I’ve written before about the power of science fiction to inject ideas into the mainstream while driving the conversation forward. Lately, one of the bigger issues in the wider cultural dialogue has been gender equality. As a man, I don’t want to weigh in as an authority, though I will admit that my wife, who is a woman, is objectively a much better person than I am.
However, I don’t want to subject my wife to the blogosphere, so I’ll point a spotlight at someone better equipped to handle it: The Doctor.
Specifically, The Fifth, Peter Davison.
The Renegade Time Lord, Not Time Lady
Speaking more as a fan since childhood than the renegade Time Lord, Davison spoke to the larger gender fracas by commenting on the debate over whether a woman could or should ever play The Doctor.
According to the retired time traveller, The Doctor should always be played by a man.
Now, his reasoning isn’t as sexist as you might think, and in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s fantastic:
Davison said the key to the success of the modern Doctor Who series was the dynamic between a troubled Doctor and strong female companion.
“It seems to me if you reverse that, if you have an uncertain, fallible female Doctor with a really strong male companion, you’ve got more of a stereotype than anything else.”
The Equality-Identity Paradox
Davison’s point is convincing enough for me, but I’d like to address the root issue at the heart of the discussion over whether or not The Doctor should be a woman. This, however, probably won’t be convincing to anyone.
What is gained by having The Doctor played by a woman?
It reduces gender to a difference in physicality, like hair color (“Still not ginger!”). It breaks down the walls between the philosophical distinctions of “male” and “female,” which society would tell us is a good thing.
But I don’t know if it is.
Society is looking for universal, unconditional equality; I’d like to offer inherent equality with relational equilibrium and individualistic differentiation. We aren’t all the same, but we’re all equally human, equally loved by God, equally worthy of our wages, rights, and opportunities. But we’re not all the same. We’re individuals, with differing tastes, abilities, etc, and our gender is a part our individuality.
I am who I am because I am a man. If I’d been born a woman, I would be a different person.
That’s a terribly stupid sounding sentence, but this is where we are as a society. I’m into science fiction, philosophy, and hard rock music. Had I been born a woman, I doubt very much that I’d followed the exact same path and come out the same person, though there very well be some core elements of who I am that would persist into femininity. Surely, though, the greater portion of my identity would have shifted because I have been shaped by my gender.
But can we go further than that? Could we argue that gender transcends physicality?
Now, I don’t mean to say that our spirits have genitalia. That’s weird and more than a little ridiculous. However, God is Spirit, and we, men and women, have been made in His image.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
God made us in His image, creating gender in the process. Masculinity and femininity are two components of the divine image imparted to humanity. God, of course, is neither male nor female in the physical sense because He is Spirit—though He does describe Himself in male terms which we can talk about later—the point here is that we are made in God’s image, gender included. God made us humans, physical-spiritual hybrids, and our gender doesn’t end when our bodies die.
How do I know this? Jesus died and was resurrected. As a man. Even in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), the two titular characters are physically dead, disembodied spirits with their gender still present. Gender is part of who we are, and we are not just bodies, not just spirits.
Conclusion and Disclaimer
Is this the end of the discussion? Concerning The Doctor being a woman? I hope so. Concerning gender and identity issues? Probably not. More than likely, we’re only beginning this discussion, and it is my hope that ChurchMag and, more importantly, Scripture can play a role in this discussion.
What are you thoughts on the larger discussion of gender equality?