The Humanist RBG
Updated: Jan 5
A Tribute by Allan Shedlin
Dad, Granddad, and Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
Very few people live a life in which, after they have passed on, we can say they have left a true legacy – a bequest to those who live on. And even fewer present the challenge of choosing just one of their many legacies to highlight in a brief tribute like this one.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg left behind a country that is better for her life and record of extraordinary humanity, intelligence, tenacity, and perseverance. We are truly fortunate that she came our way.
For me, RBG was a Humanist with a capital “H.” Often touted first as a “feminist,” she was clear that her purpose and life’s work was more encompassing.
“It is not women’s liberation,” she said, “it is women’s and men’s liberation.” And she noted that “Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” As a dad and granddad who has reveled in and been enriched by the experience, I only would add the words “joy and privilege” to go with “responsibility.”
In much the same way as feminism is thought of as restricted to what benefits women, my work on behalf of fathers initially was met with the sense that somehow it undervalued or underappreciated the value of mothers. That’s a reaction I’ve gotten since 1994 when I came up with the term “daddying” to describe the convergence of fatherhood and nurturing and to assert that a father is not only something you are but something you do.
And since coining the term “dadvocacy” in 2012 to describe my encouragement of greater father involvement, I have become even more determined to understand why we as a culture paralyze ourselves with a knee-jerk polarization on so many social issues.
Why is it assumed that if we are for something, we must be against its perceived opposite? Why is it that by working to increase vibrant father involvement, it is assumed to be somehow against mothers? Have we learned so little from the Women’s Movement and its consequent more than a half-century of gender re-alignment? Why have we not learned better that when we arbitrarily constrict gender role expectations and opportunities that pigeon-hole and inhibit women and men alike, we:
Ignore our human and social interdependence
Restrict a wider array of possibilities and relationships; and
Diminish our potential for self-fulfillment and self-actualization.
Justice Ginsburg and her late husband, Martin, lived a life in which both were equally engaged and involved parents – enhancing life for their daughter and son – and for themselves. After all, isn’t that the fundamental and enduring goal and purpose of both mommying and daddying?
The “Notorious RBG” was an inspiration for women and men alike. She inspired me, and may her life as a genuine Humanist live on in each of us, and in all generations to come.
For further reading:
My Own Words: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, a “bonus” son, five grandchildren, and three “bonus” grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, policy development, and advising. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, and now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.