Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Informal Letter To Steven Moffat

Dear Mr. Moffat:
I feel rather bad about things. I really do. Sometimes it's strange how events align in the universe. Just the other day I happened to write a blog post that featured mentions of people alleging you are sexist. And then today I discovered on (where else) Tumblr that you have deleted your Twitter account due to receiving tweets insulting you as a person and death threats. Amanda Abbington has tweeted her opinion on this matter and I have once more found myself stuck in a web of having blogged about something right before it massively explodes on the internet. It is rather weird.

Which explains to some degree why I feel bad about this, even if you did just delete your account because it was simply getting in the way of productivity. Some of the posts I've been seeing on Tumblr in relation to your shows and to you as a person are incredibly shocking. I cannot fathom what would bring someone to the point where they would threaten your life because they dislike your material so much, so intensely that they think you should be dead.

I am a feminist, I am a critic of culture, and I do pass judgement on shows I find rather disheartening in their portrayal of women. While I have seen only a small amount of your work, I cannot say I have ever been upset with anything you have written. You're on the same list as Joss Whedon for sci-fi creators who can have given some real depth to female characters and, while maybe I could understand how small instances could be taken as sexist and wish that you could do more or have avoided certain things, I don't see the episode as sexist, the shows as sexist, or you as sexist. We happen to live in a patriarchy and perhaps the little instances are more an acknowledgement of those circumstances than anything else; those opinions are not necessarily your own - they are present in our society and thus may be present in this representation.

And even if I did find you as sexist, I don't think it merits a threat on your life under any circumstances. Grudge-holding, certainly, but actual hostility? I have little reason such venomous feeling really solves anything. 

I think perhaps I'm reacting rather more intensely to your forfeit of Twitter than I usually would because of a dream I had just last night. For whatever reason, I was in a gender studies class and our professor asked us to explain our feelings about ourselves as women through sketching, to think about whether we had ever faced any sexism in our lives. The girls around me began drawing and, as they drew, a number of them broke down crying at the realizations of what they had confronted in their lives. I probably dreamed about this because I'd been thinking about sexism and gender studies. Then, when I saw that post on Tumblr about you deleting your Twitter, I got quite a bit angrier than I usually would have because sexism is such an unfortunately common thing in our culture, and while I don't believe the people who raise problems are completely crying wolf or seeing something that isn't there, perhaps they are making a large problem out of it than it is and are being nitpicky, looking for something to hate on when such larger issues confront women on a daily basis. I'm not saying this stuff doesn't matter - I absolutely 100% believe it does, and I'm not trying to prioritize one issue over another - I'd be the first to tell you I think sexism in the media is too often ignored; I'm just not convinced that what they're seeing doesn't stem from a position on feminism that I support. Because no matter what, you shouldn't be harassed and degraded. Because how is that any different than the very thing feminists want to stop happening to women? Flipping the script in my mind does no good; it only shifts the behavior off to another group. Which is particularly while I like this Hark A Vagrant cartoon:

For the record, straw feminists (as Hark A Vagrant calls them) are a conundrum. While it forgoes me to judge whether or not someone is a feminist, I don't much care for the way such feminists go about things. While I can't say whether some of your biggest critics are like this, I will harbor a guess that perhaps some of this at least partially influences their opinions. I came across this article which pegs you as having "lady problems" and I have to say, it's rather confused me. They're upset with women being saved by a hero, they're upset with women saving the hero, and just seem plain upset that men are the center of focus in two of your shows. But I get the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle vibe) that they would not be content until women were the only focus in your shows, that women didn't give a whit about what happened to the men in the shows, and forget that some women actually want to have children. While perhaps this is not what they intend to say, this is the vibe it leaves me with and is perhaps a bit unaware of the way this article can be taken. Or maybe it does want to be taken that way. I can't say.

These are the sort of things that make my head hurt and make me doubt whether or not I actually understand anything. Of course there are things out there I don't know, can't know, and don't know I don't know. But I'd like to think I can at least try. And try as I might, I simply can't see what these critics see - which I think I'm better off for, honestly. I don't want to strive for this sort of feminism but hurt others in the process; I don't really think that solves anything in the long run. Again, I'm sorry you've been accosted by such harsh comments; it simply isn't fair to you. People are demanding a sort of perfection that I'm not sure writing in our society can reach. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try - it just means we shouldn't loathe the people who don't quite reach it.

Also, sir, I just realized that your birthday is the day before mine. This absolutely has nothing to do with anything; I just think it's kind of cool (November birthdays are the best).
I also know, in the long run, mine is just another opinion amongst the gazillion that are out here on the interwebs. But I'd like to think I've got a valid opinion and I've got the right to believe it (as long as its causing no harm - "your choice is who you choose to be and if you're causing no harm you're alright with me," Ben Harper has said). And though I also know you aren't reading this, I'd just like to take a moment to thank you for what you have done in your shows. You have given women characters opportunities to do things other shows haven't provided. You have created female characters that have faults and failures as well as strengths and merits. And also, you have expressed male characters who are more than physical strength and force. I think all too often this can be overlooked, but gender stereotypes can work both ways and it's refreshing to see men who are portrayed as something more than matchless, brawny, fighting machines. It's refreshing to see variability and complexity in your male leads and I greatly appreciate that. Here is a hedgehog in gratitude:

I don't care if this is popular opinion or an unpopular opinion - it's simply my opinion and nothing more. But since I'm blogging it rather than positioning it another way and addressing it to you, Mr. Moffat, this makes the whole thing sort of complicated. It seems I'm asserting it more than I would otherwise and emphasizing how I see things. Which is perhaps rather pretentious of me. But sometimes I feel the need to express how I see things in the hopes that I am at least partially correct and that there's room in the world for my opinion. I happen to believe in Sherlock Holmes and I happen to believe in Steven Moffat.


  1. This is fantastic, and I for one, agree with your opinion. =)

    (Btw, I'm the anon who suggested the one about fandom fickleness. I loved it. Thank you so much.)

    1. Thank you! And I'm very glad you enjoyed the fickleness post; the request couldn't have come at a better time!

  2. Bravo. It's rather upsetting that a bunch of opinionated (and slightly unbalanced?) strangers have the power to take away that neat, Twitter-y connection with one of my favourite script writers. It'd be every kind of awesome if he ever read this. :)

    1. Yeah, I'm going to miss Steven Moffat on Twitter :( Thank you very much; I think if Moffat did read this (impossible, but I can dream!) I'd feel all warm and fuzzy :D