Let’s take a moment to discuss the news that’s had everyone buzzing, and or foaming at the mouth this week. Yes, I do mean the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor Who, set to take up the iconic role this December. No, I do not mean the fact that she lacks a Y chromosome. Because sure, Hallelujah (and I really do mean that) but really, we all know it’s about bloody time.
What I want to talk about is the backlash her casting sparked. Now, I understand as much as the next person how upsetting it can be when a beloved character is portrayed by someone who so clearly doesn’t align with your own imagining of said character. Daniel Radcliffe, I do love you, but you’re just not my Harry. (Robbie Coltrane… you’re good.) There will always be someone with something to say about casting, so of course, we can expect to see angry fans take to Twitter to vent their discontent. Fine.
I’m even going to put to one side the fact that, unlike most instances when such upset is caused, Doctor Who is a television programme devoid of literary content as its original source. I’m going to ignore the fact that this is a show which charts the adventures of an ALIEN INDIVIDUAL who is constantly re-invented, so the occurrence of a female actor being cast really Should. Not. Matter.
What I want to talk about is this – the front of one of the country’s major papers yesterday.
It’s easy to make excuses for publications that are notorious for their misogynistic attitudes, such as the above. Lest we forget, this is the publication that put a headline above their front cover image of world leaders Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon reading ‘NEVER MIND BREXIT, WHO WON LEGS-IT!’ But when I saw this today, I lost it. Enough was enough.
I dismiss the majority of what publications like this write about women, and rejoice to see it is frequently called out by individuals and organisations alike. But just because it is generally recognised to hold backward and deeply shameful views, doesn’t make the fact of their putting those views out there any better.
Yesterday in the office, of course, we all discussed the news, and being a team of females, we were all as thrilled as you might expect. But we also talked about the Mail cover. Yes, to admonish it, but the fact remains… we talked about it. When our conversation should have ended on the good vibes and the exchange of personal thoughts about the casting, it instead continued on this most unpleasant headline.
The thing is, the Daily Mail and publications like it are quite literally standing in the way of any real progress.
Yesterday on British daytime panel show Loose Women (Britain’s answer to The View), panellist Saira Khan recalled the moment that morning, when she asked her son what he thought of the news. He said he thought it was ‘awesome’ – no other comment. Similar tales recounted in the office and on the tube reiterated the notion that when it comes to children, the concept of equality between the genders is more ingrained in their consciousness than any generation before.
Likewise, the day of the horrendous ‘Legs-It’ cover, I overheard a group of my male colleagues discussing it among themselves – not a conversation they were having in front of or for women, and one they were unaware I was quietly overhearing. And I quote:
- “It’s very sad.”
- “It’s a troubling trend.”
- “Doesn’t it make you glad you’re a man!” “What, that I’m not subjected to this kind of sexist rubbish? Of course.”
As I quietly punched the air to hear men ranging in age and background unanimously acknowledge such blatant sexism, their reactions, as well as those of children in response to the Doctor Who news, has made something blatantly clear.
When it comes to gender equality, things are getting drastically better. Children no longer care as much or put up with the sexist attitudes that oppressed their fathers and mothers; they don’t even think to. And it would seem that men also are becoming ever more aware of sexist attitudes within our own society, and an increasing number are as appalled by them as the majority of women.
I understand the need to scream and shout about these things; to call out public figures or publications when they display misogynistic behaviour or views, and to celebrate when a step is taken in the right direction. Whether the casting of a female in a historically male role, or a Prince highlighting the need for young men to be able to talk about their feelings, the temptation to revel in these small victories is well called-for.
But I think the age of loud, indignant feminism we are currently experiencing, while still currently necessary (so long as Donald Trump is leader of the free world), will need to eventually make way for a quieter, calmer attitude towards gender roles.
I long for the day when the response to such news being announced is exactly what it would have been had Kris Marshall been the actor cast. The day when we don’t even comment on whether someone is male or female because it genuinely doesn’t matter; whether a stay-at-home parent, or the CEO of a company, or the lead actor of a beloved sci-fi series or superhero movie. The day when national papers feel no need to respond to females as if their rise – not above men, mind, but merely closer to their level – is a personal attack on world order. Please Daily Mail, calm the fuck down.