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The Notorious RBG Speaks: Gender Discrimination Is the “Unconscious Bias”

February 17, 2015

I love the way Federal Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks about her feelings on gender discrimination, how she explains that early on in her career she felt that the “way things were” was her only option, but has since expanded her feelings on gender discrimination to realize that change can happen.

Asked if she had gotten more radical with age, Ginsburg told msnbc, “My aspirations have not changed since the ’70s.” She is steadfast, she said, in “my hope for our society that we’re going to use the talent of all of the people and not just half of them. I would contrast an earlier period in my life, when I just accepted discrimination as that’s the way things are, nothing I can do about it.”

Now, Ginsburg said, “I try to teach through my opinions, through my speeches – how wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, [the] color of their skin, whether they’re men or women.”

It’s a wonderful message for those of us despairing of having gender discrimination overturned, and it’s one we need to hear. Noting how far we have come since RBG first began practicing law makes me proud to see that there are people at the top of America’s justice system that really do stand for equal rights. Scalia appears to stand for equal rights only if equal rights apply to white men. Roberts appears to be the type of man who believes there are two kinds of people in this world: those whom he feels belong in a hood or a noose. Clarence Thomas seems to speak not with his mouth but with his hands when it comes to women’s rights.  Sotomayor doesn’t speak much at all. Kagan hasn’t seemed to find her voice fully, and so it is with great pleasure that I listen to Ginsburg.

Ginsburg admits that not all bias is open and explicit.

Through her litigation with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project in the 1970s, Ginsburg famously helped topple laws that blatantly discriminated on the basis of gender.

“That job was an important first step,” she said of her generation’s work. “What’s left, what’s still with us and harder to deal with is what I call unconscious bias.”


I agree that there is unconscious bias in gender discrimination; however, the Male Federal Supreme Court Justices have shown open signs of gender discrimination. It’s not unconscious for them, but is unconscious for many people in our society. Hair color advertisers have picked up on this, how many women apologize before speaking: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but…” Why be sorry? Why be sorry for speaking the mind?

RBG, I am glad you don’t apologize for standing up for women. I am glad you continue to hold firm against the bigots with whom you have had to work for years–I can’t imagine that pressure on a daily basis. A big thank you to the Notorious RBG, especially for noticing the unconscious bias and for standing against it, every single day. Thank you.

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