“You’ve been ready for this your whole life. So go in there and let the judges see the Ruth Ginsburg I know” – Marty Ginsburg to his wife, Ruth, outside the Supreme Court in 1972. They were a couple of hours away from toppling the whole damn system, together.
In an age where a woman’s noble duty was to fulfil her role as homemaker, men like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s husband Marty were the exception. As shown in the new film On The Basis Of Sex – a biopic about the supreme court justice’s extraordinary life in New York City – Marty (played by the delightful Armie Hammer) didn’t see gender boundaries, an unusual trait for a man in the 1950s.
It was a different time, an era which truly forgot the ladies: Women weren’t paid overtime, credit cards could not be issued in a woman’s name, a woman could be fired for falling pregnant. While watching this film you’ll be struck down by Ruth’s unwavering and fierce tenacity to change unconstitutional laws, decisions that had a flow-on effect as to how we live our lives here in Australia today. But another huge takeaway is how supportive Marty was to his wife. He was her biggest champion. When Ruth doubted herself, Marty just wouldn’t hear about it, and in doing so, they made an incredible team.
“Martin is such an interesting character because he subverted all of the generally accepted gender rules at the time,” says Hammer. “He wasn’t a stay-at-home dad but he was the one who spent most of the time cooking and caring for the kids and doing all the stuff that was not something men of the time did. I think that’s really interesting that he had that self-assuredness to say, ‘This is what I want to do’. He also happens to be one of the most preeminent tax attorneys in the world so he kind of does it all. He’s like super dad.”
Ruth and Marty’s relationship had equal parts love and partnership. Here’s some moments to take in.
Marty found Ruth’s intelligence her most attractive trait
There’s a moment in the film where Ruth is anxious about speaking up in lectures at Harvard. “You’re the smartest person here. Just stand up and say what you know,” Marty assures her.
“Marty was an extraordinary person,” the real Ruth said in an interview.
“Of all the boys I had dated, he was the only one who really cared that I had a brain.”
“And he was always — well, making me feel that I was better than I thought I was. So we went to law school. And he told everybody, all of his friends, and he was one year ahead of me, his wife was gonna be on the Law Review.”
Marty reminded Ruth of her worth
In the film Ruth asks Marty which dress makes her look “more like a Harvard man”? Marty, who was nursing their baby daughter Jane jokes he’s happy to report neither make her look like a man. “I just need to make a good impression,” she bites back. “You’ve got it wrong, it’s not the dress – it’s you,” he responds.
Ruth was the backbone when Marty fell gravely-ill
When Marty is diagnosed with testicular cancer, Ruth attends her own classes at university as well as taking notes at her husband’s lectures. At night time, she types up his homework, puts her daughter to bed and then while Marty is sleeping, she begins her own work. Ruth has admitted to getting about two hours sleep per night during Marty’s recovery.
“If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it,” Ruth told Yahoo. “I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.”
Marty respected Ruth’s work as much as his own
“In the course of a marriage, one accommodates the other. So, for example, when Marty was intent on becoming a partner in a New York law firm in five years, during that time, I was the major caretaker of our home and child,” Ruth told The Rachel Maddow Show. “But when I started up the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, Marty realised how important that work was.”
Marty was never threatened by Ruth’s success
“Marty had a wonderful sense of humour. He thought that I must be pretty good because why would he decide that he wanted to spend his life with me? He always made me feel like I was better than I thought I was,” Ruth told Elle.“He was so confident in his own ability that he never regarded me as any kind of threat.”
On The Basis Of Sex is in Australian cinemas now