Sunday, November 20, 2011
The Funny Thing About "Girl Power"
This article by Rachel Fudge, titled "The Buffy Effect," was published in Bitch Magazine back in 1999, when the Buffy TV series was only about halfway complete. It covers a lot of important aspects of Buffy, such as how "Buffy was explicitly conceived as a feminist reimagining of the horror genre," how "Buffy could be the poster girl for an entire decade of girl-oriented mass media/culture" (what with her ability to flip, fight, and defeat demons while keeping her hair and makeup impeccable), and how Buffy lives "many a girl/woman’s dream: to be able to walk down any street of any town at any hour of the day or night, knowing she can defeat any monster who crosses her path." Alright, the last one may be a bit cheesy and outdated, but no one can deny that having some Slayer skills will considerably improve one's self-confidence.
Although much of the article praises how Buffy's strength and sass wins points for the feminist movement, I was most drawn toward one of the article's main points that "While girl power and the accompanying mania for girl culture has certainly helped spread pro-feminist, pro-female messages throughout the land, it also threatens to turn empowerment into yet another product." After all, hasn't this been the case for almost every book, show, or trend that at least somewhat promotes the "girls kick ass" idea? It's impossible to name a superheroine that hasn't appeared on or influenced at least a million shirts, novelty gifts, beverages, or cereals, whether they are cartoon characters (say, The Powerpuff Girls) or more tangible ones like Buffy. The trademark phrases, actions, or appearances from our favorite heroines that are widely talked about are also eventually mass-marketed (Halloween costumes are an example).
The article says it perfectly with "Herein lie the limitations inherent in the Buffy phenom: “Girl power” as articulated in the mass media (and mass marketing) is often misrepresented as de facto feminism, when in fact it’s a diluted imitation of female empowerment." Isn't that equivalent to the disempowerment of female role models, then, as they are placed in the same category as a trendy toy or gadget?