Ruth Bader Ginsburg went from a Supreme Court justice to the Notorious RBG seemingly overnight. A cavalcade of internet memes, films and even a reoccurring skit on Saturday Night Live gave the 85-year-old a place in the pop culture Parthenon.
Part of the reason for this sudden interest in Ginsburg: a cheeky biography titled Notorious RBG written by Shana Knizhnik and Irin Carmon. Carmon, now a correspondent for New York magazine and a contributor to MSNBC, is the keynote speaker at A Choice Affair Dinner to benefit Planned Parenthood of Southwest & Central Florida, Feb. 9 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. (Get tickets here.)
Three years after Notorious RBG became a best-seller, a documentary, RBG, was released and became the second-highest-grossing independent film of 2018. On the Basis of Sex, a legal drama about the early cases of Ginsburg, was released shortly after. Likewise, Carmon has continued to speak about the justice, frequently at Planned Parenthood events, finding audiences interested in a woman who has spent her career fighting for women’s equality and access to health care.
Despite the skits, T-shirts, baby Halloween costumes and larger-than-life caricatures, Carmon says the real Ginsburg is quite reserved but, as witnessed through her court rulings, “packs quite the punch.” This bodes true for her tenacity on the bench. She’s battled health issues in recent decades, most recently having cancerous growths removed from her lungs last year—but still cast a vote from her hospital bed. “The stereotype is that she’s very frail, but she’s actually very strong,” Carmon says.
As the Court’s second female justice (and its first Jewish woman) continues her third decade on the bench, Carmon says Ginsburg is tickled by the attention, although at first she was unsure what the authors meant by “Notorious” (actually, it’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to the rapper Notorious B.IG.). “I think she’s flattered by it. She’s an 85-year-old woman who’s become an icon. How many 85-year-old women become cultural phenomenons?”