Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her trailblazing work made an indelible and lasting mark on my life and career. She tore down irrelevant barriers affecting women, and for that, I will always see her as a hero. Using logic, the power of persuasion, and downright courage, Ginsburg opened doors for women to occupy a space that had been previously denied.
Part of Ginsburg’s legend is a story of when the dean of Harvard Law School asked the women who had been admitted how they justified taking a place away from a man. This dialogue was distasteful in itself, but even more surprising that it occurred at a dinner party meant to celebrate the students. Other future indignities occurred. Among them, at one of Ginsburg’s 1993 Senate confirmation hearings, she was turned away from a library at Harvard because it didn’t allow women inside.
I’m sure there were many other competent women back then and even now that have heard similar sentiments. I know this to be true because it occurred to me while in medical school. It became personal when a man, who was also pursuing anesthesiology, suggested the exact same mindset to me. Yet, whether it is medical school, law school, or flying fighter jets, that mindset — the one that tries to hold women back — must end. We cannot live in a world where 50% of the population is not able to pursue the career and life of their dreams and choosing.
Justice Ginsburg was denied jobs upon graduation from law school because of her gender. And yet, she ended her career as a Supreme Court Justice. This accomplishment occurred after the earlier successful career as an academician and litigator. I believe that nothing beats down bias like showing them they are wrong. Ginsburg’s Legend: Success and Perseverance. It is a life and lesson to remember.
Like the inexorable power of water dripping on rock and cutting its own path, life and the course of rivers change with time. Lasting change is often slow with each inch hard fought. Sentiment, opinions, and biases create barriers to progress for many people in many fields. Unfortunately, there is no way to totally eliminate implicit bias in work or the arts, writing especially included. There’s even a hashtag about it: #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear. Although the posts were jaw dropping, the knowledge of them did not stop me from pursuing my passion to write. Nor did I stop my pursuit to practice medicine and anesthesiology.
It’s a matter of being creative, and most importantly, persistent. I also had to learn to be my own loudest cheerleader, and find others willing to do the same for me. My goal remains to live my truth, write about it, and in the process make it easier for the next woman or nonconformist to do the same.
We fight on, push forward, tear down barriers, gain allies, and just maybe… have some fun in the process. It reminds me of one of my favorite RBG quotes: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”