Some rappers blame it on the alcohol, but after two years in a women’s college, I chose to blame the construction of the George Washington Bridge on the patriarchy. The bridge, divided into an upper and lower level, is not known for its smooth facilitation of traffic flows. And on one gray morning, I decided to take it to task.
Now I should preface this with a brief digression into my childhood. My mother, a fan of nicknames, has always referred to the lower level of the George Washington Bridge as “Martha.” This is, perhaps, the only reason I ever remember the name of George Washington’s wife.
However, until I was nineteen, I did not realize that this reference was just a nickname, and not the official name of the lower level. Growing up, both my parents would opt to take Martha into and out of the City because there was always less congestion on the lower level– largely due to a ban on trucks and buses. In other words, whenever there was a 45 minute delay at the upper level, there was only a 15 minute delay at Martha.
And so I was raised believing Martha to be the superior of the two levels– indicative of a future feminist in the making, I’m sure. However, while stuck in Thanksgiving Day traffic one November morning, Martha was not moving at the speed my mother or I would have liked.
Suddenly my Wellesley conditioning kicked into full gear. I began lambasting the designers of the bridge. Why had they designed such an inefficient mode of transport, where lanes intersected at the oddest and most precarious places? Why did trucks fail to heed the warning that Martha was not for them? And most importantly of all, why did the builders of the bridge name the lower level Martha; why couldn’t she be the physically superior level? Down with the patriarchy!
That’s when my mother burst my enraged bridge-driven bubble. The lower level wasn’t actually called Martha. That was just a nickname she gave to distinguish between the two levels. In other words, though the designers of the bridge were likely misogynist men who refused female assistance in its construction, I could not pin this on them.
International Women’s Day is only two days away, and I have been thinking about this brief conversation– the moment I realized I had taken the Second Wave feminist schpiel a bit too far. I lost sight of the battles women are currently waging on their professional and personal battlefields, respectively. I tried to pin life’s small inconveniences on a generation of men long gone. In moving forward this Tuesday, I hope to do just that– live for the future, rather than belabor the failed attempts at gender equality in the past. And, avid readers, I encourage you to do the same.