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On Doctor Who and Sexism
vorel_laraek
There has been a lot of controversy recently about sexism in Moffat's Doctor Who.

I love the show dearly, but I am also a feminist (egalitarian, really), and looking at it objectively, I can see the point.

These articles offer an excellent explication of the case against Moffat - essentially that the female characters' lives tend to revolve around the Doctor, and their stories end in marriage and children often enough to imply that that is the 'correct' path. There is also a very definite tendency for the female companion to emote with the local victim (often also female) while the Doctor finds a technological solution to the problem.

On the other hand, this is a feminist defense of Moffat's work, and makes a number of equally valid points. It holds that Moffat's women are defined by relationships with men because all fictional characters are to some extent defined by relationships with the central character, that the sexy women he writes are in control of their own sexuality and that this is not misogynistic, and that they are all individual enough to not be generic, as they are accused of being.

In my opinion, Moffat isn't a misogynist. I do think that his female characters tend to be somewhat similar and that the repetition of stories that end in marriage and children is problematic, but I don't find the show to be too egregiously sexist.

Anyway, my primary point here is not whether or not Doctor Who is sexist. I want to talk about sexism in media in general - and why I choose to forgive it to some extent.

If I really looked for sexism in everything I read or watched, and tried to avoid sexist works, I would find myself with a rather significant dearth in entertainment. I would also cut myself off from a number of genuine classics - the works of Lovecraft, Asimov, Tolkien, Dickens, Dumas, Doyle, and far too many other great authors come to mind, as do Star Trek, Star Wars, and innumerable others.

I refuse to become so mired in a state of perpetual offence that I miss out on excellent storytelling.

I may be a feminist, but I am secure enough in my knowledge of my own agency to enjoy works that are less than politically correct, and to understand that any creative work is a product of its own time - even if that time is our own.

The fact is that our society is still in a state of flux, as the last 50 years have seen a very great deal of societal change, and a vast increase in rights for a number of different groups, women among them. We are still sorting out the ramifications of that change, and the result is a society that is nowhere near as equal or as free as we like to think it is. This applies every bit as much to racism, classism, heteronormativity, and ableism as it does to sexism.

So I can forgive imperfections, because if I could not then there would be very little left for me to enjoy. I can accept that people are complicated and imperfect, and the things that they create are even more so. I can interpret works in ways that have meaning to me. I can watch the Princess Bride and focus on love and heroism and humor, and not be offended by Buttercup's naivete and role as "damsel in distress." (I can also ignore the antitechnological implications of a life-sucking "Machine.")

This forgiveness is for the sake of my own sanity, but it does not mean that I believe feminism to be a lost cause. It doesn't mean that I don't love the works (Buffy comes to mind) that actually get it right. It doesn't mean that I don't notice when Buffy is lauded for having "strong female characters" as if that is exceptional (males are implied to be inherently strong).

I've merely decided to pick my battles, to attack the truly egregious, and in other ways to support feminism less by attacking every example of inequality and more by being a "strong female character" in my own right.

Even when something truly is egregious, I can enjoy what merits it does have before I gleefully analyze it into oblivion.

I will also note that there are limits to my forgiveness, which are based on the quality of the work and on the egregiousness of the sexism. Twilight fails on both counts.

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