Almost immediately after the Supreme Court announced the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, friends began reaching out. They told me they had heard “the news” and wanted to know if I was okay. The women in my life all felt the need to check in, as we collectively experienced what felt like a personal blow. Her death meant an overwhelming loss to women and girls who want to see a future where their worth is built into the foundations of their country.
Erin Ryan, a political commentator, tweeted, “Men, now would be a good time to not minimize the sadness of the women in your lives and just know that she meant more to them than you could possibly understand.” In no way is this meant to diminish the anxiety many Americans are feeling at the prospect of a Supreme Court that could undo dozens of precedents protecting the rights of women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and voters. However, Justice Ginsburg meant more than a liberal vote. She worked her entire life to fundamentally transform our system of legal equality, using her intelligence at a time when women were expected to stay quiet to fight the patriarchy on its own turf. She was not just a successful woman — she overcame unimaginable obstacles to ensure that future generations of women wouldn't have to.
One of the biggest barriers to equal gender representation in politics is the lack of female role models. Young girls are more likely to see themselves representing their communities in government if they see women in positions of power. The numbers have been repeated ad infinitum — there are incredibly few women at the highest levels of government. Justice Ginsburg was only one woman, but I can't even begin to describe how much she meant as an inspiration and an example. Here was a woman who reached the highest level of success in her field, and she had dedicated her life to saying to girls like me, “You matter, too. I will make sure of it.”
I've written before about the importance of voice for gender equity. With her famous dissents, Justice Ginsburg demanded to be heard. She had said that this outspokenness went against her nature, but her belief in justice won out. This vision of justice confronted gender inequity head-on and refused to accommodate misogyny. When she was asked when there will be enough women on the court, she responded, “when there are nine.”
She was ambitious when women were supposed to be indifferent. She was intelligent when women were supposed to be dull. She was loud instead of quiet, contrarian instead of accommodating, bold instead of timid. There's a reason Justice Ginsburg is so often represented as a superhero for women; it felt like she fought for us, using the powers we think might be hidden inside of us as well. As we mourn her life and remember her legacy, I want to take a moment to thank her on behalf of the women of my generation. Let her legacy carry us forward on the march to equality.
Madeleine Marr is a senior in the politics department from Newtown Square, Pa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.