Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Is Amy Pond Sexist?

It may be shocking for you to hear, but...well, some people don't like Amy Pond. (Yes, I know. Take as much time as you need to wrap your head around that idea and then join me at the next sentence.) Despite being a great companion, possibly the best so far in the new Doctor Who series (and cue flamewars in three, two, one...) some people really can't stand her. They say that she's just one more example of why they consider Moffat to be a sexist writer. Amy Pond, according to them, is a stereotypical female character of the worst order, a misogynist caricature of real women that Moffat created as an object of fanboy lust, nothing more.

Is it true? Let's look at Amy. She's clearly not a passive character, which is always one of the big red flags for sexism. Amy makes her own decision to travel in the TARDIS, and she is determined not to give up on it; she's been inadvertently gaslighted for most of her life, being told that the Doctor was just an imaginary friend that it's past time for her to give up on, but she hasn't stopped believing in him for a moment. (And she's avoided winding up in a mental institution despite all that, which indicates that she's socially and emotionally well-adjusted despite dealing with issues that would have sent a lot of people into a rubber room.) She acts as more than just a passenger in the TARDIS, making decisions on matters from space whale survival to whether her husband will get to travel along.

And speaking of her husband...anyone who is trying to claim that Amy is sexist will have to deal with "Mrs. Pond". Amy is very clearly the decision-maker in that relationship, and it is not depicted as dysfunctional or shameful. Rory is not henpecked, he is in awe of his wife's determination and he respects her decision-making ability. While he is always there to reinforce her when she needs it, he does not try to enforce a patriarchal authority over her, because he loves her for who she is and that includes her forcefulness. Amy and Rory's relationship is just about the least sexist, most well-adjusted relationship in any genre series ever.

And Moffat has never put Amy into sexual peril; unlike, say, Peri, the villains do not lust after her body and want to keep her as a trophy bride. Amy gets put into her share of danger, just like the Doctor and the other companions, but it's not represented as specifically due to her gender. (Arguably, she is not a capable fighter, which is apparently a prerequisite for "strong female characters" these days, but neither is anyone else in the series, with the possible exceptions of Ian, Leela, and River Song.)

No, the main reason I think people call Amy "sexist" is...well...not to put to fine a point on it, but she has sex. And she enjoys it. Amy has been known to talk about sex, to ogle men she finds attractive, to ogle women she finds attractive, and to even have enough of a hint of kinkiness to enjoy dressing up in costumes. In short, Amy Pond has genitals and isn't ashamed to say she enjoys using them. To some people, this immediately makes her a terrible slut unworthy of inclusion in the same genre as decent women.

Think I'm exaggerating? Go look at the recaps on TV Without Pity. (Can't link to the site from work, but you should be able to find it with the help of Google.) Until his head exploded from having to talk about women who actually admit to enjoying orgasms, Jacob the recapper inserted constant comments about how Amy's career as a kiss-o-gram showed how damaged she was as a person, and how the Doctor wrecked her by coming into her life and leaving and now all she does is have emotionless flings in order to make money. As a KISS-O-GRAM. God alone knows what he would have said if she'd thrown hugs into the deal.

There is, at heart, a fundamental belief that women who have sex for anything other than procreational purposes are bad. This has been dressed up in countless other beliefs over the eons, and the claim that feminists should be prudes is just one more disguise for it. This doesn't mean that there's no such thing as exploitative sexualization or titillation; of course there is. But a female character shouldn't have to wear a burqa in order to be free of criticism for her feminist credibility, and it's frustrating to see people try to pass off their slut shaming as feminism.

And that doesn't even get into River Song...


Dougie said...

I've been re-watching the first Matt Smith series this week. She's quite keen to betray her fiancé with the Doctor on her wedding night. Beyond the character's "feistiness", which I read as petulance and self-absorption, this is Amy Pond's defining moment and it's hardly admirable. I'll be relieved when "The Ponds" are gone and I don't have to put on subtitles to clarify Karen Gillan's poor diction.

Eric TF Bat said...

Thank you, John. You and MGK are giving me faith that not every man on Earth is thinking and saying things that make me embarrassed to have a Y chromosome.

I think the real problem with modern Doctor Who is that it's become popular with people who it's not pandering to. The characters have sides to their personalities and relationships that aren't exhaustively explained every five seconds, so you get people with limited comprehension falling back on tropes: she wears a mini-skirt, so she's a slut; she didn't consider her wedding to be the most important day of her life, so her marriage is a sham; she gets in trouble in a dangerous life, so she's a helpless victim; she doesn't have that Y chromosome, so she can't possibly matter.

