Miriam Shor, who plays publishing powerhouse Diana Trout on Younger, recalls the superhero-themed conversation that led her to start teaching her daughters how to find their voices and why it's so important to be a feminist right now.
I’ve been obsessed with Wonder Woman ever since I was a little girl. I loved watching Lynda Carter play her on TV back then, and this summer, I couldn’t wait to see the new Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot. During a recent trip to Greece with my two daughters—who are 7 and 4 years old, respectively—I decided that it was the perfect time for them to learn about Wonder Woman. I got them a comic book about her origin story, and we were talking about how the Greek gods and goddesses factor into Wonder Woman’s story: She has the strength of Hercules, the speed of Hermes, the beauty of Aphrodite, and the wisdom of Athena. Those are her attributes. As we were reading this book together, my 4-year-old, Iris, looks up at me with her big blue eyes and says, "Mommy, is Wonder Woman real?"
I didn't know how to answer her, exactly. I think plenty of parents would just say “No,” and try to explain that she's a construct of someone who came up with the story. That's all true, but at the same time, something in me was holding back. I love the idea that we can believe in a hero; a being who really strives for good. So I decided to give her both sides of the answer, saying that she’s part of a story that someone made up, but that there are definitely people who believe in her. As I was explaining this to her, it really got me thinking about the idea of superheroes, in general.
The thing is, our real superheroes spend most of their life as Clark Kent—not as Superman. We throw all the work on them, make them take care of everything, and forget they exist. But they still run off, change into some tights, and save the world. When they come back, we sh—t all over them again. We never fully recognize that these people are, in fact, helping us, and we keep creating stories and myths about greater beings that are able to save us. What we really want is to see that in ourselves, but the truth is, those feats that save humanity are much different than you think. They're not stopping a building from falling on a person; they're standing up for people whose rights are being squashed right now. They're just being there, or caring enough to nurture and listen. These are gifts that women often have, and they’re sometimes looked at as weaknesses. But in my opinion, they’re actually super-human strength.
As women—and mothers, particularly—we’re literally continuing the species by creating human life and nurturing it daily. But we are often disregarded, disrespected, and judged so harshly. There's no recognition, other than Mother's Day. Even so, being a mother is the most empowering thing in the world. When I went through labor and had my first kid, I felt more empowered than ever before. I felt so proud of myself in that moment, and that was a bit of a revelation for me. I tend to shy away from feeling proud of my accomplishments, and I find myself apologizing for any moments of power I feel. Unfortunately, I think it’s something that many women do, but as a parent, it’s incumbent on you to lead by example.
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I never want my daughters to apologize for their accomplishments, and thanks to my character on Younger, I’ve become a bit more aware of my own behavior in that respect. Diana—who just so happens to share a name with Wonder Woman—does not apologize for her power. She believes she has a place at the table for a reason, and that's because she's earned it.
As the parent of two future women, you really have to examine the role that women play in the world. I never want my daughters to feel that they have to do something—or can’t do something—just because they're girls. Well before the presidential election last year, my daughter and I were looking at a placemat we have with all of the presidents on it. It was probably made years before Hillary Clinton was even running. Obama was the last one on there, and next to him, there was an empty oval for the subsequent president. I excitedly said, “We don't know who's going to be there—it could be a woman!” “No, it can’t be,” she said. I didn’t understand how this was coming from my child, who I raised with a loud feminist voice constantly in her ear. “What makes you think that it can't be a woman?” I asked. Her response? “Because there are no women.” I simply couldn’t combat the plain fact that there were no women on the placemat for her to see, and no words would have been as powerful as that image she was looking at.
Women don’t have equal rights at the moment. But I want to feel proactive, and it’s exciting to see so many young women really believing their voices are important. I’ve also seen a lot of middle-aged women—who might not have thought their voices mattered before—starting to say, “I can't be quiet right now. I have to be heard.” The more that’s woken up, the better, because all of our voices are truly important.
You know what I really wanted to say when my daughters asked me about Wonder Woman? “Yes, she is real. She just might dress a little different than you think.”
—As told to Samantha Simon