RBG: 'The pedestal you put women on is a cage'

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says gender-based discrimination confines what women can do.

Posted: Feb 12, 2018 5:29 PM
Updated: Feb 12, 2018 5:31 PM

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believes the "#MeToo" movement will have "staying power" and that she doesn't worry about a serious backlash.

"It's too widespread," Ginsburg said in an interview with CNN's Poppy Harlow at Columbia University Sunday. "It's amazing," she added, "that for the first time, women are really listened to because sexual harassment had often been dismissed as 'well, she made it up.'"

When Harlow pressed whether Congress was acting quickly enough, Ginsburg paused. "This Congress is not ... I mean it's been very hard even to keep the government going lately," she said to laughter.

"My hope is that Congress will think about people -- where the United States population now is, and I am putting my faith in the millennials," Ginsburg added.

Harlow and Ginsburg held a wide-ranging discussion that also touched on sexism during the 2016 presidential campaign, attacks on the judiciary, the First Amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment and even blindspots on the current court.

RELATED: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with clerk hires, signals desire to outlast Trump

Asked directly whether sexism played a role in the last campaign, Ginsburg said, "I think it was difficult for Hillary Clinton to get by, in the macho atmosphere prevailing during that campaign ... And she was criticized in a way I think no man would have been criticized," she said.

"Sexism played a prominent part," Ginsburg said but stressed that she thought America was ready for a woman president and "will be the next time."

But then she stopped short.

"We should be careful about not getting me too much in the political arena," Ginsburg said to applause.

Attacks on the judiciary

In public, Ginsburg does not comment about President Donald Trump, who angrily tweeted during the campaign that her mind was "shot" after she criticized him. She later said she regretted making the comments.

But Ginsburg did respond to recent verbal attacks on the judiciary and said that the judiciary depends upon members of the bar and the public to help preserve the institution. An independent judiciary is one of the nation's "hallmarks," she said.

Harlow referenced comments made by now Supreme Court Justce Neil Gorsuch during his nomination process, when he told one senator last February that such attacks are "demoralizing and disheartening."

"Well, they are disheartening, yes. But there are people, lawyers, who speak out in defense of an independent judiciary, and point out how important that is to our system," Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg has been on a speaking tour of sorts during the winter recess of what is a momentous term. The justices have already heard arguments on cases concerning religious liberty, immigration, voting rights and digital privacy, and this spring they will take up the travel ban and potentially a case concerning DACA.

Ginsburg, the leader of the liberal wing on the court, will celebrate her 85th birthday this spring, as well as the 25th anniversary of her nomination by President Bill Clinton.

So far on and off the bench, she shows no signs of slowing down, actively participating at oral arguments. Last month she appeared in Park City, Utah, for the unveiling of a new documentary about her life co-produced by CNN. She is regularly greeted at speaking events with a standing ovation.

'Practice exam'

At her speaking events, she gives young women advice and tells the story of her rise in the law and the difficulties she encountered.

On Sunday, she recounted that as a student at Cornell University, she once asked a chemistry professor for extra help. He gave her a "practice exam" to help her. But the next day she learned that the practice exam was in fact the real exam. She was outraged.

"I knew just what he expected in return," she said. She went back to the professor and asked "how dare you?"

"There were many incidents like that, but in those days the attitude was, 'what can we do about it? Nothing. Boys will be boys.'"

After law school, she had a hard time finding a job. She had three strikes against her, she said. She was Jewish, she was a woman, and she had a baby.

That daughter, Jane, who is now a professor at Columbia, was in the audience as well as three of Ginsburg's grandchildren.

She said that she has "had it all" during her long life, but "not necessarily at one time."

Her professional life was buoyed by her marriage of 56 years to Martin Ginsburg, a noted tax lawyer who died in 2010.

RELATED: Judiciary leaders want action on preventing sexual misconduct in courts

When she was a young lawyer at the ACLU working on gender equality, her husband took an active role on the home front. He "phased" her out of the kitchen much to her children's delight because he was a far better cook.

She also spoke about the influence of her mother who died when she was in high school. "What is the difference between a book keeper in the garment district and a Supreme Court justice," she asked.

"One generation."

She said her mother armed her with the "strength to persist".

"I suppose she thought it would be fine if I met Prince Charming, but 'fend for yourself' was her message. Be independent."

Backs an Equal Rights Amendment

Ginsburg is still holding out for an Equal Rights Amendment to come along some day.

"Equal stature of men and women is as fundamental as the basic human rights," she said.

She said that while there is the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment, "every Constitution in the world written since the year 1950 has the equivalent statement that men and women are people of equal citizenship stature."

Pointing to her granddaughters, she said: "I would like to be able to take out that pocket constitution and say to them, 'You see this statement of the equal stature of men and women is as fundamental as the basic human rights. The right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the equal stature of men and women.'"

She said it "belongs in the Constitution" and she is gratified that there have been efforts to revive the amendment."

Importance of free press

Harlow also asked her about the importance of the First Amendment and attacks on the press.

