Where do you draw the line?

// 8 January 2012

Tags: , , , , ,

moody black and white photo of a dalek in a fieldI’ve spent a lot of time recently considering the various problems with things I like. I don’t know if it’s just me being a “humourless feminazi” (it’s not), but I find it incredibly difficult to continue liking something after I’ve noticed a big glaring political problem with it. My question is though, where can a line be drawn? When do you say that something has gone too far and wash your hands of it straight away?

After the crushing, heartrending disappointment of the Doctor Who Christmas special, where the female characters were only “strong” because of their reproductive capacities (not because they could commandeer freaking walking robo-spaceships) and the generally crappy way women have been portrayed by Steven Moffat in the show in other episodes, am I going to stop watching Doctor Who? Well, no. I think this post on how to like problematic things is a good guide to how I feel about it (accept that some of the things you like are crappy, criticise the crappy bits and don’t try to defend them to other people because you like the rest of the show) – but sometimes that just can’t cut it.

So where can one draw the line? I think a lot of it has to do with the expectations you have of a group or person. It’s far more disappointing when a group you would hope to be inclusive or “right on” turns out to be just like the rest of the world. When the Occupy movement started, I voiced my concerns that they were reflecting the same tired old privileges, and although I tried to get involved, my original sympathy to the movement quickly disappeared. The same criticisms have been made of the atheist/skeptics movement, the anarchist movement and feminism itself. As a great believer in intersectionality, I refuse to be involved politically with a group who want to fight for their rights while continuing to oppress other people. If anything, it just doesn’t make sense.

But with political movements, there are always small sub-communities where the members do accept the problems with the wider community whilst still self-identifying with it (i.e. anarcha-feminism – the topic of a future post). So where does one say “enough is enough” when discussing popular culture, since that isn’t possible?

My rule of thumb for this is usually “when the person has been made aware of the problems with their comments/stances and refuses to either apologise or even consider that they may need to”. For instance, I loved Amanda Palmer. Loved her pro-choice, pro-natural appearance, pro-feminist music. But then some feminists questioned her stance on disability rights (because of her Evelyn Evelyn project), and instead of admitting the problematic nature of her fetishising conjoined twins for a laugh, she instead went on Australian TV and had a pop at “handicapped feminists”. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to her since I found that out, because it’s just so disappointing.

Another good example is Caitlin Moran. I’ll admit now to never being a huge fan of her, but that’s probably because the first time I became fully aware of her was when she was being (rightly) criticised for unapologetically using the word “retard” in her book How To Be A Woman. However, a couple of months later on Twitter she used the word “tranny”. I (and many others) tweeted at her to point out that it’s a really offensive word, which is considered a term of abuse. Instead of acknowledging this or apologising, she simply blocked anyone criticising her. Since then I’ve had absolutely no time for her or anything she does.

But I still like Doctor Who. This could just be because Moffat’s problems usually stem from benevolent sexism rather than actual “malice” towards women, and I don’t expect much from what I should always remember is a children’s TV show, or it could just be because I’m a massive hypocrite who wants to have her lefty-activist-vegan-carbon-neutral-fairtrade-dalek-shaped cake and eat it.

Sorry for the somewhat rambling nature of this post, but it is a topic that consistently plays on my mind, and it’s difficult to explain and try to rationalise my gut reactions. As ever, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this. Do you still watch/listen to/participate in things you consider to be problematic? Why? Where is your line drawn? What else should I be boycotting?!

Photo by Johnson Cameraface, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Comments From You

Lisa // Posted 8 January 2012 at 11:23 am

My line is based on whether I get enough enjoyment out of the (so-called) entertainment to make up for the fist-shaking it causes. Because things make me feel more or less fist-shaky at different times, my line moves based on my mood. I’ve found a base-level expectation that Things Produced Under Patriarchy And Other Systems Of Oppression will contain awful themes, combined with a relaxed attitude to walking out / turning them off, combined with a willingness to assert, “I don’t want to talk about that show”, give me the freedom/space to enjoy things when I feel like enjoying them.

