In the new (and pretty fantastic) book, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there’s a whole lot to love about the supreme court justice turned cultural icon. The dissents. The collar. The push-ups. For me, though, what was truly wonderful was learning about RBG’s husband Marty, who has famously said: “I think that the most important thing I have done is enable Ruth to do what she has done.”
And feminist hearts the world over swooned.
Declaring your most important achievement as what you have done for your partner or children is common enough among women. How many times have we listened as a woman says her most valued role is that of mother, or that raising children or being a housewife is the most important job in the world?
But for men, who are taught that personal and professional successes trump achievements within the home, attaching your self-worth to family life is something much rarer. (And much more needed.)
Hmm, so what did Marty Ginsburg then?
After graduating from law school in 1958, Ginsburg joined the firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges. He was subsequently admitted to the bar in New York in 1959 and in the District of Columbia in 1980.
Ginsburg taught at New York University Law School throughout the 1960s, and was a visiting professor at Stanford Law School (1977–1978), Harvard Law School (1985–1986), University of Chicago Law School (1989–1990), and at NYU (1992–1993). He was a tenured professor at Columbia Law School (Beekman Professor of Law) from 1979 to 1980, and at Georgetown from 1980 until his death in 2010.
In 1971, Ginsburg’s firm represented H. Ross Perot in a business matter, and the two men became close friends. After President Jimmy Carter nominated his wife to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980, Ginsburg reached out to Perot and other influential friends to assure her Senate confirmation. In 1984, Ginsburg resolved complex tax questions that threatened General Motors’s acquisition of Perot’s Electronic Data Systems. In 1986, Perot endowed the Martin Ginsburg chair in taxation at Georgetown Law Center, although Ginsburg never filled this appointment
That’s not exactly someone who put their life on hold for their partner now, is it?
Men who stay at home to take care of children may be admired in ways that women never are, but they’re also derided for not being traditional breadwinners. Men who care for their children are asked if they’re “babysitting” rather than parenting, and men who put their wives’ careers first are given the side eye and asked if they’re “whipped”.
So to those men who buck tradition – to men like my husband – I say: thank you. Not just from the women in your life who you are helping, but to the women and men you don’t know – you’re helping them too. Because the more we see men taking on supportive domestic roles, the more the culture will accept it. The more common it will become, and the less thanks like this we’ll have to give.
And if you’re one of these men and feeling unsure about your decision or feeling attacked by a society that would rather see you bring home the bacon than help your wife cook hers, remember Marty Ginsburg, husband of Ruth.
But it doesn’t look like Marty actually did, does it?
It’s entirely true that he moved to DC when she was appointed to the Court of Appeals. But moving to a tenured professorship at Georgetown isn’t all that much of a sacrifice.