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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Exterminate Misogyny: Where are the Feminist Doctor Who Companions?

Exterminate Misogyny: Where are the Feminist Doctor Who Companions?

Doctor Who, the show that I consider to be the best of sci-fi, is back on our screens this weekend. In the tradition of holding the things that I love to a high standard, I’d like to take a look at the women in the show, and how they are treated and written. When I set out to examine the women of the show in-depth, a song by British musician and comedian Mitch Benn, called “Doctor Who Girl,” immediately sprang to mind. Here’s a selection of the lyrics:

Be my Doctor Who girl,
We’ll make a real good team,
I’ll do all the thinking,
You’ll look good in shorts and scream.

Give me someone to rescue,
Get changed and give us all a twirl,
Keep quiet and never argue,
Be my Doctor Who girl.
Be my Doctor Who girl,
Follow me a lot,
Ask me heaps of questions,
So I can explain the plot.

Say you’ll stand beside me,
Say you’ll help me save the world,
Fall and twist your ankle,
Be my Doctor Who girl.

Even as misogynist as this song is, I can’t help but like it. It is, after all, a parody written by a comic. It’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, and hopelessly nostalgic. Oh, and it’s catchy. But it also reveals some of the larger problems of gender in Doctor Who. Written during the “wilderness years” when the show was off the air, it’s a homage to the old series, which started in 1963 and ran until 1989. The new series is different, right?

Well, I’d certainly like to think so. I want to believe that the best show I’ve ever seen on television is progressive, and that it treats women with the respect they deserve. Unfortunately, it’s pretty apparent upon closer inspection that those wishes are just that: wishes. Doctor Who–even New Who–has a long way to go before it treats women according to my feminist standards.

For starters, there’s the fact that in the new series, all the primary companions are women. Sure, there are men aboard the TARDIS–Jack, Mickey, and Rory–but they’re always secondary. Jack is mostly used as a foil against the Doctor’s morals, and it isn’t until Torchwood that he gets the screen time he deserves. Mickey is the dumb boyfriend, the incompetent idiot, the comic relief–throughout his tenure, despite the fact that he leaves Rose, does some brilliant fighting and work, and marries Martha. And though Rory is a companion in his own right, it couldn’t be clearer that the Doctor’s primary relationship is to Amy. It wasn’t always so in Old Who. But for the purposes of 2005 onward, the companion is a woman.

They are wonderful, brilliant, and sassy women. Yet no matter how talented, clever, or strong they are, they inevitably become damsels in distress more than once, fulfilling a plot point so that the Doctor can rescue them and therefore confront the villain or monster. And they are in good part eye candy. As much as I like Karen Gillan, there’s been very strong evidence (ie, words from Steven Moffat himself) suggesting that the reason she got the part has a lot to do with the fact that she’s gorgeous, thin, and tall. Billie Piper started off her career as a teenage pop star. Case in point.

Oh, and the Doctor is always a man. In spite of the establishment in canon that Time Lords can change sex at regeneration (thank you, Neil Gaiman), the suggestion that the next Doctor be female has generally been met in the mass media with horror (though with delight and total seriousness from a good section of fans).

Last year, a contributor to Doctor Her ran the Bechdel Test on every single New Who episode 2005-2012. The results were scary. Season four gets the only result that could be called acceptable (a 2.8 out of 3, with only one episode not passing the test). The Russell T. Davies era averages out to a 2.7/3. Moffat’s tenure gets a 2.1/3. Ouch. Not doing too well there.

This may all seem unimportant. Why does it matter what characters are included and how those characters are treated as long as Doctor Who is a good show? The primary companion of late, and thus the point of identification for the audience, is a woman. And if the character that the audience is supposed to identify with is in the end shafted, marginalized, and made to be unimportant or powerless, that is a serious problem for every member of the audience, male and female. It is a serious problem for the show.

To assess the extent of this problem, I’d like to take a look at the major female characters we’ve met since 2005 and see how each weighs up.

Rose TylerRose Tyler

I have a soft spot in my heart for Rose, maybe because she was my first companion. Maybe because she was 19, roughly the age I started watching the show. Or maybe it’s because she ran away from her unsatisfactory life and dead-end job without looking back. She is fierce, she is stubborn, and she refuses to give in. She is always talking to the people around her, especially the average people, the working-class women that the Doctor sometimes overlooks.

The problem is, she seems to lose it all when she loses the Doctor. Or, I should say, when two men (the Doctor and Pete) force her into a universe without him. She rebels, blowing holes in more than a few universes to warn him that reality is collapsing, and to be with her Doctor again. Her reward? To be forced back to that universe with an almost-but-not-quite Doctor copy and told to be happy with it. And here’s the biggest problem. Because it’s the Doctor, again, making the decision he thinks is best for her in a very patriarchal way. And the funny thing is, Russell T Davies had a problem with this too. He couldn’t justify it. It was what he needed for the plot, in order to get Billie Piper off the show again, and dispose of the CloneDoctor he’d created, but it didn’t work for the characters: For Rose, because she traversed realities to get back to her Doctor. How could she give him up? Because the real Doctor manipulates her into doing so, and by the time she can protest, the TARDIS has faded away. So much for agency.

Martha JonesMartha Jones

I think it’s fair to say that Martha is the most brilliant of the New Who companions. She’s well on her way to becoming a doctor when we first meet her. Not only is she smart, she’s excellent at keeping her cool. She’s the only one in the hospital who doesn’t just gawp or scream when they’re transported to the moon–she reasons that if they got here, they can get back. She accepts the Doctor’s help with a certain amount of dubiousness (“You have to earn that title, as far as I’m concerned”), and is utterly unfazed when he tells her he’s an alien.

Unlike Rose, she’s not running away from her life, she’s merely taking a temporary holiday from responsibility–particularly the responsibility of having to settle a family feud. Which makes her time with the Doctor an utter shame, because she ends up having to take care of him instead. From dealing with the rudeness of a guy on the rebound in “The Shakespeare Code,” to helping him sort out his repressed feelings about the Time War in “Gridlock,” to providing financial support in “Blink,” to taking care of a thankless John Smith who treats her as a servant in a racist era in “Human Nature,” Martha runs the gamut of responsibility for the Doctor. And that doesn’t even include the entire year she spends walking a ruined and devastated Earth, telling people that there’s this one man who can save them. In the end, it isn’t the Doctor that saves them. It’s Martha Jones. And she barely gets acknowledgement for it.

Most people see Martha’s departure as her “getting out” of a friend-crush that would never be reciprocated. I see that as a secondary matter. I think that, first and foremost, she was choosing her own welfare, and her family’s welfare, over the wonders of traveling with the Doctor. It’s a banal choice, and it’s one that he doesn’t really understand. In the philosophy of RTD, where the most wonderful thing in the world is to travel with the Doctor, and the person who voluntarily walks away from the Doctor is crazy. How could she choose to leave the TARDIS? But here’s the thing: that philosophy doesn’t work for everyone. Traveling is great, but home is amazing too. Martha’s home, with a family and a career, is one she values, and rightly so. Because within the next few years, she works for UNIT, Torchwood, and goes freelance.

Martha is by no means a weak character. In fact, her choice to leave the Doctor makes her incredibly strong. But the writer’s emphasis on her crush on the Doctor makes her seem one. It takes away her power, her agency–something of which she has plenty–so that in the eyes of many fans, she is reduced to a lovesick girl. And that frustrates me, because she is so much more than that.

Donna NobleDonna Noble

Though the Doctor really can’t have an equal, Donna comes closest to it out of all the companions of the Davies era. He refers to her multiple times as his best friend. She is unafraid to give him back exactly what she gets, and more. She questions his knowledge, his omniscience, and the ramifications of his actions as a Time Lord. In turn, her travels with him give her incredible spirit, purpose, and growth as a person. She becomes more sensitive, and shows the Doctor that it’s OK to hurt and to feel. Their companionship is so beautiful because they need each other. Without the other one, disasters happen, as “Midnight” and “Turn Left” show.