It’s definitely a case of whiplash when something I love turns out awful. I don’t think there’s anything hypocritical about continuing to enjoy something, though, even when it’s sucked. Maybe there’s something about the situation where you start financially supporting the thing that sucks (and hence its creators/distributors) but even then, I think we’re all complicit in a lot of things; as marginalised angry feminazis, let’s take our refreshment where we can find it.

There’s also a lot to be said for doing queer/mocking readings of problematic material, or even engaging with it in ways that let us take back some of the power through the creation of our own fan material or rewrites. For example I did a rewritten scene after watching the most recent Girl With A Dragon Tattoo film, and everything felt much better after that. I think there can be problems when fan communities vehemently defend ‘their’ community against progressive criticism (e.g. the Whedon fans) but I don’t think that’s usually coming from feminists. ;)

I’m looking forward to hearing you talk about anarchafeminism (fellow af here).

Feminist Avatar // Posted 8 January 2012 at 1:06 pm

My (probably unhelpful) thoughts on this are: 1) it’s ok not to have a general rule; I think these things should be taken on a case to case basis, and my own personal rule of thumb is about a general weighing of pros and cons (is it a one off, consistently problematic, hateful or not, etc), with a dash of following my gut; and 2) we shouldn’t always throw the baby out with the bathwater. And this last comes because I think it often seems to be women who get ‘thrown out’ for making problematic comments (Diane Abbott being a recent example), where men are forgiven again and again for being sexist (or otherwise offensive), for example Stephen Fry. It irritates me how quickly women can have their entire oevre of works banned from feminist reading lists, because they said something stupid, or have a problematic opinion in a particular area. I am not saying, of course, that this should be condoned, but why do we ignore a lifetime of good work because it’s not 100% up to scratch.

I have recently taken the entirely idiosyncratic personal decision not to watch panel shows where women don’t have above 40% representation. It has cut down on my comedy viewing considerably, but I am not feeling the loss.

Alasdair // Posted 8 January 2012 at 1:12 pm

Interesting article, but there simply isn’t an easy answer. There isn’t a simple test you can apply to determine if a work is feminist or not (and still less if a *person* is pro-feminist or not). Ultimately, everyone just has to make their own judgement about what they find acceptable. For my part, I like the work of Caitlin Moran and Amanda Palmer and I’m not willing to ‘write them off’ just yet; as far as I’m concerned, both have done much more good for feminism than bad. But I don’t judge you for having a different ‘limit’ and feeling differently.

As for Doctor Who, I would not call it a feminist show, but I continue to enjoy it despite its problematic gender politics. I agree that the article on ‘how to like problematic things’ is relevant here: sometimes you just have to accept that something you like has serious problems, which doesn’t mean you have to stop liking it, but you shouldn’t ignore those problems and should complain about them and make sure others are aware of them.

Alice Stamataki // Posted 8 January 2012 at 1:19 pm

It’s interesting that you mention Amanda Palmer – I, likewise used to be a big fan. At the time the Evelyn Evelyn stuff came out, I wasn’t really clued up to the issues of ableism and privilege – in my defense, I was pretty young, and working my ass off for school exams. But still, I remember that something in it just struck a wrong note in me. I didn’t quite know why – there was just something about it that made me feel uneasy. It must have been quite strong, though, as I consciously decided not to listen to that particular record and have since found my interest in her projects flagging.

However, I must admit I’m not completely free from this hypocrisy. I love graphic novels, despite the way many of them depict and treat women. Despite the fact that I could run the risk of being harassed, groped, and kicked out (http://bit.ly/yWhaAt) of the San Diego Comic-Con, I’d be there in a flash if I could. I freely admit that this makes a bit of hypocrite – though I will happily raise these issues with anyone who’d listen to me, and discuss ways to move on from these attitudes. I make a conscious decision to try and support the small, but growing, section of women (and POC, and otherwise non-hetero-cis-male) writers and artists in the comic book industry – but still, if their comic sucks, I’m not buying it. Sometimes, when a mildly-discriminatory graphic novel is just original and mind-blowing and fuuuuuun it can make you overlook a hell of a lot.

A lot of this could stem down to what some people would view as us being too extreme (feminazi cunt) – or the art not being extreme enough. This is a ridiculous argument – if someone says, at any point, it’s not okay to discriminate against x group of people but it’s fine to do that to y, then they’re a dickhead. And a hypocritical dickhead to boot. Real equality IS bloody extreme. Just like freedom, it’s an absolute.

gadgetgal // Posted 8 January 2012 at 1:45 pm

I have difficulty with this one too – I stopped watching Woody Allen films after 1992 and Roman Polanski films after I learned about his past (right after I saw The Piano, which is brilliant, however problematic he is as a person). My rules usually fall into power idea rather than the apology – even if someone apologises it doesn’t erase what they’ve done, or even mean that they mean it, so I must admit I still listen to Dresden Dolls and I love Caitlin Moran’s book, even though I know it’s problematic. I still do watch Doctor Who, but I find Steven Moffat less forgivable than you do – he’s in a greater position of power and influence than either Moran or Palmer, and I hate the insidious sexist tropes more than someone just stating their views if I don’t agree with them.

Sometimes it’s also about degree of harm – I stopped watching Two and a Half Men (which I enjoyed and thought was funny) after learning about Charlie Sheen’s past and present, but I was gutted that I might then need to throw away my copy of Ferris Bueller too. But then it occurred to me it has Jeffrey Jones in it and he’s a convicted sex offender, and I haven’t watched it, or anything else with him in it since then anyway! That’s part of the reason why I can justify still watching Doctor Who or Sherlock even though the sexism is rampant – it’s a problem, but I know it’s there, and I’m not funding something even more awful and nefarious by doing it!

Laurel // Posted 8 January 2012 at 2:27 pm

You were chatting about the anarchist movement and i was curious which groups/events this was? i experienced sexism in the occupy movement in just feeling completely left out of it, however so far I haven’t had trouble with anarchist groups. Individuals don’t get feminism, or are ignorant towards what it really means, or really aren’t good at checking their privileges, and some people really aren’t the anarchists that they think they are. But always I have seen an effort being made specifically. The AFED encourages anarcha-feminist groups at its branches (though some branches will be more male-dominated/sexist than others (It can really depend on who started it sometimes) and you tend to find that work and union-based groups are largely male, however as a vocal and outspoken woman it hasn’t caused me any problems.

The bookfair this year had facilities for physically disabled and hearing disabled and asked to be notified for any other difficulties. It had a creshe facitily running all day, and workshops including on spirituality, mumia, black space, women and the cuts, sex work and anarcha-feminism, a deaf space (which was REALLY interesting) how white privileged are you? and is very queer-friendly. There were other things focused on youth and the riots, and people from other countries were over talking about their movement, Darcus Howell spoke, and there was an emotional talk from the people who had just been through the dale farm eviction.

I’ve found these efforts being made to some degree or another every time I’ve been to an event, but that may be because largely I’ve been to events I set up myself with Lincoln Underground Collective, by Sheffield AF who I trust a lot, Manchester, and big national London events?

Sorry about how derailing that is!

As for the rest of the post, the majority of time now I just avoid the TV and media generally, filter my news through facebook, and only make excuses for really good shows, or ones where it could be down to lack of diversity rather than an ism. For example, having a motherly or feminine, or annoying bimbo character isn’t sexist. Having them represent all women is. I try to imagine, if there were well rounded and interesting characters who deviate from the normal roles, would that make those other characters seem okay, or would they seem hideously out of place in the show? If the latter is that because all the characters are humorous/cut outs, or because its a dude show or both?

I study animation so I look largely at the animated world, and there are actually a decent lot of shows, though mine is usually for the younger demographics. Daria passes any test because even if you don’t like or agree with the main characters, its apparent that they are flawed, and wrong and are being cynical to deal with the position that they are in, and with lack of an alternative rolemodel to see things like. Having the fashion club and Brittany doesn’t change that. In fact, having their characters built upon as time goes on makes a lot of them very likeable, and definitely sympathetic characters.

The new My Little Pony by Lauren Faust has attracted a large male audience, and picks typical personalities (smart, funny, vain, competitive, shy, homely) but does them in a complex way, and often in ways that we are not used to seeing female characters portrayed as. If you want an example of girl’s sticking together as friends, this is for you. The only example where a character saved herself so far is when the prissiest one used her feminine charms and flaws as a way to escape. Whilst there may be some problems with that, the message was a good one.

“Just because somepony is ladylike doesn’t make her weak. In fact, by using her wits a seemingly defenseless pony can be the one who outsmarts and outshines them all.” And actually she is my favourite character because I find her to have the most different sides to her personality.

If there are typical “high school” shows, I go with Braceface (animal rights activist, and there’s an episode on her getting her period), The Weekenders (Disney, very liberal/social democrat and genuinely funny. 2:2 boygirl ratio), Pepper Ann (very interesting gender play with her sister moose) and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t have feminist credentials but doesn’t go against them either.

Action shows I find hardest. From my youth, Gargoyles has to win. Like many similar shows, it has a token female helpmeet, but unlike the other shows, she is useful on a regular basis, not only as the guide around the city, but also thinking up plans and fighting. This doesn’t pass the Bechdel test for quite some time through, with the only regular female gargoyle being evil (and it falling into the good-girl bad-girl trap) until we meet Angela, after which the Bechdel test is passed, but the division is wider, and by that time there have been so many characters met that the lack of notable female characters can’t really be excused. There are always women in the background though. Even in hired mercenary groups, armed vigilantes etc, it’s about 1:4, and often somewhat gender-variant to boot.

More notable female characters would not seem out of place, so I watch, because if there was a next series and they had them, then the problems with it would be able to melt away. Also to that list would be the old Sonic series. A lot of the more zany shows are guy-led, which makes me sad, but I still watched and enjoyed the shows. Dexter’s Lab, Jonny Bravo, (the people who like Spongebob) etc, and some of that still exists now. Of course The Powerpuff Girls also existed, and was certainly not “a girl’s show”.

Speaking of girl’s shows, I do feel that I missed out of the 80s. Not because of Jem and the Holograms, but because the old MLP was like a feminist anarchist commune in a way, and because shows (okay, franchises) like Rainbow Bright and She-Ra were ACTUALLY adventure shows with real battles and women and girls out on their own. We have that to an extent today, but usually those aren’t continuous shows or shows that take themselves seriously (Totally Spies, Atomic Betty, Kim Possible, W.I.T.C.H [okay, the last one is in a different category, even though it falls into the trap] etc) and whilst I’d prefer so many revolutionary shows if they weren’t trying to restore their rightful monarchies, it’s really something that is lacking, to have a female character who has something important to do but ISN’T trying to combine it with highschool and guys. Where’s my Pippi Longstocking?

As with music… well usually I will drop an artist at the first sniff of prejudice, however, if they have more political or cleverly artistic types of music then I may do it on a more song-by-song basis. I have Immortal Technique, but very few of his songs will play in my lists, and that’s a real shame, but I actually don’t want to hear some of those threats and words at all. Basically, they have to convince me that they have something different and worth sticking around for if they come out with that. It’s the same with any artists, especially if I can subvert their meaning, like with Robert Crumb, or The Stranglers (pro-sex Pin-ups, Burlesque and Psychobilly and bad Horror/Romance films for others maybe). Guilty Pleasures. But ONLY if you can enjoy the cringey parts too, in your own personal way. Same if you can give historical context, like with LotR. Nothing is especially WRONG, but a hell of a lot is in dodgy territory and we should accept that it can be problematic and understand why, but I can still enjoy the films, because, let’s face it, it was made for white people, and I’m white, and into my cultural history and language.

With films, personally, Im way more harsh, because I trigger, and I don’t get comedy in live action much, so if something irritates me, then there’s no way that I’ll be able to sit back and enjoy it. It’s at the point where if it isn’t artsy or animated (with the exception of animé, and “adult” shows) then I have to look up the film, and browse the plot-line for sexual violence before watching it. It’ll generally only even get to this stage if it looks like it isn’t going to have women in there for purely a love interest/bitch/mom character, and assert “liberal” centrist status quo values throughout the film. I’d rather have no female characters in a film than have them sloppily written in for kick-ass-boobs. That said, if it’s a comedy, then a main cast of 4 largely male/straight/white characters is a no-no until I hear otherwise. I probably miss out on some great films. For example, I LOVE Ratrace, which falls into so many traps, but it lets me identify with the male characters and I find it funny because it’s so OTT, and I love B-movies. There are a lot of films I would LOVE to watch were it not for the sexual violence, and I’d like to think I will get around to some of them some day. But ONLY the ones where it’s treated respectfully and useful to the plot and characters (see This is England, 86,) and not those for whom it was throwaway, adding to gratuitous violence, or somewhat sexualised (I’m looking largely at animé and torture horrors here).

Apologies again, for making this so long!

Lisa // Posted 8 January 2012 at 2:32 pm

I’m finding it hard to work out the right way to respond what feels to me like a driveby comment on Diane Abbott, whose remarks on white supremacy I considered straightforward, common-sense and not at all problematic.

I don’t want to derail this thread by arguing about it, but I also don’t really want to see this kind of comment on feminist blogs I read without being able to scroll up/down and seeing at least on other commenter disagreeing.

Can we find a middle ground by me registering my objection but us not getting into it and derailing the thread, which isn’t about Abbott (or white supremacy, except where it comes into the subject of “drawing the line” for entertainment) at all?

Laura // Posted 8 January 2012 at 2:43 pm

@ Lisa – No problem. I’ll let Feminist Avatar respond if she wants to, to be fair, but then will mod the thread to keep it on track. I actually read her comment as meaning that Abbott’s tweet was viewed as problematic by those who called for her resignation; I’m not sure Feminist Avatar herself was saying it was problematic?

Lisa // Posted 8 January 2012 at 2:45 pm

@Laura: Ta! Am happy not to have the last word, also to have gotten the wrong end of the stick if it turns out that way – tricky balance between checking to see which is correct end of stick and derailing if it turns out that end of stick is the end you thought it was but have taken 10 comments to find out – but soz’ F/Avatar if that’s how it actually was. :)

Alasdair // Posted 8 January 2012 at 4:08 pm

Just coming back to say that I liked Lisa Millbank’s rewritten scene of Lisbeth Salander – that seems much more in-character than what actually happens in the book. :) Actually, The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo is a good example of a work which I personally did find problematic. I’ll leave the detailed arguments for another time, but in brief: while on the surface it’s a feminist book with pro-feminist messages, I just felt Lisbeth Salander was too much of a male fantasy to be plausible as a real person. Especially when she has sex with the character who is obviously based on the author. While I appreciated the book’s messages, I couldn’t shake the thought that I was reading Stieg Larsson’s own wish-fulfilment fantasy.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 8 January 2012 at 11:34 pm

Sorry, I wasn’t intending to imply that Diane Abbott was being racist; I don’t find her comment problematic at all. I was just using her as an example of somebody who got hung out to dry for one sentence that was at worst politically tactless.

