Gloria Steinem and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were longtime allies in the ongoing fight for gender equality in the U.S. But outside of the public spotlight, the two feminist icons were also good friends who enjoyed each other’s company. As a result, Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18 — which set off a wave of mourning across the country — hit Steinem especially hard. Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment on Saturday, the day after her friend’s passing, the author and activist said she was “still absorbing” the loss. “We’re about the same age,” Steinem said. “Since I think I’m immortal, I thought she was immortal.” (Watch our video interview above.)
In the days since Ginsburg’s passing, much of the media attention had already shifted from mourning her loss to covering the looming battle between Republicans and Democrats over who will take her seat on the Supreme Court. But Steinem remained focused on remembering the Notorious RBG she knew and loved.
“She was a great tactician,” she said admiringly, thinking back on a joint appearance they once made together. “She invited me once to come speak to the judges of the second circuit. I said ‘Are you kidding me? They’re obsessed with law but not necessarily with justice.’ So we did it together for the one and only time.”
Away from the spotlight, Steinem says that Ginsburg was a continually inspiring presence in her life. “She had a great wry sense of humor,” she remembered, with a smile. “And she was always rescuing people. She always had another person from another country living with her. She was a wonderful family person; somehow she managed — unlike most of us — to marry the right person the first time!” Going forward, Steinem plans to follow her friend’s example, and encourages others who are feeling despair over the possible future of the court, and the country, to do the same. “I’m really trying to say to myself from now on: ‘What would Ruth do? What would Ruth say?’ If each of us does that, then she will still be with us.”
Ginsburg is referenced in the new biographical drama, The Glorias, which dramatizes Steinem’s eventful life and career with multiple actresses — including Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore — playing her across the decades. “There’s a point where Gloria is going to give a talk at Harvard Law, and she says, ‘Why did they ask me? They should have asked Ruth Bader Ginsburg!’” explained director, Julie Taymor. “The loud voice, the peaceful voice, the demanding voice of change, of gender equality, of racial equality that Ruth fought for and won. She was the listener, and Gloria is a great listener.”
Bette Midler also has a role in The Glorias — which will be available to stream on Amazon Prime and other VOD services on Sept. 30 — as lawyer Bella Abzug, who worked alongside Steinem during the feminist movement of the 1970s. The actress took to Twitter in the wake of Ginsburg’s passing to mourn the justice’s loss.
My friends, the great "Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the US Supreme Court and its most determined advocate for gender equality, has died at the age of 87. She had endured multiple bouts of cancer before succumbing to the disease." There are no words.— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) September 19, 2020
Like Steinem, Midler was still in the middle of processing Ginsburg’s death when she spoke with Yahoo Entertainment, and she expressed uncertainty about what lies ahead. “It’s a very, very sad day,” she said. “I’m grateful to her, and I think the entire nation should be grateful to her. It will be very interesting to see what happens now. We all hope and pray that no justice will be installed in her place until after the election, [but] because we have lived the last three years in a state of instability and horror, we’re not sure.”
The Glorias will stream on Amazon Prime and other VOD services on Sept. 30.
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