Annie Thorn is a junior history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this dispatch, Annie writes about her reaction to the Biden-Harris victory.—JF
My adolescence was defined by superhero movies. The first Avengers was released when I was twelve, which was followed by at least two new Marvel films every year after that. Whenever a new superhero movie would come out, some kids would go out late on a school night to see it. Out of respect for future movie-goers, classmates were usually careful not to share spoilers too loudly. Other peers, whose excitement wore through their spoiler-alert filters, were not quite as careful. My freshman year of high school, our homecoming week was even superhero themed. All throughout school, “Who’s your favorite superhero?” was a failsafe conversation starter. Likewise, “Who’s the hottest Avenger?” was a contested debate among friends and at sleepovers.
Out of all the superhero movies that came out when I was in high school, Wonder Woman–the one with Gal Gadot that was released in 2017–might be my favorite. I actually cried watching it for the first time. There’s one scene in particular, in the middle of the movie, that made me emotional. It shows Diana (Wonder Woman), decked out in armor, charging through World War I-era no man’s land. As I watched her jump in and out of trenches, stop bullets with her bracelets and shout instructions to the other good guys, I remember smiling and weeping and feeling tingly all at the same time. I had no idea a movie–much less an action movie–could affect me in such a way. But then again, in all my 17 years of life and out of all the superhero movies I had watched, this was the first one I had seen that was all about a woman. Diana was not simply a love interest, a side character, or an afterthought. She was the hero. She wasn’t stuck in the background–she took center stage. She didn’t need someone to save her–she was the one saving the day.
Last week, Kamala Harris was elected as the first female Vice President of the United States. As far as I know, Harris is not secretly a superhero. She doesn’t wear bullet-stopping bracelets or red white and blue armor. She doesn’t carry around a lasso that forces people to tell the truth, as useful as something like that might be in Washington D.C. Yet at the same time, seeing Kamala address the nation last weekend had a huge and lasting impact on me. She thanked all the women who fought for equality, the girls who secured our right to vote, and tears began to form in my eyes. A feeling of gratitude and determination bubbled up in my stomach when a few seconds later she said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last.” The whole time, I couldn’t stop smiling.
I had no idea that such a short address from a Vice President elect could affect me in such a way. But then again, I am the product of many generations of American women who have been silenced, oppressed, and pushed to the side. We have never, not in 250 years, seen another woman like us hold one of the nation’s highest offices. For once in our country, a woman wasn’t confined to the background. Kamala wasn’t waiting for someone to save her–she was ready to take action. Her simple presence on stage reminded me that as unsurpassable as they may seem, barriers are not dead ends.
A quarter of a millennium is a long time to wait for a female Vice President–much longer than the 17 years I had to wait to see a blockbuster movie all about a female superhero. And girls like me will have to wait even longer for a woman to become president. But until that day comes, and as we continue to make more progress, we will celebrate this victory.