“On the Basis of Sex,” is more than just a court drama or love story, it is teaching us how we can have it all without compromising our family or career.
So, last Saturday my BFF-SB got us tickets to see “On the Basis of Sex” the new RBG movie. Now, if you are sitting there wondering “What in the heck is RBG?” Then we have bigger issues here…RBG is non-other than SCOTUS’ (now if you don’t know what that means, then damn I really can’t help you!) own Badass Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Some call her The Notorious RBG, I prefer RBG for short.
This tiny ass womyn is fierce and a force to be reckoned with. She is 85 years old and has no problem in being the only voice of dissent. She is that bad ass Jewish Abuela from Brooklyn that you know not to mess with, as you know not to mess with her grandkids, her cat, and yea even her damn ficus if she has one. You know what I’m talking about, right? Those Abuela’s that you just know will come at you, if you mess with anything they LOVE.
Luckily for us, we fall under that umbrella of things she loves…she’s out there trying to protect our rights.
Okay, I can talk about her forever. She’s that awesome!
However, let’s talk “On the Basis of Sex,” this movie is amazing. I know it might sound as if I’m biased because I love RBG and I never-ever want her to leave
me us. Yes, US.
Seriously this movie is good, even though it was ignored by all the awards (blah), it is still a must see movie. Here’s why, this movie goes into detail and focuses on RBG’s (Felicity Jones) beginning. In other words, how RBG became The Notorious RBG. It focuses on the many challenges she had to face at Harvard Law, she was one of the nine women in a class of 500 males.
We must remember that she went to school in the 1950’s when the “boys will be boys” credo was not just alive and well, but accepted by all-even by some women.
It highlights the first gender-based discrimination case she argues in court in the 1970’s; Moritz v. Commissioner of the Internal Revenue, alongside her husband Marty (Armie Hammer). Marty a tax attorney, presented this case to RBG, who at the time was a professor at Rutgers. I should mention that Marty himself was a Rockstar, he became one of the most prestigious tax attorneys in the Nation.
This court drama takes place in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, where Charles Moritz, a single man is being discriminated against because of his gender. Moritz was denied a caregivers benefit which is claimed for older parents and children. He was denied this benefit because the law strictly states that this benefit should only be used by women, since men are the providers and women are the caregivers. Did you just “sigh in Spanish?” It’s kind of hard not to.
Wait, it gets better. The opposing council on this case is none other than the jerks that made her life a living nightmare at Harvard, her former Law Dean. I seriously thought this was a Hollywood plot twist, but apparently it wasn’t. It was real life, or what I would like to think of as Karma.
This case was epic, even the ACLU didn’t want to support this case, but after RBG persuaded a board member and real life hero Dorothy Kenyon, they were forced to.
In this film we witness how she struggles in preparation for the hearing. The struggle is not an intellectual one, because she was and continues to be bloody brilliant. The struggle was an internal one, which for many of us is a lot harder to deal with. She has had to prove herself to others, she has had to stand out and shine brighter than anyone else in the room, to prove why she belongs in school, in a law firm, in a courtroom. It’s exhausting. After a while you start to wonder if you really do belong.
In this film, you see how she breaks through that negative and patriarchal BS. But most importantly, how she overcomes her own self-doubt and not only gets her day in court, but ends up ruling it!
For those of us that follow her career, the legal drama is spectacular. Not only because we love RBG, but because we love showing the man and the system that has for decades oppressed women and POC the finger-legally. We are intrigued by the fact that it was a tax case, of all things, that paved the way for the Justice we all know and admire today.
However, this movie was more than just a love letter to RBG’s legal career. It was a letter to Us about love. This movie highlights the love between RBG and her husband Marty. It does so in a manner, that sings of “pure love” while embracing you tenderly and caringly. This movie depicts a love that is pure, unconditional and selfless. Both love and admire the other so much, that they will do anything possible to see the other succeed.
RBG had to face many obstacles that would put to test her love of law and family. For instance, Marty was diagnosed with Testicular cancer and had to have several surgeries and undergo radiation. Both of them were in school during this time. RBG attended Marty’s classes, took notes, and helped him with his assignments, all the while taking care of her workload and their two-year-old daughter.
The love for her husband, is extremely evident here. Not only because she is caring for him, but because she is determined to help her husband succeed in his career.
We see this again, later in the film when Marty has graduated and is offered a position in a firm in New York. RBG leaves Harvard, attends and graduates from Columbia Law. All because she does not want her family separated.
Throughout the film, you witness the love, admiration, and support they have for each other. You get caught up in their unconditional love, you can’t help but cheer their successes, and you cannot help but ache when they are hurting. You are as invested in them as a couple as you are in them as a legal team.
It makes sense, the story was written by Daniel Stiepleman, who happens to be RBG’s nephew. His mother is Marty’s sister, and also a producer of the film. He has stated in several interviews and it was later reiterated by Director, Mimi Leder, that he wanted to share and highlight the relationship between Marty and RBG. That’s the reason why he chose this case and not any of the other just as important cases she has argued in the Supreme Court. This case is special, it is the only case they argued together.
Click here to read when and where Screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman got the idea to this story and how RBG took it.
