Women's Rights

‘The Notorious RBG’

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now known in popular culture as ‘The Notorious RBG’, is a distinguished Supreme Court Justice for the United States. She has dedicated her life to the fight for women’s equality. With her intelligence, undeniable writing talents, and a quick wit, Ginsburg has spent decades paving the way for women to have equal opportunity and to put an end to discrimination on the basis of sex.

Justice Ginsburg grants her success in this movement to simply being in ‘the right place at the right time’. In a 2008 speech to Wake Forest Law School, she explained how she became a key figure in the resurgence of the Women’s Rights Movement in the 1970’s. She explained that in these years she was already “a law teacher, general counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project” (Ginsburg 154).  These prestigious titles allowed Ginsburg to stand out within the movement as a woman that was already hard at work for the cause.

Years of working tirelessly and making a name for herself eventually led to Ginsburg’s Supreme Court nomination from President Bill Clinton.

“Over the course of a lifetime, in her pioneering work on behalf of the women of this country, she has compiled a truly historic record of achievement in the finest traditions of American law and citizenship”

President Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton’s official announcement of his Supreme Court Nomination and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination acceptance

Path to the Court

Ginsburg’s path to the Supreme Court marks big moves for the Women’s Rights Movements. Where Angelina Grimké had to search for places that would allow her to speak, and center her arguments around Christianity just to be heard, Ginsburg took a different approach. She placed herself in spheres typical of men and made a name for herself. She was one of only nine women to attend Harvard Law school, and she graduated at the top of her class.

She proved that women were just as capable (if not more) than men.

Ginsburg had an ability to calmly speak just a few words and leave an entire room of outspoken and opinionated people absolutely speechless. Angelina Grimké used her voice and rhetorical tactics to enlighten fellow citizens on the need for Women’s Rights; Ruth Bader Ginsburg took this a step further and began to shape the policy and laws that protected women’s rights and opened new doors.

Hear Ginsburg speak during her Congressional confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court

Becoming Notorious

Today, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become the face of a new generation of the Women’s Rights Movement. She earned the title, Notorious RBG, for her lifelong commitment to the movement and is now a popular culture icon.

RBG’s pop culture explosion began with a Tumblr page in 2013 by New York University law student Shana Knizhnik. She created the page to highlight Ginsburg’s success on the Supreme Court, and it went viral. The name ‘Notorious RBG’ is a play on rapper Biggie Smalls’ Notorious B.I.G. nickname.

“Here you had this diminutive person, this tiny human, and nobody saw her as a badass. But when you see what she has done, over years, with such dignity and grace, it represented that”

Shana Knizhnik

The new nickname along with images of Ginsburg wearing a crown began to appear all over the internet as well as t-shirts, bags, magnets, and pretty much anything else you can think of. This explosion of popularity created a resurgence of the Women’s Rights Movement for the 21st century.

Kate Mckinnon as RBG on SNL
RBG baby posted on the ‘Notorious RBG’ Tumblr

This explosion of popularity resulted in Ginsburg (or look-a-likes) appearing everywhere. Actress Kate Mckinnon played RGB in a series of Saturday Night Live Skits, children and adults began dressing up as RBG for Halloween always sure to include her famous dissent collar. A movie all about Ginsburg titled, On the Basis of Sex, came to theaters in 2018 starring Felicity Jones as Ginsburg.

Americans have fallen in love RBG because of her bold word choice, her unique character, and of course her passion for women’s rights. This love has resulted in the countless examples of Ginsburg appearing in popular culture, on merchandise, and even on the big screen.

The famous image associated with the Notorious RBG


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