On the Basis of Sex: A Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The death of Ruth Bader comes as a shock to me, of course, because the world lost yet another powerful, inspiring, courageous and independent women. But it also comes as a shock because of the shenanigans about her death. Don’t read this wrong! What I mean is, I am grateful and thankful that Ruth Bader lived 87 years; I am thankful that she spoke on behalf of millions of women and gave us all the courage and direction to speak up against injustice. But I am absolutely not happy or thankful that the world only thought of remembering her on the day she died, to be honest, it took us 87 years to make her the headlines globally; or discuss her on every social media page, to share her incredible achievements on television channels and print media. I am not trying to take away from the accolades that she earned or the honour that she deserved and received, I am only trying to articulate that we should have celebrated her every day; reminding, inspiring and liberating women from the boundaries created by society On the Basis of Sex and here the word sex means gender, if you misunderstood, it is time for you to reflect on how much cognitive dissonance we have due to the way we are educated. Another truth that bothers me the most is why do we only celebrate women after they have passed. Be it Mother Teresa, Ruth Bader, Lady Diana, Maya Angelou, and the list can go on…

Recently when the movie On the Basis of Sex was released, I was discussing it with my grade 12 students, they revealed that they had not ever heard of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, never seen her picture on social media nor seen any youtube videos about her. I was shocked and stunned. Where are we going wrong as educators? Even when we are free to design our own curriculum, we do not include independent, inspiring powerful stories of women who made it easier for us to live a better life. We celebrate sportsmen, film stars, politicians, fashion icons who probably have not made as much impact as a woman who graduated from Cornell, got into Harvard Law School, transferred to Columbia Law School and taught at Rutgers Law School. The impact of Ruth Bader’s work is undeniable and yet we ignore it. For a woman, it takes so many academic credentials to be heard. Or it is only required as it is a woman who is trying to be heard. I wish we had the opportunity to listen to her more; talked about her achievements more and maybe voted for her to be President. But we did not, we only truly remembered her at the very end of 87 years. This is what bothers me the most.

So what did we learn On the Basis of Sex? Here are a few quotes from various interviews of Ruth Bader that are very inspiring.

“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”

This quote is so beautiful, especially for women who struggle to be their own person; who have negative body image; who have low self-esteem; who are discriminated on the basis of colour; who are discriminated on the basis of gender. It is time to drop the baggage of trying to live up to the terms and conditions dictated by a patriarchal society. I interpret it in a very simple way, just be independent of all false expectations, only then can women truly discover themselves and their superpowers.

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”

This quote is so inspiring as it teaches us to look for opportunities in challenges and to change our perspective on hurdles. Women have the superpower of turning the tide, even though we revere a few men who changed the course of the tide, we forget about the millions of women who do this every day at work and at home. Many woman risk dangers like sexual abuse, gender discrimination, domestic violence and yet find a way out of it to survive, turning every impediment into working solutions. This needs to be celebrated, even acknowledging this never give up attitude will be a great start

“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”

This quote touches me the most. For a privileged few, like me, who can discuss gender discrimination on an open platform, we need to congratulate the men in our lives for sharing the responsibility of raising the next generation. But for the rest, the basic human right of gender equality has to be taught. As I always keep reinforcing, education is a game-changer, educators are the catalyst for a positive change, educate both our boys and girls about gender equality in order to share the responsibility of the planet.

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

This final quote says it all, after facing personal and professional challenges, Ruth Bader continued to campaign for women rights without being rude or disrespectful. Taking inspiration from this attitude we must teach students to react appropriately and respectfully to different perspectives especially when it is different from their own.

In summary, Ruth Bader’s life should be used as an example; in the age of instant gratification we need to teach students to persevere, never give up and respect each individual for who they are, not for whom we want them to be. That would be a true tribute to Ruth’s sacrifice, courage and excellent work through the past 87 years and many more years to come as her legacy.

Let her spirit of fighting against discrimination never Rest In Peace!

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