“On the Basis of Sex:” the Role One Woman Played
By Alina Yamin
“On the Basis of Sex” tells the story of current Supreme Court Associate Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) and the first sex-discrimination case she argued in federal court during the 1970s.
The movie begins with Ginsburg as a first-year law student at Harvard University. She is one of nine women attending the university, all of whom were surrounded by hundreds of white men. At Harvard, she is disrespected despite being one of the most brilliant lawyers in her class. In a scene at the beginning of the film, the dean asks all the women why they deserve their enrollment in the place of a man as an attempt to degrade them.
After graduating, Ginsburg is denied by all the top New York law firms because of her gender. Instead, she decides to become a professor, and teaches many young women involved in the Women’s Movement. Along with teaching, Ginsburg decides to to fight sex discrimination in the courts. She soon takes on a case representing Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey), who is denied a tax benefit from the state of Colorado that is given to women who take care of family members. Ginsburg realizes that this case involves gender discrimination against a man and it could potentially have a major role repealing gender discrimination against women.
The court scene at the end of the movie is the most intense part of the film. The judges are hard on Ginsburg and go as far as saying gender discrimination does not exist. The judges accuse Ginsburg of trying to initiate “radical social change.” Ginsburg responds, saying that radical social change is already occurring in society and she demands of them to right the wrong in the law.
Although it is not presented in the film, the audience learns Ginsburg won the case, started the women’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was appointed to the Supreme Court by a Senate confirmation vote of 97-3.
Although Ginsburg’s story is awesome in and of itself, one of the best components of the film is Ginsburg’s relationship with her husband and daughter. Ginsburg’s husband, Marty Ginsburg (Armie Hammer), provides her unconditional support and takes on the “woman’s” roles of the household to help make his wife’s life easier. Their daughter (Cailee Spaeny) is by far one of the most likeable characters in the movie. She is a young women’s rights activist and she pushes her mother to do more and work harder.
The movie ends with Felicity Jones walking up the steps to the Supreme Court building. It then cuts to the real life Ruth Ginsburg walking up the same steps. “On the Basis of Sex” is a powerful, inspiring story of the incredible role one woman played in making the world for women the way we know it today.
Director: Mimi Leder
Screenplay By: Daniel Stiepleman
Release Date: December 25, 2018
Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, and Cailee Spaeny
Duration: 2 hours