First is the…Worst?

Sally Ride died on Tuesday at the age of 61. First American woman to go into outer space. The first. The very first. American. Woman. Astronaut.

What does it mean to be the first? What is our Western love affair with the number one? How does the idea of being “the first” bolster or undermine feminism?

I find myself in a Catch-22. Women, though 51% of the population, are still a minority, along with the ethnic, religious, and political groups that actually comprise a minority of the population. Women are considered a minority because we still struggle for the same opportunities as the white, male majority. And so when “a first” comes along, it’s an opportunity to celebrate—we are making headway, doors are opening for us, the scales of power and opportunity are slowly coming into balance.

But it is also a time to mourn. And a time, an opportunity, to reflect.


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