When I was a teenager, two of my responses to “what do you want to do when you grow up?” was to be either a CIA agent or in the Air Force. The adult in question would blink and change the subject. Those who took me seriously talked me out of the CIA (“it’s no fun anymore,” lamented my dad’s best friend, “it’s all computers”—he should know, he was head of counterintelligence) and weren’t quite sure what to do about the Air Force idea. My parents suggested I research the Air Force Academy. So I did.
At the time I was looking into the military academies, Air Force had a 25% drop-out rate for it’s female freshmen and multiple unsolved sexual assault cases. Westpoint and Annapolis weren’t much better. Attrition at only slightly better rates, and the Naval academy was still reeling from the fallout of a woman who had been handcuffed to a urinal by her male classmates.
I knew I could do it. I’m stubborn and finish what I start. I wanted to serve. And I wanted to do it not behind a desk. But then I found out that even though women were technically allowed to fly combat missions, with very rare exceptions, they didn’t. Suddenly the reward at the end of the gauntlet didn’t seem worth it.
The fact that I didn’t put myself through those trials in order to be one of the women who forced the issue has always been one of my quiet shames. I could have done it, but I didn’t. I took the “easy” route with a liberal arts degree and a desk job. And I’ve always been ashamed of it.
A few days ago, I went to see Captain Marvel (yes, about a month late, but whatever). And then I saw it again the next night. I was so proud of her—not the superhero, but HER. Carol Danvers. The woman who joined the USAF in the same era when I was researching assault rates. When everyone was telling her to sit down, she kept standing up. I kept thinking “this could have been me.” Obviously, this is fodder for therapy (add it the list), but I’m SO GLAD that girls worldwide can look at Carol Danvers and see a woman who stood up. And became the most powerful superhero ever.
For everyone who thought this move wasn’t the strongest in the Marvel series: you weren’t watching it through my eyes.