The first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice was appointed within my lifetime, in 1981. There have been other female appointees since that historic event, including the late, truly great Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it was for her I ran 10 miles this afternoon and plan on another 17 tomorrow morning. A fellow running friend created this challenge in honor of RBG: 27 miles, representing her 27 years of service, in 24 hours, achieved however the runner chooses. Some were doing just over a mile of walking/jogging every hour for a day, others pushing through all of it without stopping. I went with what fit my work schedule and hoped to avoid at least some of the cold drizzle that has drearied the landscape the last few days.
I don’t pretend for a second that doing this “challenge” is going to change anything for anyone but me, and even for me it’ll be merely an all-too-brief escape from obsessing about the nightmarish aspects of our world right now. I’m not proving anything by doing this. I’m not striking a blow for oppressed women everywhere—or anywhere, really. Symbolic gestures are flashy and appealing, but sometimes I can’t help but think how superficial these “victories” can feel. About 40 years ago, Sandra Day O’Connor became one of the nine. Now look where we are today. Have we really progressed?
Yet I do recognize the importance of these moments. Someone had to be the first female member of the SCOTUS, and the second, and the third, just as someone, hopefully also within my lifetime, will be the first female POTUS, maybe even one I myself voted for. That is progress. I can run for several hours by myself in a public place. Does that seem unremarkable to you? Only a few years after O’Connor’s appointment, Joan Benoit won the first female Olympic Marathon event. The first ever. In 1984.
At the end of my run, I felt cold and tired but exuberant, and I let myself enjoy the moment. We’ve covered much ground. I know this. But we’re not finished yet. We’ve still got more to do tomorrow.