"It's been that way from the very beginning," Ginsburg said, noting that Thomas Jefferson was distressed at what the press was reporting, but he didn't think the press should be squelched.

"Do you think that those holding the highest offices now politically, think the press should be squelched?," Harlow asked.

"I will not respond to that question," Ginsburg said but added, "a free press is of tremendous importance to a society."

Collegiality on the Court

Of her current colleagues, she stressed that they get along.

"I have the best job in the world for a lawyer."

"I respect all of my colleagues and genuinely like most of them," she said. She noted "we are in this together."

But she talked about a dissent in an 2014 opinion concerning employer provided contraception and religious liberty. She said her male colleagues in the majority were blind to the fact that "contraceptive coverage was an essential part of health care for women." Ginsburg, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. She said the majority suffered from a blind spot.

Is it still there?

"Yes," she allowed, "but less and less over time."

Harlow questioned when there will be enough female justices on the court, something Ginsburg is frequently asked. "When there are nine of course," she said with a twinkle.

Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 82°
Robinson
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 73°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
78° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 80°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Casey
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 80°
Brazil
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 82°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 82°
One More Summer-Like Day
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Sunday: Increasing clouds, hot. High: 90°

Image

Saturday Evening Forecast

Image

Saturday: Mostly sunny, unseasonably warm. High: 89°

Image

Casey-Westfield

Image

Parke Heritage football

Image

Sullivan football

Image

Robinson football

Image

VL Football

Image

North Knox football

Image

THN Football

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1590342

Reported Deaths: 26979
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook60937610925
DuPage1031521352
Will865801083
Lake764741056
Kane65399842
Winnebago38682543
Madison37731569
St. Clair34758561
McHenry32773313
Peoria25738361
Champaign25601182
Sangamon24263266
McLean21611205
Tazewell19559326
Rock Island17631342
Kankakee16523233
Kendall15274105
LaSalle14349275
Macon14248233
Vermilion12908182
Adams12589147
DeKalb11542127
Williamson11206156
Whiteside7813176
Boone756681
Jackson756683
Coles7175112
Ogle705385
Grundy693181
Clinton676498
Franklin669694
Knox6528163
Marion6454135
Macoupin636597
Henry610272
Jefferson5981131
Effingham588980
Livingston564394
Woodford549791
Stephenson540089
Randolph522996
Monroe503299
Christian481980
Morgan479995
Fulton479069
Logan473573
Montgomery462876
Lee454956
Bureau423087
Perry411171
Saline399263
Iroquois391171
Fayette387756
McDonough352155
Jersey319753
Douglas303336
Shelby300343
Crawford298930
Lawrence294631
Union293846
Wayne267957
White261530
Richland256852
Hancock253434
Pike252256
Cass247728
Clark244138
Bond242224
Clay233347
Ford233056
Edgar229844
Carroll223937
Warren220456
Moultrie209331
Johnson208922
Washington204927
Jo Daviess203525
Greene199339
Mason196251
Wabash196115
Massac195144
De Witt192730
Piatt188814
Mercer187035
Cumberland174123
Menard155812
Jasper149518
Marshall133721
Hamilton127221
Brown10138
Pulaski97311
Schuyler9608
Edwards94815
Stark76027
Gallatin7285
Scott6895
Alexander66411
Calhoun6382
Henderson63114
Hardin55713
Putnam5414
Pope4725
Unassigned1582432
Out of IL80

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 926604

Reported Deaths: 15083
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1262201958
Lake626901087
Allen52772747
Hamilton43283445
St. Joseph41475584
Elkhart33129488
Vanderburgh29927439
Tippecanoe26589247
Johnson23267415
Hendricks21902340
Porter21473341
Clark17150224
Madison17065379
Vigo15815273
Monroe14298190
LaPorte14108237
Delaware13771219
Howard13635262
Kosciusko11232134
Hancock10637160
Warrick10523176
Bartholomew10341167
Floyd10200202
Wayne9690218
Grant8939196
Morgan8734158
Boone8299109
Dubois7596123
Henry7469128
Dearborn745187
Noble7294101
Marshall7237128
Cass7097117
Lawrence6862150
Shelby6457107
Jackson643981
Gibson6036106
Harrison595585
Huntington591891
Montgomery5706102
DeKalb563591
Knox537599
Miami531983
Clinton527164
Putnam525367
Whitley516251
Steuben486367
Wabash477492
Jasper471961
Jefferson461991
Ripley444175
Adams439365
Daviess4064106
Scott394963
White386257
Clay382356
Greene380189
Wells379683
Decatur379595
Fayette367176
Posey354941
Jennings346356
Washington325847
LaGrange315774
Spencer313034
Fountain309753
Randolph305487
Sullivan299447
Owen279161
Starke272761
Orange272659
Fulton268851
Jay250634
Perry247451
Carroll241127
Franklin233637
Vermillion229750
Rush228930
Parke215220
Tipton206754
Pike202538
Blackford165634
Pulaski158751
Crawford142818
Newton140742
Benton139816
Brown132646
Martin126916
Switzerland123510
Warren113416
Union93511
Ohio77211
Unassigned0468