The Notorious R.B.G.

20150103_135911-1Those of us who teach in gender and feminist studies have long been familiar with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; we regularly deal with her work as both a lawyer and as jurist. This past January, I had the honor of hearing her speak at a conference in Washington, D.C., and was awed by her. So over spring break, I decided to start reading a new book, The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, edited by Scott Dodson. I’m not that far into the book yet, but what I’ve read has only made me admire her more.

I’m far from being Justice Ginsburg’s only admirer. She has quite the following, including this woman, who had a portrait of Justice Ginsburg tattooed on her arm. One man put her 35-page dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to music. Another admirer dubbed her “The Notorious R.B.G.,” a take-off on rapper The Notorious B.I.G, and there’s a whole blog devoted to all things R.B.G. Google “Notorious R.B.G.” to find t-shirts and other merchandise. It’s a title the Justice herself seems to enjoy. (Listen to the video clip here.)

Ironically, while I was starting my book over spring break, Justice Ginsburg celebrated her 82nd birthday. She seems in no way ready to step down from the court. After all, she reminds us, Justice John Paul Stevens served until he was 90. In honor of her birthday, one site gathered some of her best quotes. My favorite: “People ask me sometimes . . . When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is: When there are nine.”

Wouldn’t have expected anything less from her.

Continue ReadingThe Notorious R.B.G.

Revisiting the Subjunctive Mood: Great for Persuasion

A perhaps often overlooked technique that can help your writing gain some persuasiveness is the subjunctive mood. It’s possible that you remember the subjunctive less from your English classes than from your foreign languages classes—at least that’s the case for me. When learning to conjugate verbs in another language, you’ll often bump up against the subjunctive.

Verbs have moods. According to Patricia Osborn in How Grammar Works: A Self-Teaching Guide 182 (2d ed. 1999), mood “simply means the attitude of the speaker toward the words being spoken.” In English grammar, there are three moods: the indicative, the imperative, and the subjunctive. The indicative mood is the most common and indicates that the speaker is conveying meaning. For example, I look forward to warmer weather is written in the indicative mood. The verb to look is properly conjugated to match the subject, I. (Although my example is in the present tense, the indicative mood works in all verb tenses.) The imperative mood is for giving commands. For example, Hurry up! is imperative. Again, the verb to hurry is properly conjugated for the understood subject, you.

The subjunctive, by contrast, “uses an out-of-the-ordinary verb form to call attention to something extraordinary” (Osborn, 183). It is, as Osborn labels it in her text, “The [m]ood of [p]ossibilities.”

Continue ReadingRevisiting the Subjunctive Mood: Great for Persuasion

The Other “F” Word: Feminist

When you ask young people today whether they are feminists, for most, even the young women, the answer is a forceful, assertive, “No!” In the last several decades, that word has taken on a negative—vehemently negative —connotation. Apparently, in this negative view, to be a feminist is be a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian.

But being a feminist does not mean those things. Being a feminist simply means that you believe women have equal rights—socially, politically, legally, economically. While it’s true that there are different strains of feminism, each with their different ideologies and some more radical than others, feminism at its base is simply about equality. And people of both genders tend to agree with equality.

Continue ReadingThe Other “F” Word: Feminist