Probably Doctor Who spoilers ahead, although most of that will be through links rather than this post itself. Content warning: Racism, homophobia/heteronormativity, and transphobia including a major transphobic slur (and sexism, of course).
In case you’ve somehow missed the news, the BBC has announced that Matt Smith will be departing from Doctor Who during this year’s Christmas special. His replacement is yet to be announced, leading to near-constant debate about the show’s ultimate question: Doctor who? As expected, this has included debate over the possibility that the Twelfth Doctor could be female (I made a Storify for @TheWomensRoomUK on this subject a while back) and/or a person of colour. (Personally, my opinion on the Twelfth Doctor being female is summed up brilliantly in this post by Stavvers; basically, I’d love a female Doctor at some point, but probably not right now because Steven Moffat doesn’t exactly have a good track record with writing female characters.)
However, because I’m really bad at the whole “don’t read the comments” thing, especially with Doctor Who because SERIOUSLY IT’S DOCTOR WHO HOW COULD YOU EXPECT ME NOT TO READ, I saw several comments that made facepalm. A lot. So, rather than continuing to wind myself up and not get any work done, I decided to start collecting all of these comments and deal with them all at once in a blog post when I got home from uni and, well, here I am!
Let’s get started with this gem from Facebook:
“No female doctors… It just wouldn’t be right in my opinion… Otherwise I want David Tennant back”
Yep, apparently a female Doctor is impossible, but an un-regeneration is perfectly plausible. Canon only matters when it’s reinforcing patriarchal standards. Similarly (also from Facebook):
“Or if possible to regenerate back to David Tennant, that would be ideal…. What we can’t do is have a female Doctor. Throughout time, there have only been time lords, not ladies. We need to swoon over the Doctor”
So much heteronormativity in that last sentence (it was written by a woman). Also “there have only been Time Lords, not Ladies” – except Susan, Romana, Flavia, the Rani, Darkel, Jenny, the three unnamed Time Ladies in The End of Time, the Corsair (more on the Corsair later), and the list probably goes on. And while we’re on the subject of internalised misogyny:
“It can’t be sexist when tons of women agree with me!”
“I’m a woman, I can’t be sexist!”
Yes it can, and yes you can. Internalised misogyny is a thing (post by That Pesky Feminist). Next!
“Don’t play the sexist card for the sake of it. We just prefer him to stay male.”
This tweet is, um, playing the “playing the sexist card” card. This argument, also used to justify racism, doesn’t really stand up well. “Playing the ____ card” could be used to counter literally anything in the world without actually offering any criticism of the thing. “No thank you, I’m allergic to nuts.” “Don’t play the ‘allergic to nuts’ card!” If a “card” exists, there’s probably a reason for it. “Don’t play the ____ card” basically means “don’t use that argument”, without offering any reason as to why the argument is invalid.
Now is probably also the time to give a special mention to all the people who simply comment “NOT A WOMAN” or “NO” or “if that happened I’d stop watching” without a single reason why. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, and I’m sure some of these have some reasoning behind it, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if some of them have none other than ingrained misogyny. Moving on:
“The Doctor always has been a male and I think it should stay that way. Not being sexist or anything”
The sole reason I saved this one was to point out that saying “not being sexist” doesn’t automatically make whatever you said not sexist. Ditto racism, ditto homophobia, ditto everything else.
Back to Facebook:
““How can the Doctor be a girl? He was born a he”
“Never in an episode has a time lord changed gender or even mentioned that they could”
Actually, yes they have – as explained in that link, the Corsair’s ability to change gender has been referred to numerous times, including both classic Who and new Who. Also, the regeneration from Ten to Eleven implied the Doctor could change gender (around 1:35 in the video); why would he exclaim “I’m a girl!” if it wasn’t possible? In addition, Melody Pond’s regeneration into River Song clearly showed the ability to change race.
“A big part of the show is playing off the sexual tension between the Doctor and the companion.”
Again with the heteronormativity. Then, when a fanpage suggested Emma Watson:
“The Doctor turned into a nurse!”
Men are doctors and women are nurses? Rory Williams clearly didn’t get the memo.
Of course, it’s not just the possibility of a female Doctor that produced facepalm-ey Facebook comments. Here’s something that was said about a potential Doctor of colour:
“Please don’t race swap The Doctor, we already get enough of that crap from Hollywood”
It’s true that Hollywood is no stranger to race-swapping. Sadly, though, it’s usually the whitewashing of characters who are non-white. So this one sort of missed the point entirely.
And when a poll was created asking whether the Doctor should be “male, female, or other”:
“ ‘OTHER’? Tranny as a Doctor? No thanks.”
Then, rather predictably, the Daily Mail got involved (direct link; same applies to all the following newspaper links). *sigh* Let’s get started:
“But a woman Doctor would be more than a disappointment to the show’s legion of fans — it would betray a British tradition.”
I really really really don’t like how this is being portrayed from the offset as “feminists v fans”. Because, you know, it’s possible to be both. Exhibit A: *waves* Moving on:
“Why must the Doctor fall victim to a politically correct trend for ‘gender neutral’ childhoods? It may come as a surprise to many in these liberated times, but most little boys still grow up wanting to be men”
Why must there be a “politically correct trend for gender neutral childhoods”? Because children aren’t all male. And boys become men simply by growing up and continuing to identify as male. Nobody, of any gender, should have to fit rigid stereotypes about their gender to be a “real” member of it. We’ve been through this a zillion times before. The article then makes a slightly stronger argument about the Doctor being a positive role model for boys:
“…unless the BBC kills off the Doctor by casting a woman in the role and depriving small boys of his example for ever.”
This argument is explained in more detail in this article in the Independent. And on the one hand, it’s sadly true that there are very few non-violent male role models out there. But on the other hand, how many non-stereotyped female role models do we see? Furthermore – and this is even noted several times in the Independent article – the Doctor (and other male characters) is viewed as a role model by boys and girls alike. So why is it that boys can’t possibly be expected to identify with one character of the opposite sex, as girls have been doing constantly for their whole lives? And then, inevitably, I succumb to reading the comments:
“If there was a female Dr Who, would they have to put ‘L’ plates on the Tardis? 10-9-8-7-6…”
The sexist part there is pretty obvious, but I want to note the “10-9-8-7-6” ending; this person is counting down to the outcry against the comment. This person literally wants an argument, presumably so they can say they were hounded by “hysterical angry feminazis” or something.
Eventually, as reported in the Telegraph, James Bond’s Rory Kinnear became a favourite. And again, I started reading the comments:
“But he’s another white fella….! Isn’t that ‘waacist’ ???”
“Waacist”. Mature. (sarcasm).
“Employing someone just because of their colour or being female or disabled is simply discrimination against everyone else”
Fair point. However, in this case, “remaining neutral” is the status quo, i.e. a white male, who was allowed to be considered for the job because he is white and male . If people of colour and women were able to audition in the knowledge that the BBC wouldn’t be too scared of Daily Mail fuuuuuuuury to actually select them, we might be getting somewhere.
“The only reason it was ever mooted that Dr Who would be female and black is that anything white, male and middle-aged, let alone vaguely elderly (William Hartnell) is now treated with far, far greater disrespect than black females ever were…”
Really? When did we start enslaving white middle-aged men? When did we start institutional violence against white middle-aged men? And to top it off:
“No fans hoped for a gay, black or female doctor – utter nonsense”
No fans? None at all? *frantically waving*
“I know of no normal Dr Who fan who would have wanted either outcome.”
Ah, that clarifies the situation. Only “normal” fans count. I’m guessing this person defines “normal” as “agrees with me”.
Saving the “best” (read: worst) until last, I was linked by @CassandraB to this article from a few years ago on The Spearhead, which I haven’t had a look around properly but it appears to be an MRA site. The article itself is just another re-statement of how the Doctor is one of the few male positive role models. But the comments. THE COMMENTS.
“The new show is a bit gay actually – there was even a lot of “winking” humor at the Doctor referring to his male companion as his “partner”, with supporting characters assuming they were a gay couple…The original show was great because it was all about imagination and ideas, with a dash of adventure thrown in…. I’ll give it another watch, I guess, but it seems a little feminized now.”
<sarcasm> A homosexual couple?! On TV?! THE HORROR!! </sarcasm> Not entirely sure how the use of two men passing as a homosexual couple somehow negates imagination, ideas and/or adventure. Also, calling a male homosexual couple “feminized” is massively homophobic. Obviously.
“He’s not a negative role model but I wouldn’t go so far as calling him a positive role model. He’s portrayed as a feminized man for the most part, with only David Tennant ever even getting close to displaying masculine anger and responding to violence with violence. Mostly the Doctors just enjoy finding creative ways to run away until they can outwit their opponent.”
Again with the ridiculously strict “real men” stereotypes. Apparently, now men aren’t “real men” unless they use violence. Which, you know, NO.
“The episode that killed it for me was when that stupid bint Piper whats herface touched a Dalek and contaminated it with human DNA and it became all loving etc. Imagine a feckin Dalek expressing love????? That is what feminism has done to TV”
The episode being referred to here is Dalek (link to Wikipedia entry, so massive spoilers). Anyway, aside from completely misrepresenting the entire plot of the episode, this person seems to think emotion is a feminine thing now, and you can see what that means for those ever-present “real men” stereotypes. As for the rest of that statement, well, it can be presented without comment.
So, that’s what happens when discrimination issues meet internet comment boards. Everyone in the TARDIS, let’s all go and find a better planet.