“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” J. D. Salinger.
“Men Working”….that’s what the signs say.
I should preface this post by saying that I would not have noticed this sign or written this had it not been for a friend’s post on Facebook. She was running in the morning with her teenage daughter, and her daughter said something like “Aren’t these signs a little out-dated? Shouldn’t the signs say ‘people working’.” Hmmm…. And so just this past week I was on a run through my neighborhood, and usually when I’m on a run at home I’m in a trance and don’t really see anything, but there were workers cutting trees and beautifying the streets, and I actually for once started looking at all the orange hazard signs, and they all said “men working.” I stopped and took this picture….at Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood of all places.
I am sure that there are women who work in the field of street repair and roadway construction. Have they ever protested and said that these signs should say “people working?” I have yet to meet an adult woman out of school who doesn’t work, whether she is working at home or out of the home or both. I actually had an 8 month stretch of “not working” myself. It was when we first moved to Los Angeles and I was 7 months pregnant, so I knew that it was best to wait to look for a job after I had given birth, and given that I was in between jobs anyway, I decided I’d wait a whole 6 months with this 3rd and last baby before I went “back to work.” I’ve never been more tired. I was never more ready to bite my husband’s head off when he would walk in the door. And I recall him one day walking in from work, looking at my frazzled desperate face, and saying, “you need to get back to ‘work’.”
Not long after going back to “work” in LA, I started a little book club. My stay-at-home mom friends would often ask me how I had the time to read. I’d always say that I have the time to read because I now have a “designated lunch hour.” During my lunch hour, I’d always make sure to eat my lunch while reading a book rather than staying on the computer doing work related to my job. I knew that once I went home, I would never make the time to read. I would pay the bills, make the school lunches, finish up job-related work on the computer… I don’t need to list all of it for you because you are doing it and know it well….(make a to-do list for my husband and then repeatedly ask him if he had checked off any items….or is that just me…)….but once home, I would rarely make the time for the luxury of reading. There was never an end to the work to be done at home. My designated lunch break was my little reprieve.
These past few weeks, everyone in the running community has been aware of the Boston Marathon on April 18th, 2016, and there has been a lot of media coverage on Bobbi Gibb, who was the first female to finish the Boston Marathon 50 years ago. She didn’t run it officially, because her entry was rejected and she was told that “women are not physiologically able to run a marathon.” She showed up at the start line in a black bathing suit (no running bras available), her brother’s Bermuda shorts, and a hoodie to disguise herself and lined up along with the men. “I thought about how many preconceived prejudices would crumble when I trotted along for 26 miles.” She finished in 3 hours and 21 minutes, beating more than half of the runners–all of whom were men. “Not physiologically able to run a marathon”….. I think any woman who can handle the marathon of her everyday life, can also handle running a marathon IF that is what she chooses to do.
In 1966, when Bobbi Gibb unofficially ran the Boston Marathon, of the people entering medical school, only 9% were women. Fifty years later, 46% of the Boston Marathon entrants were women, and of the people entering medical school, about half are women as well. So yes, women can now choose to run marathons or be doctors and hopefully within the next few elections in this country, be the president of the United States as well….if not in the upcoming election, then I hope within the next ten years. They can also choose to do the hardest job of all, which is to work at home 24/7 and take care of their kids, a choice that I could not handle for more than a few months. Yet am I (and my Facebook friend who is herself a triathlete, multiple marathoner including Boston, a mother of five, and a professor) the only ones who have run past the “men working” signs without noticing them and taking offense?? Have you noticed them? Have you thought about them? What other outdated messages still remain out there that we are not protecting our children from….our girls and our boys. What else are we telling our girls and our boys, that they can’t do. Certainly, we continue to tell our boys that they need to be tough and strong….not pansies or sissies. Certainly, we continue to NOT define “strength” and what “real men” do appropriately for our boys. I haven’t seen any adds that say admitting your fears and showing your vulnerability is a sign of strength in boys.
About a month ago, my friend was over and took out her reading glasses. I was shocked that she needed them, and told her I don’t need them yet. Then, just for fun, I put hers on, and suddenly the page I was looking at was clear. “Oh, I guess I do need them,” I laughed. Sometimes, we are not aware of what we don’t see. Sometimes, going for a run with your child, with someone with a fresh perspective, will open your eyes to what we are running past without noticing. I invite you to go for a run or a walk with someone under the age of 20, take a look around at everything you pass, ask them what message they see. I’ll be doing this with each of my kids, having them each serve as my reading glasses, individually.
***If you have not read about Bobbi Gibb, I really encourage you to read this fascinating article on Women’s Running about her. If you are on Instagram and not following me there, sometimes I post little “mini-posts” about running there. I just posted about my thoughts on whether or not I think I would ever Boston Qualify on there, so if my blog interests you, some of my Instagram may as well. You can find me under IG username laparia. (Be warned that about half my feed is not running related and is just me being me….)