Ruth Bader Ginsburg is rifling through her closet at the Supreme Court, showing the interviewer jabots, or collars, she has collected for different occasions on the bench. The gold one, a gift from her clerks, she chooses when presenting majority opinions; the dark jeweled collar she reserves for her famously dissenting opinions. Her favorite above, is hand beaded in South Africa - she loves to sport a global handmade style.
In RBG, the new documentary about her life, she explains that while men on the court have a white shirt and touch of tie personality peaking from under the black robes, she and Sandra Day O'Connor - the two first-ever female Supremes - decided to bring some feminine flair into the courtroom. The result is so iconic that the movie marketing team uses only her collar to identify the woman behind it.
No matter how you feel about her political persuasions, one cannot deny that RBG has exercised more legal muscle in strengthening gender equality in this country than just about anyone. Very quietly, she moves mountains . . . like she moves dumbbells through her grueling workouts. "I ask no favor for my sex." the 85 year old Supreme Court Justice says in her understated, measured voice. "All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks."
Because our necks need some great collars. I would like to add to RBG's closet one of Ibu's new hand-beaded statements from the women in Rwanda - women who are shaking the grip of poverty and oppression off of their necks and rising into financial self-sufficiency. Teta Isibo founded Inzuki, a business offering her own jewelry designs made by women artisans of her area. Because of her work, women in several cooperatives are supporting themselves and their families, often as the chief bread-winner. And they are doing so beading beauty in what she describes as a Rwandan cultural renaissance.
I think that Teta and RBG are inextricably linked ~ and it's not just the beaded collars. It's the women rising up. It's the long-term, persistent, not-giving-up fight to free a woman's neck from all that holds her down. And then to dress it like a real Supreme: authentic, strong, dissenting from all that is not just . . . and free.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker