over her accomplishments. What a fantastic model of an equal partnership marriage. I loved that she developed and nurtured a close friendship with Scalia that transcended ideology. As someone who has navigated a marriage across party lines for two decades, this example of expansive friendship and respect across dividing lines was moving to me. She was a model of dignity, vision, and grit. Thank you, RBG, for your immeasurable contribution toward creating a better and fairer world.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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3 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    This is so lovely! Thank you to everyone who took the time to share her life stories and her quotes.

  2. MDearest says:

    I’m so grateful for all the memories everyone is sharing about her, especially these. Each of these touched my heart, each of them differently, and among other things, is an object lesson (for me) about how unity happens amid diverse individuals. So I especially appreciated what Trudy said about how she approached profound diversity.
    May her memory be a comfort and an inspiration for the rest of us who must continue the work.

  3. Ziff says:

    Wow! I love all your great thoughts! Just to grab one that jumped out at me, I particularly love Em’s takeoff on RBG’s idea of dissents being written for the future being generalized to critiques of the Church also being written in the hopes that they will become the accepted norm given some time.

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