by: Jennifer Simpson
[photo by: @katherinerobinson]
This week our nation lost an icon and pioneer, and I lost a personal hero. In my home office (which has been my office-office for many months now), I have a collection of pictures of amazing women who have somehow been important to my personal journey of growth and have inspired me along the way.
I call them, collectively, “The Ladies Who Have My Back” and they serve both as a source of comfort and strength and as a daily reminder that nothing I do or achieve is due to my efforts alone. I am here because of those who came before and to serve those who walk beside and come after—and the ladies don’t let me forget. Because I spent so much of my time on video calls, even pre-COVID, what was behind me in my office mattered a great deal, and when I found this fabulous Etsy Artist and her collection of Feminist Icons, I knew I’d found just the thing to inspire the conversations I most wanted to have.
What makes all of these women so special is that they all found a way to raise their voices above the chatter of their time in ways that broke through preconceived notions, superstitions, and biases to forge some new part of a path for the rest of us. Their efforts have meant that those who followed in their footsteps got to start our journeys a few steps further along, with more hope in our hearts, and more faith that we were not in it alone.
While each of these women deserves their own tribute, Ruth Bader Ginsberg has sat behind my right shoulder for years now and as we celebrate her life and mourn her passing this week, it is worth reminding ourselves of a few of the things we take for granted today that wouldn’t be so if it weren’t for her:
- Women can sign a mortgage without a man’s approval
- Women can have a bank account without a male co-signer
- Gender discrimination is prohibited in the workplace
- Women may continue working after having children
- The right for women and men to earn equal pensions is guaranteed
- The right for men to receive social security benefits as a widower is law
And, beyond these landmark decisions, “The Notorious RBG” spent her life serving as an example of what is possible when we allow ourselves to believe steadfastly in something, surround ourselves with people who believe in us and will hold us up, and keep our eye on the prize, always. She was incredibly quotable and her best lines are not hard to find, but these words have special meaning for me and seem especially poignant now:
Fight for the things that you care about.
But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.