There was much rejoicing on both sides of the Atlantic about the BBC’s recent announcement that the 13th Doctor Who will be played by a woman.
As a feminist and someone who fights for gender equality, I am not celebrating.
Doctor Who is an original BBC science-fiction series that launched in 1963 and ran until 1989, and then revived in 2005. At face value it might feel like progress, that after more than fifty years, the BBC has finally cast a female lead. And my objection might seem counter-intuitive, but my problem is that this is entirely the wrong kind of progress on this issue.
My mother-in-law, a wise woman, was also a path breaker in the field of medicine, during a time when it was entirely male-dominated; she explains my disappointment with something she used to say, “The moment they allow a woman into a profession, you know the money has left it.”
To be clear, I am not talking about how much Jodie Whittaker, the new Doctor Who, will get paid (although I am curious if her salary will be on par with her male predecessors); what I am referring to is the idea that we still seem to be perfectly willing to accept sloppy seconds for women in this modern society or ours.
In every field, it still feels like it is only when men are done fully dominating, do they acquiesce and allow a woman into it. Doctor Who is yet another example of a role written for a man, that we are now telling a woman she can play – how bloody generous of us men, in 2017…
If we wait long enough then women will eventually be able to do all the things men have discarded. Is this the message we want to teach our daughters?
There are those who will argue that it is still not a bad thing and it does no harm to have a woman helm the same characters that men have forever been associated with. We have witnessed this trend with an all-female Ghostbusters movie, now a Doctor Who, and next maybe we will see a Jane Bond, a Harriet Potter and India Jones?
Following this path might make us feel better but it is superficial and intellectually lazy: please let’s not call it progress.
It actually does more harm than good, because rather than strive for true equality, we satisfy ourselves with the false belief that we are on our way to achieving it, and pretend that we are making strides, when we are really just taking settling for much less.
Most importantly, acquiescing to this path lets the male dominated TV and movie studios completely off the hook, while allowing them to cheaply reboot tired old series and characters under the guise of promoting feminism.
We will only make honest progress when the BBCs and Hollywood studios start investing the same millions of dollars writing new, original female characters that can go on to become screen and merchandising legends in their own right. We must not let them get away with recasting old male characters to gain PR and novelty value at the box office.
I want to see the silver and streaming screen graced with a generation of strong female heroes who will show our daughters that women can do anything. I want to see female characters that not only serve as role models for our daughters, but also become an inspiration for every young boy.
That is real progress, and until we start to see this happen, this feminist will refrain from celebrating.