When traveling, I like to catch up on movies in my hotel room. The Ruth Bader Ginsberg movie, On the Basis of Sex, is a walk down history lane and should possibly be required-watching for all Americans. It is easy, when reciting a gratitude list, to omit and take for granted today’s equality for both men and women. It was just a mere 40 years ago that men were not recognized in a court of law as care givers and therefore disqualified from tax relief and other compensations like women. Likewise, women weren’t recognized as head of household, thus unable to apply for a credit card or mortgage without a husband’s signature.
Prior to 1979, there had been 170 gender prohibiting laws created by Congress. These laws were not contrived out of malice. At the time, the lawmakers never imagined that a woman would one day, due to birth control and access to education, be able to work outside the home in the same capacity as a man. Or that a man would ever choose not to marry, thus having no wife to stay home with aging or infirmed family relations.
To change an enacted law is no small thing. It was RBG’s ambition and intelligence, coupled with her well-connected, progressive husband, that she was able to change 100 years of precedence. Together, capitalizing on the ever-changing world (“climate of the era”) and street demonstrations of college students and young adults, they compiled a case that changed the nine, male supreme court judges’ minds on gender equality and opened the way for our modern society with the Sexual Equality Under the Fourteenth and Equal Rights Amendments.
In the movie, I was struck by Ruth’s use of a quote that she learned in law school, “Courts ought not be affected by the weather of the day but will be by the climate of the era.” That is deep thinking and I had to say it over and over in my head to understand it.
I once heard a motivational speaker say about business, and I am paraphrasing, “If you’re company is not changing every decade, then you’re losing relevance and won’t be in business much longer.” This seems to hold true not just for business but for all of life.
And now for my gratitude list: Thank you, Judge Ginsberg, for economic equality for all.
“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” –Bill Clinton