Watch CBS News

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death leaves many women feeling scared — but prepared to continue her legacy

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's career was devoted to empowering and fighting for women. Both in and outside of the Supreme Court, the late justice known as the Notorious RBG fought against sex discrimination and for the right for all to celebrate their love in marriage. 

Upon news of her death on Friday, millions of women took to social media to express fear that Ginsburg's legacy will be threatened — and harnessed that fear into creating rallying cry for people to unite, fight and vote. 

Imara Jones, creator and producer of TransLash Media, told CBS News she is feeling "dread" following Ginsburg's death, which she said comes at a time where there is "so much division and pettiness." 

"A dread for the common fight, a dread for the loss of a strong voice in women's rights. I mean, to say that she was a strong voice in women's rights understates her impact," she said. "A large reason why women have achieved the rights we have is literally because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg." 

Jones said one of the most notable aspects of Ginsburg's career was her understanding that all women, not just cisgender white women, deserve equality. 

"She fully understands this link between the rights of cis women and trans women," Jones said. "The way that gender is coded in the law and that if we begin to separate the rights of any woman, we actually undermine the rights of all women." 

During a year of tremendous loss this one cuts deep. Not only was Justice Ginsburg a champion of the rights of all women...

Posted by Imara Jones on Friday, September 18, 2020

"She was civil but at the same time she was a warrior," Jones continued "... And because she was able to hold those two things at the same time, she managed to revolutionize law in the United States and to expand equal protections to women in a way that was unprecedented before her life." 

This, Jones said, is largely why Ginsburg's death has turned into a rallying cry for people to vote. Many of the women CBS News spoke with expressed fear that the Supreme Court's conservative majority will roll back equality protections.

"The danger here is that we end up having a very dark moment for women," Jones said.

Via Garcia, who identifies as a lesbian woman of color, told CBS News she was "shocked" when she found out about Ginsburg's death on TikTok — and "then the panic and fear set in."

"RBG helped so much, she helped continue to uphold Roe v. Wade, helped with getting marriage equality in the U.S. and has been such an icon during these scary times," Garcia said. "I'm hoping it all stays the same and that they don't get overturned. It's the Supreme Court. Everyone assumes the laws passed will never be overturned, so for everyone's sake, let's hope that is true."  

Despite the fear she is feeling, Garcia told CBS News that it's up to the masses to continue fighting for the issues that Ginsburg spent decades addressing. 

"It is our time to fight, this is our future and the future of the next generation," she said. "If we don't fight to keep things the way they are going, it'll be a huge back-tracking of rights."

Ginsburg, who died at 87 due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, fought for women long before she joined the Supreme Court in 1993. In the 1970s, she worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to litigate sex discrimination cases, helped launch the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and advocated for the Equal Rights Amendment. 

When she joined the Supreme Court — becoming only the second woman in U.S. history to do so — she regularly ruled in favor of progressive issues, including for abortion access and LGBTQ rights and against the disenfranchisement of people of color. 

Part of Ginsburg's fame stems from her iconic quotes on these issues. In the documentary "RBG," Ginsburg sad, "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks."  

Bailee Earl told CBS News that, despite Ginsburg's death feeling "like the final nail in the coffin," people owe it to her and each other to protect her legacy and "maintain that momentum." 

"Our political system is broken, and has been for a long time, but everything has been coming to a head over the past few years," she said. "RBG felt like the last line of defense against an increasingly hostile sect of Republicans who are intent on undoing pretty much anything with Barack Obama's name on it." 

"We have a level of privilege as U.S. citizens that can't be ignored," Earl said. "There are women all over the world in more dire situations, but admitting that does not mean that we need to sit down, shut up, and say 'thank you' to those in power for rights that so many fought tooth and nail to secure."

"We can't all be on the Supreme Court, but we can all refuse to back down in the face of inequity," Earl added.

Vigils popped up throughout the U.S. on Friday night and Saturday, with people turning out to pay their respects to the late justice. Near a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in Denver on Friday night, Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod told CBS Denver that "Justice Ginsburg spoke to generations of women, generations of activists, generations of people who care for this country and want to fight to make it better."

Herod and many others at the vigil expressed to CBS Denver that they feel it's now the people's turn to fight. 

"Fight. Fight like hell for this country," Herod said. "Fight for what she stood for, and never go back."

Celebrities, including actress Kerry Washington, tweeted out sentiments that people should use Ginsburg's death as motivation to vote in the upcoming election. 

"Her rest is earned," Washington tweeted. "It is our turn to fight." 

She encouraged her followers to "fight for her like she fought for us," as they prepare to cast their ballots in November.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the country "lost a giant," but that "we can, and must, fight."

"Now is not the time for cynicism or hopelessness. There is and continues to be political possibility to preserve our democracy & move forward. It will require each & every one of us, from the streets to the Senate, to grow in courage, strength, and strategy. But it is possible," she tweeted. "You do not need to, nor should you, ignore your fears — there is plenty to be afraid of — but we have possibilities before us...We must get to work. Everyone matters. Everyone has something to give."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.