On the Basis of Gender

Recently I have the pleasure of watching “On the Basis of Sex”, a biopic of US Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, focusing on her early years, much before she became one of the most influential figures of 21st century in US legal scene. The movie highlighted her first case, together with her husband – tax attorney Martin Ginsburg, in which established that a tax law about caregivers’ allowances discriminated against men on the basis of sex, and thereby paved the way for overturning laws that discriminated against women on the same basis.[1] You can read a bit more about this case (in layman terms) here.

Credit: “On the Basic of Sec” official trailer

There have been many wonderful and detailed reviews about this movie, by Nell Minow , by Imogen West-Knights, and one from The Guardian, so of course this is not to again review. Personally, I enjoyed the movie very much as Felicity Jones played the strong-willed RBG with such grace, gentleness, just her fighting spirit shines through her eyes, her smiles, her determination and I look at her, at her character with deep adoration and respect.

I cannot shake away the feeling that, a woman, and even a percentage of men, still cannot have it all. RBG, I believe, will still be who she is today with the hard work she puts in, yet I also feel it’s very important they she has her life partner – Martin Ginsburg, to be there with her and lift her up along the way, along the years. How truthful the movie made in compare to reality, we will have to give it the benefit of the doubt. But judging by the fact the this movie was written by Ginsburg’s nephew Daniel Stiepleman, an insider and I’m sure RBG wouldn’t want outsider to pain an unrealistic picture of her, I’d say she has given her blessings to the script-writer and director on how to depict the relationship between her and Martin.

Who helps a woman when she needs to balance between work and family?

Ginsburg experiences a good deal of gender discrimination herself along the way, but one person who refuses to let any of that stand in her way is her husband, Martin Ginsburg, played by Armie Hammer. He’s a tax attorney himself, and a shining star in the industry with a flourishing career. When he comes across Mortiz’s case, he’s the one who brings it to Ruth and once she commits, he’s there every step of the way, supporting Ruth every chance he gets. [2]

If we look at Western countries, taken a look at 2018 Report on equality between women and men in the EU.

It said “The employment gap is especially high for mothers and women with caring responsibilities. In 2016 more than 19% of the EU inactive women were inactive because of looking after children or incapacitated adults. On average, the employment rate of women with a child under 6 is 9 percentage points less than the employment rate of women without children, and in some countries this difference is over 30 percentage points (SK, CZ, HU).

“Housekeeping and raising children are still largely considered a woman’s role. More than four in ten Europeans (44 %) believe the most important role of a woman is to take care of her home and family. Moreover, in one third of EU Member States this percentage is even 70 % or more.

This is mostly visible when the care responsibilities are most intense: in couples with the youngest child under 7, women spend on average 32 hours per week on paid work but 39 hours on unpaid work, compared to men who do 41 hours paid and 19 hours of unpaid work per week. Indeed, both men and women increase their unpaid working hours when they have children, but the share of the housework and care is far from equal. This remains true, even towards the end of their working life. The status of women’s working life is more likely to be affected by those responsibilities.”

If we look at the Eastern countries, for example, Japan. Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party MP Kato Kanji recently commented that women should have multiple children, and implied that single women were a burden on the state. Marriage trends suggest a gendered gap in the expectations of marriage partners. While women seek husbands who can financially support them and also contribute to housework, men seek wives who will provide domestic care (possibly while also working outside the home). For some, the risks and sacrifice of marriage are not balanced by its rewards.If you look to the East, for example, Japan, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party MP Kato Kanji recently commented that women should have multiple children, and implied that single women were a burden on the state. [3]

Everywhere we look, the inequality is there. It is there years ago, it is there now. IF we don’t teach our next generation on the equal of chores to be shared in the household, our sons and daughters will not be able to make a difference.

Man or woman, and everyone in between, should be able to make their own choice

It’s normal, it’s easy, it’s expected that a woman will stay back at home and take care of house chores, take care of the children, because it has always been the way. It is the natural order. Take a look at how the judge questioning RBG when she is trying to argue about gender roles:


In most households, aren’t women the primary caregivers? Aren’t men the breadwinners? … Aren’t they?

Doesn’t that reality suggest that it’s the natural order of things?

This has been the way things is, hundreds, thousands of years ago. Women are expected by major societies in different countries, from East to West – to take care of the house, while men will make sure there are food on the table.

I’m not here to say this is wrong, I’m here to say, this is not the way we should continue to think, or encourage our children, our nieces and nephews, our sisters and brothers, our next generation to think. We want them to choose whichever roles they want to be, and they are happy with their choices. We want them to have options, and we want them to make their own choices of who they want to do and how they should act on, to be true to themselves and their characteristics, not based on any kind of expectation of society.

A girl can be the best airplane engineer, she can be an astronaut, just has much as a boy can be a nurse, can be a dancer, can be a stay-at-home dad some day, if they want to, choose to be, or even has to do – without the discrimination and prejudice of anyone. It’s the life and they do what the feels right to them.

In the case RBG on defense, her client was a bachelor, who has no wife, no children, who is the main caregiver to his sick mother. Under the current law, there would never be a man will ever be the caregiver nor will choose to do that, as this is “expected” to be a woman’s job. Therefore, he was denied the tax deduction, by the law, because he doesn’t fall into the category that is approved for. RBG’s whole objective, is not to get this man his money, but just for the law to extend such cases and allow them to be protected by the law – no matter what sex (gender) he is, as long as he can prove to the court, he is the sole caregiver of his mother. Here is her argument:

Credit: Vox

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s argument

Our sons and daughters are barred by law from opportunities based on assumptions about their abilities. How will they ever disprove these assumptions, if laws like Section 214 are allowed to stand?

The principle purpose of Section 214 is not to protect women nor to discriminate against men. It is to provide caregivers the opportunity to work outside the home. Therefore — as the Supreme Court did in Levy v Louisiana — this court should fix the law in the way most in line with the legislative intent. Extend the deduction to never-married men. Help all caregivers equally.

Our client, Charles Moritz, was well raised to be the sort of man we should all hope our sons will become. He deserves our admiration. Not only has he accepted the burden of caring for his… very strongwilled mother — when no one would expect it of him.

But in doing so, he has surpassed the limitations the rest of us — and our laws — try to force upon him. We rest our case on our briefs and argument, and ask that you reverse the Tax Court’s decision.

Of course, this case was back in 1972, much has changed since then. But if you look at our way of thinking right now, you will see that nothing has been changed. My mother still expects me to be the one make dinner, wash dishes, take good care of my man, so that he will know how much effort I’ve put in, and I’m a “good woman”. She gently reproaches me, when I sit on the couch after lunch, let my partner wash the dishes, saying I should do it, because he was just back home after his part-time job.

I hope we won’t put the same pressure on our daughter, as she should know what’s best for her. And we should try to protect her rights of choosing, not putting on an expectation, and forever cage her in the thoughts of “as a girl, you should”, “as a boy, you should”, and even until growing up, they would always have the emotional scar of what they should, or should not be.


[1] excerpt taken from https://www.newstatesman.com/on-the-basis-of-sex-review-ruth-bader-ginsburg

[2] excerpt taken from http://collider.com/armie-hammer-interview-on-the-basis-of-sex/

[3] excerpt taken from http://theconversation.com/as-japan-undergoes-social-change-single-women-are-in-the-firing-line-96636


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: