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The thirteenth Doctor will be a woman- will she be the one to finally reverse gender inequalities throughout the universe?

Planet Earth is restless since the BBC’s announcement of the new Doctor. Most wait with giddy and breathless anticipation for the new Timelord’s arrival.

Some, however, are incredibly unsettled by this cataclysmic change. Knowing that their ideal patriarchal utopia is in jeopardy, they prepare to fight back. They vent their amalgamated feelings of confusion, shock, and objection through Twitter, Facebook, and internet chatrooms.

After hurling insults through the cyberspace, they bring out their secret dual-edged weapon. The Sun and the Daily Mail come together in full-force publishing scandalous nude pictures of this new Doctor. “Go back to Galifrey!” they cry, hoping that their ad-hoc smear campaign has crippled the Timelord’s credibility and pride.  The thirteenth Doctor will be a woman- will she be the one to finally reverse gender inequalities throughout the universe?

In the same week in which the BBC announced their casting of Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth Doctor, the media corporation also published the salaries of its top-earning stars. It was revealed that over two-thirds of those earning over £150,000 annually were men.

Claudia Winkleman, the BBC’s most profitable female earner, notches up a sizeable salary of £450,000 a year. However, this is a mere fraction (to be more precise, less than a fifth) of Chris Evans’ £2.2 million salary. The clear gender disparities between the salaries of individual stars brought to attention the continuing, and much entrenched problem of industry-led sexism against women.

Whittaker’s appointment as one of the most famous cultural icons within British television coincides with a rising tide of frustration against the seemingly immovable gender pay gap. This issue cannot be relegated within the confines of the BBC offices; the 9% gap permeates across an extensive network of industry sectors, affecting the ability of women to work on an equal financial footing with their male colleagues.

The glass ceiling is still strong

The gender pay gap could be boiled down to three key factors: firstly, there is a greater tendency for women to work part-time (currently 41% of women hold part-time jobs compared to 12% of men); secondly, the type of occupation of female workers potentially dictates a lower salary compared to male colleagues; and thirdly, the having and caring for children is sadly still often viewed as a ‘career-killer’ to the ambitious woman.

Taking these factors to aside, the events of this week highlighted a greater, and more worrying issue. The few (but very public) hostile responses to the news of a female Timelord, in addition to the gendered disparities of pay at the BBC, demonstrate that the glass ceiling is still strong.

It is undeniable that Whittaker’s casting as the Doctor is an incredible step forward for the presentation of women on screen. Obviously, there is still room for improvement. The Doctor is still a white character- yet again the BBC has missed an excellent opportunity to increase ethnic diversity on one of its most successful shows. The Doctor still conforms to gendered pronouns.

However, the exponential increase in female-led blockbuster movies and TV shows does enhance the representation of gender equality. This sends a strong message of dispelling misogyny and archaic gendered stereotyping to a new generation.

No longer is there a great appetite within the entertainment industry to portray women as either a victim, the sidekick, or even the “side-chick” to male lead characters.

Yet the palpable resilience to a female Doctor coupled with the stark financial inequalities between the BBC’s female and male employees, highlights the sobering extent of institutional sexism.

It is not the task of only the BBC to purport gender equality amongst its employees. Cultural, financial, and political changes are needed to change the infrastructures of not only the industrial spheres in which women inhabit, but also the social.

Every woman has the opportunity of changing the universe, not just the new Doctor.


What do you think about the BBC’s attitude to women? How did you react to the news about the new Doctor? Let us know in the comments or on social media:

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