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The Hidden Heroines of Sherlock

There has been a great deal of noise made about the blatant sexism of BBC Sherlock and I often wonder have I been watching the same show?

Moffat and Gatiss have (intentionally or otherwise) given us great examples of strong, independent professional women. We just have to look at beyond the obvious.

This isn't a discussion about sexism in Sherlock. It's a short piece about my inferences and interpretations of Molly and Sally as professional women.  

I am putting Sally and Molly into their realistic professional contexts this also allows us to extrapolate outside of the short space of time we see these characters on screen. It gives us a more complex view of the reasons behind their actions. We can get an idea of how hard it is to become a Detective Sergeant, how competent and decisive Molly has to be  in order to be a doctor. 
It is written for fun - not for academia so I would like to ask everyone to not take my conclusions too seriously!



Comments are always welcome I love discussion!


Bending over Backwards for Good Reason


Many people have pointed out that the women in Sherlock are defined by their relationships to men. I would like to correct this because the women in Sherlock are defined by their relationships to Sherlock and John who happen to be men.


If we look closely at BBC Sherlock we will see some good examples of where Moffat/Gatiss have bent over backwards to create female characters were none existed before in ACD canon. They didn’t need to any of this, but they chose to do so.


Yes, the female characters do not get a lot of screen time but the show isn’t entitled Sally or Molly or Mrs Hudson, its called Sherlock. We expect to have the majority of screen time devoted to Sherlock, John and crime solving. The producers have a strict time frame in which to tell very complex stories. The complexity and sheer genius of the plotlines are what the audience loves but it takes a great deal of screen time to fully explain everything. Therefore none essential scenes that don’t involve crime solve often get cut. However Moffat/Gatiss have persevered and attempted to include their female characters where appropriate.


The male characters are also defined by their relationship to Sherlock. DI Lestrade is only in the picture because he utilises Sherlock in his cases. Mycroft is primarily defined in the show as Sherlock’s brother. Yes, he has an exciting life off screen but so do Irene, Molly, Sally and Sarah!


Molly Hooper



For everyone who takes one look at Molly Hooper and classes her as bumbling blonde idiot, I recommend you reconsider just what Molly had to go through be in the position she has now.


Although it is never specifically stated in the program, we can deduce that Molly Hooper is a pathologist. She does post-mortems (quote Christmas party in ASiB) and only qualified pathologists are allowed to do these in the UK. Morgue technicians are not even allowed to assist. She spends much of her time in a lab (hence her lab coat) and also has unrestricted access to a highly controlled area, the morgue.


For anyone who wants to read an in depth meta I wrote about Molly’s career -  please click here.



  • All pathologists in the UK are qualified doctors. Molly would have had to go through 5/6 years of medical school and then work gruelling hours as junior doctor on the wards for another 4 years before getting a highly competitive training post as a pathologist.

  • To become a trainee, the Royal College of Pathologists looks for people with a great deal of research experience as pathologists are expected to work in the forefront of medical research. They also look for people with great analytical skills and who are also meticulous in their methods.

  • Pathologists work unsociable hours on call like any other medical specialty. Molly is in the morgue at all times of the day and night. Pathologists need to bear quite intense pressure at work particularly when they are drafted into doing forensic autopsies, which are highly rigorous and one mistake can render any evidence unusable in court. 

  • If you are sticking with Mycroft’s assertion of Miss Hooper then it is more likely she is a surgeon doing a pathology project than a morgue technician (they are definitely not allowed to do post mortems).


If Molly Hooper has managed to climb the career ladder to her current station as a trainee pathologist, she must have demonstrated a great deal of intelligence and diligence. I am a medical student, and I can honestly say making it through the world of medicine is hard, particularly for women. It takes strength of character and a certain resilience to just make it through the first two years as a junior doctor.


If we look beyond what she says to Sherlock, we can see just by her career that she is a professional woman with a very demanding job.


We know she is a more than able doctor because she has a speciality training post at one of the most famous hospitals in the UK. Barts and the London Foundation trust (of which St. Bartholomew’s hospital is a part) has a prestigious history and excellent modern facilities for healthcare and research. Getting a training post in a central London Hospital is very hard; I have met many brilliant doctors who have been turned down.

We don't see Molly making tough decisions on call or leading a team. I have no proof that the writers have thought about this. However Molly is a doctor and these abilities are inherent to the job - you either learn them very quickly or you quit. Given that Molly is still here, I'm happy to assume she has the qualities of an able doctor. 


