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May 26 2006

Sugar and spite - the dark side of girl power. Buffy gets cited as an example for a new theory that suggests that television is causing girls to be more aggressive.

You know ..... I'm speechless .... Not because I have nothing to say. But that I don't know where to begin and what hasn't been said a gazillion times before. It's just funny to the nth degree.
Yes, this is silly beyond the telling of it.
I agree with RavenU. (eyes rolling...)
Darn, the end of civilization is taking longer than expected...
Two gs in aggressive Simon. You're slipping :o
I don't want to think about what 'Joey' is responsible for, then.
Ya cheeky monkey - after 2470 links, I think we can cut the S-Man some slack.

(Yeah, I know you're joshing . . .:)

As for the article, it's kinda sending mixed messages, isn't it? Rising aggression in girls is bad, apparently - but the alternative is "traditional" passivity and lack of pushiness (push?). Are we supposed to believe passivity is preferable to aggression? And are those the only two choices? Feh.
Well, without wanting to go down the road of politics too much, I geninuely think there's people out there who love passivity. Like, a lot.
So how does this theory apply to our friends from Sunnydale?

The only example I can think of is the lovely yet shy (passive) Tara. After hanging out with the Scoobie Gang for a few episodes, she's all about cracking jokes and telling her abusive family to take a hike.

So I guess the author is correct, Buffy makes girls more aggressive.
It is everyone's fault but the parents..as usual.
There's a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Assertiveness is standing up for yourself through peaceful means, and aggressiveness is being malicious toward someone through violent means. People often confuse the two and make it seem as if girls who can defend themselves physically are aggressive.

In the case of Tara, she became assertive, letting her family know her opinion. Aggressive would be using physical force or malicious comments.

When the article starts talking about how "girls don't hit" it clearly does not understand the context in which Buffy operates. The character of Buffy never intentionally harmed an innocent person. She was always on the defensive or offensive against forces of evil, as silly as it might sound in an academic setting. This article is making it seem as if she walks down the streets of Sunnydale nightly beating on the elderly and crippled.

It certainly does not ever give the message that hitting itself is correct, just that when someting with big sharp fangs and claws is coming toward you, it probably isn't looking for a hug and a chat. It has taught girls the importance of defending oneself, in my opinion.

Of course boys are taught that hitting is fine, and that when one boy hits you, you hit them right back (explains Mal's little spiel to Saffron in 'Our Mrs. Reynolds'). Girls are taught to talk it out, to communicate. But little girls grow up and some of them end up dealing with little boys who have also grown up, grown up to become aggressive, horrible individuals who will hit out of absolute anger and who will attack. Are girls becoming more aggressive bad? Only if they start hitting for the sake of hitting, not in defense. Is it bad they're being more assertive? Heck no. I say bring on the assertiveness.

[ edited by LollipopKid on 2006-05-26 22:04 ]
Funny--for the first half of the article, it really isn't clear whether the writer considered the rising aggression a god or a bad thing.
Hum-m-m, we sure don’t want women standing up for themselves, solving their own problems, or being independent. No, that would be bad, because everybody knows that independence and aggression go hand-in-hand!

Or, maybe Professor James Garbarino simply missed the point of “Buffy” and “Lara Croft”. Maybe his traditional view of passive women as being a good thing, interferes with his ability to see women as capable decision makers in charge of their own lives. Me thinks he needs a concentrated dose of Whedon-written female characters.
It certainly does not ever give the message that hitting itself is correct, just that when someting with big sharp fangs and claws is coming toward you, it probably isn't looking for a hug and a chat. It has taught girls the importance of defending oneself, in my opinion.

I agree completely, LollipopKid. BtVS isn't about promoting violence – at all – but it is certainly about being proactive and doing something about it when you – or your friends, family, or the world – is threatened. There was always a very clear distinction about the sort of people Buffy used her powers against, and they were very rarely – almost never – even "people," but rather soulless beings intent on evil.
I don't see how Buffy's message can be interpreted as anything but a positive thing for girls – it's all about being assertive and proactive and empowered and standing up for yourself and taking positive steps rather than feeling helpless. Yes, some of Buffy's power was physical, but she didn't misuse it, and I don't think the show at all promoted only a physical version of empowerment for women.

Someone clearly has never watched much Buffy, and cites it as just another example of women beating things up, which they've decided is always negative. Pshaw.
The article misspells "Loyola," and as far as I know, unlike big print outlets Simon doesn't have a proofreader, so some slack.

