The word, “leader,” is bandied about far too freely and frivolously. It’s almost lost its currency.
But, every now and then, it’s applied correctly, to the real thing, to a leader worthy of the appellation. Such is the case with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has, of course, long been known as a pioneer on women’s rights, arguing decades ago, long before it was fashionable, that women should be treated equally, in every way, to men. Similarly, she has long held a seat on the Supreme Court and, as such, has been in the highest ranks of American jurisprudence.
But recently she has enjoyed something of a renaissance, or, perhaps better, renewed appreciation along with cultural currency. To wit: several new books about her; an upcoming biopic; and a documentary about her life and work, “RBG,” that, remarkably, has proved popular.
And now, unwittingly perhaps, or perhaps not, she has staked a new claim – against ageism. When she was asked a couple of days ago about her eventual retirement – she is, after all, 85 – she veritably pooh-poohed the idea. Instead she estimated that she had, “at least five more years” on the bench. At least!
What a blow against the notion that old people, necessarily, have a sell-by date. What a blow against the notion that old people, necessarily, should make way for young people. What a blow against the notion that old people, necessarily, are enfeebled both cognitively and physically.
In America biases – conscious and unconscious – against old people are intact. Unlike other, somewhat similar prejudices, ageism is largely unchallenged and uncontested. It remains, then, for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to play once more the role of dragon slayer. The role of leader against a bias that should prove fertile soil for her fertile self.