The associate justice has certainly earned the right to be called the "Notorious RBG." (Image via The Cut)

How Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Became a Millennial Icon

Despite being decades outside of our demographic, Ginsburg remains a 'notorious' pop culture staple.
July 31, 2018
3 mins read

Known for her progressive stances on a variety of issues and scathing dissents to rulings that she disagrees with, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has long been a polarizing figure on the Supreme Court. Yet, for a woman well into her 80s, it’s a little surprising that she has become such a popular leader among younger generations.

The associate justice recently announced her intention to remain on the Supreme Court for as long as she possibly could. Ginsburg told CNN reporters that, based on Justice John Paul Stevens’ longevity, she believes that she will be able to continue serving in her current role for a minimum of five more years.

After she made the statement, fans took to Twitter to express their support for her tenure. Several even jokingly offered up their organs for her use so that she could stay as healthy as possible.

But the recent response to Ginsburg is certainly not the first notable example of young supporters rallying around the associate justice or turning her into some great figurehead. She is known as the “Notorious RBG” and was the inspiration for a 2015 biography of a similar name, a successful Tumblr blog, related merchandise and various fan pages over the years.

Instagram will load in the frontend.

RBG,” a documentary about the associate justice’s life, released in select theaters in the U.S. in May. In addition, she will be the focus of the upcoming drama film, “On the Basis of Sex,” which will examine her history of advocating for gender equality under the law when it releases in December.

Due to her age, Ginsburg has taken a place of reverence among younger generations. Although some might easily dismiss the associate justice’s popularity as stemming from her being, frankly, quite adorable, it has more to do with her representation as a symbol of hope. Her willingness to stand up for what is right and honorable resonates with young adults.

The large role Ginsburg has played in the acceptance of same-sex relationships and the legal status of LGBTQ individuals under the law, in particular, has helped her garner support from millennials.

She presided over same-sex weddings — even before Obergefell v. Hodges made them legal nationwide — and, according to The Guardian and MSNBC, the associate justice has consistently pushed back against opponents of the LGBTQ community.

U.S. support for the LGBTQ community is at an all-time high, especially among millennials. In 2015, for example, The Boston Globe reported the results from a Pew Research Center study, which found that 73 percent of millennial-aged Americans support same-sex marriage.

Additionally, millennials are more likely than older generations to openly admit to being LGBTQ, according to a survey conducted by GLAAD.

The viewpoints of Ginsburg regarding LGBTQ and other social issues mesh well with those held by a majority of millennials, so it’s hardly surprising that she has garnered such a fanbase among young Americans.

Ginsburg is so much more than a long-serving associate justice — she has become an inspiration beyond the Supreme Court, and, as a result of speaking up for the rights of those long ignored by society, Ginsburg has solidified her place as a millennial icon.

Kate Maxwell, NC State University

Writer Profile

Kate Maxwell

NC State University
Political Science


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