Global War Against Women: An endearing retrospective

The Times’s estimable Supreme Court reporter, Adam Liptak, just wrote a lovely dual portrait of Ruth Bayer Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, in which the emphasis was on the generational differences their paths to the Supreme Court had taken. It begins:

They share New York City roots, a liberal outlook and a personal trainer. But a gap separates Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, one they explored during an often lighthearted joint appearance last week at the New York City Bar Association.

Justice Ginsburg, 80, is the oldest member of the Supreme Court, and she came of age when many legal careers were closed to women. Justice Kagan, 53, is the court’s youngest member, and she seemed to have little trouble compiling a glittering résumé. She was the first female dean of Harvard Law School and the first female United States solicitor general.

“What explains this gulf between Justice Ginsburg’s experience and mine?” Justice Kagan asked. “In large part the answer is simply Justice Ginsburg. As a litigator and then as a judge she changed the face of American antidiscrimination law.”

For those of us women who have one foot in Justice Ginsburg’s generation and the other in Justice Kagan’s, the piece is a sharp reminder of the perverse attitude toward professional women in the workplace that so affected Justice Ginsburg’s career and judicial philosophy. (Liptak mentions that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was generated by pressure from Justice Ginsburg.)

The period that so restricted Justice Ginsburg is not so distant that I have no memory of it, nor so distant that I am no longer irritated by it, or wary that it could happen again.

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