8 examples of why Steven Moffat is NOT a feminist
Gif 1: Fetishizing motherhood and reinforcing patriarchal binaries and hierarchies—So much wrong with this one. The Doctor argues that mothers are “more than female”—i.e., better than—those who are not. It plays into pernicious patriarchal myths that women aren’t really women until they’ve given birth, until they’ve had children. Not every woman wants children. Not every woman can have them (for a variety of reasons—including (duh) the fact that some women don’t have uteruses—they’ve had them removed, or they just have penises instead). It doesn’t make them in any way inferior to those who do.
Additionally, he asserts that women are better than men, which simply reverses the patriarchal binary and thus evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of what feminism is. Feminism holds that everyone is equal, members of every gender, not that one gender is better than all of the rest. That’s a patriarchal notion. Hierarchies are patriarchal—privileging certain groups of people over others. Communities where everyone is equal, valued, and respected are feminist.
Gif 2: Reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes of women as irrational, overly emotional beings, while men are, of course, the sane, rational ones, which is generally used to justify the notion that women should be denied positions of power. “It all makes sense to her”—i.e., women apparently have some strange sort of emotion-driven non-logic that is fundamentally different from that of men, and that compels them to want to seduce/marry men and then, like the flighty, irrational creatures they are, want to kill them on a whim. This moment is deeply and unforgivably misogynistic.
Gifs 3 and 4: Romanticizing stalking—Both these women, Kathy Nightingale and Madge Arwell, eventually married the men who were stalking them, which sends the message that stalking is normal, romantic, and acceptable. Also, what if Madge had said no to marrying a complete stranger who finds it acceptable to stalk young women who are walking home alone through fairly isolated woods? Would Reg really have kept stalking her—a complete stranger—until he coerced her into agreeing to marry him?
Gifs 5 and 6: Victim-blaming and contributing to rape culture—In Time, Rory drops a thermocoupling after looking up Amy’s skirt, and Amy, Rory, and the Doctor all place the blame on Amy for wearing a skirt rather than Rory, who apparently has zero self-control (also problematic), or the Doctor, who seems not to have entirely thought through the potential ramifications of having a glass floor. And in gif #4, from Space, the Doctor’s ultimate solution to the problem is to order Amy to change into more conservative trousers—i.e., policing a female body—rather than urging Rory to exhibit some self-control. Or altering the desktop theme so that the floor is no longer transparent. The fact that Amy immediately accepts the blame without attempting to argue for a moment is particularly sickening. Essentially, then, this entire skit contributes to rape culture.
Gifs 7 and 8: Demonizing women, which has been par for the course in patriarchy since biblical Eve was first vilified for biting the apple. The implication that River’s attractiveness is why she is “hell” is therefore fairly problematic, since it is rather explicitly harking back to those patriarchal myths, as is the Doctor’s tacit endorsement of the medieval monk’s fear of women. Why did he not correct or contest the monk’s rather terrified reaction at learning that the Doctor was conversing with—the horror!—a woman? A simple, “No. No. Don’t be silly. Women aren’t evil at all.” from the Doctor would have been enough. Also, back to gif 7, how exactly is River’s attractiveness at all related to her decision to save the Doctor’s life? Are they implying that it is because she is sexy that she is so dangerous, which is incredibly misogynistic? The Doctor and Churchill are objectifying and belittling her by speaking of her in such a way. River, like every other woman/being in the universe, deserves more respect. To be treated like a human being, not a piece of meat. If Rory had been the one inside that suit, would they be speaking of him so dismissively?
It’s fairly obvious that Moffat likes to think of himself as a feminist. But anyone who is capable of writing the above moments (and each and every one is from episodes he wrote himself) clearly does not have a good grasp of what feminism is. Perhaps he should have done his research.
Also, the creation of an episode like Girl in the Fireplace pretty much solidifies his place in the “not feminist” category for me. However, this is a great and useful post.