By Kellie Schorr
I passed the test. Again.
This week it was baseball. Last week it was Batman. Two weeks ago, it was Star Wars trivia. Last month it was a computer game. With football season just getting started, it won’t be long until my Steelers scarf brings new examinations to me every time I leave my house. If you’re a woman who likes sports, science fiction, comics or gaming you already know what test I’m talking about.
Me: in a Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt picking out plums at the store and minding my own business.
Random Man: So, you like the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Me: Let’s go Bucs! (Using the team catchphrase has a 1 in 10 chance of stopping the test.)
RM: Do you know who Roberto Clemente was? (For those who don’t follow baseball, that’s a lot like saying, “Oh, you’re American. Do you know who George Washington was?” Of course I do).
Me: Yes, and I’ve walked over the Clemente bridge in Pittsburgh many times on my way to a game. I also know we are batting .218 even though Phillip Evans is hitting a .359 for the year, and Kevin Newsome is back on the DL for 10 days which means our bullpen is gonna crumble.
RM: Oh. Yeah. Well I haven’t watched baseball in years. Not really a fan anymore.
I give him my best, “oh sugar, bless your heart” smile and go back to the plums. Another day of being a woman in unenlightened age, another test.
I used to carry a picture of my extensive, nearly 30 years’ worth, collection of DC comics on my phone so I could speak authoritatively about Batman with men who had seen a couple of the movies and thought they needed to explain him to me. I also have a screen shot of my advanced Dragons Age avatar I can put in chat conversations when a guy tells me how experience points work.
When a male Star Wars fan asks me if I think Rey should have fallen in love I often answer with a technical description of each lightsaber, what kind of kyber crystal was used to make it and which novel it is featured in. He stammers, “I just liked the original movies when I was a kid” and walks away.
I am passionate about my life and the stories within it. I love what I love and I know what I know. Truth is, I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. But I’m a woman, in an age where patriarchy relies on the passive silence and polite indulgence of beleaguered females, and so I often choose to assert my credentials by any means possible.
It is that need for assertion, that relentless desire to be judged by my skill not my gender identity, and the exhaustion of living in this lopsided world that makes the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so very painful.
She was an indelible force that sought to bring clarity and equality under the law to a nation lacking both. She was concentrated courage in a tiny container, who fought cancer and aged in front of us, yet never seemed frail.
Through her history of ground-breaking victories and notorious dissents, she existed to create a world where women were not only equipped to pass any test, we were also not obligated to take one. She forged a path out of the idea that women had a right to equal opportunity and dignity. She will always be missed, and yet she will always be here, because the women of today, and tomorrow, will be standing on the bedrock of her effort.
We will not ever forget her. We will not allow them forcibly undo her work. We will never willingly go back to the way the country was before her.
The Middle Way is not a Compromise.
Justice Ginsburg blazed a trail for us with an understanding that compromise was not an appropriate answer when it came to inequality. There was no, “You give us a little more opportunity and we will give you a little more power.” Her legal opinion translated through a lifetime of decisions wasn’t to accept “it’s biology” or “it’s tradition” as justifications for oppression. It was to say that no matter what socio-biological ideology you hold, you are not allowed to enforce it on others in a way that prevents or limits them from exercising their full potential as beings.
She is an inspiration to me, as a Buddhist and a woman, to refuse to settle for a mediocre pittance of “traditional understandings,” “the Bible says,” or “I will allow you to…” I will not compromise on the spiritual or intellectual inheritance to which I am entitled and I have earned. How can I find a true middle way in a field planted by patriarchal gardeners? By challenging the duality rendered on the basis of gender.
Patriarchy is set up on a series of dualistic paradigms:
Fortunate birth/better luck next time
Recognizing these dualistic constructs for what they are is a necessary bridge to the middle way in my evolving Buddhist practice. I can’t say I have all the “answers” to the challenges of patriarchy in the world or in Western Buddhism. However, the courage to explore beyond compromise and let go of dualistic clinging is the best, first step I know while I deal with the many tests to come. Fortunately, someone blazed a path before me and left a sheltering, wise shadow to show me the way.
Peace in passage, our beloved, notorious RBG. And, thank you.
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.
~ Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Dana Gornall
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