On the Basis of Sex

A Movie Review: On the Basis of Sex

Warning: This post contains spoilers for On the Basis of Sex.

On the Basis of Sex was released this past Christmas, just 7 months after the release of RBG, an Oscar-nominated documentary about the life, career, and rise to pop-culture fame of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg (RBG). On the Basis of Sex is a biopic highlighting the humble beginnings of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s fight against institutionalized sexism.

In the opening minutes of the film, RBG is confronted by the question “What does it mean to be a Harvard man?”. At a dinner party, the female law students are told to state why they are “occupying the place of a man [at Harvard].” After finishing Law School, RBG struggled to receive the respect and career that she deserved.

I watched the movie surrounded by a theater full of strangers who, like me, recognize the gender disparities in our society. We were instantly linked by an unspoken camaraderie that created a tangibly safe atmosphere. When characters in the film made offensive and degrading comments about women, my fellow moviegoers gasped in disgust and whispered under their breath, “Shut. Up.”

We laugh and gape at how ridiculous some of the attitudes toward women were 50 years ago, but the reality is that inequality on the basis of sex is still present in our society.

My cousin and I shared with each other about how much we enjoyed the movie. She is a lawyer and watched it with a lady-lawyer friend. Having gone through similar experiences to RBG as women in Law, they felt affirmed and resonated deeply with RBG’s struggles. Qualified female lawyers are still struggling to find a voice, respect, and success in Law.

In the movie, the question is posed “What does it mean to be a Harvard man?”. In church, the question is disguised: “What does it mean to be a Godly man?”, distinct from “a Godly woman.” Brothers and sisters in the church question women leaders with blatant disdain: “Why are you occupying the place of a man?”. Time and time again, leadership and ministry positions are given to men, while equally capable (if not more capable) women are overlooked because of their gender.

Watching RBG’s family (as portrayed in the film), I couldn’t help but think of my own family. Me, like RBG’s daughter, fiery and quick to speak up against injustice. My dad, like RBG’s husband, using his own social standing – as a man – to stand up for women. And my mom, like RBG, a relatively level-headed voice, paving the way for women leaders. You too, for better or for worse, will see a part of yourself portrayed in the film. The question is, what will you do with it?

On the Basis of Sex is a must-see. It is a glimpse into the past, an appreciation of progress made, and an acknowledgement of how far we still have to go. The life of RBG is truly inspiring to the masses yearning for equality on the basis of sex. Her story isn’t over yet, and neither are ours’.


~ Christy Chia

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CHRISTY CHIA is the WOW! West Coast Coordinator. Christy loves digging into Scripture and unearthing overlooked treasures. In her spare time, chances are, you’ll find her watching Netflix and eating snacks, hanging out with her dogs, or getting boba with friends.