Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A female Doctor?

I read an interesting article a few nights ago. I couldn’t sleep afterwards, because I was a little perturbed - angry, actually. What did I read? Oh nothing. Just this raging tirade of mansplaining and sexist whining: “Who should be the next Doctor? ANYONE but a woman! With the next Time Lord tipped to be a Time Lady, our TV critic explains why it can't happen” - by Christopher Stevens.

[I think you mean ‘shouldn’t’ happen, not ‘can’t’. ‘Can’t’ implies a lack of ability. Of which there isn’t.]

I’ll get right into it:

“The character faces his greatest ever threat - regenerate as a woman.”
Why is that a threat? A threat to what, exactly? Is being a woman a bad thing? I don’t understand, Mr Stevens - are you saying being a woman is a threat to a Time Lord’s way of life? Or it’s just bad to be a woman? There’s a word for that idea.

‘I would like to play the new female Doctor Who. I don’t just want to be his sidekick,’ Helen Mirren has said.
Bloody right she doesn’t want to be just a sidekick - and why should she only be considered as a sidekick? Because she’s a woman? There’s a word for that attitude.

“[Making the Doctor a woman] would betray a British tradition. The character has been a role model for three generations of boys.”
Boo-hoo, boys. There are two handfuls of other people you could use as a role model: James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Thor, some bounty hunter from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Kirk, Spock, Ben Ten. The list goes on. What do girls get? I dare you to name two.

If you think, Mr Stevens, that girls aren’t ALREADY play-acting at being the Doctor in playgrounds and back yards all over the UK, you’re very much mistaken. Why are they doing this? Because gender doesn’t matter when it’s a great character, and let’s face it, as a girl, you’re seriously out of options? Maybe. Maybe it’s just because there’s no-one else on TV.

I understand that boys need the Doctor to look up to - but wait, it doesn’t matter that girls don’t have anyone to grow up emulating? If you don’t want girls taking all your role models then write some girl ones. And I don’t mean pathetic attempts at Disney princesses like Cinderella and Snow White. What’s that you say? Those princesses are out-dated? Are you really that naiive? Look around - where are all the contemporary princesses that replaced them then? (We had a start - we had Meridia, from Brave, and the American media branded her a lesbian for not wanting an arranged marriage - because any girl who doesn’t do what society wants her to must have something wrong with them. But there again, why is the word ‘gay’ an insult? A post for another day.) Where are the female superheroes? Where are all the good, clever, independent female characters for girls on TV? Oh that’s right - you can’t think of more than two, can you? (After Black Widow, I’m stumped.)

Christopher Stevens implies it’s ok, because the Doctor always has a female sidekick - girls can aspire to be one of them. DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE? You want girls to aspire to be a SIDEKICK. As in, someone reliant on the main character. As in, someone badly fleshed out and seriously lacking in character development. As in, someone who cannot achieve or win on their own merit. That’s what you want your daughters to grow up as?

And when you say ‘but people should be able to choose what they want’ remember that women and girls ARE PEOPLE TOO. What you’re thinking is ‘men can choose what they want’. You’re half right: PEOPLE can choose what they want. Lest you’ve forgotten since the last paragraph, girls and women are people too.

If you want to believe that girls aren’t already play-acting at any one of your favourite man-crushes that you jealously keep so close to your chest, then look around at any ComicCon in the world. You’ll see gender-swap costumes all over the shop. Why? Because there is a serious lack of well written female characters - Han Solo’s attitude, Clint Barton’s personality, Storm Troopers are more fun when they’re female. Never mind that Leia was twice the badass that Luke ever was (the most common incarnation? The ‘Slave Leia in Bikini’. I wonder why). But there again - Leia was one female in a whole host of men. What if the movie had been different? What if every single character had been the opposite from the get-go - Yoda, Ben Kenobi, Han Solo, Luke, Darth Vader, the emperor, all the officers and soldiers - in fact EVERYONE - had been women, and only Leia had been a man? People would have assumed it was just a bunch of lesbians - because women cannot be friends without sex coming into it, obviously. Think about that, next time a man and his man-friends are off having a night out down the pub. Because if they’re all the same gender and they’re all gathered together, they must be gay. Why? I have no idea, but that’s what people think when women get together down the pub. But getting back to a gender-flipped Star Wars: people would not have accepted the movie, perhaps. They would have moaned that most of the cast were women, so the film would have been a boring litany of scenes about nails or hair or men or all those stereotypical tropes that men falsely believe occupy women’s minds.

“Why must the Doctor fall victim to a politically correct trend for ‘gender neutral’ childhoods?”
It’s not gender neutral, Mr Stevens, it’s ‘gender equality’. (‘Gender neutral’ would imply the Doctor doesn’t have one - which is interesting, as he’s spent most of his 1,000 years being asexual.) Why must you stop little girls from having a role model on TV as well as the boys? Do the girls not count as people? Are they second place to little boys? There’s a word for that attitude.

“It may come as a surprise to many in these liberated times, but most little boys still grow up wanting to be men.”
So why are you whining and moaning like a three-year-old, Mr Stevens? Why don’t you share with your son how women are people too and little girls also deserve role models on TV? Why do you feel that forty-nine years of Doctor Who stories isn’t enough for boys to draw on? Do you really think that making the Doctor a woman will somehow turn every little boy who watches the show into a girl? And while we're at it, you do realise that GIRLS watch the show too, right? So by your way of thinking, it's ok to turn every little girl who watches it into a boy? Thanks.

“And what finer example of a man — brave, reflective, with a keen sense of heroic duty — is there than Doctor Who?”
(I think you mean ‘The Doctor’, not ‘Doctor Who’, but we’ll let that pass.) Aeryn Sun, from Farscape. Leia Organa, from Star Wars. Kira Nerys, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. Oh, sorry - they’re not men. Whoops. And they’re also in sci-fi or fantasy, which means they’re safely ‘not real’, and can be dismissed as flights of - quite literally - fancy. Oh, and they’re not in the kind of shows that young children should be watching.

“The Doctor’s strength is that he always wins through by thinking rather than fighting.”
Welcome to what women have had to do for the last few hundred years, Mr Stevens. This is why we blog and debate and campaign for change, instead of stamping our feet and whining when we feel something is UNEQUAL.

“[He’s] an antidote to mainstream comic book and action movie heroes [like] Batman, Spiderman, Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, Rambo and Wolverine. The Doctor was specifically created to counter that trend.”
Tell me how that’s different from a woman.

The fact of the matter is that 51% OF THE WORLD is made up of women. And yet still, women don’t get any decent characters or in fact people on TV. You want girls to stop aspiring to be the Doctor? How dare you. The Doctor is limitless. He’s a Time Traveller. His friend the Corsair was a man or a woman at any given regeneration. The Doctor has travelled through at least four of the TARDIS’ eleven dimensions and seen a lot of shit. Why would being a woman for once be odd? (As in, for one regeneration.)

Oh, I forgot. A lot of people think that being a woman would be beneath him. Is being a woman so shameful? Less smart? Less capable? Apparently, Christopher Stevens and other journalists in the UK still think so. Thank you. Thank you for condemning my entire gender to the second place in every show, the background of every movie, the adjectival reference for the male of every book. Thank you for putting me in my ineffectual, sidekick place.

Would boys stop looking up to the Doctor simply because he became female? Or would it actually benefit their development into an emotionally mature, independent thinker, who takes people for their abilities and character instead of their gender or looks?

If boys really didn’t have the Doctor to look up to, who would they replace him with? Their fathers, perhaps. Would it be their mothers? They could do worse - because you know who else did that? Joss Whedon. George R. R. Martin. Maybe that’s why they write women as PEOPLE (and viewers vote with their money and make them popular), and not ‘the token female character’.

What you’re saying is, it doesn’t matter if girls don’t have anyone to look up to, because they don’t count. They don’t matter. That’s 51% of the world you’ve just dismissed as unimportant. Why? Don’t forget, around 75% of primary school teachers in the UK are women. Are you saying you don’t think they matter, except when they’re teaching your grubby little child manners in the classroom, how to wash their hands at break time, how to behave toward other students on the bus, how to become a tiny functioning person in society? Well done you.

Go on, say it - “That’s different.” Women are good teachers, because CHILDREN. It’s ok, because CHILDREN. Really? So all a girl has to look forward to is growing up, being someone’s sidekick, looking after children either for her job or her life, and clawing what respect and meagre pay she can (roughly 70% that of a male colleague in the same position) because of it. Wow. Because obviously, men can’t look after children. Obviously, men can’t be teachers and be effective nurturers of talent, of creativity, of learning. Unless they’re the Doctor. Oh, hang on, they can when there’s a high-paid university lecturer position going. But that’s ok, because that’s for GROWN-UPS. Children can be left with their wet-nurse of a female primary school teacher; real grown-up young PEOPLE can have real men to teach them. And when I wrote people, you read that as ‘men’, didn’t you?

But female characters on TV are crap characters, or the shows are awful, so they get cancelled’. Consider the source, son. Who wrote them? How much do they know about the subject? Why are they writing about something they know nothing about? (“I don’t understand women; they’re like aliens. I never know what they’re thinking” - said 60% of all men ever). I wouldn’t commission Michael Bay to write a tense, thrilling courtroom drama, or M. Night Shyamalan to write a Zucker brothers comedy. Similarly, I would never commission Stephen Moffat to write a convincing female companion - or a Doctor.

You know what? So far, Chiwetel Ejiofor has had my vote. But I’m re-evaluating that decision in light of all this controversy that isn’t and shouldn’t be: I vote they make the new Doctor Sue Perkins (except we all know they won't, because they won't even cast a non-Caucasian in the lead role; this is the BBC, remember. They're not here to rock any boats or actually change anything, or even keep up with the world). She'd be into science not shoes and physics and wormholes and one day a ‘pretty’ dress and one day a dapper suit, but the wisdom of ages and the knowledge of everything she’s ever done, as a PERSON, mixed up together in a maelstrom of fun, discovery and sheer joy of being alive and ABLE to keep on discovering.

Oh wait. That sounds like my mum.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1 comment:

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