04 April 2017

The Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik



              I read The Notorious RBG pretty much immediately after I heard about it. I have always been very interested in the goings on of the Supreme Court ever since I was a kid, and the fact that the name of the book called to mind the rapper Notorious BIG was the icing on the cake. I think the book was well put together. It had a lot of fun elements like the cartoons people drew and the various RBG Halloween costumes, particularly on an adorable baby. It was also very informative about her life, and I learned quite a bit about her husband, which was pretty neat and her workouts which were actually pretty impressive. The book was put together by two young women who were head over heels fans of Ruth Bader Ginsburg so there was an obvious bias, but I wasn’t too put off by it, because I knew from the outset that they were fans, and I didn’t feel like I was being tricked or anything.
                Overall, I enjoyed reading it and there weren’t any surprises outside of her personal life which was actually pretty fascinating. I would feel pretty comfortable recommending it to anyone. However, there are two things that I got from the book which I’m not sure the authors intended, but they are concepts I have been thinking through a lot even before I read the book, but which have been solidified for me since reading it.
                The first is an insight I had while talking to an atheist friend of mine about abortion. I have come to the conclusion (and maybe everyone is already here and I’m just late to the party) that people on both sides of the abortion question need to admit that the debate is over whether the fetus has life. On the pro-choice side, the much used “if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one” makes no sense if you truly realize that people who are pro-life really believe that fetus has life. If we believe it has life, and we do, we can’t just rest with not having one in the exact same way we can’t rest with not committing murder but being fine with other people who do. And on the pro-life side, we need to realize that people who are pro-choice really don’t believe the fetus has life. They really don’t. So calling them baby killers or assuming they hate children is really not very fair. That maybe seems much more obvious now that I have sort of, worked through that. And maybe you’re reading this like, “duh.” But this was actually a very helpful insight and helped me talk to my friend in a way that made her not think I hated women. The reason this book made me think of this is that RBG apparently did not like the way Roe v. Wade came about. Mainly because she wanted the process to be slower and to be implemented state by state so that people would become more comfortable with it. See, she’s exhibiting what I’m talking about. She assumes that pro-lifers really are just kinda backward in how they see women and once the modern world kicks in for us we’ll slowly get used to it. She isn’t realizing that the people who don’t approve of abortion will NEVER approve of it, because they’ll NEVER not see it as murder. Because we believe it’s truly a life that is ending.
                The second insight came when I was reading about the alleged “dark time” of the court, when Justice O’Connor had left the bench and before Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor came on. So,RBG was the only woman in the Supreme Court. The writers of the book talked about how sad it was that no little girl could dream about being on the court without a good representation of women. I was taken aback when I read this because I realized that during that exact period of history, there was a little girl who was pretty sure she was going to get into Constitutional Law and eventually end up on the Supreme Court: me. It’s weird because at the time I didn’t even pause to consider whether I was “allowed” because only one woman was on it. I just assumed I could do it. Much later, after Justices Kagan and Sotomayor were appointed I actually changed the course of my studies realizing that actually I really didn’t want to go to law school, I just found constitutional law really interesting and that was all. But it made me think about this concept of needing role models of our same gender. I wouldn’t go so far as to say, no one should have role models, and yes, if a woman does something to make history, I think it’s pretty cool. But I kind of think we are at a place in our society where we as women can kind of drop the vicitim act. I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian home (oh and I was homeschooled so, triple threat) and I was never given the impression  that I couldn’t do anything because I was a woman. I just, did what I wanted to do. Maybe if more women just…did what they wanted to do we would all be better for it. (You know…in reason, if you want to be a bank robber, I’d probably say don’t do that)
                I actually didn’t mean for this to be semi political, but I don’t really have a lot to say about the book, but I thought I’d just talk about things it stirred up for me. Read the book if you want. Or not. You could potentially get away with reading her Wikipedia article, though the book layout itself was pretty fun.

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