Some parents sing their children to sleep with lullabies. “Rock a bye baby,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and “Oh My Darling” were all pretty popular nighttime diddies enjoyed by my toddler friends. My mother chose a different route: one less saccharine, and far more empowering: “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy.
When I hear the phrase “I am woman, hear me roar,” I not only feel powerful, I feel nostalgic. I remember my mother rocking me to sleep gently murmuring the lyrics to that popular 1970’s ballad and smile. (One that I can’t help but feel Katy Perry riffed on with her latest commanding pop single “Roar.”) Later, my mother would spend one night a week showing me “classic” films where an actress—usually a Hepburn, often Katharine—would take control of her life. But always, always I fell asleep to “I Am Woman.”
I think about the song—if not outright sing it aloud to myself in the shower, car, or, hell, alone in my apartment with an unopened bottle of water as my microphone—and then I go about my day and kick some metaphorical ass.
Unfortunately, sometimes I’m not in the mood for a guitar-strutting woman to remind me of my self-sufficiency. On those days, I turn to the good ol’ fashioned “boob tube” for a jolt of energy.
I’ve already discussed how “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Gilmore Girls” are must-see TV for us peaceful dumplings—but I must repeat that both those shows are particularly fantastic motivators for even us less-than-peaceful dumplings. While both “Buffy” and “Gilmore Girls” begin with their heroines in high school, I find my post-high school, post-college, current-workforce self returning to them time and time again for both comfort and a push towards self-empowerment. Never mind that the girls pictured on my computer or television screen are forever frozen at an age 12 years my junior: their troubles are still mine. And while I can repeat various episodes word-for-word, I still learn something new every time I watch them.
For example, if I’m feeling bad about binge-eating a bunch of trail mix or Babycakes cupcakes, I lie down and throw on some Gilmore Girls. Lorelai and Rory Gilmore’s junk food intake is the stuff of legend on the show and in real life. Certainly, their actual caloric intake does not match their small frames—but there’s something incredibly comforting about watching two witty women discuss life, literature, and love while snarfing down some pizza with a side of tater tots. In the media today, there’s so many debilitating depictions of food, especially when concerning women. A simple weekly round up of the articles at Jezebel, Feministing, or Slate XX proves that. In Gilmore Girls, the girls don’t admonish or starve themselves after binging on a Friday night. In fact, they mock (albeit gently) their more sporty female counterparts. In the Gilmore Girls world, family, friendship, wit, and education matter far more than looking fit and sexy.
On the other hand, “Buffy” star Sarah Michelle Geller undergoes a rather drastic (if not outright frightening) weight reduction from the pilot to series finale. “Buffy” brings me to the more physical (albeit less mental) side of the health spectrum. When I want to feel like actually moving my body if not my mind (that is not at all a commentary on Joss Whedon’s incredibly sly and witty writing), I throw on an episode of Buffy and get all jazzed up. She physically kicks ass. The girl defeats vampires, school bullies, vengeful principals, and other scary monsters—all while remaining close to her core group of friends. “Buffy” reminds me that regardless of my circumstances, as long as I have my physical health and the strength of my friends, I can defeat any foe—whether they be a demon or just a really negative coworker.
One day, I plan to be a mother. And while I might not sing “I am woman, hear me roar” to my daughter, I do plan on one day sharing with her “Gilmore Girls” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” just like my mother shared Audrey Hepburn and Katherine Hepburn with me. And I hope they leave her feeling just as empowered and ready to take on the world. At least she won’t have to listen to me sing off key.
Also by Emily: Mirror Mirror – Teaching Beauty to Children