The public needs strong women, but the tokenistic casting of one will not help the cause, writes Holly Stewart.
Whatever one’s views on BBC’s Doctor Who, there is no denying that for lots of small children the Doctor is a terrific role model. He is brainy, never uses violence, and says intelligent things like “Geronimo”. He is a top bloke, if you will.
However, with Matt Smith recently announcing his departure from the series this December, the internet has lit up with the suggestion that the new Doctor be female.
If the show casts a woman as the Doctor it would be hard to have qualms with this in principle, but putting a woman in the role for the sake of having a female Doctor is a token gesture, in the same vein as proving you are not racist by reminding people that you like Bloc Party.
We still have a long way to go in terms of gender equality. An article by founder of “Everyday Sexism” illustrated this with some shocking figures. In the media specifically, we have a problem. Only 250 of last year’s top grossing films were directed by women. And, although the campaign to end page 3 is picking up momentum, the media has a long way to go, even if The Sun does make this decision.
But how much would putting a female in charge of the TARDIS really change things? There is a distinct lack of strong female leads on TV, granted. You can argue that a female Doctor would whoop us into getting used to having powerful women on television, characters that are not seen as one-dimensional objects, girlfriends, wives, or mothers whose wit and intelligence is applauded – rather than just accepted as it would any other male character.
Including women for the sake of including women, or in this case, including women for the sake of Steven Moffat trying desperately to prove that he isn’t a horrific sexist moron, isn’t something necessary to feminism. We can do much better than this. What we need is a new breed of TV show, no more plucky post-feminist lipstick comedies – but awesome television or film dramas, sci-fis, or police shows. Anything, in fact, where female leads do not play the role of the sexy bad-ass.
Helen Mirren, Sue Perkins and Olivia Coleman would all be fantastic as the Doctor, but they’d also be brilliant in something new and exciting, something better where the BBC are not writing in equal gender representation to fill a gap they have not yet filled. We need to concentrate on writing new TV shows with strong female leads, rather than adding women into dying ones.