In 1996 when I ran the second fastest mile in the whole third grade no one told me I was the fastest girl. They told me I was the second fastest kid in the third grade. Only now do I see the significance of that.
The internet tells me today is Women’s Equality Day. I did a little research to make sure this wasn’t some facebook rumor like National Eat A Hotdog Wrapped In A Pretzel And High Five Your Neighbor Day or something. Turns out, it’s a real holiday designated by congress in 1971 (Equality day, not the pretzel thing). I’m a woman so naturally I care about this. The push for Women’s Equality is still very relevant 42 years later, but in a totally different way.
For what it’s worth I don’t think the issue now is about rights, it’s safety. Women still need a way to go through life without being on the defensive at all times.
Hear me out. Ask a woman who runs if she’s ever been out on a trail by herself and not thought of what she would do if someone were to attack her. Ask her if she knows what it’s like to piece together an escape plan to the beat of her own steps. Ask a grown woman how often she walks to her car alone after a night out. Better yet, ask her what she does when she has to walk alone. 9 times out of 10 I bet she’ll say she calls her husband/parents/friends/siblings on the phone so someone will know if something happens or where she was when it did. Ask her how she carries her keys when she walks through a parking garage – sticking out in case she has to use them, right? Ask her if she owns pepper spray. Ask any woman you know if she’s ever been approached by a stranger, with an entirely too aggressive come on, while she was alone. I could go on for days, but you’re smart. You get the point.
Women my age were born well after the push to get women in the workplace. We weren’t around when girls couldn’t wear pants. We’ve mostly never been told we can’t do things because of our gender. I grew up with older brothers who never even considered letting “I’m a girl” be an excuse in any sport. My oldest brother taught me how to throw a spiral before I could even ride a bike. No one ever said I needed to choose a career that would let me take time off to care for a family. I suppose that’s the case for a lot of women my age. What’s mind-blowing is that we’re just a generation behind the women who were told that they didn’t need to go to college. They should work at home for the good of the kids. Not that there’s anything wrong with staying home, but it’s a choice now. That is significant. Our mothers remember when it became okay to wear pants to school.
It’s been less than a hundred years since women were first allowed to vote. Let that sink in. It’s been less than a hundred years since women started voting.
So it’s hard for me to think of Women’s Equality day as a continued fight for more rights for women. We’ve come so far. We’re far enough that the we recognize misogyny as a character flaw not a legitimate way of thinking.
Women now have dozens, hundreds, thousands more opportunities than our mothers. But we’re still not free from the fear that one day somebody is going to come along and recognize the “weaker sex” in us and take advantage of it. So we keep pushing. We keep telling our daughters that it’s good to be strong and brave. We keep teaching our sons to respect and empower women. We’ve come this far in less than a hundred years, there’s no way to know how much better things can get.
On this 43rd annual Women’s Equality Day It doesn’t matter that I was the fastest girl to run the mile in third grade. It does matter that no one made the distinction.