The Notorious RBG

Journalist Irin Carmon on RBG, Women's Rights and Hope for the Future

"I think there’s a hunger to see women in positions of power who are using that power to help others, particularly marginalized people."

By Megan McDonald January 7, 2019

Irin Carmon

This month, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida welcomed journalist Irin Carmon to its gala dinner and silent auction. Carmon, 35, is a Harvard grad and senior correspondent for New York magazine who covers gender, social justice, politics and the law. She co-authored the book The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Shana Knizhnik, broke the story on Charlie Rose’s sexual harassment for the Washington Post, and recently inked a deal to become a contributor with CNN. And fun fact: Justice Ginsburg married Carmon and her husband in 2017.

We caught up with Carmon and to talk about why Ginsburg’s appeal is more powerful than ever, the challenges facing women today and whether she’s hopeful about the future. 

What was the process of writing Notorious RBG like?

My co-author Shana launched the Notorious RBG phenomenon without really intending to—she was furious at the Supreme Court for undermining the voting rights act in the Shelby County [Alabama] v. Holder decision and inspired by Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. So she started a “Notorious RBG” Tumblr to celebrate Justice Ginsburg using her voice in a constructive way. 

My interest is telling the stories of women’s lives and experiences, and I’ve reported on the law for quite some time. So when Harper Collins dreamed up the Notorious RBG book, Shauna was still in law school and they ended up recruiting me. I was aware of the Tumblr, but Shauna and I had never met until that point—and we have a great partnership that remains to this day. We couldn’t have done it without being all hands on deck. Justice Ginsburg has always said that she’s part of a movement; she didn’t do anything alone and was always careful to give credit to collaborators. We tried to work in that spirit—to lift up each other’s different skills.

What do you love most about Justice Ginsburg? 

Her strength, resilience and commitment to her values. Even though she’s a very serious person, she’s been really open about her personal life—her marriage and how equal it was, the discrimination she’s faced, and how she’s turned those experiences into a commitment to helping others. She’s overcome enormous adversity in her life, and she’s still working incredibly hard to fight back. Plus, she’s got a great dry sense of humor.

Why do you think she’s become such a pop culture icon?

I think there’s a hunger to see women in positions of power who are using that power to help others, particularly marginalized people. She’s been unchanging in her defense of women’s rights and civil rights. Plus, she’s this distinctive character who is 85 years old and has her fabulous neckwear and works out and was back at work the day after getting out of the hospital for breaking her ribs.

What are the most pressing issues facing young women today?

Everything the Trump administration has planned for women is directly in contravention to Justice Ginsburg’s values. Reproductive freedom and equality are directly under assault at the state level—including in Florida.

Are you hopeful about the future?

There’s an enormous amount of organizing energy right now, from everything from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo to voting rights to reproductive rights to LGBTQ rights to the inspiring showings of women in the 2018 midterm elections. Women in college and their 20s are demanding a better world and organizing to create it. Young people are leading the way, but it’s an intergenerational story—Justice Ginsburg’s work shows us that these issues have always been with us.

Filed under
Show Comments