"Girls don't hit?" When and where was this? Girls certainly fought at the schools I went to.
acp, well put.

Not only that though, I want to point out the case of Faith, who did use her ability to harm innocent people. She can be termed as "aggressive" while Buffy was "assertive." Faith didn't care about what happened to innocent people. As far as she was concerned, they were collateral damage. The show clearly pointed out the faults in behaving in such a way, whereas it pointed out the positives of Buffy's thought-based actions and behavior. She thought things out before acting, she consulted older, wiser people before making decisions.

I think the show has actually helped strengthen the "family" connection between teenagers and families, because it emphasized that Joyce and father-figures such as Giles were important to a strong, proactive, assertive girl like Buffy. It didn't tell girls that they could be like Buffy and do everything on their own and never ask for help.
This is shocking news. Clearly we need to bring back shows like Donna Reed and Father knows Best, which had a much more salutary effect on girls.

(Also, apparently a lot of studies suggest that viewing television violence increases the likelihood of children being aggressive. And here I thought Buffy was perfect kiddie fare.)
You know, I know a lot of girls and women who have watched Buffy and Tomb Raider and I don't see them randomly walking down the street punching people and getting arrested.

This whole article just pisses me off. We have seen footage of a girl being abducted in broad daylight and she just passively goes off with the guy because she didn't know what else to do and he brutally raped and murdered her. Maybe if that poor girl had watched Buffy it may have made a difference. She may have had the courage to yell out or pull away.

I will not deny that there has been an increase in females being arrested for these types of things but let's realistically look at why this could be occuring. Maybe it has a lot to do with more families living in poverty, lack of father figures in these girls lives and mothers being abandoned by deadbeat fathers than watching a confident self assured woman on tv.

And I wholeheartedly feel that Buffy is a role model. I have two teenage girls and Buffy episodes gave me an opening to discuss many things like date violence, what makes a good relationship, having sex when you aren't ready and protecting yourself. I truly feel that watching Buffy with my girls and discussing the show and what was happening has helped me and my husband have a more open and meaningful relationship with our daughters.

One episode in particular where the girl was being beat up by Jekyl and Hyde boyfriend is a perfect example of what types of conversations we talked about. That girl was passive and kept trying to please her boyfriend no matter how horribly he treated her. It is a sad fact that in America young girls are routinely hit by their boyfriends and they accept it. Here was an episode where this happened and Buffy told the girl over and over how wrong it was
Two gs in aggressive Simon. You're slipping :o


I'm only 7 days away from retirement!

Ya cheeky monkey - after 2470 links, I think we can cut the S-Man some slack.


I plan to quit at 2500 links ah who I am kidding ;).

Did anyone else think this article gave the impression of "Woman. Know your place"?
Huh. I concede that there may be a trend towards "aggression" in some teen girls, but Buffy and Lara Croft as catalyst? Doesn't "aggression" suggest a tendency towards inappropriate violence? Someone always looking to start a fight, or get up in someone's face just to be a dick? Methinks Buffy and Lara are examples of strong women who fight their own battles when confronted with violence and only then. Not the same thing. Or do some of us label women with the characteristics of male heros as "aggressive?" Sure they do, but I don't wanna stir that pot again, here.

I for one loved the ass-kickyness of Buffy and Lara. Was intrigued by their fighting skills, and even enticed to try some kickboxing my own self. Fast forward to this morning, in a meeting with a nasty woman who keeps trying to undermine me in order to cover her own ass, I somehow restrained myself from throwing a single punch. Yet back in February, when a man broke into my house and bedroom in the middle of the night looking for, well, passivity, i suppose, I fought like a feral beast. If you had snapped a picture in the dark, it sure looked like aggression and violence, but put it in it's context, and there's some sort of illustrative lesson there, I think.

Connecting Buffy & Lara Croft to an increase in violence and agression in girls is just the kind of lazy that gave us the picketing clergy who called Last Temptation of Christ blasphemy. Priests angrily labelled it so for the cameras because it "suggested Jesus had married, had sex, and had a family." If you actually watch the film, you'll see this lengthy 'horrific' scene where JC comes down off the cross in favor of a long life of domestic bliss. Stick with it, though and you'll witness him reject this "last temptation" proffered in a hallucination by Satan, in attempt to steer our hero from martyrdom. "It is finished."

