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“Ruth and Marty” Crushed the Norms

Posted By Molly T. Wescott for Chasing the Last Wave (of Feminism) , Wednesday, September 30, 2020
I was drawn back to writing for this blog when the devastating news about the death of our beloved Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) brought chasing the last wave of feminism and the gender equality it promises back into sharp focus for me.

Women lawyers as a whole have not achieved the level of advancement and success that they aspire to while in law school or during their early years of practice. Many scholars and commentators, including Joan Williams who directs the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings, identify the work/family conflict as a predominant factor preventing women from realizing their career potential. While professional women are widely accepted in the 21st century, our society still expects women to serve as the primary caregivers for children and other family members. The work/family conflict continues to impede women’s advancement even as men become more involved parents and do more housework. 

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve read numerous articles about the crushing effects on women trying to work from home while also caring for very young children and facilitating remote learning for their school aged children. Although many men share childcare and domestic responsibilities, most women ostensibly continue to cover the “second shift” at home and now that happens simultaneously with their paid work day. 

The gender and social norms that keep men and women in traditional work and family roles have proven extremely hard to break . . . which brings me to RBG and her devoted husband, Martin Ginsburg. 

“Ruth and Marty” crushed those norms with their equal partnership in marriage, family and work. Marty reportedly was attracted to Ruth while they were undergraduates at Cornell because she was smart and had a brain! Both went on to develop brilliant legal minds and achieve impressive careers. But Marty ended up putting his wife’s career ahead of his own. (Amazing for those times, and dare I say, even for today.) It has been well reported that Marty was instrumental in promoting RBG’s selection for the United States Supreme Court. And on top of that, he did all the cooking for the family! He was not so much the man behind the woman, but a man standing right next to his woman. 

When I heard about RBG’s death, I told a colleague that I wish I could have been her. This is not just because of her immense contributions to the law and gender equality, but because she had a love affair of over 50 years with a devoted man who stood with her on her path to becoming the Notorious RBG. We will be riding the last wave of feminism when Ruth’s and Marty’s story is not an exceptional one, but our new normal. 

Molly T. Wescott is Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD Law, where she helps students launch their legal careers. She is a member of the LC Fund for Justice and remains passionate about the advancement of women in the legal profession. 

 

Tags:  Chasing the Last Wave  childcare  domestic responsibilities  gender norms  marriage  Martin Ginsburg  Ruth Bader Ginsburg  social norms  work/family conflict 

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