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The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

The Notorious RBG: Historical figure, pop culture icon

By Lea Rabaron
Science Editor

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Notorious RBG. A name which will forever strike a chord in the hearts and minds of young women everywhere. She was small but mighty, quiet but forthright, reserved yet outspoken—a historical emblem who changed the face of gender equality in America.

On September 18th, 2020, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer in her Washington D.C. home, surrounded by her family. In a statement, Chief Justice John Roberts proclaimed,

“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.” These words ring true in the hearts and minds of passionate activists everywhere, who currently mourn the tragic loss of an icon. Among those affected by Ginsburg’s death, one of our MAST seniors, Artemis Theodoris, provided a statement on the matter.

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“I honestly think that the death of RBG is tragic, and her legacy will transcend beyond our generation. The hard work she put into supporting the autonomy of women and the right of LGBT citizens is nothing less than remarkable, and it truly is a shame that she passed away. However, I feel concerned that people my age and older are giving up too easily now that she has passed, claiming that now with her gone, we have no hope. This is not what she would have wanted the future of our country to do, and we should fight to ensure that her life changing policies will remain,” she claimed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a fighter, a political enthusiast whose minority voice caused momentous changes. She would have wanted nothing more than to know that her voice would be the stepping stone for the millions of other young voices. What made RBG so remarkable was not only her role on the supreme court, but also her journey there. In order to truly understand who Ginsburg really was, it is important to realize how she came to be.

Ginsburg was born into a working-class family. She spent a lot of time with her mother, who taught her values she would live by for the rest of her career. She graduated top of her class from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in Government, and a few years after having met her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, she went on to attend law school at Harvard. There, Ginsburg faced a lot of challenges. She was one of eight women in a class of over five hundred students, so she was naturally forced to face the constant pressure of gender stereotypes. However, despite the incessant suppression, she managed to become the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

Once her husband graduated, he obtained a job in New York City, and RBG transferred to Columbia University to stay with him. At Columbia, she would finish her education and graduate top of her class. Regardless of her outstanding academic accomplishments, Ginsburg faced immense amounts of gender discrimination when looking for a job. Eventually, she acquired a clerking position for Judge Edmond L. Palmieri in 1959, and went on to become a professor at Rutgers University Law School. From there, she obtained a teaching position at Columbia University and became the first tenured professor at the school. During that time, she also served as the director of the women’s Civil Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the supreme court.

Ginsburg served in the U.S. court of appeals (Washington D.C Circuit) until she was appointed to the supreme court by president Bill Clinton in 1993. On the supreme court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as a strong voice for gender equality as part of the court’s moderate-liberal block. For her accomplishments and contributions, she was awarded the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award in 1999. This award, however, did not in any way mark the end of her career. 

When picturing RBG, the words “I dissent” usually come to mind. Although seemingly innocuous, these words held a lot of weight when first spoken by RBG. During the infamous voting-rights case, Shelby County vs. Holder, Ginsburg voiced her strong disapproval of the ruling by using the words “I dissent,” instead of the more common and accepted phrase, “I respectfully dissent.” This, essentially, is what gave rise to her commonly known nickname, the Notorious R.B.G—a play on the name of a famous rap artist, Notorious B.I.G.

In a matter of days, the crafty nickname made its way into articles and headlines everywhere. An image of Ginsburg’s face was edited to make it look as if she were wearing the Notorious B.I.G crown. The edit boomed. She became a symbol, a representation of justice and women’s rights—her face now appearing on tee-shirts, mugs and stickers everywhere. She had reached her current celebrity status.

As an honored supreme court justice and pop culture icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke generational barriers and numerous glass ceilings. In her speeches, she spoke to all and touched the hearts of many, encouraging young women and oppressed minorities everywhere to use their collective voice to point out injustices. The extent to which Ruth Bader Ginsburg influenced society and politics is immeasurable. Small but mighty, quiet but forthright, reserved yet outspoken: RBG, the striking supreme court justice who changed women’s rights forever.  

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The Notorious RBG: Historical figure, pop culture icon