Addressing issues that faced many women in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, the 2018 film On the Basis of Sex is truly inspiring. This biopic depicts Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s struggle to find equality, whether in higher education, in the workforce or in her domestic life. We’ll be showing On the Basis of Sex as the first film in our Careers, Conflicts, and Callings series Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Stark 103 Miller Auditorium.

The recent hit documentary RBG covers more of Ginsburg’s later career, but On the Basis of Sex focuses on the Justice-to-be’s early cases.  Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) she works hard, long hours to obtain her degree in law while facing family issues at home. On top of the challenges she faces at school and while taking care of her husband Marty (Armie Hammer), Ginsburg finds herself working much harder than the males in her class. In the workforce, nothing changes. But ultimately, with her hard work and dedication, Ginsburg prospers in her professorship and her practice.

Ginsburg is a feminist icon for her determination in addressing inequality. Her personal story inspires many because she was successful after being told that she would fail. Her work has impacted many lives for her ability to change the law and helped work towards normalizing women in a “man’s position.” Ginsburg’s story is inspiring to say the least for many reasons.

Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg

We may not all reach the iconic status of the Nortorious RBG, but On the Basis of Sex offers offers all of us some thoughtful career advice. Here are my five takeaways from the film:

Keep pushing for your goals. Ginsburg was denied many times, from job opportunities to simple requests from her university. Ginsburg never gave up on her goals, she was always pushing to be successful in her work.  With Ginsburg’s hard work and willingness to change, she found alternatives to prove herself worthy of being a lawyer.

Sometimes you need to give. Ginsburg was faced with the issue of having to move. Marty accepted a job in New York and Ginsburg was still working on obtaining her degree. She gave up her position at Harvard Law School to be with Marty and this decision led her to a teaching position and this later pushed her to begin taking cases that involved gender discrimination.

It’s okay to change directions. Some goals take more detours to make it to the final destination. These alternative routes will give you more knowledge and insight on what else is out there. More opportunities and experiences create a wiser individual.

Be open to new possibilities. Ginsburg’s open mind allowed her to read something she never read before, which led her to working for something she truly believed in, gender equality. This tax case discriminated against a man, and Ginsburg knew this was the start of finding equality.

Ginsburg’s first court case.

Anything a man can do, a woman can do too. Ginsburg proves this when she began to take cases. Many of her male advisors had told her she couldn’t do it and that she was “taking a man’s spot”. Because of her strong-willed personality, Ginsburg never let this get in the way; she continued to do a “man’s job” and excelled in it.

The director, Mimi Leder, experienced similar challenges in her career. Leder was the first female graduate from AFI Conservatory, a film school in Los Angeles; similar to Ginsburg as she was one of the nine women in her class of 500. Leder also directed only one feature film in 18 years, this reinforces how few female directors there are in the film industry. Around only four percent of all US movies in the last 12 years have been directed by females, a phenomenon impacting Leder following her film Pay it Forward. Backlash from critics prohibited her from directing more than just one film between it and her comeback, On the Basis of Sex, nearly two decades later.

Overall, On the Basis of Sex is a must-see for its underlying meaning and physical portrayal of hard work. Every element of the film inspires viewers to work hard and stay confident in what they’re doing.

On the Basis of Sex will showing at 7 pm on October 1st, 2019 at 7 pm in Miller Auditorium (Stark 103). Our guest, Professor Ruth Charles of the Department of Social Work, will join us to discuss the importance of the film following the screening. This event is co-sponsored by Campus Cinema, the Departments of Social Work and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Winona Chapter of the League of Women Voters.  For more updates, follow Winona State Film Studies on Facebook. We hope to see you there!

Admission is free and open to the public. The film is rated PG-13.

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Hailey Torborg

Winona State University, Film Studies, Creative Digital Media, and Advertising student.