From its inception Dr Who has marketed itself as a family program. Family programming has a responsibility to nurture the hearts and minds of the younger generation. From a feminist perspective, this obligation includes challenging, neutralising or at least balancing culturally enforced gender roles.
I remember vividly the fictional women and girls who helped shape my character as a child. Lucy Pevensie taught me the importance of standing up for what you believe. Princess Leia showed me women could be leaders of men. Velma demonstrated to me the value of using intelligence in solving problems. But what are my daughters learning from the women of Dr Who? What life lessons do the companions have to offer them? Are they role models worthy of the feminist geeks I hope my girls are becoming?
I propose we slide Whopanions under the feminist microscope to see if they are worthy of the title: Feminist Fan Girl (and I do mean girl) Icon. Such rigorous examination will naturally require clear criteria for investigation. So, what makes someone a Feminist Fan Girl Icon?
I have compiled a short list of “Success Criteria” (my Deputy Head Teacher would be so proud to know I am using her favourite phrase). It is a list of characteristics I wish for my daughters. It is a list of characteristics I remember being impressed with when girls and women exhibited them in fiction. It is a list to change the world!
1) She must embody a positive body image. (This could also read: “she shalt not contribute to the fascist cult of beauty bitches”, but I wanted to keep this list positive.)
2) She must use her intelligence and be valued for it.
3) She must sometimes “save the day”.
4) She must show spunky independence.
5) She must strive to stay true to her beliefs. (I thought of making this one: “she must strive to stay true to herself, but part of the interest of a female character is the shifting nature of how she sees herself, so I changed it.)
So there you have it. The Criteria have been set. Let the experimentation begin!
Thanks to Sarah Andrea Royce for advice on terminology of gender roles v gender identity. I still think the term “gender role” sounds hopelessly old fashioned and dull but I bend to the wisdom of sensitivity and political accuracy.