Girl jobs, boy jobs and Doctor Who

‘I want a bin fairy too’, said my friend, in her best mock snivel, in between slurps. Wine or tea, I can’t recall now which stage of the evening we were at. But there was definitely chocolate, I do remember that.

Considering we’re all supposed to be ‘gender-fluid’ now (yeah right), it shouldn’t be an issue. But there it was, out and proud, the envy. She wants a bin fairy. Just like mine.

My friend’s other half, you see, lacks the bin fairy gene entirely, preferring to leave that particular task to his wife. (Are we still allowed to use the term ‘wife’? Just so I know.)

And, as regular readers will know, in this house at least, the bin fairy is most definitely a bloke. Rather, I suspect, as it is at Number 10. THE Number 10, I mean. Oh the trolls lured into daylight by that particular televised morsel! ‘Boy jobs and girl jobs? Not on our gender fluid watch!’

Theresa, we have those too and I suspect there’s not a household in the country — with more than one adult, of whatever sex, under the same roof — that doesn’t divvy up the dirty jobs somehow or other. Even the clean ones. And not always through choice. It’s all down to your personal how-long-can-I-put-up-with-it-not-being-done threshold.

My own observation, through what can only be described as a somewhat chequered romantic past and a rich tapestry of friendships past and current, young and old, is that those with the female bits and bobs, by and large, have tended to have a considerably lower threshold when it comes to, say, picking dirty clothes up off the floor, washing and ironing them in timely fashion, cleaning the loo, dead-heading the roses and making sure there’s nothing sinister growing in the back of the fridge — to name but a few — than those with the dangly bits.

Conversely, those with the dangly bits in their pants, have tended to be good at the heavier tasks. Or those which, by necessity, require doing early in the morning or late at night when it’s belting down with rain and I’m just enjoying a nice cuppa, thank you. Like putting the bins out.

I’m perfectly capable of changing a plug, checking the oil and water under the bonnet of my car (although I do draw the line at tyre changing), wheeling the bins out and back again, clearing out gutters, unblocking drainpipes and climbing up a stepladder to slap emulsion on a ceiling. But when I have a willing Gremlin prepared to do all these things and more in return for me dealing with the majority of the loo-cleaning and cooking (not, I hasten to add, at the same time), why would I not go along with that?

Needless to say, none of this applies when a person lives alone — a fact for which I can also vouch. Then every household task going is gender fluid. Or not done at all.

But this week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that such misconceived notions, however well informed by bitter experience, ‘reinforce and perpetuate traditional gender roles’ and lead to ‘suboptimal outcomes for individuals and groups in terms of their professional attainment and personal development’.

So, on the one hand, we have Facebook and Google harvesting our every move, our every whim and purchase, our every question asked, in pursuit of us, their prey. Pinned like moths to a board by the searches we make.

On the other, we have an advertising industry tied in knots by the concept that we’re not really different at all but saying that we are makes it more likely that we will be. Which is a bad thing. Apparently.

‘Build a better mousetrap’, said Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1882, and ‘they will beat a path to your door. Though it be in the woods.’

No. Build a better mousetrap and it’s be up to you to identify your customers first and then worm your way right under their skins. Then thrash through those woods before beating a path to THEIR doors. And THEN, in the company of a babbling crowd of slogan-shouting mousetrap-builders, convince them that your particular confection of wood and wire is precisely what they need for their own unique lifestyle.

And I’m not entirely sure how you can do that without a bit of gender stereotyping. Somewhere along the path.

Hours of fun in our three-cornered Who-niverse

Doctor Who the heck is she?

But the sheer temerity of writer Chris Chibnall, eh? A female Doctor Who! We’ll be getting real female doctors soon. Maybe even female politicians, female CEOs, police officers, firefighters, engineers, helicopter pilots… With ovaries and periods and leopard print heels. Smaller feet and not a sink in sight. Tsk.

The angry splutter of indignation at the ‘feminists killing off’ this bastion of ‘male domination’, this ‘male birthright’, washed around the world.

John Brown of Idaho, spittling in below the line in the New York Times, asked what percentage of Doctor Who fans are boys between 6 and 14 years old, and ‘who did they imagine themselves to be at that age?’ That alone, he reasoned, ‘should tell why this is a bad idea’.

Oh dear, John. Where do I start? I have no idea, John, what age group you fall into. And, as it’s unlikely you will ever read my blog and feel compelled to splutter your misogyny here, we’ll never know.

Granted, I don’t know that much about boys of that age, having never been one. Neither have I had the privilege of bearing any, nor the dubious pleasure of educating them. However. Given that a 6-year old is still young enough to possess unbridled capacity for imagination, a 14-year old would probably rather die than publicly admit he fantasises himself as Doctor Who, and the segue between the two states, I hear, happens virtually overnight, somewhere in between — I’m guessing you’re not in that category yourself.

But let me tell you about my own young self. I remember quite clearly the first transmission. My birthday, 1963. The day after President John F Kennedy died. A black and white William Hartnell, white hair flowing beneath a funny hat. His granddaughter, Susan, perched on a school bench, perpetually misunderstood by her teachers (now that, I could identify with). Curious, they follow her home to a scrapyard and find themselves kidnapped by a grumpy old man who barely knows how to fly a stolen police box. Imagine!

Over the next few years, there I’d be, Saturday teatime, soaking it up in all its tin foiled, plasticined, cardboard backdropped, ooo-wheee-oooo glory.

We had a tiny triangle of ground at the side of our house which never saw the sunshine so it never got converted into garden. Left to their own devices, tussocks of couch grass rose unbounded from the rubble, shot through with horse tail and thistle, the perfect Doctor Who-scape. Lay over that those Saturday evening soak-ups and a younger brother still at the lower end of that 6-14 age category and remember that this was long before PlayStations and iPads, a time when children actually ‘played out’.

Hour after hour we battled those aliens, lost in our three-cornered universe, forever running to our imagined Tardis, with me as narrator. So many tales, so much time to play. And I WAS the Doctor, ‘JP’ my willing companion. I don’t think it occurred to either of us then that Doctor Who should be a man, by some sort of God-given birthright. He just was what he was.

Okay so, in the fifty-four years since, the writers have seen fit to cast only blokes in the role, although often referencing that the two-hearted Time Lord has indeed been a woman — just never on-screen.

But I seem to recall the detractors were out when Christopher Eccleston got the job too. The ‘worst actor of all time’, said one, somewhat harshly. And David Tennant. Too sexy! Matt Smith. Too young! Peter Capaldi. Too old! Naturally. And now, Jodie Whittaker. Too blummin’ female!

I am by no means a fully fledged Whovian. Most of the monsters and villains listed on The Doctor Who Site left absolutely no trace in my memory. Hell, I can’t even remember who all the Doctors were! And I genuinely don’t have a clue what’s happening most of the time in any given script. Maybe that will change with a female Doctor?

No? Okay, you’re right. Likely not.

But I still can’t wait to see the ‘powerful female life force’ the BBC says Jodie will bring to the role because, yes, ever since Russell T Davies rediscovered the key to that magic police box, Saturday nights — some of them at least — have been Doctor Who nights as far as I’m concerned.

But, in case you’re wondering, I no longer romp around the garden in pursuit of imaginary aliens. Well, not that I’m admitting here.

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