I was also conflating two separate but related issues in that comment.1) For me this is a bigger problem in politics/ life more generally; we are developing a culture where one ‘mistake’ can undo a lifetime of good work. The minute somebody trips up, we immediately call for their resignation and replacement. But why is that useful or helpful to good governance? And who are the people who are most likely to suffer from this sort of behaviour? 2) Feminists are also guilty of this in policing other feminists. So, that if you write/make a feminist work, but trip up in one area, your whole work gets thrown out. Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t get pulled up for your mistakes, but that wholesale exclusion of imperfect individuals isn’t helpful.

Nat // Posted 9 January 2012 at 1:56 pm

@Lisa Millbank – I think you have the same views as me. I definitely find it’s about the balance of enjoyment v eye-rolling and fist shaking.

I suppose it’s also about available alternatives – there’s dozens of bands, writers and comedy panel shows that have ‘better’ messages than the ‘problematic’ ones, but there’s only one show like Doctor Who (OK, OK, Torchwood, but I never liked that as much).

I think Feminist Avatar does bring up an important point about leaving people hanging out to dry over one slip-up, which is why I included the caveat about people being challenged on things and refusing to accept that what they said may be problematic. For example, I talk to a quite apolitical guy on Twitter who once used the ‘T-word’. I sent him a quick tweet about how offensive and harmful people find it, he apologised immediately, said he hadn’t realised and hasn’t used it again. Contrast with Moran, who just went on a blocking spree when people tried to say that to her. It’s that kind of stuff I find unforgivable, not someone making a mistake.

@ Laurel – I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved only with anarchist groups who are aware for the need to be inclusive to everyone, but I know people who’ve felt marginalised by small, local groups. I don’t think it’s a problem that’s as rampant or huge as it used to be in the movement as a whole, but the criticisms are there and they have been made and thankfully, people are doing things about them (another positive example of ‘write people off only if they’ve been told about the problem and refused to do anything’!). Thanks for all your recommendations on shows and animations – I’ll definitely have to check some of them out. I don’t really watch many things, so it’s nice to have some things to have a look at.

Thanks to everyone who’s responded, it’s been a really interesting comment thread to read, and it’s nice to be able to have an actual discussion with people on the internet about these things without it ending up in a big derailing session – big up Laura’s modding skills!

Esther Mack // Posted 10 January 2012 at 10:50 pm

Maybe I’m living in my own awesome feminist corner of the Occupy movement, but the sexism (focusing on that in particular, as it applies to me as a woman) I’ve noticed has mostly been from individual dudes thinking it’s manly to take the ‘difficult’ tasks upon themselves to spare the ~weak womenz~ – and those guys quickly back off when I call them out. In working group meetings, there are usually people who call others out on their bigotry. I say usually because I am not at every working group meeting, and because due to my privilege I don’t notice every instance of bigotry.

Anyway, I would give OWS a second chance.

Shrinking Violet // Posted 17 January 2012 at 7:38 pm

The post is not rambling at all, it is very well written and to the point. I too can relate to the sentiment, as I often thought that I neither want to be a joyless bore who takes absolutely everything dead serious, nor can I continue enjoying something if it later turned out to be well, a bad joke leaving a very sour aftertaste.

I must say that I am safe from Doctor Who conundrum as I have never seen a single episode and am extremely unlikely to do so. I equally don’t care for comics, animation or computer games which were mentioned earlier. But I suspect that i am less sensitive on this subject than the contributors who have commented so far (it is just my guess) for several reasons.

One is that I am a feminist with a very puerrile sense of humour and have my own ways with English language; I love c-word (but not in aggressive hostile sense, but in a loving one, if you get it; that’s how I often address my cat), I refer to women of all ages as “girlies”; Granny Smith apples I call “Tranny Smith”, bank holidays – wank holidays etc. I don’t know what you think of “Are you being served?” show but I love it. Camp humour, men dressing like women (Dame Edna Everage; Lily Savage) – I thoroughly enjoy it. I love camp humour as done by gay men. Maybe it is to do with not being born here, and liking something unusual for one’s own culture; but hey, these are not justifications, there’s nothing to justify.

