As Google has doubtlessly already informed you, today is the 115 anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s birth. You also probably know that yesterday America’s first female astronaut, Sally Ride, passed away at age 61. If you were hoping that the combination of these significant days in history would have the nation abuzz with sentiment and pride about these brave pioneers and how far women have come in the last few centuries then, like me, you were probably disappointed. Instead, the hype over the treasure hunt for the remains of Earhart’s plane is eclipsing the recognition of her accomplishments and, OMG, did you hear Ride was a lesbian?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as curious as anyone about what the heck happened to Earhart, and would love for that mystery to be solved in my lifetime. It’s also pretty interesting that Ride was gay, and I’m sure the fact that she didn’t feel comfortable coming out before her death says a lot about our society and yadda yadda yadda. But weren’t these woman so much more than a wrecked airplane and a sexual preference?
Earhart was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was a best selling author. She was a feminist who tutored young female pilots, helped women with their career goals and participated in the National Women’s Party, and she was an avid supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Ride also took the to skies, and she became the first American woman to enter space. That is huge. She participated in research about the Earth. She founded a company that specialized in educating young girls about science, helping them to realize that they didn’t have to be housewives or mothers or school teachers if they didn’t want to be.
Earhart and Ride were remarkable and brave women. Their names are the ones that our
young girls should know, not Miley Cyrus and Paris Hilton. They were and will always be role models, and yet we let our children ignore them in favor of women who degrade themselves, bend to patriarchy and have no true accomplishments. When we do acknowledge these amazing women, it’s in the spirit if sensationalism. Would we remember Earhart if she wasn’t such a mystery? Would the media care half as much about Ride if she wasn’t gay?
Today, the social networks are clogged with people who hope Earhart will be honored by the discovery of her beloved plane, and people either admiring or condemning Ride for loving another woman. Personally, I don’t believe those women would appreciate this style of memorial. They were women of action, and though they are dead, everything they stood for is still alive. Both of them were passionate about educating women and showing them that the world can be theirs, if they’d just reach out and grab it. So, for those of you who truly want to honor Earhart and Ride, these two incredible pioneers for the human race, science and the female gender, I urge you to forget about lost planes and romantic preferences. Instead, honor what these women believed in my continuing it. There are still women to be educated. There are still children to be told that little girls can love science, too. The Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t passed; I bet if Amelia Earhart could send us a message, it would be to forget about the rusted, tired remains of her plane, and finish her work for equality. That’s what it means to honor someone.