I know my opinion is pretty unpopular, but I can’t stand Buffy. The show was on tv when I was in high school, and I tried watching it. I saw part of one episode and thought it was stupid. In college, my roommate loved it. I tried watching one episode with her. Again, it was stupid. But what I can’t stand about the show, or maybe just about her fans, is the notion that the show is feminist.
No. Just because a woman is the main character does not make the show feminist. Just because the woman is tough does not make the show feminist.
As I understand it, feminism is about equality. It is also about meaningful choice. Meaningful choice is making a decision between two or more choices which are mostly equally desirable. It’s choosing between frozen yogurt or ice cream. The froyo might be better for you, but the ice cream might taste better. It’s not a choice between one option that sucks and another that is great. There is a brand of feminism called choice feminism that says, in a nut shell, that any choice a woman makes is a feminist choice because it’s being made by a woman.For example: if a woman chooses to go into prostitution, it’s her choice and therefore, prostitution is feminist. I disagree, because we need to know why that woman made that choice. Did she make that choice because she was bullied into it by her husband or pimp? If so, then it is not meaningful choice and therefore not feminist. Did she make that choice because she didn’t have any skills and the job market was bad and this was the quickest way to pay her rent? If so, then again, not meaningful choice. Did she make this choice because the money was good and it can be done safely and legally and it gives her the money and free time to pursue her other goals (if any) and give her autonomy otherwise? Then this might be meaningful choice.
Buffy does not make meaningful choices. Being “the chosen one” (a concept that I hate generally), Buffy had to kill vampires and demons and things that go bump in the night. She didn’t have a choice. She can be tough and look pretty or traditionally feminine when she performs her only purpose, but because she is locked into this role (even when she tried to escape she found herself killing demons and then sucked back to Suckydale) there is no choice and it cannot be a feminist story.
Additionally, she has a stuffy middle aged father-type figure telling her what to do. IIRC, she rarely can make a move without him, and when she does, things go all to hell. And when he does leave, she wants/needs him back. I know that a slim minority of the watchers are women, but just having a vagina doesn’t make you a feminist. Look at Phyllis Schlafly. This concept of a watcher seems to make the point that even (or especially) strong, tough women need a handler and can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves. When Faith was watcher-less, she went bad. When Willow became powerful, she then needed Giles’s protection or help. Anya was also powerful, and I don’t recall her exactly having something like a watcher. A boss maybe, but that’s not the same thing. Besides, Anya was evil.
She only became good after she lost her powers.