“Women are weak, unintellectual, baby-birthing, house-cleaning, man-serving slaves that belong in the kitchen.”
---90% of men from the 1950
The 1950’s was a tumultuous time. While white women at this point had gained the right to vote, there was a still an overwhelming amount of sex-based discrimination that made it nearly impossible for a woman to pursue a non-domestic career. Enter Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg was a pioneer of woman’s rights. She pursued a higher education from a young age, in part thanks to encouragement from her forward thinking mother. She graduated from Cornell University and at age twenty one, she entered Harvard Law School in hopes of becoming a lawyer. Despite being asked by the Harvard Dean about how she felt about taking away positions from a qualified man, Ginsburg continued her education, moved to Columbia Law School and graduated top of her class. When she begins searching for employment is where the film, On the Basis of Sex, begins.
The film kicks off with Ginsburg being consistently rejected when she attempts to find work with a law firm. Despite her academic achievements, the firms cannot seem to look past a glaring digression from their normal hires; Ginsburg is female. Her moment of opportunity arises when her supportive husband brings her a case in which a man is disallowed the opportunity to be the primary caretaker of his children, as that is seen as solely a woman’s job. Ginsburg takes the case in spite of the multiple people discouraging her. She is backed by her supportive husband and children and marches into the battle of the sexes, guns ablaze.
Judge: “The word woman does not appear once in the U.S Constitution.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Nor does the word, freedom...your honor.”
The film is directed by Mimi Leder, best known as the director of Deep Impact and a storied television career, including directing credits on the West Wing, ER, and Shameless. The film stars Felicity Hoffman in the titular role, along with Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates, and Sam Waterston.
This film shows a long past period of history. However, sex-based discrimination has not ended for good. This film reminds us of how far we have come, but it also shows us that we need to continue the good fight in favor of gender equality. Unfortunately, the film shows us issues that we are still struggling against today. Not only is this film a welcome change of pace, but it brings to light a heroic figure that is still fighting for us all. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is most known for her work done while serving on the supreme court, but this film shows where she began. She began as a woman, determined to fight for what she believed in; equality for all, whether black or white, and whether man or woman.