During the election there was much talk of the sexism that was happening.* My female colleagues and friends all knew what that was about. We've all been in meetings where we are the only women in the room, learned to walk that fine line of polite but firm, to not rock the boat, smile more. I kept also thinking back to my crew days.
In college, I rowed on the crew team all four years. Junior year I was on the varsity lightweight 8 and we were awesome. We worked our asses off and were a great team. Four of us lived together and almost everyone in the boat was dating someone from the men's team, myself included. Crew becomes your whole life. During that amazing year, we won. We won all but two races we had that year. We lost to Radcliffe at the San Diego Crew Classic and we lost to other east coast teams when we went out for nationals at the end of the year. (That weekend was a blur of trying to make weight and white caps on the water during our race.)
The LMU Women's Varsity Lightweight 8 Crew beat everyone we met from the west coast. We were West Coast Champions.
The LA Times came down to the boathouse that spring of 1988 and wrote a full page story, complete with tons of photos, about the men's varsity team.
The men's team.
The men's team who hadn't won a race. The team who was barely making a mark in California, much less in the wider rowing world.
I vividly recall being on a run with my college boyfriend (who is a wonderful human being) and we were on the bike path along Ballona Creek in the Marina and we were talking about the story (he had been in it) and I had to stop running and burst into tears. I felt like I was doing something I'd never done before, working harder, getting stronger (physically and emotionally), plus the crazy weekly weight loss to make the 130 mark before a race. This was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my young life and it was paying off! We were winning! But the full page sports section story in the Los Angeles Times was not about us. It was about the men with a subpar record of success.
I was heartbroken. All that work didn't matter to anyone but ourselves, it seemed.
So we kept winning anyway.
Maybe that's where the seed of my cynical streak got planted. If you know me, I doubt you'd describe me as cynical. But there are moments. I learned from way back that there are times when no matter how hard you work, no matter how much time you put in, how much commitment and teamwork, no matter how much you actually succeed, few people are going to care.
But before I acquired a cynical streak, I believed in fairness and I still do. In this new era, with this new president, I am committed to fairness and making sure those without a voice are heard and helped and protected.
No, I don't compare my crew team experience to people in our country being wildly underserved. Just saying I learned a lot that spring in 1988 and am committed to working just as hard, if not harder.
*Oh there was plenty to talk about before and after the election and I'm not going talk about all that here. You can subscribe to my new Post Election Connection email newsletter for that