‘On the Basis of Sex’ is a Moving RBG Biopic


courtesy of the stranger.com

Nicole Casal , Editor-in-Chief

“My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent. The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the ’40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S.” This is one of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s most notable and moving quotes.

“On the Basis of Sex” premiered Christmas Day 2018. It follows the beginning of Ginsburg’s career. The movie opens with her first day at Harvard Law School, amongst a sea of well-off white males. Ginsburg shines through nonetheless, as one of the nine women in the class of 500. 

Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School and earned her law degree from Columbia University at the top of her class. “On the Basis of Sex” focuses largely on her struggles as a woman in all aspects of her career, from not having women’s bathrooms at Harvard, to struggling to find a job in spite of an exceptional and expansive résumé. 

Once she graduated, she faced multiple rejections from law firms in New York City. “I was Jewish, a woman, and a mother,” Ginsburg recalled when speaking to Harvard Law School alumnae in 1993. “The first raised one eyebrow; the second, two; the third made me indubitably inadmissible.”

Ginsburg went on to teach at Rutgers Law School, eventually becoming the first tenured female professor. Here, Ginsburg was inspired by her students to change the world instead of teaching the next generation how to. With the help of her husband Martin Ginsburg, a tax lawyer, she found a case where a man was discriminated against on the basis of sex. 

Charles Moritz was a 63-year-old bachelor who was taking care of his ill mother. He could not get a tax cut as a caretaker because that job is expected of a woman or a widowed man. While the monetary compensation was minimal, this was the first sex discrimination case Ginsburg argued in court. This case catapulted her to the legend and forefront in the movement for gender equality that she is today. 

Ginsburg was the second woman elected into the Supreme Court in 1993 by Bill Clinton.  Currently, Ginsburg is 85 years old and has been on the Supreme Court for 26 years. She is currently the oldest member of the Supreme Court. 

Felicity Jones did an outstanding job portraying a young Ginsburg. She carries herself in an elegant and confident manner. It is also important to note that Jones does a remarkable of concealing her British accent and convincing the audience that she is from the streets of Brooklyn. 

As is expected, the writing is superb. The dialogue and quick wit that Ginsburg fires back at sexist remarks provides comedic relief in between intense and groundbreaking scenes. While it may have not been accurate, it adds to the perception of her unbreakable character and strong will. 

While Ginsburg admired the film and was ecstatic with the result, Vanity Fair reported that during the premiere, Ginsburg did find one fault. “I didn’t stumble at the outset,” she said, referring to the climax of the film where Ginsburg stammers while defending her case due to a judge’s leading questions.  

Although “On the Basis of Sex” does an outstanding job of dramatizing Ginsburg’s start in the fight towards gender equality, viewers can not expect exact details from a movie. There are many documentaries and books on Ginsburg’s life, such as “RBG” and “My Own Words,” for dedicated fans who can not get enough of the notorious RBG. 

With movies like “Wonder Woman” pioneering the way for stories about powerful female roles, there is hope for a shift in the content that the next generation of young girls will consume. They will admire and be inspired by women who paved the way for their successors and allowing them the right to pursue their passions.