Also: Jacob. Don't make me come over there and ad hominem you. That guy was an idiot. Thank god he's gone.

Dougie said...

"Have fun with your genitals" is of course a highly appropriate message for the five-year-old audience of Dr. Who Adventures.

DeeB said...

@Dougie: The kids don't even notice these things. Our six-year-old thinks Amy is smart and tough and loves Rory. She doesn't even notice the sexual elements. Also, the sex isn't OK but the violence is? She has STRONG opinions on that.

As to the "hardly admirable" moment: She almost just died. People do weird things in those moments. We haven't even established that she and Rory are monogamous, really.

Unknown said...

By all means, get to River Song.

Jim S said...

I guess my problem with Moffet women in Doctor Who is that they are women who wait. From Madame Pompadeur to Sally Sparrow to River Song to Amy.

The pattern is the Doctor pops in and meets a person and through timey-wimey shenanagins pops up through out the woman's life. This woman waits for the doctor. Her life is defined by waiting for the Doctor. Sally Sparrow doesn't quite fit this mold exactly, but there are strong elements of it in her story.

And yes, wanting to bang someone who isn't your fiance on the night before your wedding is not a nice thing. Just almost getting killed is no excuse. Want sex, hit the hubby to be. Shouldn't be hard to get him to say yes.

For that matter, Rory becomes the man who waits, in this case 2,000 years for Amy.

Anonymous said...

@ JimS, I think the idea that all these women will wait for the doctor is not a sign that the women are weak or flawed, but that the Doctor is that compelling. Can you imagine what it would feel like to meet an amazing being not of this world, who does amazing and exciting things, and who of all people on this world has picked you to go with him? I mean, it would make you feel really special.

It's been shown time and time again in Moffat's handling that the Doctor inspires extreme loyalty and love from almost every human he spends time with. I take Amy's eagerness to have sex with the Doctor on her wedding night as that Doctor effect amplified. She finds him exciting and irresistible, and apparently very attractive, and she has waited for him for most of her life. It's like a dream or fantasy come true for her, I don't fault Amy's character for initiating romantic contact with the Doctor. He has that effect on humans. He did it Rose, he did it to Martha, and he did it to Amy.

Aaron Robinson said...

I think another reason why she is unjustly hated is that she's a fully-formed, 3-dimensional charcter with flaws. Yes, she has been kind of mean to Rory. Yes, she can be a bit selfish. However, these aren't lasting flaws - she grows throughout, yet doesn't become 'perfect'. She's Amy Pond. So get over it, haters!
Also, the fact that she is almost universally loved by pre-pubescent kids is proof that the hate is sexually-driven. If there are a certain amount of people that find someone beautiful, then it's likely there are an equal amount that hate her because of that beauty. The same with brains, physical strength, etc.

Dexterized said...

I think you missed the point. I like Amy, but I hate the way Moffat writes her. Trust me, her sexuality is one of my favorite things about her and I'm one of the people who say it's a sexist character. But then again, I just started watching and finished the first season with Amy Pond, but I'll see where it goes. So far, I'm not very fond of the fact that Amy is not as helpful as, let's say, Donna. Or any of the last companions. And that's not Amy's fault, it's the writer's. She's always being bossed around by the Doctor to just sit and wait. It's like we're back in the 60's where women can't get involved in the storylines and help (and not just "HEY I PAUSED THE SCREEN" kind of help), they just have to wait for the hero to do it. I like Amy, she's sassy, sexy, and a sweetheart. But the way the Moffat treats her is sexist. So if anyone actually hates Amy Pond because of that, then they're probably missing the point too.

Anonymous said...

she's sexist in that women "need" to "do something" or else they're demonized as weak, worthless characters. Passivity is not a bad thing, and shame on anyone who shames a woman for that if she is unable to help herself.

but really, it's Mary Sue River who is the absolute worst.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anybody is annoyed with Amy because of her promiscuity. In my circle of friends (those that watch Doctor Who), Amy's judged because she was engaged and tried to get the doctor to sleep with her, and because minutes after she got married she asked the doctor to kiss her in a very erotic and desperate tone.

Author, I think you have missed the point. I also believe you are trying to make excuses without looking at the main criticism.