A couple weeks ago, I took my 9-year-old son to see Ghostbusters. We sat in the back row of the theater, just the two of us, eating our Sour Patch Kids. My son thought he was just getting a little alone time with me while enjoying a hilarious movie about ghosts.
But I know there was more to it than that.
Last week I watched Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president of the United States. My sons were asleep by the time she took the stage, but we talked about how excited I was to watch her acceptance speech, and they know that #I’mWithHer. My sons think Hilary Clinton’s candidacy is notable simply because she is the better candidate and because she is the antidote to Trump.
But I know there is more to it than that.
The summer of 2016 just might go down in history as one of the most tumultuous, emotional, and challenging seasons in recent years. It is hard to turn on the news these days and not break into tears or angry fits of rage. There are days when I fear that someone might have unlocked a gateway to the underworld just like in Ghostbusters, and we are swirling around in a vortex of hate. There are days when I hear rhetoric about building walls or read gut-wrenchingly misogynist comments, and I wonder if we haven’t taken several giant steps back as a nation and as a society.
But I know there is more to it than that.
The “more” is this: Our children will grow up in a world in which women can be president and bust ghosts. These two realities — which were impracticalities if not impossibilities when I was a child — are par for the course for our children. My son doesn’t think the women in Ghostbusters were funny “for a girl” — only that they are really freaking funny. (He’s still getting the giggles over his favorite parts of the movie.) My sons don’t think that Hillary Clinton is a good candidate “for a woman” — only that she is the best candidate.
During the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton said, “If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say, I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next.” Around the country, parents of little girls cried and cheered — and so did parents of little boys. This isn’t just a momentous shifting for our daughters, but for our sons as well.
The other night, my son asked me what would happen if I became president — not my husband, but me — and I realized that he will grow up in a world that as a little girl I could only imagine and talk about. While people of my generation are debating whether Ghostbusters is as funny as the original, and while we are jumping up and down about a female presidential candidate, my sons are growing up in a world in which these things are commonplace. And that is important, not just for our daughters, but also for our sons. In order to show our daughters what empowerment looks like, we must also show our sons what equality looks like.
Though we have made significant strides, even with these steps forward, there is still a lot of lingering racism and misogyny. This is evidenced by the conversations I have had with seemingly progressive peers about whether this new Ghostbusters could be as funny as the original, the hateful attack on Leslie Jones for her role in Ghostbusters, and the way Hillary Clinton is judged based on her pantsuits and facial expressions. But as our children — our daughters and our sons — grow up in a world where female empowerment and equality is the norm, I can only hope that their generation will lack the racism and sexism that is embedded in previous generations.
My sons will grow up in a world where women are deemed worthy without the “for a girl” qualifier attached. My sons are growing up in a world in which they are not deemed the “protector” or “provider” simply because of their gender. My sons are growing up in a world where women are taking care of business and kicking ass on their own. My sons are growing up in a world in which glass ceilings are shattering, and we are feeling the sprays of glass as a result.
There is still a lot of work to be done, no doubt. Sexism and inequity still run rampant, and there are more glass ceilings to be shattered. And while most of the time it seems like the world is going to hell in a handbasket and a certain man who has been referred to as “a walking Cheeto” has opened up the gateway to hell, I remind myself there is more to it than that.
There is a shifting and shattering of expectations going on. There is an opening up of possibilities. There are alterations of the mind and the heart underway. And we cannot undergo those kinds of changes without upheaval and agitation and turmoil. We cannot change hearts and minds about what it means to live as a human in this world — much less as a woman or a minority in this country — without some really hard and uncomfortable conversations. We cannot refocus on what matters without trudging through the shit that doesn’t.
Our children are growing up in a world where they see women in charge. They see women kicking ass and taking names. They see women taking care of business and leading the country. Our children are growing up in a world in which women can bust ghosts and be president. These things aren’t just possibilities, but realities.
So even though things seem bleak sometimes, there is more to it than that.