Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was a Fighter, But I Feel Defeated

RBG’s death is about more than her slipping away. It feels like American women are losing our grip as well.

Photo: Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images

When my 10-year-old daughter asked why I was crying, I couldn’t do much else but put my face in my hands — a weak attempt to hide my hurt from a kid who has already seen her parents at their most stressed and bereft these past few months. I left it to her father to explain who Ruth Bader Ginsburg was, why she was so important to women, and why the loss was so great that her usually-verbose mother couldn’t seem to get a word out without sobbing.

In the coming days we’ll read about Justice Ginsburg’s remarkable life, how she forever changed the United States and how its legal system treats women, and what her death means for a country less than two months away from its presidential election.

But all that dominates my mind right now is the image of a woman hanging on who just couldn’t anymore. Someone who knew what the stakes were and gripped on to life tightly, unwilling to give an inch till the very end.

That’s why Justice Ginsburg was more than an icon or a judge, more than a feminist luminary. She was, to so many American women, us: Fighting like hell to build our strength and protect our hard-won rights. And in this moment, that’s why it’s difficult not to feel as if Ginsburg’s death is about more than just her slipping away, but women losing our grip as well.

After all, how much more can we possibly take? Another sexual abuser on the Supreme Court? Another rapist in the White House? Or maybe just a few more forced hysterectomies in the government-run concentration camps that rob women of their children. It’s all just too much. And the death of a woman who fought so hard for better — just to see it spit on by an administration of liars and bigots — is enough to make any woman want to fade away along with her.

I know that’s not what she would have wanted. And while I’d like to say that her fighting spirit and verve for life will inspire me to keep going, I think I speak for a lot of women when I say: We need a minute. We are exhausted, beaten down, and tired of waging the same battles and defending the same rights that our mothers did. It is all so profoundly fucking unfair.

How many more of our icons will we have to watch die while their work is still undone?

I know American women will gather the strength they need to keep fighting — we always do. But I really wish we didn’t have to, especially without her.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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