Everyone loves a hero, but we worship a good villain. Strong women come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, and sometimes that means looking up to a character who has no interest in being your role model. All this month, we're presenting Not Your Shero, a series that celebrates anti-heroes, villains, and all the women way too busy wreaking havoc to save you.
There exists in pop culture, and society in general, this idea that in order to exude strength, one must strip themselves of the feminine. That even in women, "girly" is vapid and senseless (read: weak) and masculine is the preferred sensibility if one is to appear what has become a fairly gendered term: badass.
This notion cuts both ways, unfair to the women and nonbinary folks who skew masc, and to the femme among us whose interests in hair, clothes, and makeup should in no way imply weakness.
Enter Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 Big Bad Glory (Clare Kramer), a literal god with perfectly tousled beach waves and a penchant for red dresses, an endlessly powerful and terrible being who is not your Barbie. She'll kill you with a snap without breaking a nail—not because she doesn't care about her nails (SHE DOES) but because dispatching mortals isn't worth chipping her polish.
She is girly. She is mighty. She is both at the same time.
In many ways, the Girly Badass sums up most of Joss Whedon's work. His women are unlikely heroines, because they are conventionally Hollywood thin and pretty, sometimes soft-spoken, emotional and with interests outside of their Chosen One calling. We may look back on this now with a different lens, but for me, this was crucial to my existence as a teenager and in my early 20s. When the world tells you to eschew your more typically female interests because they are unimportant or silly, that idea is engrained in us to the point it's difficult to change. Like all internalized misogyny, we have been trained in a lifelong boot camp and that is really, really hard to deprogram.
So when Glory arrives, literally beating down a steel door, dressed like a red dream, without a hint of broken sweat or heaving breath, this was revolutionary to me.
She spends her season power-punching our heroes, screaming at monks, turning into a timid male intern intermittently before finding her way back into her clothes-loving, perfectly coiffured body. That body is in relentless pursuit of a key, the key we later learn is Dawn Summers. She is flirtatious and sexy and funny and emotional and none of that makes her less powerful or dismisses her power as somehow ironic.
She's a god. She'll destroy you in an instant and still look amazing. Because strength is strength—however pretty the package it comes in.