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RBG Documentary Review

May 15, 2018

Cast: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinem, Nina Totenberg
Director: Betsy West , Julie Cohen
Genres: Documentary
Production Co: Storyville Films, CNN Films
Distributors: Magnolia Pictures

RBG outlines the history US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York, Bader Ginsburg faced enormous sexism studying law at Cornell, Harvard and Columbia and later trying to gain employment in the law.Despite tremendous opposition, Bader Ginsburg was a hugely successful lawyer and was appointed to the US Supreme Court in 1993, a position she maintains today at 85 years of age.

Significant focus is given to Bader Ginsburg’s marriage to husband Marty, her biggest champion.After meeting as undergraduate students at Cornell, Bader Ginsburg supported him to maintain his studies at Harvard during his cancer treatment and in later years he lobbied to have her appointed to the Supreme Court.The Ginsburg’s marriage, using a shared earning/shared parenting model allowed for them both to excel in their chosen fields, he as a tax attorney and she as a law academic and director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.Later, Marty gave up his career to support Ruth in Washington.

The film chronicles the various cases Bader Ginsburg and the ACLU brought to the Supreme Court to petition for gender equality, shrewdly taking cases where both women and men were discriminated against on the basis of their sex; including a case where a widower was ineligible to access social security funds after the death of his wife.

In recent years, Bader Ginsburg has made international headlines about her scathing dissents to Supreme Court decisions, railing against an increasingly right wing bench.Yet the film acknowledges the close relationship she had with conservative colleague Antonin Scalia and their shared love of opera.Bader Ginsburg’s dissents receiving international attention has also elevated her to a pop culture icon as the ‘Notorious RBG’, bringing her a legion of young fans with comic books, active tumblr accounts and Saturday Night Live parodies.

The documentary repeats Bader Ginsburg quoting Sarah Grimke, a19th Century abolitionist, feminist and judge, ‘I ask no favours for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks’.Words that have shaped Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life’s work.

The film is a must see;acknowledging the struggles of women during the third wave, the importance of the law in shaping opportunities for women and the challenges society faces to address gender equality in the future.

Natalie Hudson - Women’s & Anna Stewart Program Restricted Committee