I admit it. My dark secret. I am a Buffy fan.
I discovered her when I was pregnant with my first. I don’t do pregnancy very well, and throwing up 7 times a day while working full time tends to make a girl exhausted. Which means I would come home from work and immediately collapse in front of the TV. Buffy was in her last season, with re-runs every night on TNT or something, and I discovered that I could watch two hours of Buffy every night if I timed my work schedule right. On Wednesday nights, it was three hours. I quickly learned that the later seasons aren’t worth the trouble (seriously, Season 6 has but one decent episode), but I was oddly fascinated by the first seasons, and found myself, at age 26, hooked to a show about vampires.
When my son was born, we lived in an apartment complex with another mormon family. The wife and I were both academic widows, meaning we spent many nights alone with our babies while our husbands were studying or in class. She and I spent a lot of time together, and I still treasure that bond of friendship forged in those long lonely days.
She wouldn’t watch Buffy with me, though.
We talked a lot about it, and she said she couldn’t understand why I liked it so much. After all, it is a campy horror show with bad effects and some not so understated sexual innuendo, and not a show one could call family friendly.
I thought about it and finally told her I liked it because Buffy was a superhero, a girl who was strong and powerful. I decided I liked watching shows about powerful women, women who could kick some serious butt. Back then, there weren’t a lot of women like Buffy on the small screen.
A lot of people think that because I like Buffy, I must like violent shows. I don’t, not really. I tried to watch 24 with my husband, but couldn’t take the cruelty. I tried to watch The Walking Dead, because everybody is talking about it on FB, and just couldn’t stomach the gore. My husband got into the show Prison Break a while back, and I had to leave the room during a riot scene.
So really, it’s not that I dig on violence. I think I just dig powerful women. There is something there that fascinates me. Or motivates me. Or makes me think that if there were more Buffies in the world, it would be a safer and happier place.
Recently, somebody expressed concern about some behaviors my son is exhibiting. It’s a long and painful story that I won’t get into now, but the word “aggressive” was used. And then that person told me that since he had never seen my husband be aggressive, my son must be getting it from his mother.
I was mortified, horrified, embarrassed, and hurt. It reminded me of a time in high school when, after a particularly acrimonious debate round, the judge pulled me aside and told me that he had found my aggression towards my opponent unwarranted. I was confused, as debate is sort of, by definition, an inherently aggressive activity. I asked him why he thought I was too aggressive, and he said (and I will never ever forget this), “You defiled your femininity.”
Because girl debaters are supposed to be feminine, dontcha know.
But then I decided I don’t have to apologize. I shouldn’t have to apologize for a show of strength, just because I’m a woman.
I don’t want my children to hurt or humiliate or bully other children. I want them to be kind and considerate and supportive of others. Since the above mentioned conversation, my son and I have had lots more conversations about treating people with respect and love, and dialing back physical play. But I also want my children to stand up for themselves, to use their voices, to make sure they are heard when they need something, to fight for justice when they are wronged, and to go for things they want, despite the obstacles.
And I don’t want other people to think my kids are easy targets. When a bigger kid put my son in a head lock on the playground with no adult in sight, it was hard not to applaud his actions when he defended himself by smashing the kid’s nose with his head. Both children were sent to the principal’s office, both were reprimanded by the teachers, and both got notes and phone calls home.
My son, however, has never been put in a head lock again.
Getting back to the Buffy example, I also want my daughter to feel she can act in a way that won’t “defile her femininity”, to know that being strong doesn’t mean being masculine, that she can be beautiful and lovely *and* have the strength to take care of herself, to defend herself against others, and, heaven forbid, have the wherewithal to fight like a demon if she is ever attacked. She may not be the Chosen One, but I’d sure like her to think she can fight like she is.
So how do we do this, moms? How do we strike this balance of teaching our kids strength without teaching them to hurt, teaching them to be feel powerful without putting other people down? How do we teach them that being strong doesn’t mean making other people look weak?
It’d be so much easier if the world was just made up of slayers and demons.