Film Review of On The Basis of Sex, an intimate life journey of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who even today is worth our attention and great appreciation.
At the age of 85, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But without a definitive Ginsburg biography, the unique personal journey of this diminutive, quiet warrior’s rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans – until now.
This lively film, On The Basis of Sex, tracks Ginsburg’s brilliant legal career, fighting for women’s workplace rights while shrewdly also taking on cases where men suffered discrimination. It pays a moving tribute to the important role played in Ginsburg’s life by her devoted husband Marty, to whom she was married for over 50 years until his death. It also highlights her most compelling pronouncements, such as that in Shelby County v Holder in 2013, in which she argued that the regional protections of the Voting Rights Act in preventing race discrimination were still necessary even when they appeared to have been rendered obsolete by precisely those improved conditions they continue to maintain. Abolition was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet”.
But for good or ill, the film does not directly engage with Ginsburg’s views on contemporary feminism and sexual harassment and what is sometimes derisively called identity politics. It was made well before the appointment of the self-pitying and shrill Brett Kavanaugh to the bench – in comparison with whom Ginsburg looks even more like an intellectual giant – and so she could hardly be expected to comment on the Christine Blasey Ford case. But she serves alongside Clarence Thomas, whose denial of harassment allegations from Anita Hill at his own confirmation hearing in 1991 is a matter of public record.
This movie is worth taking your grandchildren so they can see what it takes to make a difference.