On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex

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On the Basis of Sex gives an entertaining and illuminating account of the backstory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legal education and career-catapulting cases. For those grieving her recent passing, the film is therapeutic viewing that celebrates her refusal to cave in the face of repeated discrimination leveled on the basis of her gender. Ginsburg graduated at the top of her class at Columbia Law School, but she could not find a law firm willing to hire her. Not only was her gender referenced as a liability, her Jewish faith and her young children were also considered valid disqualifying factors.

By tracing her early years of marriage, her groundbreaking work as a Rutgers law professor, her historic representation of Charles Moritz (who was denied a caregiver tax benefit on the basis of his gender), and her ability to convince the A.C.L.U. to partner with her on the case, RBG fans enjoy a heartwarming tribute to a modern day heroine.

From a psychological perspective, Ginsburg’s marriage is as interesting and inspiring as her legal triumphs. The plot celebrates Ruth and Marty Ginsburg as the quintessential modern day love story. When Marty is diagnosed with life-threatening testicular cancer, young Ruth attends all of his classes and helps him power through, all the while caring for their young daughter and maintaining her own place at the top of her class at Harvard Law School. When Marty graduates a year ahead of Ruth and has his first job at a firm in New York City, she follows him to keep the family together, even though it means she will have to graduate with a Columbia rather than a Harvard law degree. When Ruth cannot pursue her dream of working at a top law firm since none will hire her despite her overwhelming qualifications, Marty’s support is unflappable. When the two argue before the court on Charles Moritz’s behalf, their mutual respect and chemistry create an unbeatable team.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be remembered for revolutionizing the fight for gender equality. Her professional accomplishments are unparalleled. She apparently found the film On the Basis of Sex to be historically accurate and I can’t help but imagine that she took pleasure in the film’s ability to celebrate her solid, loving, respectful marriage along with her world-changing career.

Elisabeth LaMotte

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