I have the privilege of being the only girl on a podcast with my husband and three of our friends. I love them dearly and recording with them biweekly has added so much joy to my life. With it has come a rude awakening, however, of what it is like for women in the entertainment industry (for more drastic examples, see Leslie Jones or Kelly Marie Tran). Also that Twitter is a cess pool of the worst people on the internet who are not afraid of the 140 character limit.
Now, before you tell me that's not true, let me stop you. I know it's not actually true. It's called being dramatic and I'm very good at it. Our podcast has the greatest fans in the world, and that is not being dramatic. In general, we are met with so much love and support every week, even when we don't meet their expectations. Let me encourage and challenge you: If you like something from a creator, do not hesitate to reach out to praise it. Just like a hungry restaurant patron, people are always more likely to reach out if they are disgruntled or something is not to their liking, and therefore trolls and Negative Neds are always louder. Your support is never taken for granted.
One night, Josh and I were chatting right before I turned off the light to go to bed. Without thinking, I checked our Twitter feed to see if our fans had tweeted anything. Social media had become a black hole that I would always turn to for affirmation, and any time there was something negative, it would derail me and I would recoil. But soon after, the praises would start again, and I would find solace and comfort in the compliments from fans. However, this night in particular, an ego boost was not in the cards. I was greeted with a tweet reading,
"When is the girl who plays Brenna going to lighten the fuck up?"
I immediately launched into a full-blown panic attack; the first in years. Josh hopped on the guy's profile to see what other awful opinions he touted to try to help me realize his opinion of me counted for nothing. After I finally grounded myself, I took a deep breath and said to Josh, "I don't want to have a daughter. She shouldn't have to grow up in this world."
Instantly, I felt guilty, but that didn't make the sentiment any less real. That tweet was one of many in which people express how unsatisfactory my character is, or in some cases, how much they dislike me as a person. Or the reviews that say the podcast would be better, five stars even, if it wasn't for me. Even though it feels like these come regularly, I'm still not used to it. Our culture puts irrational expectations on women, our girls. It has caused me many tears, heartbreak, and periods of loneliness and isolation. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, especially not someone I love. So why would I bring my own flesh and blood into this world? So she can feel this low?
Months pass. My opinion stays the same. I no longer check our Twitter feed or our reviews. I feel better in that I don't depend on strangers' opinions to define my self-worth, but I still don't like the idea of forcing someone I love into a world of cruel opinions.
But then a glimmer of hope.
Wonder Woman came out.
It was a ground-breaking film. Finally a film captured women's strength and embodied it in not only one superhero character, but an entire female society. I wept in the theater throughout the entire movie. As @megsauce said on Twitter the weekend of its release,
"NO WONDER WHITE MEN ARE SO OBSCENELY CONFIDENT ALL THE TIME I SAW ONE WOMAN HERO MOVIE AND I'M READY TO FIGHT A THOUSAND DUDES BAREHANDED."
I have never left a movie feeling more empowered, and I was ready to pop out all the female babies and start my own version of Themyscira.
Months pass again. I ride the wave for a little while, but the feelings of empowerment ebb and flow since nothing is static in life. But then I am met with an amazing gift proving just how important my role is in our podcast. For my birthday, Josh created a video of many of our podcast listeners expressing what my character means to them and what they appreciate about her. If you want to watch me cry through it, you can watch it here.
This experience has made my skin thicker. I am still a sensitive person, but criticism is bound to happen when you're in the public eye. What keeps me going is knowing there are people who need to hear my voice, who hear my words and allow them to resonate within their being. Stories of people's daughters who love my character, or light up at the sound of my voice make it worth it. I am here to teach and share what a strong woman looks like, sounds like, feels like. And I'm here to share that it's okay to be her.
I think I'm ready for a daughter. When the time comes, she's going to be fierce. She's going to be a fighter. I'm going to prepare her. I'm sure it will be hard, but maybe she'll get to live during a period of equality and justice. I would rather she see that day than for me to experience it without her.