And then it is Donna who gets shafted most of all. She gets catapulted to the highest realms of knowledge, power, and cleverness with the DoctorDonna metacrisis. She saves the universe while the Doctor stands helplessly by. But then she “can’t handle” the power, because there “should never have been” a human (female) metacrisis. So the Doctor not only strips her of all her power, he strips her of all her knowledge and memories of him and her travels and adventures, despite her forcibly protesting and shouting “No! No! No!” Smells a bit like consciousness-rape, doesn’t it? When we next see her, she’s defaulted to the same about-to-be married that she was when we first met her. She’s just “making do,” dreaming of a better life, a more adventurous life, that she’s not even consciously aware of.

So there we have it. Donna Noble, whose departure also features no agency. She is robbed of her memories and her personality. Those two very things that make us so human, and the Doctor who professes to love humans, takes them away against her will, because he decides that a life without them is better for her than a death where she goes down fighting. More to the point, it’s better for him. If he can tell himself that Donna is living a happy life, or that Rose has a Doctor of his own, he can feel better about the decisions that he made for his friends.

The RTD Era

So we have relationship manipulation, complete dependency, and mind-rape. That’s the Russell T. Davies era, folks. We’re off to a bad start.

Amy PondAmy Pond

I’ll be upfront here. I’m not an Amy Pond fan. I love her, but I don’t feel the same connection to her that I do to the other ladies who have spent time with the Doctor.

That said, there’s a lot to like about Amy Pond. One thing to love is her feistiness. When the Doctor presents her with two choices in “The Eleventh Hour” (run home or stay and help me), she refuses to take either of them, and demands to know more about him and who he really is. I love this part of her, I really do. But this trait is often cited as the main thing that makes Amy awesome. And here’s the thing. A kick-ass, sassy female character is not necessarily a strong feminist female character. And I believe that Amy’s sassiness is sometimes used against her.

The other thing to love is her sexuality. She takes charge of it. She works as a kiss-o-gram. She makes out with the Doctor the night before her wedding. She has clearly decided to hell with the patriarchal rules. But again, the rub: The patriarchal rules still apply to her. Everyone vocally disapproves of her turn as a kiss-o-gram. “You were a little girl five minutes ago!” the Doctor scolds. If that’s not a cue that the audience is supposed to disapprove of Amy’s deviant sexuality, I don’t know what is.

And then there’s Amy’s relationship with Rory. It’s clearly not perfect, but the fact that the Doctor feels that he is entitled to “fix” that, first by taking them on a honeymoon to Venice, and then by constructing a horrific dream world to force Amy to choose her fiancé over traveling, is horribly controlling and paternalistic.

When you begin to put together parts of Amy’s life, it gets scary real fast. However much she presents herself as a modern woman, very little of her life is actually under her control. Little Amelia grows up without any parents, or much of a family, thanks to the crack in her wall sucking them away. She “forgets” Rory, then “remembers” him, then magically has her parents and her fiancé restored to her in one glorious restoration of the universe that she had no say in. Shortly afterwards, she and Rory conceive a child, but she doesn’t even know she’s pregnant, because her body is stolen from her and her consciousness is placed in a Flesh body. Let me repeat that. She spends nine months being pregnant, and about eight of those months, her pregnancy is co-opted by a religious order that wants to use her body as a farm to harvest a child with quasi-Time Lord DNA. She is then imprisoned just as she goes into labor, and gives birth to a baby girl, Melody. Her daughter is stolen from her, without her knowledge. She is then dropped off at home by the Doctor, who doesn’t search for her child like he promised, because he doesn’t need to, it’s OK, because she’s River Song! And then she discovers that she’s actually been best friends with her daughter growing up, and so “raised” her daughter. And then, while her body was held prisoner, the Silence made it impossible for her to have more children, which is at least part of the reason she and Rory got divorced.

If you made it through that last paragraph without screaming in frustration, you’re a better person than I am. Ever since Amy’s pregnancy was revealed, I have been fuming, and few people have understood why. Yes, River/Melody was Amy and Rory’s biological child conceived by them of their own will (with some extra time vortex genes that they were not aware of). But apart from that, it looks a whole lot like the Mystical Pregnancy Trope, which Anita Sarkeesian has done an excellent video on. Though she has been pregnant since before the beginning of season six, she doesn’t know it, we barely see it, and she is not physically affected by it until the final days. Pregnancy is not an occurrence; it is a process. Yet for Amy, it is a here-today-gone-tomorrow thing. Thanks to intervention by the Silence, Amy essentially serves as the incubator for a weapon that can be used to destroy her best friend. She has no control over the situation. Her pregnancy is a plot point, and Amy, as a character and as a woman, is reduced to no more than her biological function. Yes, women can have babies. Amy can have babies. That does not mean that Steven Moffat should take advantage of this for the purposes of his story. He is enacting reproductive terrorism on her, as Laura Shapiro calls it. And it makes me sick.

If that’s not sexist, I don’t know what is.

River SongRiver Song

From her first appearance in “Silence in the Library,” River presents the Doctor, and thus the audience, with a conundrum: She knows just as much as he does. More, when we first see her. This is a challenge to the Doctor’s ego and to the show’s format, because both the Doctor and the audience are used to the Doctor knowing the most and always being in charge and saving the day. The Doctor reacted pretty negatively to her at their first meeting, and so did much of the audience. She’s sexy and brilliant. She knows the intricacies of space and time, and travels the universe with the same ease that he does. She can fly the TARDIS. She knows his future. She’s his equal. And it’s been years since the Doctor had one of those. He felt a little threatened by her.

So there has to be some way to neutralize that threat. Initially, it’s negated because she’s a killer sociopath. He has the moral high ground, and in another act of paternal goodness, shows her the good and “right” way to live her life. He has domesticated her, “tamed” her.

And if we’re talking about unhealthy relationships, River tops the list. Her life revolves around the Doctor–literally. Before she is even born, she is groomed to be a weapon to kill him. He is present shortly after her birth, at her kidnapping. He flits in and out of the life of her friends growing up. She finally meets him, and tries to kill him. She’s then converted by him, and spends years of her life researching him as part of her dissertation. She is forced to kill him, in what is called a “fixed point in time,” and is put into prison for it. She escapes to go on adventures and he spirits her away occasionally for dates, but she still is in prison, doing time for a crime that she was forced to commit. She admits that the days she doesn’t see him are a waste.

And of course, River’s love for the Doctor results in all her abilities being turned to his purposes. From giving up her regenerations, to shooting down the Silence, to pretending her wrist isn’t broken merely to soothe his pride, she devotes enormous amounts of energy to sheltering the Doctor and keeping him on a pedestal. “Never let him see the damage. And never ever let him see you age. He doesn’t like endings.” In the end, she gives up her life so that he can have a future in which she serves him. Her life is the Doctor, and as much as I love romance, that is just wrong.

River is a strong female character. But she is a strong female character with one purpose: to serve the Doctor. And that hurts, because under another writer, she could have been so much more.

The Moffat Era

So, Steven Moffat: writes companions who are either reduced to their biological function, or exist only for the Doctor. Even worse.

The Verdict

I love Doctor Who to pieces. But it can’t be denied that the writers treat their female characters with undisguised misogynism. The show could be so much better, so much more, if the writers started writing women who are not only feisty, but women who have agency over their own lives.

It’s too early to tell where Moffat will take the character of Clara Oswald. I’m trying hard to be optimistic, to believe that he can deviate from past experience, to hope that he can for once make a companion who can make her own choices, rather than the Doctor or the villains making those choices for her. But based on the dying-over-and-over trope we’ve seen so far, it’s not likely.

I’ll still be eagerly watching on Saturday when the show returns to TV. But I think that we have earned the right to better female characters. And rather than just hoping that the male showrunners will give us better, I demand better female characters. I hope you’ll join me.

Written by Laura Koroski
Follow her geeky critiques on her blog, Challenge By Geek!

  • Ariela

    Thank you for this article! I have been especially disappointed by what has happened to the characters under Moffat. The Amy/River Song storyline was a disaster that didn’t need to happen. I sometimes like to pretend that season 6 doesn’t even exist.

