Contributor Rory Lula McMahan reflects on watching the new Wonder Woman movie with her young daughter and realizing how the world is (finally) shifting for young women.
Every woman who has seen the new Wonder Woman film is blown away. We want to watch it a thousand times. We want to buy armor. We want to take horse-archery lessons. We have been craving this for our whole lives. And we are obsessed.
Here's the thing, though: I took my five-and-a-half-year-old daughter to see Wonder Woman, and she liked it — but she didn't think it was a big deal. Not like I did, sitting beside her, barely able to contain my near-hysteric emotional overwhelm and trying to keep from bursting into tears at every turn. Her significant comments were not about all the women shooting arrows in midair or training in hand-to-hand combat or single-handedly leading the way across a battlefield. Instead, after an incredible fight scene, she simply mused, "She's going to have a lot of owies." Then, after Wonder Woman's destruction of Aries, she observed, "That sure is a lot of stuff to clean up." Both reactions left me laughing, but of course, my instinct was to keep constantly commenting about how fantastic this was, to look at those women and what they were doing, look at them being the heroes! I was almost disappointed by her lack of awe at it.
But as I kept glancing back at my daughter, engaged and interested and watching every move, on the edge of her seat and wondering what would come next, I slowly came to realize something much bigger than shared awe could ever be: that I am so very much okay with those small comments being her most notable observations.
You know why? Because for her, watching a woman do all these things didn't open her eyes to something exceptional. She already sees the world as a place where women can do just about anything.
I have never really engaged her in big gender conversations. We live in a pretty gender-neutral household, and simply by her own nature, she tends to play with animals more than dolls — although she does sometimes love her dolls. She puts on fairy wings to dig up worms and rides BMX at the skate park, taking breaks to try to catch butterflies. I don't tell her that "boys do this and girls do that." I just want her to be whomever she is and do whatever her heart pulls her toward, with the best effort she can. I want her to be a human citizen, not simply a gendered one. I want her to be better than what came before and for her to help those who come after to be better still.
While we sat in the theater together, I saw my wishes for her come true — but not through some dramatic statement of newfound worth as a female, or in a desperate desire to be more like the movie's superheroine. It was through her pragmatic observations of wounds and messes — and the fact that having a woman as the most powerful, heroic thing happening up on that big screen did not faze her one bit.
And now I love Wonder Woman even more, because it turns out that she's nothing special at all. Our girls have no doubt that they can be her — or already are. They don't see her as an example of a new, astonishing, revolutionary, earth-shattering character. They see a mirror. They see themselves. Their life. Their possibility and their real world.
p.s. Here, allow us to introduce you to just a few of our favorite real-life superheroines.