To the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
When I watched the movie “On The Basis of Sex,” a biographical film based on your life, I cried nearly the whole time. At one point, my mom reached over, grabbed my hand and squeezed. Overwhelmed by emotion, I not only related to your struggle, but the movie reminded me how much your perseverance, unmatched intelligence and dedication to changing the status quo impacted me and my journey.
Like you, I grew up as a tough, ambitious and competitive little girl. When I was two years old, my dad nicknamed me Pit Bull. By age six, I teased my mom about how she dreamed of a sweet little daughter and instead, she got stuck with me, a so-called “tomboy.” But even as a little girl, I was proud of my strength and I never thought it would be a problem.
However, when I was eight years old, before I knew who you were or what you did, I began to realize the significance of your life’s work. During gym class, my elementary school wouldn’t let me play street hockey. Only the boys could play street hockey. The girls had to settle for a less aggressive activity – scooter hockey. I didn’t understand. I was as good of an athlete, if not better, than any boy in my class.
My dad, who, like you, is a lawyer, told me that the school was wrong for not giving me the same opportunity as the boys. He told me, in life, whenever I see a wrong, I should always stand up for what is right.
So, I marched into school the next day and told my gym teachers that I wanted the same opportunity as the boys. I wanted to play street hockey. They completely disregarded my request. My dad showed up at school in a suit and tie the following week, firmly telling the principal that they were legally obligated to give girls the same opportunities as boys. The principal sort of listened to him.
The school stopped allowing boys to play street hockey and everyone had to play scooter hockey.
At that moment, I realized that this battle was the beginning of many battles. But I also learned that there were laws in place that could and would help me fight against gender discrimination – and much of that is because of you.
After graduating at the top of your class at Columbia’s law school, no firm would give you a job. You were a woman, you were Jewish and you had a child – all strikes against you. The fact that you were hardworking and brilliant was dismissed or ignored throughout the job-hunting process. Instead of giving up, you found another way and ultimately forever changed women’s lives in this country.
You started your career in education before getting opportunities inside a courtroom, where you fought for women’s rights. You co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972. By 1974, the Women’s Rights Project partook in more than 300 gender discrimination cases. Because of you, women can sign a mortgage without a man and have a bank account without a male co-signer. Throughout your career, you fought for equal pay and you helped make it illegal to discriminate against women at work on the basis of sex. Credit cards, house rentals, prison, and the military are other areas where you helped create gender equality.
As a woman, who pursued a career in sports, a male-dominated industry, sadly, my life has been filled with inequality, misogynistic attitudes and harassment – some of which is still painful to recollect.
People have talked down to me. They’ve assumed I am not smart. From commenting on my body to limiting my upward mobility, early on in my journey, I knew that my brain was less valuable housed in my body, a woman’s body. With each transgression I experienced, as my father taught me, I stood up for myself and fought for what was right.
A little smarter and a bit more strategic than I was as an eight-year-old child, I not only learned gender discrimination laws, but I started to understand the type of evidence and patience required to make sure those laws are enforced. As a result, I have held powerful people accountable for misogynistic behavior, created more opportunities for myself and inspired others to do the same.
Now, in my 30’s, I hold on to the pit bull moniker my dad once gave me, as I am more proud than ever of my boldness, courage, ambition, and ability to see my worth when others refused to do the same.
Recently, I started my own company, The Unsealed, aimed to promote social progress. Within months, we reached hundreds of thousands of people in 182 countries. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I love who I am. And it is because of you that I can continue to discover all that I can be.
In 2020, many marginalized groups, including women, still have to fight for basic rights and respect in our society. In my life, I have already had to speak up more times than I care to count. But every single time I stand up, I am reminded that it is because of the perseverance you possessed and the laws you challenged, that I have a ground to stand on.
Your life may have ended, but your work continues with us all.
Thank you – for your fight was my future,