    I would make the distinction though that it’s not that we need better female characters (because I would argue that the characters themselves are all incredibly strong), but that we need better plotlines to emphasize their ability to be autonomous. For some reason the writers seem really good at giving us badass characters and then destroying them through plot devices, like the bizarre pregnancy debacle.
    I also dislike the idea that in order for a woman to be strong they can’t also be attached to a guy (or any other romantic interest). That creates its own problems of suggesting that women who are in love lose some of their strength or worth simply because they are in love and consider their romantic interests in their actions. This treads a dangerous line that takes away inherent strength from women and only gives it to them if they conform to a more “masculine” concept of strength–not being romantically attached.

    • Laura

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      “I would make the distinction though that it’s not that we need better female characters, but that we need better plotlines to emphasize their ability to be autonomous. For some reason the writers seem really good at giving us badass characters and then destroying them through plot devices, like the bizarre pregnancy debacle.”

      I agree with you here, for sure, and I should have made that clearer. The characters are all incredibly strong… they just are given plots that make them incredibly dependent, which is disappointing. I also think that romance with the Doctor has been handled badly–I know a number of people who feel that Donna was a stronger character than Martha or Rose because she wasn’t in love with the Doctor, and something like that is down to the writers.

      • Lorena

        Donna, to me, is stronger because when she boards the TARDIS on purpose (i.e. not in Runaway Bride), she’s mentally and emotionally confident and prepared for what she’s embarking on. She knows who she is and what she wants. She isn’t running from or intentionally sidestepping anything, she’s taking on a new life. She makes it clear from the beginning that she going to travel with the Doctor as long as she can, and she means it. She’s not ignorant to the danger, the pain, the loss, and the horrific atrocities she might encounter on her travels in the TARDIS. She knows and she’s ready. She doesn’t need a buffer space whale episode to “prove” her readiness. She’s in it. Hell, she even brings her hat box!

        This strength has nothing to do with gender, but rather with a strong sense of self.

        But yes. The writing… GOOD LORD THE WRITING. (sigh) I’m waiting for it to improve, for the plotlines to be more logical, for the companion not to be an enigma and actually be a human that I can “get” and care about. My desire for this has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with my continual seeking of quality writing and quality storytelling. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too much longer. New Doctor now, so… who knows. Plus Clara’s “mystery” is solved, so she can just go on to being a human and not an enigma.

        I will say that I am fine with the Doctor being male only. Sure he can be female, but in a lot of ways gender is irrelevant to Time Lords. The fact that they can be either at any point in their timestream sort of implies the irrelevance of gender in their species. Whoever commented that it’s more of a Time Lord vs. Human thing is right about that. If the Doctor was female and the companion was male, the same situations would shake down (unless the Doctor underwent an epic personality change… but I highly doubt it, he’s been a loveable jerk for 900 years now…). And if they didn’t, then it would truly be the writers’ fault.

    • http://twitter.com/plowiee Louie Louie

      I think someone’s mistaught you the definition of misogyny. It’s not the ‘objectification’ of women, or the ‘degradation’ of women, or the ‘sidelining’ of women in favour of men, or (as you seem to believe) the mis-portrayal of women on TV. It is, by definition, the HATED of women. The absolute regard that women are literally, subordinate and absolute dirt.

      And you’re implying that RTD, or Moffat actively sit in their offices and think to themselves – “Hey, I hate women. So the new companion will be a weak willed character whose only positive trait is sex appeal. I’ll make her subordinate in every way to men and her only purpose, beside sex appeal, is to further the plot for the male lead. Why? Because I fucking hate women”

      It’s not as simple as that. Just because a woman isn’t a feminist’s dream character, doesn’t make her a misogynistic representation. We live in an imperfect world; nobody is exactly the same. If every character was a perfect feminist, it would get boring. A woman can be attached to a man without it being sexist. I mean, it was inverted with Amy and Rory – he was the clingy one, she was the independent free thinker.

      • Naniquena

        I LOVE U… so much… u make the most perfect point EVER… I never know how to discuss with this kind of “HATE” articles and u gave me a weapon… thanks… I’ll “borrow” your words. :)

  • AP

    As a strong advocate of feminism and also a huge fan of Doctor Who, I’m not so sure how I feel about this. Though I do agree that Martha’s crush on the Doctor “reduces her to a lovesick girl” despite her being much more and that River’s character could have been much better, I feel as though some of the aforementioned occurrences are being read into too much. Rather than look at the Doctor’s wiping of Donna’s mind as a man knowing what is best for a woman, I watched that as a Time Lord knowing what is best for a human, and I do not think that the situation should be likened to rape. I don’t know. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the rest of this season in order to see the portrayal of Clara.

    • vanessasayss

      Yeah, it made me really uncomfortable to see the Donna situation be compared to rape..

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ranting-Thespian/689452743 Ranting Thespian

      The Doctor was saving Donna’s life, not “mind-raping” her. A Time Lord’s brain is much more complicated and holds much more information than a human’s. A human brain cannot contain the knowledge of a Time Lord’s. It’s like trying to install Windows 7 on a PC from 1993. It just can’t handle it.

    • Alicia Norman

      THANK YOU, well said!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kevin.C.Jenkins Kevin C Jenkins

    Isn’t it inherent to the concept of privilege that those who have it will be blind to it, to some degree? I do the best I can to consider things from outside my perspective as a generally hetero and cisgendered pale male, but I know I will miss a lot. The most ‘outsider’ perspective insight I have comes from dealing with disability and from being a non-believer in the southeastern US. Anyway, being aware that there’s always likely to be some level of blindness to the areas where I do have privilege, I request that the more aware people around me let me know when I mess things up, rather than just assuming I intend to be an ass.
    It may be that these close-but-not-quite examples of female characters are the best that the writing team can produce if they’re mostly men or women not very aware of feminist issues. If that’s the situation, then even a female Doctor would be problematic without a feminist writer/consultant or two.

    • Michi Trota

      The Mary Sue posted an article related to this recently – Doctor Who hasn’t had a female writer on staff since 2008. It probably doesn’t help writing about women’s perspectives and experiences for your women characters when you don’t have any women on your writing staff. http://www.themarysue.com/doctor-who-female-writers/

      • justmehere

        they dont have any women because jsut maybe, NO WOMEN WANT TO! Did you ever take that into consideration? No of course you didn’t

        • http://www.facebook.com/champaigne Maggie Champaigne

          Why would women not want to? Did you ever take that into consideration? No of course you didn’t.

        • A.

          I want to be a writer for DW and I’m a woman!

          • Lorena

            Me too! :) In fact I’ve already written an episode. It even include corridors and running and characters being separated. All requirements for any Doctor Who episode!

  • Camille

    Your “assessment” of River is woefully incorrect and frankly, insulting.

    Did the work of Feminists past not matter because it didn’t eradicate patriarchy? No! Did they sacrifice and suffer so that they could make their own choices? YES!

    “In the end, she gives up her life so that he can have a future in which she serves him. Her life is the Doctor”

    This is the sickest and most inaccurate part of your claim. You completely ignore the fact that in Berlin, River takes her agency by choosing to save The Doctor. Then she chooses to arm herself with knowledge, with education, in order to make her own informed decisions.

    “I’m looking for a good man.” She chooses archaeology as her tool to make her own decisions and come to her own conclusions. She’s not physically keeping track of The Doctor, she’s LEARNING about him! We see Mels grow up in “Let’s Kill Hitler” and we see her multiple times in school. She tells the teachers, “[Insert event] happened because The Doctor wasn’t there to stop it.” That would be her training. She’s been trained to believe that The Doctor lets horrible things happen because he’s this horrible evil that needs to be stopped and it’s her job to do so. According to what she’s been taught by Kovarian and Co, The Doctor let Hitler and the Nazis happen because he doesn’t care. This is why she’s so shocked when she sees, with her own eyes, him struggling up the steps to the TARDIS, still trying to help her and her parents, even when he’s literally breathing his last breath. “You still care.” At that point, she realizes she may have just made a grave mistake, literally. So she looks at her parents and asks if he’s worth it. They say yes. She ways her options and chooses to save him, something that goes everything she’s ever known. She doesn’t give up her regeneration for him, she gives them up for herself. Because this is the first time she’s ever made her own decision. This is the start of River Song, not Melody Pond, Nazi Youth of the Hitler Silence.

