On the Basis of Sex


I’ve finally got round to watching this, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  It only covered a small part of her life and work – I’m waiting for the “RBG” biopic to become available on Amazon Prime for no extra charge – but what an inspiring story.  I hadn’t realised that, whilst she was at law school, her husband was being treated for cancer, she was attending his classes as well as her own, and they had a young child.   A lot of people would have struggled even to make it through, but she finished joint top of her class.  And, despite that, struggled to find a job at a law firm because people didn’t want to employ a woman, especially one with a child – but went on to argue successfully a number of gender discrimination cases, including the “Moritz v Commissioner” tax law case on which much of this film focuses.

She became only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, the first Supreme Court justice to officiate at a same sex marriage ceremony, and the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol … and I’m struggling to think of any other lawyer who became such an icon, even a cult figure.  It’s an incredible story.

It’s also a wonderful American Dream story.  The film didn’t go into her background, but this woman who achieved so much was the daughter of a garment factory worker whose parents couldn’t afford to send her to college and an immigrant who came to America to escape discrimination against Jews in Odessa.  It would be nice if people would remember that America offers those opportunities, and also that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was someone who tried to build consensus and work with, not against, those with different views, and certainly wasn’t aggressive or abusive towards people with whom she disagreed.

The film showed some of her time at law school, and then her work on the “Moritz v Commissioner” case, and bits about her family life, so it didn’t really do her justice because it wasn’t intended to: it wasn’t a full biopic.  But it was very entertaining and very interesting, with strong performances from all the main cast members.  Oh, and it was also quite romantic, with Felicity Jones as Ruth and Armie Hammer as her husband Marty working really well together.   It wasn’t the greatest film ever, but I’m certainly glad that I watched it.