Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Doctor Who magazine feminist overviews - 504 (The Cybermen)

Apart from reviewing Doctor Who episodes from a feminist point of view, I've been thinking of doing some similar overviews (only a bit shorter and more schematic) of the Doctor Who Magazine numbers, so here's the first one :)
Description of issue
  • Yes (Feminist content, empowered female characters, representation and/or subversion)
-Inside back cover: Silurian warrior queen. Points for #Women Leaders and for #Non-objectified and realistic female warriors.

-Evolution of the Cybermen: This feature interviews the creator of the first Cybermen designs, who is actually a woman , Sandra Reid/Tynan

-Comic ('Moving In'): Subversion of traditional gender roles with the Twelfth Doctor cooking (open in new tab for larger image):

-Silver Nemesis: I haven't seen this episode yet, so I can't really comment on it, but the things I've liked in the review feature: Ace as an empowered, non-objectified female companion; Lady Peinforte, a 16th Century noblewoman, is skilled in archery; and a society-critical anti-marriage quote: "Am I to remain a prisoner in my own house, while world dominion awaits beyond the door? I would have married if I'd wanted that!". Lady Peinforte is a 'villain', a 'sorceress and poisoner', so she's not seen in a good light (as is so usual when it comes to indepedent powerful women in history and tales :/), but this quote is definitely feminism material (apart from the villain-related 'world domination' thing,of course xD).
Ace fighting Cybermen
  • For consideration (potentially problematic content)
-Evolution of the Cybermen: Alexandra Reid on thinking that the ‘girls’ skirts were too short’ (she's referring to companion Polly wearing miniskirts):

I appreciate the designer noting that retrograde religious 'pro-modesty' mindsets are harmful and wrong. They totally are. One should definitely not judge a woman for wearing miniskirts or shorter skirts, if she likes wearing them.

 However, the context should also be taken into consideration in order to ascertain if the character is being sexualized or not. For example, female Starfleet officers (Star Trek) wearing miniskirts is unrealistic and ridiculous - and thus, objectifying - because the logical thing would be to wear protective and practical clothing in that context (weather, risk of injury to the exposed or poorly protected legs, lack of mobility, among others). Doctor Who's context also involves adventures, running, danger and hazardous situations and environments, so I guess that if a female character were wearing, say, a short skirt with bare legs or very thin leggings, that could pose a problem (again, weather, higher risk of injury, lack of mobility). 

This of course depends on the kind of adventure - Amy Pond, for example, often wears short skirts with leggings, and, as a daily wearer of this kind of look, I can say that, if the skirt is reasonably elastic and the leggings are warm enough, this look is quite realistic when it comes to running, moving around, and protecting yourself from scratches and (non-extreme) weather.

 Other important point to consider about this issue is to see if, by contrast, all male characters are always wearing pants and generally comfy and practical clothing while the women are generally wearing more revealing clothing just because they're women (double standard) and they must be seen as adequately attractive for the male gaze (a quote by Frazer Hines (see below) supports that quite a handful of men see it like that :/ And is character, incidentally, wore a kilt, so double double standard because he, as a man, doesn't get that kind of comments for showing his legs). So context definitely has a say in this matter.
  • Nope (Presence of sexism - Such as objectification and sexualization, double standards, glorification of gender roles, problematic relationships, etc. Presence of racism, heteronormativity, classism and/or other problematic content)
-Evolution of the Cybermen: Like I commented above, Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) makes quite a problematic objectifying comment about him and Patrick Troughton ‘not complaining’ about Deborah Watling (Victoria) wearing miniskirts.
This makes one think just how many people were thinking that these girls were wearing miniskirts for their watching pleasure (this is a current issue, don't be mistaken), and also to what extent were these actresses given miniskirts as part of their costumes so that they'd look attractive to the male gaze (this is also a current issue), because, like I also mentioned before, some of these adventures don't partcularly ask for a short skirt with bare legs, so there must be another - societally more important - factors at play :/
Hines 'wasn't complaning' about his female colleagues showing their legs, but I guess people didn't just go around being disrespectful and objectifying to him for the very same reason - because he's *gasp* male
-Cyber-Plans: Torchwood’s Cyberwoman is an excellent and oh-so-subtle example of objectification and double standards. Male Cybermen are - obviously! - never objectified and are always wearing realistic, practical and non-sexualized armour and outfits. But the (sexist) genius who thought about this design must have thought that women were a different story, and that the male gaze as paramount:

Also, it's worth noting that Cybermen are called ‘Cyber-men’ even though both men and women are converted, at least in New!Who. An example of the sexist use of the masculine as a generalized term to refer to both men and women. Also, if converted women wear the boob-plate-free Cyber-outfits that everyone wears, Torchwood's Cyberwoman is not only sexualized - she is also incoherent.

-Comic ('Moving In'): Even though the Doctor cooks the family meal in this comic strip (and has been subverting this role in other comic stories as well), regarding  the ‘family’ proper the wife - Mrs Collins - is  the only one to cook in the house (we're to assume that she's a stay-at-home wife and mother). We're talking about the 70s and all, but the fact that too many women, housewives or not, are still the ones primarily taking care of the cooking and other housework stuff today is an important and very current issue. The traditional gender role involving women=cooking and women=housework is still going strong in too many cases (and that's why it's so important to show subversion, such as the Doctor's in this strip).

This comic also feeds us the cliché that the women (stay-at-home or not, but mainly stay-at-home in this context) are really the ones to ‘have the power’ and ‘take the decisions at home'. Even though the husband has the societal upper hand (male privilege) and the money is his (even though the women may administer it - that's less work for the dude, really, I'm sure many think of it that way), we're often told that the wives are the ones with the ‘power’, the ones who ‘rule over’ their husbands. 

This misleading cliché bothers me to no end, because in a patriarchal system the truth is the complete opposite. In a patriarchal-based system men have the real executive power, while women’s potential 'power' is only (relatively) valid in private spheres, and this kind of power often comes from indirect methods (persuasion and/or advice, for example), or from patriarchal-based methods (seduction, the only kind of power – alongside deception and indirect persuasion – that women really have in this system). So don't give me this kind of rubbish. Housewives who are 100% financially dependent on their husbands do not have the 'real power' in the equation (and 'choice' - because I can already hear the liberal-choice-feminists complaining - has nothing constructive to add on the matter because 'choice' doesn't immediately mean 'feminist' or 'anti-system'). Husbands in such a situation may want to humour their wives so that they think that they have the kind of 'real' power to make the decisions, or they may be afraid of them (as the controlling party often is when it comes to the controlled party who may rebel and strike back), but if they wanted they could easily show that the 'power' is theirs simply because they're in possession of the money and the societal privilege.

 That's why being financially independent is so important if you're a woman.
1) Being financially dependent makes you way easier to control and oppress. You literally have no freedom if you don't have any economical means of your own. You're depending on the goodwill of the one who holds the money, usually the man.
2) Stay-at-home women are being oppressed in the patriarchy system by definition, ‘choice’ or ‘no choice’, because that's how the patriarchal system works. The one without the money (in this case, the woman) is the one with the least power of decision.
3) And this is, again, for choice-feminists and liberal feminism: Of course a woman can 'choose' to be a housewife, but 1) Choices don't come from a vacuum and 2) Shouting 'choice!' is derailing because we’re talking about the system and not about ‘personal choice here.

-Silver Nemesis: Like I said, I haven't watched the episode yet, but Lady Peinforte seems to fall into the 'villainous sorceress' stereotypical category that so many women fill when they display independence and power.
  • Bonus geeky stuff I liked
Twelve is Team Cap :)! Suits him :D

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