    Then she chooses to go back to school, this time to a 51st Century university, and instead of being force fed knowledge about The Doctor from Kovarian or even her parents, she “looks for a good man” throughout history. She researches him in her own time, so she can decide for herself if he really is a good man like her parents say (she hopes this is true, she hopes he was “worth it,” and that she made the right choice in bringing him back) or if he really is an evil man like Kovarian and The Silence told her. Up until that point in Berlin, she was a pawn. Then she begins to take charge of her life. This is also why when Kovarian stuffs her back into the suit and tries to manipulate her, she breaks time. It’s a giant F-U to all of them for trying to take control of her life again. This even goes for The Doctor, who tries to force and manipulate her into setting time straight. But she’s not having it. She’s literally the Queen in the live chess match and she’s been moved too many times, so she refuses to relinquish control again. Kovarian is literally shocked to death which never would’ve happened if she hadn’t tried to control River one more time. And The Doctor is forced to concede the game. This is all because River chose to make a stand. There, at Lake Silencio, and before, in Berlin. And despite asking her twice, she’s also chosen not to travel with The Doctor, despite being her husband, on two separate occasions. No, because she’s got her own things going on, and while she loves him, she sets boundaries. She’s a Professor, she’s a detective going off to the 1930s to investigate the the Angels’ invasion. (She was there doing her own thing, setting up the Angels Detective Agency, long before Rory got zapped back and their individual adventures accidentally collided.)

    ” She escapes to go on adventures and he spirits her away occasionally for dates, but she still is in prison, doing time for a crime that she was forced to commit.”

    Not. True. First of all, she was not forced to commit the crime. Why? Because she REFUSED to do so, as I’ve already explained. Eventually she chooses to help fake his death, which not only protects The Doctor, but it also protects her parents and herself. The Doctor is not a sole beneficiary here. Second of all, he takes her out every night. It’s not occasional at all. And that’s when she’s not escaping on her own, because she can and does walk in and out of prison like the walls aren’t there. It doesn’t hold her whatsoever.

    “She admits that the days she doesn’t see him are a waste.”

    The falsities keep rolling, don’t they? No, she doesn’t say that at all. She actually says, “Every time we meet I know him more, he knows me less. I live for the days when I see him. But I know that every time I do he’ll be one step further away. The day’s coming when I’ll look into that man’s eyes—my Doctor—and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.” Have you ever loved someone who has Alzheimer’s? It’s like that, because yes, from her POV, it feels like The Doctor is forgetting her, and that does hurt and it is a metaphorical death. But if she felt that the days not spent with him were wasted, she would have no reason to turn down his repeated offers to travel with him. Those days are not wasted and she never says that they are. She cherishes her position as an archaeologist and Professor. She loves what she does when she’s not with him, but she also looks forward to the days she does spend with him, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    River doesn’t serve The Doctor. Quite the opposite. She defies him and rejects his requests over and over.

    • Ava

      I see I am about 9 months late, but I just have to tell you I love your assessment of River Song! Every word, you should copy paste it every time someone says River’s whole life revolves around the Doctor. As for the article, I agree with the points about Martha Jones, but other than that it seems the writer is looking for ways to spin every situation into an act of misogyny. And I find it odd that Amy being a kissogram, which is essentially a stripper is something that would be considered a feminist act.

    • Naniquena

      Thanks for the words…
      I could never explain it better

  • http://www.facebook.com/etienne.dufour.33 Etienne Dufour

    feminist are such whiny bitch, GOD, are you ppl never happy?

    • Ariela

      If being happy means putting up with misogynistic representations of women and ignoring sexist and degrading comments about our self-worth just so you don’t have to have to deal with your little bubble of privilege bursting, then I will happily be a “whiny bitch”.

      Don’t like feminism? Get off a feminist website.

      • Martin_Kinsella

        Nowt wrong with being whiny or complaining about something you do not like.

        Everything wrong with a muddle headed, ignorant, article that attempts to court controversy without any intellectual processes behind it.

  • Erin Marie Hall

    I don’t have time to write a detailed and thorough refutation of this article, but I will say that I think it is very narrow in its treatment of the show. It cherry-picks its evidence and does very selective readings without adequately defending why those particular readings are stronger than alternative interpretations. For instance, when discussing Amy’s “deviant sexuality,” you assume that the Doctor’s reaction to her is meant as a cue for us, the audience, to also disapprove of her sexually autonomous lifestyle. But could it not also function as a critique of antiquated patriarchal expectations for women? Doesn’t that season repeatedly show us how the Doctor who fancied himself the God-like authority on everything is actually not always right, not always wise, and even at times poisonous? I agree that Doctor Who is often problematic, but this article really seems to have been written by someone who already had their stance decided, and therefore digests all information in a way that supports their argument.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steveward273 Steve Ward

    Okay, strap in folks. I’m at work at a job where I have the luxury of being able to kill time and get paid far too well for it. This may take a while. But hey, I read every word you wrote even though I found it insulting and condescending, so you can do the same.

    “Even
    as misogynist as this song is, I can’t help but like it. It is, after
    all, a parody written by a comic. It’s obviously tongue-in-cheek…”

    That means it’s NOT misogynistic, for fuck’s sake. How can you get the damn joke and still slap the label on it? How does context always elude people?!

    “Mickey is the dumb boyfriend, the incompetent idiot, the comic relief–throughout his tenure”

    Those misogynist fucking bastard writers. Wait, what does ‘misogynist’ mean again?

    “Yet
    no matter how talented, clever, or strong they are, they inevitably
    become damsels in distress more than once, fulfilling a plot point so
    that the Doctor can rescue them and therefore confront the villain or
    monster.”

    Because
    they’re travelling to alien planets and dealing with supernatural forces. Any human would be ill-equipped to
    deal with those circumstances all the time. And there are plenty of
    moments when they ARE well equipped. Clara single-handedly did the right
    thing in the entire storyline last week, got the kid through it, and
    when she was told to sit on the sidelines she rode a fucking spacepod
    thingy towards an exploding sun and gave it what killed it and saved a
    planet.

    “As
    much as I like Karen Gillan, there’s been very strong evidence (ie,
    words from Steven Moffat himself) suggesting that the reason she got the
    part has a lot to do with the fact that she’s gorgeous, thin, and tall.
    Billie Piper started off her career as a teenage pop star. Case in
    point.”

    That
    David Tennant is fucking hideous looking, too. What a double standard.
    And that Jack Harkness fella you mentioned earlier. I bet his looks had
    NOTHING to do with him getting the part. Frankly, I can’t believe they
    let that Quasimodo-looking motherfucker on television.

    “Oh, and the Doctor is always a man.”

    Who
    says The Doctor never will be a woman? Also, I’d chalk a thing like
    this up to tradition more than anything. Though I’d love a female doctor
    come next regen. Either that or a ginger given the running gag about
    it.

    “Last year, a contributor to Doctor Her ran the Bechdel Test on every single New Who episode 2005-2012.”

    I
    usually love the Bechdel Test because it can be pretty damning. I’m getting started in the film business and discovered the Bechdel Test after making my grad film and was very proud to find I passed with flying colours (though really, that shouldn’t be a grand accomplishment). But I
    don’t think it really helps represent anything on Who. The Doctor and
    the companion are a team. I refuse to rate an episode where the
    companion talks to the Doctor about the adventure for the entire episode
    lower or less female-friendly than an episode where “Donna talks to
    Nerys about being a peach”. Well, as long as there’s talk of someone
    being peach-like, that’s much better than the episodes where the
    companion saves the day.

    “The
    problem is, (Rose) seems to lose it all when she loses the Doctor. Or, I
    should say, when two men (the Doctor and Pete) force her into a
    universe without him… Russell T Davies had a problem with this too. He
    couldn’t justify it. It was what he needed for the plot, in order to
    get Billie Piper off the show again”

    So
    the writer was backed into a corner by actor availability, and this,
    therefore, completely undoes the fact that Rose was “fierce…
    stubborn… (someone who) refuses to give in” and repeatedly chose her own destiny. As
    long as it’s the writer you’re going after, you could at least donate
    them the slightest bit of fairness and that damn pesky context again.

    “(Martha
    is amazing. She’s smart, level-headed, and totally admirable) which
    makes her time with the Doctor an utter shame, because she ends up
    having to take care of him instead.”

