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.