Ruth Bader Ginsburg experienced sexual harassment before women even had a term for it, the Supreme Court Justice said in an interview at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, over the weekend.
“Every woman of my vintage knows what sexual harassment is, although we didn’t have a name for it,” Ginsburg said in a panel discussion moderated by NPR’s Nina Totenberg. “The attitude to sexual harassment was simply, ‘Get past it. Boys will be boys.'”
Ginsburg recalled a class she took as an undergraduate at Cornell; when she told the instructor she wasn’t sure she grasped the material, he said he’d set up a practice exam to help her. “So he gave me a practice exam,” she remembered. “The next day, the test is the practice exam, and I knew exactly what he wanted in return.”
The incident, Ginsburg went on, was just “one of many examples” of the kind of harassment she experienced. At the time, there was no legal recourse for a woman in her position. Still, even then, she wasn’t one to excuse misconduct. In a move that anticipated the decades she’d spend in legal battles for equal pay and anti-discrimination cases, Ginsburg went to the professor’s office, “and I said, ‘How dare you? How dare you do this?’ And that was the end of that.”
Ginsburg attended the festival to celebrate the premiere of of RBG, a documentary co-produced by CNN that will eventually air on the network. The film is the just the latest attempt to sate the public’s appetite for all RBG-related content. And how do her fellow justices feel as her star continues to rise? In turns out, they are “judiciously silent about the Notorious RBG,” Ginsburg said.
Of course, silence is not an attribute Ginsburg tends to prize, and she praised the outspokenness of the #MeToo movement during the 90-minute conversation. “I think it’s about time,” Ginsburg said. “For so long women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could do about it. But now the law is on the side of women or men who encounter harassment, and that’s a good thing.”