Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Dad Daze: The impact of the notorious RBG

The flag-draped casket of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 25. Ginsburg died at age 87 on Sept. 18 and is the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol.  (Erin Schaff/Associated Press)

Her mood swing was as quick and surprising as retired basketball star Allen Iverson was in his prime when the NBA Hall of Famer executed his patented crossover move.

“Hey, I just got a notification from NPR,” my daughter Jillian said while smiling as she was expecting good news.

Tears poured out of her green eyes as her mouth quivered. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg just died,” Jillian, 21, said as she yanked off her glasses and the moisture covered her cheeks.

“Oh my God. I’m devastated. She was the greatest role model for women,” Jillian said. “But it’s more than that. Yes, she was a pioneer for women’s rights, but she was ultimately about equal rights for everyone.

“I’ve done a number of projects on her. While she was working at the ACLU, a man lost his wife in childbirth. At the time, men couldn’t obtain death benefits as a widower. She fought so he could have the right for death benefits and took it to the Supreme Court and won.”

Regardless of your political stance, there’s no question that the iconic Supreme Court justice, who died on Sept. 18, was a trailblazer. The champion of gender equality was the architect of the legal fight for women’s rights since the Nixon era.

Ginsburg fortunately lived long enough to witness women break many glass ceilings. The cerebral firebrand was pleased to experience the Me Too movement.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had such an impact on me,” Jillian continued. “But it’s not just me. It’s women and girls who realize that we can do anything in this world. We are empowered. We can change the world. We can change ourselves.”

I’ve always told my children to believe in themselves and pursue whatever vocation, and Jillian knows that’s just what Ginsburg expressed. “She was so inspiring,” Jillian said.

“My mother told me to be a lady,” Ginsburg said. “And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”

After I read that quote, Jillian began to sob. “I just hope every little girl who doesn’t know about her learns about what she stood for and what she accomplished.”

That brings us to Jillian’s younger sister, Jane, 11, who knows a bit about Ginsburg, such as the fact that the justice’s daughter also is named Jane. How is it best to connect with Jane about the first woman in history to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol?

I spoke with relationship expert and bestselling author Heather Dugan, a huge fan of Ginsburg, for her take on how to speak about the legend’s impact.

“First off, your daughter’s reaction to RBG’s death is pretty intense,” Dugan said. “That’s great. Your older daughter can express what you can do. She can perhaps let friends know how important it is to vote. But regarding an 11-year-old, you can have conversations about careers.

“Justice Ginsburg had a unique path, and your daughter can go on many different paths.”

Part of that is due to Ginsburg, who opened many doors that were closed to women. But it’s how Ginsburg opened the doors, which is interesting for Dugan, who stresses the importance of connectivity, which is central to her book, “The Friendship Upgrade.”

“You don’t get anywhere unless you build on your personal connections,” Dugan said. “Look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She surrounded herself by people who believed in her like the Columbia law professor (Gerald Gunther, who made sure Ginsburg became a law clerk with the U.S. District Court of New York) and her husband (Martin Ginsburg).

“I would ask your daughter, ‘Which friends of yours believe in you?’ You want to be around people who see the best in you.”

Dugan is spot on since if you have a solid support base, that builds confidence – that’s half of many battles. If you lack faith in whatever endeavor you’re pursuing, it’s destined for failure. So seek support.

Ginsburg navigated through her extraordinary life with a little help from her friends. That’s one of many items that can be gleaned from her existence that can be passed on to a prepubescent girl.

The other aspect from Ginsburg’s life to emphasize is that anything is possible. The Notorious RBG was one of nine women in her Harvard Law class of 500 students. Women will never have to face what Ginsburg conquered in law school.

“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” is the old Virginia Slims print advertisement from the Mad Men era. It’s true, thanks to Ginsburg. However, women still have a ways to go, but they’re getting there. Hopefully by the time Jane becomes an adult, there will finally be equality for women.