    They
    give you a great character you approve of, and then they make the
    Doctor flawed so that she needs to be the stronger one who can take care
    of him. Those fucking monsters. They made a female stronger than the
    Doctor. Those misogynist fucks.

    “In the end, it isn’t the Doctor that saves them. It’s Martha Jones. And she barely gets acknowledgement for it.”

    Because
    being a ridiculously awesome, strong female character isn’t about what
    she does. It’s about getting a pat on the back from a man. Feminism,
    fuck yeah!

    “Most
    people see Martha’s departure as her “getting out” of a friend-crush
    that would never be reciprocated. I see that as a secondary matter.”

    Because fuck you, context.

    “I
    think that, first and foremost, she was choosing her own welfare, and
    her family’s welfare, over the wonders of traveling with the Doctor.”

    I
    know, that was a big move, wasn’t it? A woman giving up what the best
    man in the universe can offer her in favour of what is important to her
    as a human being. She really is something speci…..

    “It’s a banal choice”

    Oh what in the fucking fuck?!?

    “In
    the philosophy of RTD, where the most wonderful thing in the world is
    to travel with the Doctor, and the person who voluntarily walks away
    from the Doctor is crazy.”

    I think you meant “in the philosophy of RTD’s Doctor”. And in this scene, the one
    you’re discussing right now, Martha is deciding otherwise, because
    she’s a strong and independent woman with her own priorities and opinions, and she isn’t afraid to voice them and act upon them.

    “How
    could she choose to leave the TARDIS? But here’s the thing: that
    philosophy doesn’t work for everyone. Traveling is great, but home is
    amazing too.”

    Yes. Uh huh. Yep, that is indeed the point of the scene.

    “Martha’s
    home, with a family and a career, is one she values, and rightly so.
    Because within the next few years, she works for UNIT, Torchwood, and
    goes freelance.”

    So,
    to summarise, Martha made a choice, of her own free will, hell not even truly influenced by anyone (least of all the man, because he doesn’t even understand her choice much less endorse it), to place more
    value in her own family and career than in everything that the most
    amazing man in the universe can offer her. She does this for both her
    own self-interest and out of consideration for all the people most
    important to her. But don’t think she’s neglecting the interplanetary
    responsibility that has been revealed to her, oh no. She, of her own
    volition, works for the two foremost authorities on the most important
    issues and threats in every universe in existence, and even goes
    freelance. As in, 100% independent, with skills so great that those
    authorities come to HER. Because that is what “freelance” means.

    That fucking weak little bitch.

    “(The
    entire first Donna-related paragraph establishes that Donna is
    incredibly strong, independent and not just an equal but is completely
    indispensable)”

    What are we doing here? What’s going on? Where am I? Am I having a stroke?

    “She
    gets catapulted to the highest realms of knowledge, power, and
    cleverness with the DoctorDonna metacrisis. She saves the universe while
    the Doctor stands helplessly by.”

    Wow, this Doctor character sounds damn near useless with such strong women running around.

    “But then she “can’t handle” the power, because there “should never have been” a human (female) metacrisis.”

    Oh
    come on, you can’t just add “(female)” in there because it suits your
    argument. You can’t ignore context up until now and then just create
    your fuckin’ own!

    “So
    the Doctor not only strips her of all her power, he strips her of all
    her knowledge and memories of him and her travels and adventures,
    despite her forcibly protesting and shouting “No! No! No!” Smells a bit
    like consciousness-rape, doesn’t it?”

    First
    of all, fuck you. Secondly, this ending is treated as the saddest thing
    ever. It’s an utter tragedy, and completely unfair. You cry buckets. I know I did. But they were manly tears, because I’m intrinsically better than you. So
    even if I accept this batshittery, then the point of the ending is that
    rape is fucking awful. So the Doctor raped Donna (seriously…
    seriously, fuck you), and man, I hope no one is ever raped again. I wish
    we could prevent all future rapes. Because seeing it just fucking sucked and tore me apart. I’ve learned a terrible lesson from
    these evil writers here, haven’t I?

    “When
    we next see her, she’s defaulted to the same about-to-be married that
    she was when we first met her. She’s just “making do,” dreaming of a
    better life, a more adventurous life, that she’s not even consciously
    aware of.”

    It’s
    a sad ending. Sometimes those happen in storytelling. And the message
    is that making do isn’t good enough. Go be all you can be. How THE FUCK
    is this a bad message, you blind-to-context simpleton?

    “She
    is robbed of her memories and her personality. Those two very things
    that make us so human, and the Doctor who professes to love humans,
    takes them away against her will, because he decides that a life without
    them is better for her than a death where she goes down fighting.”

    Man, this Doctor sounds like a right dick. Imagine how much complaining we’d be doing if he had one of those vagina things.

    “there’s a lot to like about Amy Pond”

    Stop starting your fucking arguments like that. No ‘however’, just be wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong.

    “Everyone
    vocally disapproves of her turn as a kiss-o-gram. “You were a little
    girl five minutes ago!” the Doctor scolds. If that’s not a cue that the
    audience is supposed to disapprove of Amy’s deviant sexuality, I don’t
    know what is.”

    The
    joke here is that the Doctor is an out-of-touch old fuddy duddy who
    can’t accept that time has passed. But I can see how a joke about The
    Doctor being oblivious to context might have slipped past you.

    “Amy’s
    relationship with Rory. It’s clearly not perfect, but the fact that the
    Doctor feels that he is entitled to “fix” that, first by taking them on
    a honeymoon to Venice, and then by constructing a horrific dream world
    to force Amy to choose her fiancé over traveling, is horribly
    controlling and paternalistic.”

    Yes, the Doctor is a meddling, self-important idiot who can’t see what’s right in front of him.

    “Though she has been pregnant since before the beginning of season six, she doesn’t know it, we barely see it”

    The
    mystical pregnancy trope can be a particularly perilous one to try and
    pull off, but I’m sorry, do we want an entire season of Amy going on
    adventures while pregnant? Maybe the men can push her around in a
    wheelchair while she has mood swings, slows the group down and gets into
    trouble. That’s the preferable option, is it? I don’t want Doctor Who, I
    want a real time documentary on the trials and tribulations of carrying
    a baby to term.

    “reproductive terrorism”

    Go
    fuck yourself. Honestly, how fucking dare you compare bad writing on a
    television show to fucking terrorism? The writing of that phrase,
    picking such inappropriately provocative and inflammatory language is
    worse than anything that anyone on the Who writing staff has ever done. If you skimmed over all of my ranting insanity, I hope you heard this if nothing else. God damn, that is deplorable.

    “(River
    Song) knows just as much as (The Doctor) does. More, when we first see
    her. This is a challenge to the Doctor’s ego and to the show’s format,
    because both the Doctor and the audience are used to the Doctor knowing
    the most and always being in charge and saving the day. The Doctor reacted pretty negatively to her at their first meeting”

    Yep,
    now it’s a woman who is not an equal, she’s flat out stronger. What a
    cunt. How dare they write that? And The Doctor is shown to be a petty
    child whose ego can’t handle being trumped? Fucking sexism.

    “and so did much of the audience”

    1) Sources?
    2)
    “Doctor Who challenged its audience and the perception of how strongly
    women should be presented. As a feminist, I say they should go die in a
    fire.” What the fuck is wrong with you?!

    “She’s
    sexy and brilliant. She knows the intricacies of space and time, and
    travels the universe with the same ease that he does. She can fly the
    TARDIS. She knows his future. She’s his equal.”

    This
    fucking bitch. Who does River Song think she is? And why would they
    allow such misogynistic tripe on my beloved airwaves? Won’t somebody
    think of the children?

    “Initially,
    it’s negated because she’s a killer sociopath. He has the moral high
    ground, and in another act of paternal goodness, shows her the good and
    “right” way to live her life. He has domesticated her, “tamed” her.”

    If
    a man had this same character arc, he would be an awesome badass outlaw
    who eventually grows as a character. I always saw River as a fucking
    badass. But then, I’m not sexist enough to think a man can tame her.

    “And
    if we’re talking about unhealthy relationships, River tops the list.
    Her life revolves around the Doctor–literally. Before she is even born,
    she is groomed to be a weapon to kill him.”

    I’m
    just going to play translator now – River rebels against her destiny
    and forges her own path. Fuck what the patriarchy wants her to do, she’s
    her own person. Even if “destiny” says otherwise. Her individuality
    rebelled against fate itself.

    “He is present shortly after her birth, at her kidnapping. He flits in and out of the life of her friends growing up.”

    The Doctor travels through space and time, meeting people and places at different times in their life, often in a vain, sad attempt to figure something out (see Oswald, Clara).

    He also has a blue box called a TARDIS.

    Also, water is wet.

    “She’s then converted by him, and spends years of her life researching him as part of her dissertation.”

    Woman
    finds time travel interesting. Dedicates life to science and getting a
    doctorate. Masters time and space. This, naturally, makes her a shitty,
    weak female character.

    “From
    giving up her regenerations, to shooting down the Silence, to
    pretending her wrist isn’t broken merely to soothe his pride”

    Woman
    makes great sacrifice of her own free will. Woman refuses to show
    weakness to spare the feelings of a weaker character. This, naturally,
    makes her a shitty, weak female character. (That even weaker character whose
    feelings she spares, though, that one has a penis and is thus ever so
    awesome and infallible)

    “she devotes enormous amounts of energy to sheltering the Doctor and keeping him on a pedestal”

    The Doctor needs sheltering. By a woman. This, naturally, makes the woman a shi….. ah fuck it.

    “But it can’t be denied that the writers treat their female characters with undisguised misogynism.”

    Sure it can. I swear I have proof of that somewhere around here.

    “It’s too early to tell where Moffat will take the character of Clara Oswald. I’m trying hard to be optimistic”

    Did
    you use the four episodes featuring a very strong female played by
    Jenna-Louise Coleman as motivation for your optimism? I hope they
    helped.

    “But based on the dying-over-and-over trope we’ve seen so far, it’s not likely.”

    Yeah, she just might be (another/a) woman who tells destiny to fuck off. That’d be criminal.

    “And
    rather than just hoping that the male showrunners will give us better, I
    demand better female characters. I hope you’ll join me.”

    I
    sure hope the… ew… male writers don’t let their stupid testicles
    get in the way. Also, I demand you learn what you’re arguing for and
    stop blowing the most trivial of shit (ie. most of it) out of proportion and getting hung
    up on instances which are bad (ie. some of the mystical pregnancy trope) rather than celebrating the HUUUUGE amount
    of good. But, sing it with me now… you can’t always get what you
    wa-ant. You can’t always get what you wa-ant. But if you try sometimes,
    well you just might find, that Doctor Who has been giving you what you
    need this entire fucking time. Not perfectly, but certainly better than
    90% of mass media ever has.

    There are thousands of instances of media portraying women in bad, reductive ways. Focus on those. Fight the good fight rather than obsessing over the flaws in the efforts of an otherwise downright admirable show.

    • TheDoctorPlaysDice

      Seconded, all of that goddamn TL but ‘still read’ post, seconded.

    • HolidaySauce

      Wow, you really do have way too much time on your hands. What the hell does your job pay you for? I wasn’t a fan of this article but damn, you need to take a breath before you give yourself a massive stroke. Calm da fuq down, boyo.

    • http://twitter.com/plowiee Louie Louie

      I agree with everything you said.
      OMG CLARA HAS DIED 2 TIMES MISOGYNY MISOGYNY ANTI FEMINISM ARRRHHH. How the hell does this show misogyny? They made a WOMAN the “mystery” of the show – the central theme of this series; and the fact she dies makes the show inherently sexist? What is the sexism here? The fact she dies? (are women not allowed to die? is it only men who can die on TV?). Or the fact she’s a woman (somehow, because she dies she’s only a mystery – therefore her character is irrelevant and it’s sexist because she’s only a “mystery for a man to solve”) Replace Clara with a man. Is that somehow not sexist? Do you get Men complaining how this objectifies men? No. Feminists can NEVER EVER be satisfied. Captain Jack has died many, many time in the course of the show. MISANDRY! THIS IS INHERENTLY SEXIST TOWARDS MEN. I WAS HOPING RTD WOULD MAKE HIM A PRO MALE-RIGHTS CHARACTER BUT BECAUSE HE’S DIED SEVERAL HUNDRED TIMES HE OBVIOUSLY ISN’T.
      Feminism is pro-women’s rights. I support gender equality, not feminism. Feminists are full of double standards where it’s acceptable if it happens to men, but if it happens to women then it’s sexist.

    • vanessasayss

      Greatest post ever. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    • Alicia Norman

      I personally had no issue with the way Rose’s story ended in fact, I thought it was rather prefect. Feminists act as if no woman should ever want to rely on or love her man–what is up with that? I love and rely on my hubby and I know he does the same for me. Heck, the doctor has risked his own neck a time or two to save his companions–you don’t hear me bitchin’…

  • http://www.facebook.com/janglz Beau Oakley

    Look, I’m all for feminism when feminism is required, but I think that a lot (but definitely not all) of your frustrations and hang ups on the show revolve around your idea that The Doctor is supposed to be a writers representation of ‘The Perfect Man’ and that his actions and reactions are the correct ones.

    For example: “Everyone vocally disapproves of her turn as a kiss-o-gram. “You were a little girl five minutes ago!” the Doctor scolds. If that’s not a cue that the audience is supposed to disapprove of Amy’s deviant sexuality, I don’t know what is.”

    I find this is not the case and The Doctor is not supposed to be infallible, in this instance he simply can’t come to grips with the idea that, to him, Amy has gone from little kid to kiss-o-gram in the span of 5 minutes. Amy was never uncomfortable or ashamed about her profession, so why is it you seem to think that’s what the writers were trying to communicate?

    The Doctor is supposed to be a flawed, lonely and at times, pathetic character who surrounds himself with strong representations of the human race. You cannot be angry or disheartened when The Doctor has the answer to a problem and the human companion doesn’t, he has the knowledge and experience of hundreds of years and a nifty sonic screwdriver!
    I think many of the issues of season 6 with Amy was the fact that despite having no experience or knowledge of aliens, she still somehow knows exactly what to do – Think back to the space-whale episode… ridiculous!

    All in all, each and every companion is strong and independent in their own right, and although some of the relationships (especially romantic, i.e. Donna) with The Doctor are contrived, it is still a show that represents women in a much better light than much of the media

    • http://www.facebook.com/janglz Beau Oakley

      I actually meant Martha by the way, not Donna when I said the relationship was contrived… Donna’s relationship with The Doctor is brilliant!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ranting-Thespian/689452743 Ranting Thespian

      I agree. The Doctor is far from perfect. He has done some great things in his life, but he has also done some horrible things. Then he is also forced to do horrible things, even though he does not want to do it, and he has even been prejudice (see his dialog with Jack in Utopia).

      Also, I love how he treated Sarah Jane in the Ark In Space, where the 4th Doctor was putting her down and such because he wanted her to stand up to him, and be strong, so she would pull through the situation.

      If the Doctor was perfect, the show would be boring. He is an imperfect being, who sometimes does things we don’t like or don’t agree with. That’s one of the things that makes the show great.

    • Alicia Norman

      Couldn’t agree more. Dr Who’s power is in his one true vulnerability. His immortality. It makes him at times aloof, punctuates his loneliness, and showcases his imperfection. Overall, he has this grand love for humanity that makes us adore him all the more, even at his rakish best!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68135841 Elizabeth Shatzer

    You are just as bad as misogynists. Any woman who does not measure up to your person idea of a “real feminist woman” is anti-feminist. Do you not see how totally hypocritical you are? I don’t know if you are just jealous of fiction women, and feel the need to tear them down, or if you are a narcissist. Feminism is about being true to yourself, and making choices based on what you want, not by what is between your legs. All of the recent Dr Who companion do this. They are have flaws, yes, but they are realistic. Woman are varied, imperfect, and wonderful. People like you are what gives feminism a bad name.

  • A.

    Only one comment. “She makes out with the Doctor the night before her wedding.” – this isnot taking charge of Amy’s own sexuality. It’s called cheating on your fiance. And I can’t understand how can you claim it as a good thing.

