While the 2020 Democratic candidates duked it out on stage in Wednesday night in the race to the White House, a different kind of politicking was taking place about two miles from the country’s highest office.
The likes of supermodel Karlie Kloss, Hillary Clinton, and actress Lana Condor were all seated in the Library of Congress’ Great Hall—a room of delicately carved white marble and intricately painted ceilings—to honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the 11th annual DVF (Diane von Fürstenberg) Awards.
Before sculpted and bronze-molded busts of America’s Founding Fathers, attendees seated on white leather loveseats quietly listened to the Supreme Court Justice—the recipient of the Lifetime Leadership DVF Award—talk about her fight for gender equity.
“I’m most grateful to have been alive and a lawyer when it was possible to fight for equal stature before the court,” Ginsburg told the audience. She also said that a “a groundswell of ordinary people,” or various plaintiffs in landmark court cases, have led the fight for women’s equal rights throughout the years.
“In my long life, I have seen great changes, and that’s what makes me an optimist about the future,” she said.
The awards ceremony usually takes place in New York, but von Fürstenberg (the wife of Barry Diller, the owner of Daily Beast’s parent company IAC) said she wanted “make the effort to come to D.C.” to honor the 86-year-old widely known as the “Notorious RBG.”
“(Ginsburg) is like the sun, she goes over everybody and warms everybody,” von Fürstenberg told The Daily Beast. “I admire her work, she stands for justice and equality. I love the clarity of her mind, which absolutely reflects in her eyes.”
Ginsburg was not the only woman honored Wednesday evening. Supermodel Iman was given the Inspiration DVF Award, while Mexican-American prison reform activist Saskia Niño de Rivera and Indian human trafficking activist Priti Patkar were both honored with the International DVF Award for their work.
The Diller-von Fürstenberg Family Foundation gives each honoree $50,000 for their respective non-profit organizations.
The political nature of the evening was hard to ignore, with the main honoree of the evening being publicly attacked by President Donald Trump in the past. The evening also celebrated “extraordinary women,” while the man currently in Oval Office has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women and caught on tape claiming he could “grab them by the pussy.”
“To me, these awards are about resilience. When you think about the president, who is an incredibly anti-women president… all of that is tremendously discouraging,” director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, Ria Tabacco Mar, said. “But Justice Ginsburg really personifies resilience.”
Iman told The Daily Beast she thought having Trump practically next door made the awards the “perfect time and place” to celebrate and uplift women. “Own it. Be together, and under the umbrage of Ruth,” she said.
Lana Condor, of Netflix’s To All The Boys fame, said men and women needed to start coming together in order to advance women’s rights—a notion that Ginsburg later reiterated in her own remarks.
“These are rooms that there needs to be more and more of, but I also think there needs to be men here and see this, because they also need to champion women,” she told The Daily Beast.
She also said an issue that really mattered to her was “bullying” between the political parties, which discouraged “softness” and perpetuated “not a lot of listening to both sides.” Condor said she observed this in her peers, but also among the high-powered politicos that populated Washington.
“No one’s ever respected a bully,” she said. “I think that every single time I read a tweet that comes from the higher-ups in this government that’s just genuinely being a bully, it’s just unfortunate because I would like to be led by someone who is not a bully.”
Guests most connected to the upper echelons of Washington—Kloss (the sister-in-law of White House adviser Jared Kushner) and Clinton—didn’t make themselves available for questions from reporters.
However, Clinton did speak about one time she “particularly” related to the experiences of Ginsburg while presenting her award. Ginsburg was just one of nine women in admitted into a 500-person class at Harvard Law in 1956.
“I was admitted into Harvard (Law) and went to a cocktail party to decide whether I wanted to go there. I was introduced to a professor by a friend of mine… and he looked down at me, this professor, and said… we don’t need any more women,” Clinton said, eliciting gasps from the audience. “And that was in 1969.”
Ginsburg said she still thought “unconscious bias” was the biggest obstacle to real gender equality in today’s culture, noting it was “better than it once was” but everyone still “recognize[d] that it exists” and there remained a “lower expectation when you hear a woman’s voice.”
“If you want to put women’s rights on the human’s rights agenda, you need men to be involved too,” she said.