Last week, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the featured speaker in the Ursula Hirschmann lecture series at the European University Institute (EUI) in Italy. The conversation was led by Professor Ruth Rubio Marín from the Law Department, who at one point in the two hour interview asked the Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court about the Notorious RBG phenomenon. Her wise and witty response is nothing short of “awesome.”
RRM’s question: “So Justice Ginsburg how does it feel to become at this stage in your life this character, this T-shirt, fingernails, mugs image and what do you think it is an expression of?”
“In the words that the current generation uses it’s awesome. It’s quite unbelievable that at age nearly 83 everyone wants to take a photograph with me.
The book [Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg] is the result of a second year student at NYU Law School [Shana Knizhnik] being very upset by a decision the Supreme Court had just rendered. The case is known as Shelby County and the majority in that case essentially put an end to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was a major piece of civil rights legislation designed to make sure that African-Americans would not be deprived of the franchise. She was angry but she decided that anger is not a useful emotion. Instead, she wanted to do something positive. So she created a tumblr and it started with my dissenting opinion in the Shelby County case. And it took off from there.
Now why is the younger generation interested in an octogenarian? Well one thing that the Shelby County dissent illustrated is that one can disagree without being disagreeable and one can be effective not by using invectives but by using reason.
So that’s how the Notorious RBG began. The name comes from a well-known rapper Notorious BIG, and when I was told this, I said well we two have something in common; both the rapper and I were born and bred in Brooklyn, New York.
As for the mugs and the T-shirts that is fine, but the tattoo… that is a bit much.”
*Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s response was transcribed from a portion (minute 12:45) of the full EUI Times interview on YouTube.