At a panel hosted by NPR’s Nina Totenberg in Elks Lodge in Salt Lake City, Ginsburg acknowledged that the #MeToo movement has been a long time coming.
“It’s about time. 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,” she told Totenberg.
“So far, it’s been great,” she added. “When I see women appearing every place in numbers, I’m less worried about a backlash than I might have been 20 years ago.”
The Supreme Court associate justice is in Utah for the premiere of “RBG,” a documentary on her life and law career directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen.
In addition to remarking on the movement’s growth, Ginsburg also recounted her own experiences with sexism and inappropriate male behavior.
“Every woman of my vintage knows what sexual harassment is, although we didn’t have a name for it,” she said.
In one instance, Ginsburg said while she was a student at Cornell, a chemistry professor offered her a practice exam after she asked for help — only the professor provided a copy of the actual test he’d be giving. Ginsburg didn’t go into too many specifics, but noted that she “knew exactly what he wanted in return” for the help he gave her.
“The next day, the test is the practice exam, and I knew exactly what he wanted in return,” Ginsburg said. “I went to his office and said, ‘How dare you?’ And that was the end of that.”
Another story the 84-year-old shared involved her being viewed unfairly by a male judge who was hesitant to hire her as a law clerk because she was a woman with a child. The law professor at Columbia University who recommended Ginsburg for the position offered the judge, a Columbia alumnus who routinely hired Columbia students, a male student if Ginsburg didn’t pan out.
“That was the carrot,” Ginsburg said of the entire ordeal. “The stick was, [the professor told the judge] ‘If you don’t give her a chance, I will never recommend another Columbia student for you.’”
Ginsburg also described a time when Columbia Law School laid off 25 women in the maintenance department without laying off a single man. That act caused her to march into the university’s vice president for business’ office to tell him that the university was violating Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in hiring based on race, sex, religion or national origin.
The vice president apparently dismissed her, telling Ginsburg, “Professor Ginsburg, Columbia has excellent Wall Street lawyers representing them, and would you like a cup of tea?”
Not long after, an application for a temporary injunction against Columbia was filed and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sent their chief counsel to argue in favor of it. To that, Ginsburg said that, all of a sudden, “Columbia decided they didn’t really have to lay off anyone.”
You can watch the full exchange above, where she also talks about motherhood and Kate McKinnon playing her on “Saturday Night Live.”
“I liked the actress who portrayed me,” Ginsburg said. “And I would like to say, ’Gins-Burn!’”