Steven Moffats characterizations of women are regularly called one-dimensional, misogynistic, and essentialist. Hes often accused of writing all women as generic sexy vixens who are defined solely by their sexuality. And a lot of people attack the poor man personally, calling him a misogynist with mommy/women/weird fetish problems. Im not going to talk about Moffat the person. Im going to look at the work, not at the man. Ive decided to do this because its unfair to take a writers work as a straight representation of what the writer thinks, and because I believe that the sexist Moffat quotes floating around the internet have likely been taken out of context in order for reporters to make a point. What Im going to do in this article is judge the stories Moffat has written for Sherlock and Doctor Who. What I argue is that Moffats writing of women and gender in Sherlock and Doctor Who is far from misogynistic: it is, in fact, quite feminist. Thats not to say his writing of women is universally fantastic, but his women are generally strong, interesting, and well-written characters--a couple of missteps is entirely excusable.
Moffats characterizations of women are confined to their relationship with men. This may be the most common criticism of Moffat. Each woman character he introduces is defined by their relationships with men. They are all wives or mothers. They all fall in love with the title character, against their will, conquered by his overwhelming man-ness. Amy Pond spends her life waiting, and her destiny is to choose between her husband and her best friend (who she also falls in love with at first). As SE Smith at Thinkprogress put it, Her whole life is basically defined by , and when she attempts to strike out on her ownsay, as a modelshe gets punished for it by being, you know, whisked away to a Dalek prison planet/asylum. When her characterisation isnt about her relationship with the Doctor, its about her relationship with her fiance and later spouse; nowhere in here is there room for Amy to be herself. River Song also spends her life waiting, defining herself by the days the Doctor comes for her. Irene Adler loses her game and ends up almost executed by evil Muslims because she falls too much in love with the awesomeness of Sherlock. In the end, the heart of this criticism is that women have no agency in their stories. They are just outgrowths of the main character, defined by his choices. They are orbiting moons, not planets in and of themselves. Someone else is writing their story. Moffat women are walking vaginas (someone told me exactly that, to my face). Moffat women are about nothing but sex, and are defined solely by their vaginas. Irene Adler, rather than a brilliant strategist as in the original story, is a dominatrix who wins by knowing what men like and loses by falling in love, a sentimental twist that Jane Jones in The Guardian called brain-rot. Further proof of this kind of sexism is that every Moffat woman falls in love with the Doctor. Even one-off characters are said to suffer, as when Nivair Gabriel at io9 wrote about Madame de Pompadour that Apparently the Doctor's always had a crush on her; with the whole universe at his disposal, naturally the most impressive, alluring woman he can think of is a professional sex buddy from the 17th century.