The movie is inspiring as it is riveting. Some women were crying. Yes, crying. However, there was something else that jumped out at me. I’m not going to lie, RBG and Marty’s love affair, relationship goals.
I was captivated by the fact that here we have a womyn that was doing it all, balancing it all. She was a wife, student, and mother. She didn’t feel the need to choose one over the other. I loved the fact that they didn’t make it easy, they didn’t romanticize it, as some directors or others might have. She was challenged every step of the way, but she pulled through.
I think this was what really hit home for me, because you have a womyn that is dealing with sexism on a daily and reminded constantly that she is taking the spot intended for a man. I’m sure her professors didn’t care if her husband or child were sick, she would still have to turn assignments in on time. All with the added pressure of having to turn in quality papers. I’m sure she knew, as you and I know, her work would have to be nothing less than perfection. For anyone that has ever gone through something like this, you know that they are going to scrutinize your work and mark you for every little damn thing they can.
She is dealing with all of this sexism at school and would still rush home to take care of her household.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
She was balancing. She was doing what felt right for her. Not what was expected of her. Nowadays, we are told that we cannot have it all. We cannot be successful and raise a family. We are oftentimes made to believe that if we decide to have a family we cannot have a career. Or if we have a career we cannot have a family. I’ve even heard some say “..a successful woman is intimidating to a good man,” I’m not making this up.
This movie showcases a man that was equally successful as he was intelligent supporting his wife. Not just with a “you can do it Ruth baby!” but with actions, he would stay home and take care of the family and of Ruth. Yes, a man that was as successful as he was, would stay home to watch the kids and cook for his wife.
If you want to hear more about this, I recommend you watch the “Notorious RBG” documentary, you can find it streaming on HULU. It dives in deeper into their relationship and the role he played in her career.
There could also be some that argue that you are going against feminism by wanting to take care of your family. They will argue that this is something that has been ingrained in our brain by men to help feed into their ego. I’ve heard this. I’ve actually heard a lot worse.
However, Justice Bader Ginsburg is showing us that we really can have it all. It’s not easy and it requires what might seem as supernatural strength to keep on going at times. But you can.have.it.ALL. You can have a family, an education, a career, and guess what you can also have big dreams.
I’m not blind. Yes, she was/is a white woman, that in itself already puts her ahead of the game. I can’t lie, I kept asking myself: “Who is funding her life? How are her bills and rent getting paid if both her and Marty are in school?” Probably because those were the things I was worried about when I was in school. I’m a woman of color and I became a single mother during my last year of grad school. Things were harder, but I still did it. I think that’s why this movie resonated with me, I was told by a professor, who was also the program director, to quit. Did I mention it was a she and not a him? That not only pissed me off but I was on a mission to prove her wrong. I graduated, it took me longer but I finished.
I have always believed that there are certain things in life that you should not compromise on and this is one of those. I don’t believe that you have to choose between a career or a family. I’m not saying it’s easy, it has its challenges. Even more so, if you don’t have a Marty in your life. But it still doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I believe that sometimes we give up before we even try, because we believe we have to compromise.
Was or is RBG a Feminist? I think so, I haven’t read anything that states a yes or a no to this question. So, I’m just going to assume that she is. I believe that in her way in the 1960’s she was. She was not about being out in the streets, she was about changing the laws to protect the change that was taking place. Justice RBG knew that change was inevitable, she saw it in her daughter. However, as she states in the movie: “Protests are important, but changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change.” She was right, there were a total of 178 laws that differentiate on the basis of sex. Oh yes, that’s not a typo-178! She was committed to taking them on one by one and she did, she founded the ACLU’s Women’s Right Project where she took on several sex discrimination cases.
The movie highlights some of the great female revolutionaries of that time, Gloria Steinem, Dorothy Kenyon, and Pauli Murray. Mimi Leder, states that RBG was adamant about these individuals being in the film.
Another issue that this movie highlights extremely well is how male privilege is an issue that even men who declare themselves to be “on our side” battle with. Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux), is the Director of the ACLU, he is constantly showing his male privilege. At first, when you see it happening your like “waiiiiittttt what?” then in another scene he does it again, at this point you are like “Ah Hell NA!” Then this scene happens:
At this point, you are ready to call in the cavalry and rip some heads off. But then Marty, gives you this: “You’re ready for this. You’ve been ready for this your whole life, so go in there and let the judges see the Ruth Ginsburg I know.” You call the cavalry off.
This movie is great.
If you love RBG, you will be fascinated by the insights into how she became the rock star we all know and love.
If you are a feminist, you will love to see how one woman who had so many doors slammed shut solely on the basis of sex (see what I did there?), actually did something about it and changed the entire system as we know it. There’s the added bonus that this movie, aligns perfectly with our current events: #metoo movement, the GOP’s bid to throw us (womyn) back into the dark ages. To think that this movie was created before all of this happened.
If you are a romantic, this movie is for you too. You will fall in love with the story of Ruth and Marty. I mean #relationshipgoals. Their unconditional and endless support for one another is amazing and inspiring. Single people will be downloading Bumble before they even get to their cars and those that are in relationship will most likely be giving their significant other the side eye for not being more Marty-like or Ruth-like.
One thing is for certain, if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not your shero before this film, she will be at the end of it