Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Love and Devotion are not signs of weakness aka Moffat's Women are not weak...

I've been rather frustrated of late by the idea that for a woman to be strong, for her not to be down trodden, manipulated, weak, a doormat, or whatever other descriptor you like in the same vein, she should never feel devoted love for someone. She should never have need of another person. She should never attach herself to anyone emotionally.

Because, you know, woman aren't social beings at all - well, not strong women anyway.

This irritating little fibre against my soul came to a head when I read the following - very poorly informed - argument as to why the next Doctor in the Doctor Who saga should be a woman (a notion I am not opposed to, by the way).

Find said offensively incorrect article here.

Okay, setting aside the misinformation about Time Lords being immortal (hmmm, so please explain why the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, and why Madam Kovarian would have even believed the Doctor could be killed in the first place) and the false fact (which was later amended) that the 10th Doctor wore a leather jacket, lets just have a look at this little gem of an insight...

The adorable, plucky, but somewhat pathetic sidekicks started appearing when Steven Moffat took over as showrunner. As writer Elizabeth Lopatto says, "I'm fine with the next Doctor being a dude, as long as we get more interesting women and a more emotionally competent writer. Because if Moffat writes us a female Twelve, I imagine she'll be just as sad and broken as the other women he's written (most notably abuse victim River Song, whose lives are stolen from her by the man she loves, for whom she later goes to jail for a crime she didn't commit; although placeholder/perfume model Amy Pond should get special mention for blandness)."

Excuse me, what?

I just hate it when people have an opinion on something they have obviously not taken the time to actually investigate more than superficially. River may have suffered abuse - in that she was kidnapped from her parents at birth and was programmed to kill the Doctor - but she was not a 'victim' of said abuse. To suggest she was a victim is to suggest she let this abuse diminish and define her, and she absolutely did not let that happen. In fact, despite these abuses against her as a child, she grows into a confident, compassionate, intelligent woman who is quite fearless in the face of any foe.

To say she had her lives 'stolen' from her ignores the fact that she not only offered up those lives completely of free will, but that the Doctor pleaded with her not to give him her lives, and she ignored him.

As for going to jail. It is customary, when in jail, not to be able to leave jail whenever you please and yet many references and jokes are made about the fact that River can and does leave StormCage all the time.

In fact, the greatest criticism I'm read about the so-called pathetic River Song was that her life revolved entirely around the Doctor, just as Amy's did. Well, let's see, is that true?

Yes, Amy met the Doctor when she was a small child frightened by an alien presence in her bedroom. The Doctor then disappeared for 12 years - through no fault of his own - leaving Amy with a feeling of desertion and leaving her to fantasise about this strange man who came into her life for a moment, promised to help her then disappeared. Yes, I can see how she became obsessed with him - but does that make her pathetic?

Then he returns and they go on many adventures together. So, yes, he is central to her life for a number of years, and even after she marries Rory, their lives still revolve around the Doctors comings and going, but they also become aware of this.

So, Amy is self-aware, that is not pathetic.

In the end, Amy loses Rory into the past. She could have travelled on with the Doctor, but she didn't. Instead she follows Rory, the love of her life. Turning her back on the Doctor. The Doctor was central to Amy's life between the ages of 8 and 24, so for 16 years out of her 87 year life span.

River is Amy and Rory's daughter, although she doesn't live with them for the first 7-8 years of her life, and then grows up with them as peers instead of parents. She hears all of Amy's stories about the mystical Doctor, and she is curious, of course, especially when she has the opportunity to meet him.

From that point on, she certainly does see the Doctor, they meet up constantly - though they never spend more than a couple of days together at any one time. She doesn't follow him around, she goes and educates herself, and on several occasions when they meet up, she saves his life. For most of their relationship so far, she is in control of when they meet.

After losing Amy and Rory, the Doctor invites her to travel with him and she says, 'Anywhere, any time, but not all the time.' She chooses NOT to be with him.

In 'The Name of the Doctor' we see the following clip...

