Why It Matters

This past week at work, I got roped into reading for an essay contest. I know, I know. But the topic looked fun‘How Buffy Changed My Life’and besides, even if there were a few thousand entries, they were all supposed to be 250 or fewer words.
So, I read.
I was expecting pretty cliché responses, with fluffy content. After all, the prize was an appearance in Season Eight: the sort of thing that draws out the scariest corners of fandom. And yeah, there was some fluff. A few ‘I’m not really that into Buffy but I want to be on teevee and I know I’d be a star! Pick me lol k?’ (No. And Season Eight is direct to comics, kiddo. Do your damn homework).
But of the two-hundred-odd entries I read, the vast, vast majority were sincere. We heard from people who had identified strongly enough with characters to overcome major physical and psychological disabilities. Girls who had turned on Buffy and found a strong woman they related to, where they least expected her: in the dead center of the prime-time lineup. We got essays from men who talked about finding the first show and character they were proud to share with their mothers, their sisters, their daughters and wives; people who wrote that Buffy had inspired them to learn martial arts; read fantasy; study filmmaking; connect with their families; return to school; leave abusive partners; come out; stay alive. Those are just a fraction of the responses I read, and I read barely a tenth of the total.
There’s this tendency in the feminist comics community to be a bit prickly about Joss Whedon, because people keep touting him as someone who writes ‘for women,’ and we aren’t fond of being told what to read. But here’s the thing: Joss doesn’t write ‘for women.’ He writes for people. He creates characters and stories that transcend boundaries of gender, of age, of race, of sexual orientation and nationality. And that’s something we could use more of in a field that’s overwhelmingly focused towards young, straight, upper-middle-class white men. This is a guy whose favorite superhero wasand probably still isa gawky, geeky girl. He’s someone who can write stories in which gender isn’t every female character’s defining feature, in which queer characters are more than stereotypes. I may not be Buffy and Joss’s biggest fan, but if more characters and writers would follow their leads, I think comics would be much better for it.
And that’d change my life.
How have women in comics changed yours?