Notorious RBG and the Great Gender Switch

Sitting with mixed feelings tonight, after learning how a feminist icon threw out the baby with the bathwater.


Don’t worry, the ends definitely justify the means!

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg was a hard-hitting civil rights lawyer in the 1970s. Her mission was to take on sexual discrimination, one example at a time.

She argued before the Supreme Court for the American Civil Liberties Union. She won Social Security survivor benefits, she won women a place on juries. Appearing in six cases, she won five.

One day, her secretary remarked, “I’m typing these briefs for you, and there’s the word sex, sex, sex on every page! Don’t you know those nine men to whom you’re arguing, when they hear that word, their first association is not what you want them to be thinking about!

Lest we stop forecasting male thoughts for even five minutes, or expect professionalism from the Highest Court in the Land.

No, RBG and her assistant reached into feminist theory and sexology to draw upon the notion of gender roles. Certain sets of behavior being expected of either sex was obviously not new, this new term being coined by John Money in 1955. For the next 20 years, it was used more and more often to refer to masculine and feminine.

But RBG just straight swapped gender for sex, creating it as a synonym and birthing the confusion in which we now find ourselves.

Because she did it before the Supreme Court. Words written there shift the balance in decisions of lower courts. If gender means sex (physical) but also gender roles (mental) the ever-increasing popularity of the word inevitably leads to increasing confusion.

Pink Frock Reads

Seems no one’s confused about who gets to wear the trousers!

Maybe it was only a matter of time before the legal ghouls who have always haunted any organized justice system came for us. Women’s legal status has been on thin ice for a long time, and we have one of our greatest heroes to thank for it.

She was known to tell the story of making the ol’ switcheroo to laughing crowds. RBG put in her time as a law professor in an era when she had to hide her pregnancy to keep her job. She used all the considerable power at her disposal to strike blows for equality. She paid a lot of dues so the rest of us wouldn’t have to.

Amanda Tyler, RBG’s former clerk and now a law professor herself, sums it up: “She brought the all-male Supreme Court along by educating them about how laws predicated on gender … also hold men back.

How thoughtful of her to include them! Tyler refers to this approach as “Genius.” It was hard to argue with the results at the time.

I’ve been told it’s uncouth to speak ill of the dead, but we must kill our darlings. Even our darlings helped get us here.



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