"The Beginnings of Gender Confusion"
ON THE BASIS OF SEX is a biographical drama of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her first two sex discrimination cases in 1971 and 1972, which led to major legal and social changes, and the role her family life played in those efforts. ON THE BASIS OF SEX is better structured and more compelling than other recent leftist movies, but the feminist movie does change some facts for dramatic purposes and ultimately relies too heavily on emotional left-leaning appeals to make its case for radical social change.
Starring Felicity Jones as Ruth Ginsburg, the movie opens with Ruth starting Harvard Law School in 1956, only one of nine women in her class. Though he supported the inclusion of women at the school, the Dean is a bit condescending toward the women. Meanwhile, Ruth’s husband, Marty, is one year ahead of her at Harvard, and they have a 14-month-old baby, Jane.
Ruth proves to be one of the smartest people in her class, but tragedy strikes the family when Marty (played by Armie Hammer) is diagnosed with testicular cancer. The doctor only gives Marty a 5% chance of survival, but the new treatment of surgery and radiation proves successful. While Marty’s recovering, Ruth helps him with his studies as well as her own.
When Marty graduates, he gets a job as a tax attorney in New York City. Ruth transfers to Columbia Law School for her final third year, but the Harvard Dean refuses to let her graduate from there, even though he’s let a couple men do it when they had to transfer.
After graduation in 1959, Ruth can’t find a firm willing to hire a woman, even though she’s top of her class. The movie doesn’t tell viewers that she did work as a legal clerk for an important judge for two years, but she does get a full-time teaching job at Rutgers Law School.
Cut to 1970. Ruth is teaching a class on sex discrimination at Rutgers, but she still yearns to practice law like her husband, Marty, who’s become one of the nation’s top tax attorneys. Their daughter Jane is 16, and they have a young son named James. A typical teenager, Jane bristles at her mother’s correction, but Marty helps smooth things over, and Ruth and Jane develop a newfound respect for one another.
Knowing Ruth’s passion for ending sex discrimination, Marty finds a tax case in Colorado where an unmarried man was denied a tax deduction for his invalid mother’s nurse. Ruth enlists the reluctant aid of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legal director, Mel Wulf. Wulf is concerned that Ruth’s trial inexperience will hurt the case before the three-judge all-male panel of the 10th District Court of Appeals. Also, until now, no other sex discrimination case has won in court. Wulf encourages Ruth to pin her hopes on another case for which she’s writing the brief, but Ruth doesn’t want to let her client down. Meanwhile, the secretary typing up Ruth’s written brief for the appeals court suggests Ruth change her description from sex discrimination to gender discrimination, a move that has ramifications for generations to come.
ON THE BASIS OF SEX is better structured and more compelling than other recent liberal, leftist movies. Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer deliver appealing performances, and the script’s dramatic beats keep things moving along pretty well.
That said, the movie does change some facts for dramatic purposes. One of the worst examples of this is the movie’s depiction of the ACLU’s legal director, Mel Wulf. In reality, Wulf was not reluctant about the tax case Ruth brings to the ACLU. Thus, the movie kind of slanders this guy, although the movie does show that he was a strong supporter of ending alleged discrimination against women in the law. Also, reportedly, Ruth was not at all awkward about presenting oral arguments when she appears before the appeals court. Readers can read about these and other factual problems in the movie in an article on SLATE titled “What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in ON THE BASIS OF SEX” by Alex Barasch, SLATE, Dec. 24, 2018 (https://slate.com/culture/2018/12/on-the-basis-of-sex-accuracy-rbg-biopic-fact-fiction.html). Some of Barasch’s points are echoed by an article at www.eonline.com.
Of course, ON THE BASIS OF SEX has a strong, biased feminist position on sexual discrimination. It also supports the change Ruth Bader Ginsburg championed, to call such discrimination “gender discrimination” instead of sex discrimination. This term obfuscates the very real scientific, biological differences between males and females in favor of all the immoral social changes that Ginsburg’s activities in the 1970s fomented over the years. Ultimately, the movie’s main argument comes down to Ginsburg’s realization in the story that the social changes she wants have already happened in the society at large. This is represented by her daughter’s character in the movie, who’s much less timid about demanding her rights in public than her mother. Thus, the argument that convinces the appeals court judges to rule in favor of Ruth Ginsburg is the idea that, in the past, women weren’t even allowed to go to law school or become judges, but that, by 1972, that was no longer true.
This argument is irrational and seriously flawed, however. Just because some major changes with regard to women’s status have occurred over the decades doesn’t mean that all the laws making distinctions between men and women must be abandoned in favor of some utopian, leftist, unconstitutional ideal of “gender equality.” Nor does it mean that making further broad changes won’t have any unintended consequences that might seriously harm or damage the social order, or harm people in other ways, which is exactly what has happened because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s apparent feminist successes that led to her Supreme Court appointment in 1994. For example, American men are now much more likely to commit suicide and less likely to attend college. Of course, they’ve always been more likely to be incarcerated than women.
In addition, why should unelected judges have the power to make drastic changes to society’s laws based on some utopian left-wing ideology? If, as the movie argues, society has already changed, then state and federal legislatures will make these changes themselves anyway. The fact that they don’t means that legislators, governors and presidents, elected by the voters, might need to stop some of these planned or proposed changes before they create unintended harmful consequences. A truly competent, fair and knowledgeable judge (or lawyer for that matter) should be able to recognize this fact and defer to legislators and their constituents, the people. Of course, the United States Constitution also has mechanisms whereby the people, through their elected representatives, can add amendments to the Constitution that address an important issue or problem.
ON THE BASIS OF SEX relies too heavily on emotional left-leaning appeals to make its case for the radical feminist change its heroine promotes. It also has a significant amount of foul language that warrants extreme caution.
ON THE BASIS OF SEX is a biographical drama of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The movie focuses on her first two sex discrimination cases in 1971 and 1972, which led to major legal and social changes in America, and the role her family played in those efforts. The story begins with Ginsburg entering Harvard Law School in 1956. Then, it shows her handling a health crisis that almost took her husband’s life. Cut to the early 1970s when she gets involved in two sex discrimination cases that set the stage for radical social change.
ON THE BASIS OF SEX is better structured and more compelling than other recent leftist movies. As such, it’s fairly entertaining. However, the movie does change some facts for dramatic purposes. It also relies too heavily on emotional appeals to make its case for radical social change. That change is crafted to support a dangerous, utopian ideal of “gender equality.” The movie’s characters discount the harmful unintended consequences of Justice Ginsburg’s feminist legal career. ON THE BASIS OF SEX also has a significant amount of foul language.