Girl power

We’re watching season 7 of Buffy. When I first saw it, I found the complaining teenagers and rampant speechifying tedious, but I feel differently now. I feel like season 7 is a complex argument about power, particularly about power for girls. The teenagers are potential power, and most of the time, they bicker, compete, and jockey for control using the only resource they understand: drama. Buffy is true power, and though she has always understood the consequences of her power, she has rarely reached the limits of her power. What happens when strength isn’t enough? Can you be given power? Can you take it? How do you find and develop power?

Power and control are often lumped together as though they were both derogatory. I’ve begun to think of the most vital difference between them as an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a manifestation of control, but they aren’t power. Yes, you can control what goes into your body, and sometimes you can control when it comes back out again, but that isn’t power. It’s control. Power strengthens you. And if it’s healthy power, it doesn’t come at the expense of others. It isn’t a preening display. A bunch of peacock feathers.

Power, at its best, is a dialogue of self. You don’t get there by skipping the step of examining your own self-loathing and deciding to take your abject misery out on others. You get there by examining your self-loathing and realizing that we are all riddled with faults and fears and are worthy nevertheless. You get there because you know you have the ability to hurt others, to be petty and selfish, to spread strife, but choose instead to reinforce your friendships, your co-workers, your family. You choose your wars and your loves. You choose your community.

Your life doesn’t just happen to you. Whether you’re bitter or recriminatory, joyful or heartbroken, in pain or numb, nobody owes you and nobody owns you. You belong to yourself. If you want to be formidable, you will learn to nurture your weakness. You’ll learn power without love is a biohazard.

5 thoughts on “Girl power”

  1. Every kid (hell, adult too) should be afforded the joy of understanding that last paragraph. There should be a class, it would be so much better than playing dodge ball.

  2. I wish I’d been taught power—the actual negotiation of it—from preschool onward. It is everywhere, and affects everything and everyone, and half the time we think we’re talking about culture or sexuality or education or commerce and we’re really talking about power.

    It is joyful, when you begin to understand it though, isn’t it? It’s the purest liberation when you realize that you don’t have to play.

  3. My favorite was season 6, tragic as it was.

    Jess bought me the entire series on DVD even though she can’t stand fantasy or scifi. Now that’s love. I look forward to re-watching it after graduation.

    Life begins Dec 18th, 2011. 🙂


  4. I saw Buffy for the first time two and a half years ago, and have watched repeatedly since then. I agree, season 6 is stellar. Once More With Feeling is still in my top 5.

    We’re going back to season 2 now because Mary has apparently never liked Spike or Drusilla. (What???)

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