The giant clam of feminism

Deb Stanish and L M Myles, editors of Chicks Unravel Time — hey, I’m in that, remember? — were interviewed over the weekend by Radio Free Skaro, which instantly became the very first podcast I listened to.

At one point, discussion arises as to whether CUT is specifically a feminist book, and the editors disagreed.  Deb said that just because a book is written by women, it isn’t automatically feminist.  LMM pointed out that simply “talking about Doctor Who” has traditionally been a masculine activity — there have always been women in the fandom, but books of criticism about the series have very rarely featured women’s voices.

In a desperate attempt to suck up to both editors at once, I’ve been flipping back and forth all day.

See, I agree with Deb that merely being written by a woman doesn’t make a work feminist … but then I find myself thinking, no, but the act of writing itself might be.

And I agree with LMM that discourse about Doctor Who has been traditionally male-dominated (to say nothing of the show itself, which has had shockingly few female writers, directors and producers).    On the other hand, the Aussiecon panels in 2004 amply demonstrated that just because a woman is talking about Doctor Who, she isn’t necessarily saying feminist things.

(This is to say nothing of the many other misogynistic ideas that I’ve seen women in fandom promote — that Amy’s worth is defined by the length of her skirts; that marriage makes River and Amy worthless; that it was a feminist act for Rose to discard every aspect of her life that didn’t revolve around the Doctor; and so on, and on, and on.)

Well, I thought, as I pottered around making tea, I know my essay didn’t have an explicitly feminist agenda.

Sure, said the other part of my brain, it’s just about how season 17 was badly received by male fans because it was driven to a large extent by female characters.  And then you start writing about the Countess Scarlioni’s personality instead of her looks, which has never been done before.  And your general “Romana is the Doctor” agenda.

Goodo, then!  Pats on the back for me!

And, of course, feminism is a broad church.  I have a friend who thinks all sex work is exploitation, and another who has featured in feminist porn.  I know pro-life feminists and feminists who think that’s a contradiction in terms.  Fandom is full of women who seem to have very serious feminist objections to the existence of mothers, although personally I suspect that’s more about their psychology than feminism.

I don’t think Catherine Deveny’s writing is especially feminist, except occasionally by accident, but I have friends who worship her.  Someone out there thinks Germaine Greer and Helen Razer are relevant.  Personally I draw the line at feminists who limit the concept to cis, white, able-bodied women, and everything else, maybe I’ll disagree, but it’s not a life or death issue.

Incidentally, “feminism” doesn’t look like a word anymore.

SO, IN CONCLUSION, I’m fairly optimistic that CUT will be regarded by some people as a great feminist work, and by others as an abomination unto Nuggan.  (The same day it was announced, a post went up on Tumblr decrying the use of “chicks” in the title, so odds are good.)  And I have to say, I’m eager to see how the debate plays out.

Author: Liz Barr

Words written. Opinions expressed.

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