Being a 47 year old American woman means that I grew up watching Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter style. That gal flew around in her invisible airplane and lassoed up all the bad guys and villains in her path. She was a bicentennial bitch of the highest order, badass and gorgeous, resplendent in her red, white, and blue.
When you are a five and six and seven and eight year old girl and turn on the teevee every week to watch shows with women kicking ass and taking names, well, it’s safe to assume where my feminist beliefs had their roots.
Charlie’s Angels and the Bionic Woman and Mary Tyler Moore and yes, Wonder Woman all represented to me that women were perfectly capable of keeping the world safe and good and informed and gorgeous, too.
As an adult now, and a mom, it isn’t lost on me that none of these gals had children. They were not mothers. They were too busy saving the world, carving out a career, feathering their hair, and fighting crime to change diapers or worry about what’s for dinner. Huh. I never made that connection until just this moment, but I wonder if that’s what contributed to me not ever really being interested in child rearing or motherhood when I imagined myself as a grown up.
When I was a girl, 27 was always my ideal age. The adult version of myself would be living in a high rise, something sleek that required an elevator, with sliding doors and a balcony. I would wear my slacks tucked into knee high boots, even in the summer, because I would be cool. Independent AF.
A man was never really on my radar. The imaginary me was always alone, arriving home after a long and satisfying day at work. Sometimes I was a flight attendant, sometimes a magazine editor, sometimes an advertising executive. A career was a necessity in my idealized adulthood, but that career was flexible and open to possibilities.
As I hit rewind in my memories and think back to those things that influenced me, shaped my sense of what it was to be a woman, I am struck by the accessibility of strong female role models in pop culture. In the mid-1970s, the glass ceiling was getting close to showing some cracks, but it was still a solid double-paned barrier. These teevee characters, strong and capable, were a whisper of what was to be for women.
I wonder if it was watching these shows, seeing women perform and excel, that led me to ask the priest at my Catholic school why girls could not be altar boys. “Tradition,” he said, before changing the subject. Even at such a young age, I knew his answer was weak.
It never occurred to me that a woman was not capable of running a business or a country, let alone a fictional detective agency or a newsroom. Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher were part of my consciousness, even at a young age. Being strong and being a woman were not mutually exclusive. Being a leader and having breasts and a vagina were not mutually exclusive. Confidence and skill and a voice were as feminine as halters and strappy sandals and lip gloss.
When I think about my childhood, I feel grateful for the era in which I was raised. It’s easy to over-romanticize, of course, but as a white girl in the 1970s, I got to see powerful representations of what was possible for myself just by turning on the teevee. And every week I got the message that I could be strong, independent, beautiful, smart, talented, respected, honorable, and essential.
Those are some important messages for a young girl. Hell, those are some important messages for a middle aged mom.