Love is Liberating



I think fans are very upset by the way she is portrayed in her conversations with Sherlock. They see her uncertainty and lovestruck awe and believe she is not capable of anything else. 


Sherlock is not a colleague or a patient. He is Molly’s love interest. Just because she behaves somewhat whimsically around Sherlock does not mean she is not capable of holding down a very stressful, high-octane professional job. Her reactions towards Sherlock are not a reflection of how she would treat patients or colleagues. Just because she defers to Sherlock does not mean she is unable to lead a medical team and make unimaginably tough decisions.


Being a doctor is incredibly stressful, not just because your job involves life and death but also because you have to keep up a professional face. Patients expect us to be calm, capable and decisive at all times but we are human beings.  We don’t want to be like that in our personal lives, sometimes it’s nice to just let our guard down and display our insecurities.


The Molly we see interacting with Sherlock is not the capable professional woman, she is deliberately letting go of her façade because she wants to be that love struck teenage girl again. She is stunned, flabbergasted and thrown off balance by him but in a way she likes that. When you have to be in complete control of your emotions all the time during your professional work, it is nice to meet someone you simply can’t fathom and having a giant crush on them is great way to actually get in contact with your emotions. In her interactions with Sherlock, Molly allows herself to feel the joy, sorrow, surprise and heart-ache of someone who is in love and that isn’t a luxury doctors can indulge in most of the time.


Considering these facts does Molly Hooper sound like a weak woman to you? If you still think so perhaps you would like to tell the next female doctor you meet just how weak you think she is.


Sally Donovan



Sally Donovan is an even more remarkable woman than Molly Hooper. She is holding her own in a profession that is dominated by men (more so than medicine). However, not only is she holding her own, she is also highly successful.


The CID (criminal investigations department) is often the most competitive division of any police force. The CID of the Metropolitan Police is severely oversubscribed each year. CID officers are required to have had at least two years as a uniformed officer before applying to transfer to the branch and receive further training when they do so. The initial training program lasts for another two years and hopefuls must pass a written exam before they gain the title of Detective Constable.


Just to be a considered as an applicant you need to show “exceptional” skills and a “truly committed” work record.


Detective Sergeant is a whole new level above this. I have been told by Constables in the police force that making Sergeant is extremely hard right now. Firstly there is the hurdle of the written exam which is no trifling matter. Most constables take over a year to revise for this exam and there is always a high failure rate. However passing the exam is not enough, DS positions in most police forces are oversubscribed, with 10 applicants to 1 place in the Met.


Making it to the rank of DS is no mean feat. For many policemen this is the pinnacle of their career but Sally has achieved this position at a relatively young age. We only see her as a subordinate officer because he boss is constantly on the scene. On other cases DS Sally would be in charge of a group of DCs and work as the team leader.


The Heroine


Many fans are blinded by Sally’s dislike of Sherlock but Moffat/Gatiss have written her as a very courageous character with strong moral convictions.


It took a great deal of bravery to take her suspicions about Sherlock to the Chief Inspector. Many fans have seen this as a deliberate attempt to undermine Greg Lestrade but where in the series have we seen any personal animosity between Lestrade and Donovan? They have a good working relationship. Yes, they fundamentally disagree about Sherlock’s involvement but Sally still supports her boss when Lestrade has made his decision. No one on Lestrade’s team has refused to work with Sherlock despite the occasional petty insult flying around. 


I work in hospital and despite what you might think, there is a strict hierarchy. You never go over the head of your direct boss – ever. Whistle-blowers are rendered almost unemployable by the culture of “loyalty” that exists in medicine.

Whistle-blowers (which is exactly what Sally has become) are actively persecuted in the police as well as the NHS. Doctors who report their superior's mistakes (in order to improve patient care) are often sacked by the trust, and usually cannot find employment elsewhere. This is not a way to advance your career in medicine or the police, it is good way to end it, permanently

I imagine the a much strong feeling of "loyalty" permeates the police force where there is actually a chain of command. Taking her suspicions (without any real evidence) to the Chief Inspector is tantamount to career suicide. Remember at this point, Sally couldn’t know that Sherlock would be utterly disgraced in public. Not only her actions poison her relationship with Lestrade but when word gets out she won’t be wanted on any CID team. She is also taking a big risk going to the Chief Inspector because he might despise her for going against her boss. He certainly would not hold a favourable view of her even after she exposed the “Sherlock disaster”.