    • Alicia Norman

      Precisely. I am no Rory fan but he deserved better. It also made me not like Amy all that much.

  • http://twitter.com/plowiee Louie Louie

    I don’t think it’s misogyny guiding how characters are written – it’s just society. That’s how people think, and that’s how it’s been for a long time. I’m not saying it’s a good thing – it’s far from perfect, but it’s just how it is. Should it be changed, and female characters written better? Yes. Is it misogyny? (definition – the HATRED of women). Certainly not!
    Also, I think feminists tend to over think things. Just because a girl is sometimes stereotyped in a TV show, even if only for a moment, feminists pounce on it and tear it to shreds. Has nobody seen ‘Night and the Doctor – 2′ where Amy confronts the Doctor for having so many female companions, because ‘he is a man’.
    Surely this is offensive to males – because it’s implying that men only care about sex appeal, and that our lives revolve around bedding women after women – no matter who they are, from an old man like the First Doctor, a Bohemian like the Fourth, a Romantic like the Eighth or a Madman like the Eleventh. It certainly doesn’t apply to me, or to anybody I know – so therefore it is sexist to men.

    Wait, no, I’m overthinking things. It’s just a minor detail that means nothing.

  • Lorena

    I haven’t finished reading yet, only to Martha at the moment, but… “And that frustrates me, because she is so much more than that.” YES.

    The first time I watched Martha’s season, she was my least favorite companion. But now she is much higher up on the list. She’s the ONLY companion who stands completely on her own without being super annoying. She’s the only one I’d actually want to know and would be able to respect in real life. Every time she needs comfort on the show, she finds it in someone besides the Doctor. When she chooses to leave him at the end, it’s exceptional. It proves that she is exceptional. And even though they paint her as lovesick at the end, she actually goes and kisses other men on the show throughout the season — seeking love alongside the Doctor and alongside her own life. Finally finding it during her year long trek through desolation and making it happen after saving the world (and then that whole relationship is forgotten in the Specials when she is married to Mickey… um, what happened to her hot pediatrician fiance from S4?!) Martha is truly incredible as a person. She’s also wholly relate-able, has a good sense of humor, and I bet can throw back a couple beers and tell a good story at happy hour.

    The episode that bothers me the most is the one in which the Doctor leaves Rose and Mickey stranded in deep space as he goes to save Mdme du Pompadour. He just leaves knowing he cannot come back. He tells this person (and her mother!) that he won’t let harm come to her, and then he totally abandons her in deep space. She doesn’t know how to fly the TARDIS, neither does Mickey. They are literally stuck there on that creepy spaceship with the TARDIS to sustain them… FOREVER. Yet, no one discusses that once the Doctor returns. He’s a real jerk, at the end of the day. You’d think after 900something years he’d develop the ability to care about someone besides himself. But no.

    Let’s not even start with the Moffat years, which I suppose could be tied into the Girl in the Fireplace episode, since he wrote it. Moffat has this tendency of creating companions into enigmas. Which is basically negating the entire purpose of the companion. Sally Sparrow (Blink) and Nancy (The Empty Child) are Moffat’s best female leads in DW so far.

    • Martin_Kinsella

      Two problems with Martha for me. Agyeman is awful in the role and the character was debased. She was supposed to be some sassy professional woman who knew her own mind and very quickly became a case of “marfa wuvs the Doctor” simpering around after him like a lovesick puppy.

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  • Martin_Kinsella

    River Song is not a strong female character. She is a poor character with her lame “hello sweetie” nonsense and behaving like a drunk divorcee at a wedding. Pretty poor all in all. I would happily never see her in the show again.

  • amnecia

    I deeply appreciate Steve Ward’s ranting yet terrific responses to this incredibly biased article. I just recently read a spate of similarly agenda-wielding and brutal dissections of Joss Whedon’s supposed “entitlement” and “misogyny” by other vocal members of the UberFeministZeitgeist—the ones whose feminism is more pure, it would seem, than ours…the ones who SEE BEYOND what the rest of us see into the TRUE MISOGYNY that lurks behind every single female character ever written, anywhere—except, of course, the ones written by a woman. So Margaret Atwood’s female characters can suffer for their sexuality (“Handmaid’s Tale”) and even bring ruin to one another (“Cat’s Eye”) and it will merely be wry feminist commentary. But if a man had written the books in Atwood’s arsenal, I suspect he’d be torn to ribbons.

    It’s amazing that no matter how much groundbreaking is done in shows like “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” (one of the first long-term lesbian relationships in a TV show of that kind of reach and popularity; a female heroine whose responsibilities and conspicuous power leave her by turns isolated and overwhelmed—though she never abandons her post)—it never seems to count; it’s always problematic somehow. Some contrarian feminist, somewhere, finds enough time on her hands to affix some meta-mythos to it that fits conveniently into whatever woman-hating construct she wants to hammer it into (specious arguments be damned).

    To a person hell-bent on finding sexism, whatever bad things happen to female characters drawn by men in Dr. Who and Buffy is “slut-shaming” or”punishment for sexuality” or some kind of cliched construct that shows us in our worst light. But who says we must always be shown in our best light?! Where is that a contract? I don’t want—in life or in fiction—to be bound by some academic’s idea of what a perfect woman is any more than I want to be bound by a man’s idea of that (what the hell IS the perfect feminist, anyway?).

    In any worthwhile drama, characters are alternately imperiled and empowered. Writers have to make that happen. If any character—male or female—is UNWAVERINGLY strong it is boring as hell—as is constant sniveling weakness. Strong women falter (this makes them relatable). Weak women show surprising mettle sometimes. The exact same tenets are true for male characters. Sometimes, someone is just held hostage by a monster. Sometimes that isn’t some fucking metaphor for RAPE or some other trigger word that serves your agenda, for godsakes. Maybe not EVERY fucking plot twist isn’t a FABLE. Why must a writer always and only be charged with showing some idealized notion of Woman as Perfect, Most Evolved and Most Sage Creature Ever? And what the hell would that even LOOK like?

    Jesus Christ, if she’s a healthy, attractive woman that will infuriate you all (because how sexist, to create someone who is too “ideal” in the eyes of the patriarchal man-world!) What does this perfect but not TOO perfect woman even look like, and how does she act? Is she constantly and unflaggingly strong, or will that be “completely unrealistic” and will she then be a Pygmalion creation, drawn by a narcissistic writer in love with his own creation? What pitfalls and events can this woman encounter in any dramatic arc that DON’T somehow speak to huge spiraling metaphors about Place in Society? Please tell me, because it does appear that there is a very specific formula, and all I know is that so far, EVERYONE ON TELEVISION has gotten it dead wrong.

    There is no winning with people who read with such a jaundiced eye.

  • Mark Craigie

    Seriously… I just found this post and all I can say is “Do you have nothing better to do with your time??” Its drivel like this that makes people look at feminism with complete contempt. More power to the females I say, I work in a traditionally male dominated industry and with more and more women coming into it these days I can honestly say it is a much better environment. If you are going to be a feminist take on the real issues, don’t blow your horn in a desperate attempt for air time and notoriety buy posting meaningless crap, you do all women a bigger disservice than Doctor Who ever has!!

  • ana

    how about clara

  • Ed Bellardino

    Why is the Doctors daughter in the poster? She wasn’t one of the companions.

  • Alicia Norman

    One of the things that struck me as completely unfair in this article is the idea that the good Doctor wiped Donna’s mind cause she was a woman. No, no and no. She was a human incapable of processing all the information of a time lord. Even a human male would have had smoke coming out of his ears. And it makes sense. It would be akin of retaining all the information of a god. I am not the religious type by a long shot, but would say, theoretically, that could fry a human mind. I mean, e’gads, even Time Lords could lose their minds when looking into the temporal voids. I also think a great point was made regarding how some of the guys like *cough, cough* Rory can’t seem to keep it together. The only somewhat competent folks appear to be Dr. Who and River Song…al that said, cherry pickin aside, I just love the show for the pure dee fun it provides, with a little cerebral nugget on the side. Gotta love it.

  • Krystin

    What a horrible article. You are completely ignoring the many times the Doctor risked himself to save someone, and not because he’s a man and she’s a woman. Because that’s what the doctor does. Please understand that the main character of a show WILL get the most screen time and be the hero.