All that to say this: tune in at the right 30 seconds, and you've got yourself a sound bite. Actually watch what you're on about before you hang it on the mantle of your argument, and you might have a serious intellectual discussion on your hands. Heaven forfend.

ETA: Whoops, got distracted whilst typing and many have posted since, saying much of what I was thinking, only better. So, yeah. What they said. :)

[ edited by barest_smidgen on 2006-05-26 23:08 ]
I like the assertiveness/aggression distinction. And thanks for the testimonies, bl and barest (barest_smidgen, get a handle that doesn't shorten to bs, would'ja? ;)

I routinely tell both my kids (one girl, one boy) that (starting) fighting is bad, and that they shouldn't hit out in anger - but if someone hits them first, they should fight back as hard as they need to. Self-defense shouldn't be a gender matter. And if BtVS helps get that message across - excellent!
Women as fighters is hardly a new thing, perhaps it is just one more trait that society has tried to smother that is raising its head. Over here in the UK there has undoubtedly been an increase in female aggression, and not of the "good" self defence kind. I feel this is more due to the youth feeling disenfranchised from society than being affected by TV and computer games, but as usual people are looking for simple sound bites to cover important complex issues. Someone oughta write a TV series about it.
It's all Manson's fault!
This entire conversation reminds me of an interview Joss had with SF Said. He said,

"Even on the drive up here, the driver was telling us about the history of the place, and he says, "In this square, this is where people were hanged, and the women were burned at the stake — they would burn a woman at the stake in the Sixteenth Century just for saying no to a man — wouldn’t it be great if we could do that today?" And instead of just thinking it, I said, "Actually, no, it wouldn’t, and it’s a little bit creepy that you just said that.""

And I think that is entirely appropriate because Joss has been a champion of the girl power character. His heroes are always assertive, not aggressive. They're human beings, not monsters.
On one hand, I agree that tv can't make anyone do anything. It can't make anyone behave in a certain way, thank god. I'm also on board with 'feminine' and 'assertive' being all mixed up together in a sexy girl power package. As people have said Buffy shows violence as situational and instrumental,ie having a purpose, and that is for 'good'.

However, there's no point in pretending that watching Buffy kick ass doesn't look cool. It's meant to. I can't agree that tv is responsible for girls being more aggressive, but it is true that media is influential, and while Buffy shows the consequences of violence and abuse, lots of shows don't, and instead glorify it. How many cop shows focus more often on women being killed, raped, etc. So while the article is off the mark in focusing on gender, I don't think the point behind it is entirely without merit.

Violence in many tv shows/ films/ games/ whatever is sensational, without consequence, easy. It's shown as cool, it solves the problem, it says something about who you are and while it can't make anyone do anything, people emulate what they see. If they didn't, would barest have been inspired to take up kickboxing? I don't know if I'd be where I am today without being inspired by Buffy, but sadly not everyone is like me...;)
My elder sister was a ferociously strong "tomboy"...she used to beat me without mercy...throw bullet spiral footballs in my gut..it all made me stronger....I never had a problem with the notion of the strong female...she was a legend.

She's an artist now...doing fine.
Is it just me, or did this guy just blindly assume that these girls who are hitting and being arrested for assault are Buffy fans and playing Lara Croft? Somehow, I think the young women who are getting in trouble for violence are not the same who might be watching Buffy. In fact, I would bet if they watched BtVS, they'd be less likely to be fighting, because they'd have reasons to increase their self-esteem and demand more respect, IMO.

And if he's worried about what images in the media do, then why isn't he worried about images of women who are treated like s*** in music ("I ain't sayin' she's a golddigger, but..." or other images of women being a ho')?!

And, yeah, assertive and aggressive are different, and, yeah, it did sound like this guy was longing for the good ol' days of "girls knowing their place." This was just a big mess, grrr.
Did anyone else think this article gave the impression of "Woman. Know your place"?


Very much so.

[ edited by ElectricSpaceGirl on 2006-05-27 11:01 ]
It goes with the idea that women who speak up for themselves and for their gender are "feminists" and lesbians. It's quite disturbing.
SNT, I agree. Women have just as much agression as men. Just look at females in the animal kingdom.

It's much better for girls to express their anger than to result in the stereotypical fashion of being passive-agressive.

All children should be taught to respect others and walk away from tense situations without sorting to violence, that there are better ways of solving a problem than a round of fisticuffs.

But, both sexes should also know it's okay for them to defend themselves.

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