I loathe that I need to write a preamble such as this, but it’s the only way to reinforce that I care not for the gender politics that surrounded this issue. In fact, my thoughts on the matter of the new female Doctor Who is neatly explained far better, by a far better writer than I in this article by Helen Razer.
I could not give fewer shits about the direction that the BBC is taking with Doctor Who. I was never a watcher of the series, and the attempts I made to invest in it were simply met with a hearty shrug from my shoulders. Friends were avid watchers, and did make a little attempt to get me on board the good ship Who, but I abandoned ship before the cheesy special effects first grated onto the screen.
There are some who would tout that a new female Doctor Who whom represents a non-male gender sends a message to girls everywhere that they too can be a (name profession here). But this is a message that I don’t necessarily agree with. Not because I don’t believe women need role models.
Because I feel the barriers that many face to their reach their dreams is governed by their access to resources rather than any kind of internal belief in oneself. I feel that those who are genuinely interested in a certain field will do everything they can to forge a career in that field.
The notion that someone sees a person on TV who resembles them superficially, and they immediately decide that their true passions lie in that field being portrayed, is a scenario that I have trouble believing. It’s a simplistic reasoning for the human mind, which is a complex thing.
Anecdotally, when I was growing up in working-class conditions, seeing people who were doctors, lawyers, actors and any other highly-paid profession was to view people who were of another level. Those people were learned, clever, and brilliant. I was none of those things, or at least I considered myself none of those things.
Even those movies in where the poor underdog rose above their level to challenge a wealthy authority, I viewed them with an astonishment of brilliant people who weren’t me.
Where I was, people got a job and earned to put food on the table. There were no career ambitions beyond being asked as a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to which the answer was some ideal that only very few people could attain. Seeing men or women on TV sent me no message other than, “There are better people than you.”
As pointed out in the comments of the Helen Razer article I link above, someone made the very astute observation of “Fake victories so we can’t see the actual losses”. The victory of a female Doctor Who does very little for girls and women who work a job instead of a career. Women who face uncertainty in a dwindling job market.
For those women who have made it in their field, they might offer a platitude of “I did it, therefore anyone can!”
To this, I reply with a “bollocks”. Not everyone is afforded the opportunity or means to dedicate years to a craft when the likelihood of failure would result in their destitution and homelessness. Some people put certainty and security over dreams, and they do it because they have to.
No amount of portrayal on television or movies is going to change that. This is a fleeting victory, when the real losses are to the reduction in services to those working in jobs they got because they had to.