On Sunday, the BBC announced what many of us had been waiting for: the first ever female Doctor for Doctor Who.
After the announcement, Twitter exploded. On one side, you had women and minorities who were thrilled to see such an iconic sci-fi character be cast as anything other than a white man. On the other, you had men (and a few women, bizarrely), who lamented the rise of PC culture and declared their childhoods ruined.
This was not surprising. We saw it with the Ghostbusters reboot. We see it every time someone dares suggest that a black or female James Bond could be quite cool. Every time women and minorities dare to take up more space in entertainment–particularly in the sci-fi genre–men throw a tantrum. Because apparently ghosts and ghouls and aliens and cyborgs are fine, but female protagonists are just a step too far.
“Men aren’t afraid of a female Doctor. They’re afraid of women.”
Then, in a move that is equally unsurprising and yet still utterly disgusting, both The Sun and the Mail Online published naked photographs of the new Doctor–Jodie Whittaker. Yes, that’s right, two major publications felt so threatened by the idea of a woman in an iconic sci-fi role that they decide to try and undermine Whittaker’s achievement by reducing her to nothing more than a topless photo.
Never mind that the photos were from Whittaker’s past roles, and therefore examples of her bold acting rather than any kind of personal morality (not that taking nude photos says anything about a woman’s personal morality).
Never mind everybody was fully aware that Jodie Whittaker has breasts, without The Sun or Mail Online publishing these photos.
Never mind that having a female body has absolutely no bearing on whether or not a woman can act.
Never mind that the Doctor is a f*cking alien from another planet that changes bodies every few years, and that a female Doctor is no more strange than a northern one (looking at you Christopher Ecclestone).
The publication of Whittaker’s naked photos highlights what we all already knew: that the problem isn’t with a female Doctor; it’s with a female person, period. Male Doctor Who fans aren’t worried that Whittaker’s portrayal of the Doctor will somehow alter the tone or style or genre of the show. They’re worried that a female Doctor will open up the floodgates and let more women into their sacred space.
“When presented with a female protagonist, men were unable to think of single sophisticated critique.”
Because if the problem was with a female Doctor–or even with Whittaker specifically–then The Sun would have written a well-researched piece about whether or not Whittaker had the stamina for such a demanding role, and the Mail Online would have written about how the entire success of Doctor Who hinges on the fact that the Doctor inhabits a male body. They would have written editorials about all the times the Doctor’s maleness was integral to the plot or the structure or the artistry of the show.
But they didn’t. They published pictures of her tits. Because when presented with a female protagonist they were unable to think of a single sophisticated critique other than BUT LOOK SHE’S GOT A BODY.
Because men aren’t afraid of a female Doctor. They’re afraid of women.
This is, I suspect, not the last time we’ll see something like this over the course of Jodie’s run as the Doctor. As the first female Doctor, Whittaker will have to prove time and time again that she’s capable; that she’s just as funny as David Tennant and just as quirky as Matt Smith and just brooding as Peter Capaldi. She’ll have to face a constant barrage of abuse like this–from both Twitter trolls and national newspapers alike.
But just remember: for every male journalist that feels nauseous at the thought of a female Doctor, there are 20 girls that get to grow up believing that they can save the world. And that’s got to be worth it.