When there are nine.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously responded that there would be “enough” women on the Supreme Court “when there are nine.” A statement that reflected her aspiration for a world where being a woman was no longer a rarity for decision-makers — even on the highest court.
Reflecting on the recent death of Justice Ginsburg, I appreciate the differences in the world where I practice law and the one where she did.
I appreciate that because of her, I grew up wanting to be a lawyer — it never occurred to me that my gender would make that impossible. I attended law school where there were not only women’s bathrooms but often a long line to use one.
But there are still not nine.
Justice Ginsburg’s fight for equality eliminated many legal obstacles for my education, career and independence. But many social challenges remain.
One of the last events my family attended before the quarantine was the Megillah reading. In telling my son the story of Purim, what was lost on him was why Esther was so brave. I soon realized that he simply couldn’t envision a world where women were powerless.
My son has watched me balance community involvement, work and parenting his entire life, just as I watched my mother do. And while his belief in women’s power is something to celebrate, it is also a challenge. His perspective is a testament to Justice Ginsburg’s success for some women, but shows how easy it can be to let that success define all women.
Justice Ginsburg has been celebrated for being a successful working mother with a fantastically supportive spouse in her husband, Marty. However, an important aspect of her work is that despite having the partnership she did, she sought to improve the lives of those who did not.
I have enjoyed bonding with my baby daughter during maternity leave, something that is still not available to most working women in this country. I have struggled to educate and contain a toddler and an infant in a pandemic, but haven’t had to worry about being fired for it, unlike so many workers in this country.
I know that I and so many of us wanting to preserve Justice Ginsburg’s legacy have work to do to make women’s struggles for equality and acceptance today a memory for our children.
If there is anything that Justice Ginsburg has taught the women of my generation, the ones who can take so much for granted when it comes to being treated equally under the law, it is that we should strive for nine. We should strive for all of us to have the opportunities that some of us do.
We have to support one another and speak up. We have a role to play in our community organizations, our homes, and our workplace, to make sure we are raising a better, more inclusive, generation. We have to look out for one another.
Justice Ginsburg’s legacy is not only in what she achieved but how she inspired so many women. Thanks to Justice Ginsburg, we live in a world where women have a seat at the table.
Our job is to get eight more.
A Pikesville native, Sarah R. David is a lawyer and recent mother of two who lives in Towson.