Random Related Thoughts: Katherine Switzer. Title 9. Triathlons. January 6.
by, Mindy Pfeffer LABA fellow 2021
As a Sesame Street song says – one of these things is not like the other…
Katherine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an
officially registered competitor – in 1967. She had to register with her initials
instead of her first name because women were not legally allowed to participate.
During the race, the race manager realized she was female and repeatedly
assaulted her. She finished anyway! Because of her, millions of women are now
empowered by the simple act of running. And she’s still running at 74.
Title 9 is a federal civil rights law in the USA, passed in 1972. It prohibits
discrimination in any school or other educational program receiving federal
funding. This had a huge impact on girls’ sports. Schools had to fund girls’ sports
after Title 9. (Fascinating fact: before Title 9, 1 in 27 girls participated in school
sports. Now, that number is 2 in 5.)
Triathlons. Swim/bike/run races. As an adult, a woman over 40, I became a
triathlete – with almost no background in doing sports of any kind. WHAT?!
HOW? Bookworm-nerdy stay-up-late New York actor/writer me? Definitely not
something I would have ever thought I’d choose to do – and now I’m a triathlete.
January 6? How does that relate? The other three things make sense but –
January 6? Let me explain…
I am honored to be a LABA Fellow this year.
We looked at the Purim story in our most recent study session. Everyone had to
“pick” a character from the Purim story they identified with in some way. Every
character got at least one vote – even Haman.
Yes! I’m one of those people that can never answer those quiz questions in
magazines – what is your favorite food? color? season? I feel there are always at
least three sides to any story. SO this was right up my metaphoric alley. We went on – to discuss many teenagers’ favorite part of the Purim story – you’re supposed to get so drunk on Purim you can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai. But, it was phrased a slightly different way – you’re supposed to get so drunk you can’t tell the difference between the evil character and the good one.
That, to me, is a world of difference. Almost nothing is completely black and
Even January 6. The horrific events on January 6?
I’m horrified (mostly) and fascinated (a little) by what transpired that day. HOW
could the people involved in the January 6 insurrection choose to do what they
did? But did they “choose” it? – or – was it partly or fully chosen for them, in a
way – by circumstances of birth? By the people they surround themselves with?
By their families?
I am NOT suggesting in any way that evil-doing people be completely forgiven for
their deeds – not at all. Just ruminating on how anyone escapes the time, space,
they are “born” into.
Some do! How? I am fascinated by the word (and the concept) “chosen.” (Our
LABA theme for the year.) WHAT are we chosen to do? How are we limited – or
expanded – by the circumstances we are born into? Men, women, liberals,
conservatives, bookworms, athletes.
Back to Katherine Switzer, Title 9, triathlons… Katherine Switzer is an
extraordinary woman – she chose to enter the Boston Marathon despite all odds.
What made her choose to do that?
What makes anyone who they are?
Because it’s Women’s History Month, I’ve been thinking a lot about Katherine
Switzer and Title 9. Title 9, on the surface, had no effect on me. I was a
bookworm, uninterested in sports, until much much later in life.
But – here’s an interesting thought – maybe the general idea that girls, too, could
be athletes, blossomed into something much greater. For me, personally, but
also, for society. The idea that women have equal rights. The thought that
everyone deserves the right to choose as freely as possible no matter what
circumstances they are born into. That we can all be extraordinary in some way.
Ordinary people do extraordinary things, and extraordinary people do ordinary
Let’s all aim for the extraordinary.
Please join me at LABA Presents on March 19 – you’ll see my piece “Fast Forward”
(about me becoming a triathlete) and hear music from fabulous fellow LABA artist
Dvir Cahana (about the notorious matriarchs he’s encountered). We’ll continue
on our search for both the ordinary and the extraordinary.