Boy, oh boy, a lady Doctor? John Birmingham reports

6 Jun

John Birmingham, prolific Fairfax writer, novelist and apparently functioning human wrote for The Brisbane Times about his struggle to comprehend the idea of the twelfth Doctor being a woman. He took at least 250 words to reach the conclusion “by golly, I just don’t know. Wouldn’t that just be a thing.”


In the process he managed to include some of the worst sexist bullshit Fairfax has published since that one by Geoffrey Barker about newsreaders’ boobs.

“I’m not against the idea, mind you,” writes Birmingham. “In fact as it stands naked before me in the Library, the cool blue glow of that lightsabre illuminating all the lady bits, I find my fascinated horror ebbing back to mere curiosity. I just wonder is all.”

Firstly, lightsaber? Really? Secondly, if he’s are prone to staring at “lady bits” with “fascinated horror” I have to wonder how he ever came to have children.

To Birmingham, “female” and “Time Lord” are completely at odds. The Doctor has always been a scientific genius, his moral compass guiding him through time and space. Violence is abhorrent to the Doctor and is only used as a last resort.

According to Birmingham, a Lady Doctor (that’s a female Time Lord, not a gynecologist) would have to be a vastly different character. A woman can’t be a genius or a pacifist:

“The Doctor has always fought with his wits, and his sonic screwdriver. Things do go boom, when he takes a hand in them, but generally not because he’s pulling a trigger. The female hero as modern pop culture has come to define her, however, might well be a thinker. But mostly what she’s thinking about is KICKING MORE ASS!”

Yes, that there is Birmingham claiming that women in popular culture are more prone to violence. Never mind that in the Doctor Who universe the female sidekicks are generally there to work as moral guides, pulling the Doctor back if he strays too far from his pacifism.  It didn’t occur to Birmingham that, like River Song, a woman can be a Time Lord, a thinker, a genius, a pacifist and an engaging televisual character.

If you’re shocked and confused by the idea of a strong female lead in Doctor Who, or indeed science fiction, then you haven’t been paying attention. Yes, the continuous cycle of God’s police/love interest has hardly done the last 50 years of feminism any favours. But, as characters like Rose and Donna show us, the potential for strength, courage and genius in those with XX chromosomes is limitless.

Maybe if it weren’t for people like John Birmingham we women wouldn’t have to leave the planet just to feel capable.

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