You can get your rotten tomatos ready though, for I love both Little Britain and Come Fly with me. I just do. Yes, it can be taken as sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, fattist, posh-bashing, working class-bashing, you name it – they’ve got it, clever c***s. But for me the very thing that they take the piss out of EVERYBODY makes it harmless. And you’ve got your hateful white suprematist heterosexual man, inept as shit and thick as you want him to be, in a character of Ian, the Immigration Officer (Come Fly with me)! What’s not lo love.

However, on a more serious note, I had a case or two similar to what the author is talking about. I am a great fun of Courtney Love and know the lyrics of her songs but was puzzled and disappointed by the title of one of her earlier songs – “He hit me (and it felt like kiss)”. That sounds to me kinda sick. [But the rest of her songs (in my opinion) are great and I cannot imagine anybody hitting Courtney Love (“going home in a fucking ambulance” is hardly an attractive option)]. Especially when I read of a supposed bust-up between Courtney Love and Salma Hayek and I thought: yeah right, Salma Hayek spoke against violence towards women, and you, Courtney Love, have this stupid song title…

Another case was different; I simply stopped watching the show and these people are total arseholes for me, despite how often they are sited in documentaries about British comedy – Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore. Neither I nor my husband knew the extent of their misogyny until we watched a DVD I actually asked him to give me for Xmas present… (But it started well, my husband told me of the episode where they write a letter to an Archbishop of Canterberry: “Dear cunts in the church! (to be friendly) The Bible gives me a horn” and I thought that it sounded rather promising and wanted to hear more of it. Well, sadly, it wasn’t. The rest of the tape we both watched with jaws dropped and sense that we have been shat on; I put the DVD at the back of the drawer never to be watched again and probably threw it away later or donated to Oxfam).

And yes. Jim Davidson. Evil man, he’s so offensive it is insufferable. Hope he is dead, or if not yet, may he be afflicted by piles. No redeeming features.

Galia // Posted 14 April 2012 at 4:50 am

I don’t think ANY of this on Doctor Who is intentional and I think Steven Moffat actually tries hard, in his way, to be feminist and have good strong female characters. True, it doesn’t always work out perfectly (e.g. women being good mainly due to their reproductive parts or women being awesome at dedicating their life to a man) but I think this all stems from attempts to make these women look awesome.

Moffat writes well. He writes things that a lot of people like. But he doesn’t write in vacuum. In today’s media, popular works are often VERY chauvinist, so a little of this sticks on. The show is still a lot more feminist than many other things out there.

And lately I’ve heard some Trock (“Time Lord Rock”) songs and read a few paragraphs, mainly by men / boys aged 15-25 (well, I’ve read more, but these are the ones I’d like to talk about) about the show, and interesting enough when they describe an episode they honestly forget to mention things like “and she got married in the end” or they identify with a female companion in the most natural way, blind to the difference in genders. That made me think that the show is doing something right, because the ultimate goal is for gender not to be an issue, and these texts reflected that.

Sure, subliminal crap still works there. But less. And in this day and age you can’t escape that anywhere.

ump // Posted 19 July 2015 at 8:26 pm

What’s upsetting about the new Dr Who is that it’s a step back from “Who Classic”. In the Tom Baker era you had –

– Sarah Jane Smith: the believable everywoman with infinite amounts of pluck and common sense; the Frodo of Who

– Leela: the role model for the Leela of Futurama; enough said

– Two incarnations of Romana: both fully equal to the Doctor, Romana eventually left the Doctor to do her own saving-the-universe-thing

…So when people praise Moffat for not being as chauvanist as modern property X, they should remember that Dr Who in its defining period set a much higher standard than that.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds