Kelsey (kwritten) wrote,

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[meta] Dawn Summers: Fighting for an Alternative Feminist Narrative (3.1)

Herein lies (the beginning of) a list questions and comments from the discussion that took place after my presentation... or rather, the thinking and speculation that occurred because of some very specific points that were made in the discussion.
I had every intention of stopping here, but if I'm anything - I am verbose and don't want to make these posts too long; I find that prevents rather than encourages discussion. Instead, there will probably be three (?) posts that deal with the topics that arose in discussion. Primarily, what my thoughts are on them now.

Introduction: In which Kelsey rambles about Feminism and why she wrote this paper to begin with
Presentation: In which I promise to never refer to myself in the third person again (also other things)

Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing!!! This fandom has always been my safe space. Thank you for existing ♥

[Kleptomania pt 1]+ Dawn's kleptomania (pt 1)

There is a strong connection between Dawn's performativity and her bout of kleptomania after her mother's death. Primarily in the fact that it is quite literally practice for the day when she will pick up a sword (/cause) that does not belong to her and wield it as if it were her own. What could be suggested about her shoplifiting habits - within this reading in which Dawn's actions suggest a strong sense of performativity - is that she is performing the act of taking something that does not belong to her on a small scale, in preparation for taking up the sword at the end of season six.

While repeating an act, there is a sense that it becomes less important - some people refuse to say "I love you" unless it means something - the presumption being that with less usage, the words carry more weight, more meaning. In part, Dawn's repeated stealing escapades, removes her from the immediacy of the fact of taking something that has not been given to her. Rather than bringing us closer to the Real experience, repetition actually adds layers of meaning that distance us from the action or memory of the first action. By making a pattern in which taking, stealing, possessing objects that did not previously belong to her, and claiming ownership over those objects, Dawn is prepared to take the fallen sword in "Grave" and make it her own.

Noticeably, Dawn's shoplifting habits have to be kept a secret from the family that surrounds her; she hides the objects taken from the Magic Box in her room and does not use them, she lies to Buffy about the purchase of a leather jacket. The practice of stealing is not enough - Dawn's evolution from the kleptomaniac who keeps a hoard of jewelry hidden in her room, to the girl who not only picks up but also uses the sword – is dependent upon the process of ownership as well. The objects that Dawn takes and hoards are not known to others, she hides them secretly from the world. It is only after confronting the objects, showing them to others, claiming ownership of them, and letting them go – stripping them of their presumed meaning – that Dawn is able to use and wield the sword with her sister standing nearby.

In Joan Morse’s article, Dawn as Ophelia: the Conflicting Femininities of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she argues that Dawn’s stealing habit is linked to Buffy’s past as a “gang girl” – or, a rebellious teen. Morse reminds her readers of the flashback sequence that depicts Buffy in LA, meeting her first Watcher, and mistaking him for an employee at Bullock come to collect payment for something that she “meant” to pay for. Morse argues that, “Though we of course were not aware of Dawn's existence during this time, one still might assume that Buffy wielded some influence over Dawn as a "rebellious" older sister, rather than the lax "alternative parent" of the present” (12). Morse suggests that Dawn’s shoplifting is an example of “trying on” Buffy’s bad-girl persona, formed at a similar age. This added layer of watching, adopting, and performance, fits nicely into my ongoing discussion of Dawn’s performativity of the specific form of Femininity that Buffy represents. In Buffy’s life, being the “bad girl” is part and parcel of being the Slayer. For the majority of her life, Buffy is seen as a rebellious teen that is acting out, just the way any other teen might. Her Slayer duties lead to her skipping class, shirking curfew, involving herself in fights, burning down buildings. To the adult establishment of Sunnydale, Buffy is a teenage menace, wreaking havoc merely to act out or to seek attention. For a few years after becoming the Slayer, Buffy’s own mother believes that her daughter merely has a tendency to fall in with the wrong crowd.

Buffy is believed, by the System around her, to be a rebellious teen and (as Morse points out) engaged in shoplifting at least once before becoming the Slayer; if Dawn is to take her place next to Buffy in a position that subverts and rebels against the established Patriarchy, she must first rebel. Although a tool of the Watcher’s Council and therefore a tool of Patriarchy, Buffy very early breaks ties with the Council and strikes out on her own, becoming the warrior and leader for her own group of Scoobies. Buffy’s story is unique to the other Slayers we know, because she rebels against the Council, but continues to do her job. Unlike Kendra, who is the Council’s girl through and through, or Faith, who plays the other side as a form of her rebellion, Buffy never stops being the Slayer – she just takes a break from the Council for a few years. What we have then, in the figure of Buffy, is a girl who is seen as a rebel by her peers, rejects the System that she continues to work for, flips the Council on its head in order to prove her own power (“Checkpoint”), and then rejects the protocol that defers all power only to her, releasing that power on a group of females.

Buffy tenuously stands on the line between the System of Patriarchy that uses her power for its own sake, and on the front lines of a battle that would exist regardless of that System that maintains control because of it. She is both rebel and protector of the world within which she resides; both the girl who is a tool who refuses to be used and a reluctant warrior who insists on fighting. Dawn’s very small rebellions, stealing knick-knacks from stores, in light of Buffy’s position only further illustrates how Dawn’s performativity operates. Dawn’s shoplifting, taking things that do not belong to her – even in some cases giving the objects to others such as in the case of Buffy’s leather jacket – is a microcosm, an echo, a shadow of the actions she has watched her sister perform over the span of her short life.

Rebelling is necessary in order to gain power, taking what others say do not belong to you is necessary in order to take and possess the power you believe you deserve. Although Buffy is rebelling against the Watcher’s Council, against a society that says women should be trodden down, and Dawn is literally stealing from other members in her community (literally, in the case of Anya and the Magic Box) – as a metaphor, Dawn’s usurpation of these objects is a clear reflection of Buffy’s actions.

[edit] Kleptomania pt 2: Dawn and Objects

note: I've been having this LOVELY problem where the minute I sit down to write this, I can't. I can't explain why I can't - it just is. I start doing other things, trolling the internet, boring myself with ridiculously pointless google searches - you name it, I've done it to avoid, totally distracted and unable to focus at all. Today/recently, I realized that all this "ADD"-behavior is me avoiding the painful anxiety every time I start trying to work on this. Like, chest clenching up, near inability to breathe, close to tears, physical anxiety. I just want to know: is this normal? is this like, thesis-anxiety and I should be able to push through it? the physicality of it terrifies me (and makes it worse I'm sure) the most. I'm just not sure at this point if it's the thesis, the week I've had, the upcoming life changes, or a legitimate problem that I've been avoiding/ignoring.
Tags: dawnie is my personal hero, dragon: trauma, meta, meta series: dawn, sometimes i channel taylor townsend, thesis of awesome, thinky thoughts, tmi: kelsey lives
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