Last night Amy Poehler came to me in a dream.
She appeared as I was running through the streets of Clintonville, Ohio to meet my new stepdad who would only talk to me if I was bound securely in aluminum foil and plastic cling-wrap and wearing a pink tutu and little baby shoes on my fingers, but she appeared to me, nonetheless.
You might be thinking, “That’s ridiculous. Mrs. Clark would never get married again,” and that’s correct.
As any respectable feminist knows, a Poehler dream is a blessed event, one in which the Great Amy Almighty graces the sleeper with her presence to bestow unto the dreamer her wisdom, comedic essence, and female empowerment.
I have therefore awoken slightly less disheartened, albeit a little tired from running with that giant box of foil and cling-wrap.
Through her divine visitation, I believe that the Holy Mother of Comedy guided me toward the realization that there is another reason I prefer that my mentors are female.
I want someone I can look up to.
Some might be wondering why a grown-ass adult woman needs a role model. After all, role models are those people you write about in middle school. I always wrote about the women on the show Animal Precinct because they were lady cops who saved animals, and that was super cool. In sixth grade, I would only wear blue hair scrunchies because that’s what Special Agent Lucas wore. I also wore an oversized cat sweatshirt from the ASPCA website and haven’t eaten a chicken nugget in eleven years.
But why does an adult need a role model? Is it because we millennials are stuck in some sort of prolonged period of infancy exacerbated by parental coddling, unrealistically high student loan debt, and economic recession, but really due mainly to our own laziness and ineptitude, as many of our older critics argue?
Contrary to the beliefs of Confrontational Baby Boomers (see God-Vaginas), we millennials are not looking for new mommies and daddies the second we leave the nest. In fact, at this point in our lives, many of us are actually quite capable of handling ourselves both emotionally and practically. I, for one, could balance a checkbook and operate a washer and dryer before I could menstruate. And no, puberty was not late. I hit it on time, thank you very much.
But if we can survive on our own, why do we need role models? And why do women in particular need role models?
Now, I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve been to plenty, and I feel like I can almost work this one out.
I think adult women need role models because we’re looking for reassurance. Obviously in academia it’s a good idea to have a mentor for practical advice so you don’t admit to being an avid collector of fingernail clippings on your CV. But it is just as important that mentors know we need them for reassurance and solidarity.
By the time we’re in graduate school, women are already tired. At least I am. We’ve clawed our way to the top since that practice SAT test you started taking in seventh grade. In grade school, we competed against each other to get the highest test scores. In high school, we competed against each other to get into college. We competed against each other in college, and then again to get into graduate school. Soon we’ll be competing against each other for jobs because, as we’re told, the job market is “highly competitive.”
Instead of always competing against each other, why don’t we start helping each other? We won’t be able to fix everything, but we can begin by being each other’s role models and supporting our colleagues as they become the Amy Poehlers of academia.