It has been suggested that her lingering on, waiting for the Doctor to come back is a sign of her pathos, of her weakness, of her need for a man to feel whole.

This is so wrong!

First of all, this is not a case of needing 'a man', but rather of loving a particular man. When we love people and they leave without saying goodbye, we lack a sense of closure, because we are humans, we are by our very design social and we need meaningful social relationships to thrive. If she was unphased by the Doctor's departure then she probably never did love him.

The suggestion that a strong woman should not love a person and crave that person's acknowledgment in return is just stupid - it is requiring strong women to set aside being human beings. You do not need to be free of emotion to be strong - only Vulcans believe that!

Does anyone accuse the Doctor of being weak or pathetic or a victim because he obsesses about Clara for all those episodes in series 7? No, it's not even a topic of discussion. Men can be strong an still be head over heels in love. Men can be strong and sacrifice their lives without their integrity because questioned. Men can be strong even if they have been victims of abuse. So, why do people question a woman's strength under these same circumstances?

Invulnerability is not the same as strength.

You see, to be invulnerable, you can never let your guard down. You can never trust another person, or love another person. You can never be prepared to sacrifice for another. You can never compromise with another person. You can never really have deep and meaningful relationship with another person, because if you do and they leave or die or disappoint you, then you might feel something and you might even cry or lose your mind for a while and then you're just pathetic according to so many of these judges of what it is to be a 'strong woman'.

Moffat has been accused of writing stereotypically weak women. I am not here to defend Moffat on that score, but I fail to see how the women he has written are weak. In this blog post there is a list of some of the progressive stuff Moffat has done as a writer and plot master for Doctor Who - for women, gay people, race debates etc.

On the topic of strong women, the list should be longer...

Rose - Fearless and compassionate - hey she was even compassionate towards a Dalek making it possible for a *good* Dalek to develop (even if his life was short lived). Rose was shop girl who ended up running a secret military group.

Martha - ;The Woman Who Walked the Earth' and united the earth's people and then joined Torchwood. Sure she had a deep crush on the Doctor for a while, but realising it was unrequited, she said goodbye and found a new life for herself. Martha was a doctor.

Donna - This woman was AWESOME! She put the Doctor in his place in nearly every single episode! In the end she became the Donna-Doctor and even when returned to her previous life without any memory of her time with the Doctor, she just kept troopering on making a life for herself. Donna was a secretary who saved the Universe and the Doctor and was 'the most important woman in all of creation'.

Amy - 'The Girl Who Waited' - except she didn't. She became a model and perfume designer, and her perfume was named Petrichor 'for the girl who is tired of waiting'. After following Rory back into the past, she became an author. She didn't wait at all, in the end.

River - Let's start with Alex Kingston (River Song) being twenty years older than Matt Smith (The Doctor), she's hardly a shrinking violet or a girly-girl. She's an archeologist who become a Professor. She's a diplomat, a sharp-shooter, she flies the TARDIS better than the Doctor. She reads Galifreyan (which is practically a lost language). She travels through space and time completely independently of the Doctor. She's the only person in the Universe he trusted enough to tell her his name. She's his wife - not a love-lorn groupie.

Clara - Was 'born to save the Doctor'. If anything, Clara reminds us the Doctor seems more in need of women than they are of him! He obsesses about Clara, seeks her out, chases her down, and she saves his life time and time again - thus, saving the Universe...

Madam Vastra - A sword wielding, alien warrior. She definitely doesn't need a man, being married to Jenny, she's not even attracted to them.

Madge Arwell - In the 2012 Christmas special, she is the only person strong enough to save the Doctoer, her children and herself from the acid rain, because she is - being a woman - the only one strong enough to fly to ship to safety (consequently also being a guiding light that saves her husband's life).

It seems that contrary to some ill-informed opinions 'Moffat's women' are usually very strong, not at all door mats and certainly not pathetic.

Having the capacity for love and self-sacrifice is not a sign of weakness - if anything, it is a sign of strength!

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Good Job!