“Men categorize women in one of four ways: Mothers, virgins, sluts and bitches.” -Syrup, 2013
I can’t be the only one who noticed this, right?
The men in the top three images are (from left to right) Steven Moffat, Stephen Thompson, and Mark Gatiss— the three writers of BBC’s Sherlock.
Now look, as a series, Sherlock has a lot of strong points. However, its portrayal of women is definitely not one of them— not by a long shot.
So, to the men listed above, here is my message to you: reducing women to tired archetypes does not make you a good writer. Demonising women as sluts and bitches does not make you a good writer. Raising women onto pillars as virgins and mothers does not make you a good writer. It only makes you sexist.
Did you ever stop to think that maybe it’s some people’s perception of how these women are being portrayed that’s sexist?
Mrs. Hudson: Yes, in addition to being good friends with John and Sherlock she probably does see them as her sons…and? Mrs. Hudson likes and cares about John and Sherlock just as they like and care about her. It’s called friendship. I wasn’t aware that the subtle dynamics of it had limitations.
Molly: She’s rather innocent and yes hopelessly in love with Sherlock. Does innocence=virginity? Fuck no it doesn’t, just as being promiscuous does not mean that you have had sex. Molly’s smart. She’s kind, loving, and hard-working. She may be naive and fawn over Sherlock, but that in no way makes her any less valuable of a character or negate her worth as a strong, intelligent woman.
Irene: First off, sluts only exist in the eyes of those doing the name calling. Also people need to get the fuck over the idea that sex and sexuality is a bad thing when it’s actually just as natural as anything else in this world. Instead people who understand and are comfortable with this fact are called “sluts.” Irene is totally and completely comfortable with her sexuality and uses it as a tool, a powerful tool that allows her to bring the British government to its knees.
Sally: I personally don’t like Sally, you’re not supposed to like her. But she isn’t a bitch, she just doesn’t like Sherlock and from a police officer’s point of view she finds him suspicious and a threat. She’s just doing her job.
Sherlock is not sexist. None of its writers are sexist. Putting women into categories that you feel their personality traits fit into is sexist.
I’m amazed at people who fail to see the issue with how Sherlock treats women. Is your standard for women set SO LOW that you really think that their treatment here is acceptable?
Mrs. Hudson is probably the best treated character of the bunch, but she is a minor and limited character. She has little autonomy in the course of the story. Her few moments of importance are aimed at characterizing Sherlock, and that’s it. She’s an ok character, but a flat and undeveloped one for the most part. Her one moment of almost depth was when she kept the information hidden from the guys that beat her up, and even then, that whole scene was aimed at creating empathy with SHERLOCK, not on her. From the way it was filmed to the nature of the dialog, Mrs. Hudson exists solely to make Holmes look like a child with a soft spot for his mother figure.
Onto Molly. I do like Molly, but she is horribly mistreated by the narrative and by Sherlock. She is constantly verbally abused by Sherlock, treated as pathetic and naive for her ~girly girly~ feelings. The scene where she tried to give him a present is the perfect example of this. Sherlock pushes her around, especially when it comes to her having feelings for him, and the narrative doesn’t really seem to have a problem with that. And I find that to be a serious issue. She is portrayed as weak because she has feelings for Sherlock. The season 2 finale works to somewhat work against this, but only to reenforce that Molly still loves him and will still help him, despite being an emotionally manipulative and abusive ass. Molly isn’t really given a chance to have a life, or interests, or empowerment that don’t COMPLETELY revolve around the man who emotionally abuses her. (Her only step away from this was dating Jim. Yeah, I’m sure that was great.)
I have no idea how people can defend BBC’s Irene. It’s horrific. Her entire portrayal is like a 17 year old boys wet dream. She is seen entirely through a lens of male gaze. I’m honestly not even all that bothered by her hyper-sexualization (other than to role my eyes at how puerile BC Sherlock seems to be about nudity. Uhuhuhu boobies. Watch Sherlock key smash his mouth. Hilarious.) . I AM bothered by the way that she IDENTIFIES as a Lesbian, up to the point where she wants to bang Sherlock. (Ah yes, Lesbians are just waiting for the right man? Excellent stereotype to push, BBC. Thanks a fucking lot.) On top of that, Irene is defeated because of her ~girly girly~ feelings. As Sherlock says sentiment is a “chemical defect of the losing side.” Like with Molly, emotion in women is seem as some kind of weakness (emotion in men is used for Queerbaiting! ~yay~/ugh) On top of all of that, we have the reveal that Irene was ONLY ever a threat because of Moriarty, not because of herself, and she has to be saved by the ~scary scary brown terrorists~ at the end. Super disempowering and gross.
The way that Sally is treated is ALSO super gross. As the ONLY recurring character of color on the show, her poor treatment (along with all the OTHER racism within BBC Sherlock: the ~scary brown terrorists~, the ~scary Chinese mafia~) is really troubling. On top of that, WHAT does Sherlock shame her for? Fucking Anderson. That’s right, our ONLY Woman of Color on the show is derided the first time we meet her as an over-sexual adulterer. Hooray for invoking horrific racial stereotypes!
I hate to think of what you consider to be a GOOD, well-written, complex female character if you think that the above aren’t a problem. BBC Sherlock is an utter mess at writing any character who isn’t a white dude who they can queer-bait with. Their treatment of people of color is horrific, their treatment of women is worrying, their treatment of LGBTQIA+ folk is down right insulting, their constant fat jokes are juvenile, and their complete ignorance about ACTUAL mental conditions is pathetic.
It’s fucking fine if you like BBC Sherlock. But understand that the problems that it has are not some kind of projected failing on OUR part. They are failings the show brought to the tabel, covered in glitter, and then acted so so damn clever for having.