Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

(Erika here. I’m cross-posting this from my personal blog because I think it’s important.)

Doctor Who notecard apology

When you talk on the internet, especially in a free-form conversational podcast like Verity!, sometimes you stick your foot so firmly down your own throat it’s a wonder the mic doesn’t pick up the sound of toenails scraping molars. I am not immune to this phenomenon.

A few months back, I made an insensitive comment about the 9th Doctor giving hugs. Taken out of context (which it literally was, as it was briefly one of the “pull quotes” in the cold open of the podcast), it sounded like I was saying all people who don’t like hugging are somehow emotionally damaged. YIKES. SO WRONG.

In the context of the podcast, the statement bore more resemblance to what I was thinking (that emotional damage can lead one to change their behavior and stop hugging, and the 9th Doctor wanted to prove that hadn’t happened to him in the course of the Time War). So I replaced the line in the cold open because, wow, was that shitty, and I explained and apologised in a series of tweets. (I appreciate all the folks who called me on that. Thank you!) And of course, I’ve tried to do better since.

Trying doesn’t always mean succeeding.

Welp. I’ve done it again. In today’s episode of Verity!, I talked about how I didn’t like the way series 1 of Doctor Who changed the Doctor from (what I’d always seen as) an asexual character to one who is pretty explicitly sexual. (We were talking about “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”. Dances, you guys. It’s a metaphor!) I equated being a sexual creature with normality and humanity and ohmigod I want to go back in time and slap the mic away from my face.

But I can’t. Time doesn’t work that way (except occasionally in Doctor Who).

There are two parts to this. First, I didn’t properly express what I meant in part of that conversation. And second, I just plain screwed up and said something boneheaded and hurtful in another part of it. Let’s tackle the first part first.

BUT: Let me preface this by saying I realize that what I meant actually counts for very little if that’s not what came out of my mouth and was understood by people who are outside my own brain (which is most of you, I think). You know what they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? Well the road to being an ass is paved with poorly-expressed thoughts. And yes, I am waving to you from down that road.

Anyway, to clarify what was in my head, I was thinking that asexuality is a part of life and of and human experience that gets very VERY short shrift on television (and in pretty much all media). I’d always seen the Doctor that way, and when I saw his characterization changed to something that’s more typically seen on television, I was disappointed—not just because it was a change from something I enjoyed, but because I felt like there was now less representation for a bunch of people who already have very little. That is a bummer to me. I wish I had said this better because I feel like it’s important.*

The part where I flat out got it wrong was when I equated having sexual desires with being “normal” and “human”. Whoa Nellie. There’s no excuse for that. I am just plain sorry. I have a distressing habit of using the words “normal” and “typical” interchangeably, and that’s Not Good. I’m trying to break myself of that.**

So let me state unequivocally that being asexual is a normal thing that does not make a person less human.

Sure, I could pedantically say that “hormonal” does mean human because humans all have hormones and maybe Time Lords don’t, but A) that’s total neepery-headcanon territory, and B) that’s not what I was trying to get at. It would be defensive and weaselly of me to retcon and pretend it was.*** I was simply stupid. And I wholeheartedly apologise.

I am very sorry for what I said on the podcast, because what I said and the way I said it was hurtful and wrong.

Once again, I want to thank the folks who called me out on my screw-up. Speaking up about this sort of thing takes time and energy, and I recognize and appreciate that effort. It must be exhausting to put up with crap like this all the time. So to take the extra step to say something is going above and beyond, and I admire, value, and welcome that act. I will do my best to see that it isn’t for naught.

ETA: For excellent info about this topic, I encourage you to listen to Episode 48 of The Web of Queer and this Episode 407 of Two-minute Time Lord. Mikayla knows whereof she speaks. You should listen!

I want to get better at talking about humanity. I think we should talk more about the oft-neglected aspects of our biology and culture. But by golly, it’s important to get it right.

So I’ll keep at it.

And I’ll probably keep getting it wrong from time to time.

And then I promise I’ll own it and apologise and try to do better. Because that’s how I learn.






*Please note: I’m not implying that all–or any–people who are asexual do or should feel this way about the Doctor or the perceived change to his character. This is just how it strikes me personally.

**I am on record as preferring a more “alien” Doctor (I do!), and I need to be careful not to put asexuality in the list of things that make him more alien. Because that’s a human thing.

***This is me trying to head off any “helpful” folks trying to reverse-engineer what I said into something acceptable. It wasn’t.

Comments on: "An Apology and a Promise" (6)

  1. On one of our podcasts, one of our co-hosts used the word “gyp” to refer to being cheated. We did not realize at the time that it was a slur against an entire group of people. We looked it up and were aghast that we didn’t know that this word that we all used in our childhoods was actually an offensive slur.

    Rather than scoff at the criticism and declare our staunch “un-PC-ness,” we felt awful, and we apologized. We were, as you are, grateful to those who pointed it out to us, and we considered it an important learning experience.

    One mark of a good person (I feel) is the ability to own our mistakes, promise to do better, and follow up on that promise. If I was in your shoes, I could not have handled this any better than you have.

  2. T Claire said:

    I think it was very big of you to apologise, and in such an elequent way. But I think your fault was very small so please don’t beat yourself up. You’ve apologised now, so forgive yourself and move on.

  3. Hmm. While Erika’s opinions can occasionally annoy me, that detail apparently went over my head. I mostly agreed with her disappointment/annoyance that modern DW turned the Doctor into someone more obviously interested in sex, because I’d always liked him fine as someone who didn’t seem to notice it much (until the Eighth Doctor discovered it was fun to kiss Grace, which was unpleasant for me, as her medical malpractice in action killed his previous persona, however accidentally). It’s not that I think asexuality is an alien trait (as I’m asexual in practice, that would make me alien, which I’ve often felt I am, but no); it’s that it seemed to be part of that particular alien’s character until modern DW.

    • I’m pretty much with Erika on this one, I think. I didn’t have any particular attachment to the Doctor as an asexual being, but I was attached to the Doctor as a being who wasn’t led around by his gonads. He’s been presented as a character who likes the companions, male and female, not because he wants to have sex with them, but because he’s interested in them as people and lonely when he’s on his own. So I didn’t particularly mind this episode, or the kiss in the TVM for that matter, but when revived series 2 turned out to be the story of Two Very Different People Falling In Love that was the point where I started to go off it. Lots of shows have that story. This one has a history of doing something just a little bit more difficult.

  4. As the school I work at is closed for winter break, I’m getting caught up on all my favourite podcasts that I have fallen behind on. And I’ve just come across this posting. I’m sorry to reopen this subject as I’m sure you all thought this was resolved and over with.
    Firstly, let me say how impressed I am, both with how frank Erika was in her apology and with how eloquent it was.
    And secondly let me say that I have been listening to Erika’s shows for several years now. I first heard her as a guest on Radio Free Skaro before jumping on board the Verity-train with episode 3. I have been following her adventures with Steven through the DW archives on Lazy Doctor Who. And (to my shock) I discovered that she is also a gamer when she began playing on a podcast I was already listening to, namely Total Party Kill. I find her to be an exceptional human. She is thoughtful, emotionally generous, and kind (unless you happen to be a kobold). And though I have never met her in person, I feel that I can safely say that she is a good one.
    Accepting, confronting, and admitting a mistake is the first step in learning and improving oneself. It is an inherent aspect of the scientific method. And it is a rarity in the age we currently find ourselves in.

    • What a lovely thing to wake up to. I appreciate your kind words and will endeavor to liventure up to your view of me. Except where kobolds are concerned, of course! 😉

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