By Laura BennettFriday 8 Feb 2019Hope Afternoons
Stories of sexual discrimination need to be heard, but after all the heat lately around the topic, you’d be forgiven for being weary of the conversation.
We’re confronted daily with systemic dysfunction that’s brought us to a social boiling point, so will On the Basis of Sex add anything helpful to the discussion?
First things first, let’s address the name. It’s about gender not ‘bed time’ and the only lovey-dovey scene is kept PG.
Ok, moving on.
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On the Basis of Sex is inspired by the true story of Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by English actor Felicity Jones.
In the late 1950’s Ruth secured one of only nine places for women to study at Harvard Law, while also raising a family with fellow lawyer Martin D. Ginsburg (Armie Hammer).
Pursuing a career in an age where women were housekeepers and Mums only, Ruth advocated heavily for women’s rights and gender equality. Over her career, Ruth opposed more than 150 laws that discriminated specifically on the basis of sex.
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Ruth’s work was ground-breaking and set legal precedent for cases to this day. Yet it’s not all that strikes you about this movie.
One of the most admirable aspects of On the Basis of Sex, is Ruth’s marriage to Martin. If it bears any resemblance to their real life, the pair deeply loved and supported one another in and out of the home.
Martin cooked and Ruth did bed time. They’d study together, work together, and were each other’s greatest cheer leaders. They proved that valuing both genders equally doesn’t have to be destructive.
“Ruth’s approach to feminism wasn’t to degrade anyone else, but to expand a woman’s identity beyond her home life.”
Ruth had no issue with the duties of motherhood or being ‘a woman’; her issue was with laws that restricted what she could become because of those roles. In Ruth’s day a woman couldn’t work outside the home, and her credit card had to be in her husband’s name. Although Ruth had qualifications from Harvard, she struggled to find employment because firms wouldn’t hire women.
Ruth’s approach to feminism wasn’t to degrade anyone else, but to expand a woman’s identity beyond her contribution to home life. Where today’s women’s rights movement can be marred by aggression and an air of self-righteousness at times, Ruth used academic wit to win the fight. She was bold and sometimes sassy, but wasn’t reduced to yelling through her keyboard in the Facebook comments section.
If anything’s to be learned from On the Basis of Sex, it’s that change can be fought for with class, and we owe a lot to the trailblazers who’ve paved the way.
On the Basis of Sex is in cinemas now.