    And which part of feminism says a woman can’t love or want a man? You can ignore it but the Doctor needs his female companions, too.

  • Guesty Mc Guesterson

    You know, Their are a lot of problem with this article. But I will Speak of the one I think deserves the most mention. A lot of these problems aren’t female problems. Their are so many time while reading this article where I thought If you switched the gender of this Character(and in some instences the sexual prefrence)the scene/development/etc would have played out the exact same way. The problem this young lady pointed weren’t bad female character prolems they were just bad character problems.

  • Ryan

    See, this is why people don’t like feminist. Just like race baited such as Sharpton you are always picking fights and nit picking. The women in Who are some of the most well written, strong female characters on screen. In spit of this you get upset that the main character is male instead, or that the Dr has to save the companion, duh, basic plot writing. You should look at the terrible female character on shows like Revolution, or walking dead.

    • Tony

      Obviously these people have never seen the classic Doctor Who series… boy wouldn’t they complain. Compared to the female companions in the 60s though the eighties, the modern companions are much stronger and much more independent.
      But i agree with you. They are picking a fight and throwing a fit over a piece of television FICTION.

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  • Nick

    You know, this assessment of the companions is a very insulting one. You are looking at everything wrong. You are saying what the feminists want to hear. In a way, degrading the doctor and the writers. Doctor Who has many angles to it that could counter what you said. Angles that I can and WILL provide you with.

    Rose Tyler:
    Rose wasn’t only a companion. She loved the doctor. She loved everything about him. What sickens me is that you are putting this very much out of context. She was supporting him. No one from the new series did it better than Rose. Absolutely no one. She stuck with him till the end. She didn’t mean to let go. She had to. He put her and the doctor 2.0 in the parallel universe because he had to. At least she still had the doctor. Someone she could help other than herself. As for Pete Tyler, I’m positive you’d be obsessed over getting your dad back too.

    Martha Jones:
    I think you need to take everything that you said about Martha and put it with Rose. And then take Rose’s quote unquote “description”. No offense to miss Freema, but I’m pretty sure you couldn’t name 5-10 things she did for the doctor that he didn’t already know needed done.

    Donna Noble:
    I actually agree with most of what you said. But there is one thing. One critical thing that you put WAY out of perspective. The timelord-human metacrisis. You said a FEMALE Human-Timelord metacrisis couldn’t happen. The episode said and I quote, “it’s happening because it’s not supposed to happen.” Humans and Timelords weren’t supposed to have that happen. If Mickey, or Rory, or even Mister Face of Boe himself Jack Harkness would’ve had it happen, the same would’ve happened. The Doctor said that humans could never handle the brain of a Timelord.
    She had to (I’m not sure you got that, let me repeat that, HAD to) forget it or else her mind would burn and she would die. The doctor didn’t WANT to make her forget. He HAD to. So don’t you go ranting on about mind rape and crap like that!!

    Amy Pond:
    This was actually a pretty accurate assessment. I didn’t make it through without freaking out, but not for the same reasons as you. I didn’t make it because I was mad how you butchered EVERY STINKING DETAIL ABOUT AMY!!!!!!

    River Song:
    I cannot BELIEVE how bad you butchered this one. I’m not kidding. She said every day without the doctor is a waste because every freaking time she meets him he knows LESS AND LESS ABOUT HER BECAUSE SHE KEEPS GOING BACK INSTEAD OF FORWARD!!!! She is the exact opposite of what you said (minus the she knows everything he knows part. That part is accurate).

    Oh by the way, the guys aren’t stupid, or plot-bearers, or anything like that. And TO HECK WITH THIS ASSESSMENT!!!! I DON’T CARE HOW MUCH HATE I GET, I’M JUST POINTING OUT THE OBVIOUS!!!!! YOU ARE RUINING A GREAT SHOW WITH THIS QUOTE UNQUOTE “FEMINISM ISSUE” QUITE FRANKLY I THINK YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE WHO ACTUALLY CARED ABOUT THIS BEFORE YOU DECIDED TO RANT ABOUT NOTHING!!!

  • http://jefprice.com/ jefprice

    I completely disagree. This is poorly written and even worse… it’s complete rubbish.

  • Issy

    Just because these companions love a man and want to save him doesn’t make them a bad representation for feminism. That’s awful. RTD and Moffat are clearly showing here that women can make their own decisions. They’re showing that powerful kick ass strong women are allowed to love a man! These women have faults, but so do we all! If they didn’t have something vulnerable about them they wouldn’t be realistic and therefore relatable. Misogynistic means the “hatred” of women. Everything you stated is far from hating women. When the doctor said “You were a little girl five minutes ago” was not giving telling the audience to disapprove of Amy’s sexuality, it was to show how grown up little amy has become, the doctor saw her as a child a few minutes ago and now she’s all grown up in a matter of minutes! The doctor is the main character of the show and he is going to get the main screentime, but he isn’t perfect and that is the point. His companions are what make him a better being. His companions are the heroes as they save him, fight some aliens and show that normal human beings can be extraordinary! And that is the point of doctor who. Yes RTD and Moffat have faults in their writing but so does every writer, let’s just focus on the good message doctor who brings for strong, independent, wise woman who are relatable in their actions and personality.

  • Harriet

    OK
    so although I agree that Doctor Who isn’t the most feminist show on the
    planet, I also have a big issue with the Exterminate Misogyny article,
    and many like it that comb through every detail to find reason why the
    writers are evil sexists.
    My reasons are as follows:
    If
    you never approach issues that are attributed to being female (like her
    argument about using Amy’s ability to get pregnant as a plot point)
    then does that mean you can never cover any points to do with females
    ever? No woman should ever have a pregnancy storyline because pregnancy
    is a female thing and you can’t bring up their biological differences in
    case it points out the fact they aren’t men?
    Secondly
    romances. I like love stories. They aren’t the only thing I look for in
    a story but I’m a lot more likely to keep watching a show if there is
    some sort of love story arc. By suggesting that showing women falling
    for the Doctor makes them weak and girly goes against the fact that
    humans fall in love, and many of us enjoy stories about it happening.
    Also, the Doctor and his companions have a tendency to fall for one
    another because more often than not it’s just the two of them, and if
    you’re straight and traveling the universe with a charismatic friend you
    are probably quite likely to end up attracted to them. This is another
    of those areas that is attributed to being a “female weakness”, and in
    removing for the sake of being feminist you risk loosing the depth and
    heart to a story.
    Lastly
    it’s called “Doctor Who” not “Doctor Who’s Companion”. Yes, his
    companions are essentially controlled by the Doctor, he makes the
    decisions. This isn’t a patriarchal thing, it’s a “He is the most
    powerful being in the universe” thing. He is the main character of the
    show and so all plots revolve around him. Complaining that the
    companions spend their time thinking about him, waiting for him, wanting
    to travel with him is like being pissed off that Hamlet has too many
    lines in Hamlet. He is the main character, and when the feminist
    blinkers are removed you notice that all the men’s stories on the show
    also revolve around the Doctor. That’s the point.
    To
    end this massive essay, I believe that so many feminists go about
    trying to make a more balanced industry in completely the wrong way.
    They target already existing stories and try to change them to make them
    something they were never supposed to be. Instead we need to create our
    own stories. You’re pissed off that Doctor Who is a man and has female
    companions? Then go write a scifi that has a female lead. Trying to
    change popular and successful shows that are already doing a pretty good
    job for female roles just makes feminism in media seem like a chore. We
    need people who will write great leading female roles, and then we need
    people who will commission those shows without asking the ignorant
    question of “Will men want to watch this?”.

  • Xavier

    Am I the only one that remember seeing the Doctor torned appart when he had to make difficult choice for the sake of his companion ? Who remember seeing him crying when he left Rose without telling her about his feelings ? Or when he left his “clone” with her when what he really want may be to stay with her ? And what about many other times with others companions ?

    I know it doesnt transform it automatically in a “feminist” statement but, by the reaction of the main character, I see that more in a “human relationship” way (with imperfect human beings that have to face the consequences of their choices) then a patriarcal/feminist way (with oppostite powers trying to take control)