She had plenty of opportunities to object to Sherlock's presence officially by going to the standards boards, but she has chosen to tolerate his presence out of respect for Lestrade's decisions. Bringing an untrained civilian onto crimes scenes is high unorthodox and potentially criminal. This is why Lestrade never informed his superior Gregson. When the inevitable investigation/enquiry gets under way Sally is as liable to face disciplinary action as Lestrade. Sally can't be so ignorant as to not know this. 

Sally isn't stupid, anybody would be duped by Moriarty's plans. She discovered that there might be a possibility that Sherlock is behind this heinous crime and she did complain directly to her superior, which is right thing to do. However he wouldn't listen, so she has to go over his head, which I will say is an incredibly brave thing to do. I have seen doctors in similar situations who have kept silent and stood by whilst the problems continued to preserve their own careers. 

I think Sally really believed that Sherlock needed to be investigated, not that he was completely guilty. She wasn't calling for his immediate incarceration, she wanted to have him formally questioned and she was right in doing so. It is basic police procedure to question all potential suspects. 

We have to understand that what Sally exposed is a disaster for the entire Met Police Force, her division and her own career. Many people have suggested that Sally would be promoted to the Lestrade’s position but this is simply not how it is done in the UK.

A scandal of this magnitude would result in a huge number of high profile cases being retried. The entire division will be tarred by the fallout from this and Sally is not going to escape the damage. She actively participated in the cases that Sherlock worked on and “just taking orders” is not a defence. If she is sacked for misconduct, Sally would find it hard to get another DS position somewhere else with her reputation.

Sally knew that she was potentially destroying her career but she wanted to do the right thing even if it meant sacrificing everything that she holds dear.


Conclusion


I greatly admire Molly and Sally. These are two professional women who have successfully carved careers for themselves in very male dominated worlds. They don’t always fulfil what many people believe to be the feminist idea of a “strong woman” in popular imagination: tough, emotionally suppressed and male but that is not the point of “gender equality”. Women should be treated with the same dignity and respect accord to men but it doesn’t mean we have to be like men. How does taking on traditionally “male” attributes contribute to gaining respect for women?


I personally subscribe to cultural feminism ideology. The recognition of "undervalued female attributes" and that women are different to men and fundamentally equal. For my long rant about "feminist ideals" and feminist movements see this post



Other Parts in this Series

1. Why Sherlock is not Sexist - a Re-evaluation

Comments

( 133 comments — Leave a comment )
darth_stitch
Oct. 8th, 2012 11:42 pm (UTC)
You're going to make me watch Reichenbach Fall without the safety net of Series 3, aren't you? I will blame you for the ensuing sobbing wreck that I will be afterwards.

(LOL - at this point, it's impossible to be in this fandom without being spoiled liek whoa for TRF so I already have 'the feels' second hand....)

This being said, I do have a few questions about Sally - I direct this to you and anyone who's seen TRF in its entirety.

On one hand, I get that it took serious balls for Sally to go over Lestrade's head like that. I would assume that she has been working with Sherlock for quite a long while now. So she has seen his methods, seen how he works and should, as a detective herself, now be able to follow the chain of deduction, evidence, facts and logic that would lead Sherlock to conclude Person John Doe is the murderer or Event AYZ is WHAT happened and no other scenario is plausible.

Otherwise, there is no way in hell Lestrade could make that case stick in court and despite everything, I refuse to believe that D.I. Lestrade is less than competent in his profession. We know that Sherlock is brilliant, naturally but I cannot subscribe to the notion that all of the men and women of NSY are incompetent.

So why did Sally go over Lestrade's head? What evidence did she have to suggest that everything Richard Brook is saying is correct? What prompted her to think that she would have enough ammunition to justify a "whistle-blowing?" Because, quite frankly, I would imagine a woman in her position, would have begun the process of critically challenging and thinking through every case Sherlock has professed to solve. I wonder why she didn't think this through and perhaps this is the source of my unease/discomfort/unhappiness with Sally.

I honestly think that she should have considered that possibility first. I'm trying to put myself in Sally's shoes and think about it. If I go to the Chief Inspector about this, I'd be opening the possibility that we'd have to re-evaluate every case Sherlock has been on. While I'd be thinking about the potential innocents who were unlawfully charged, I'd also have to start working each case from the ground up and start from scratch. I'd like to believe that this is her main motivation but Sally is only human so I would also be likely to believe that there's a large part of her natural dislike for Sherlock mixed in there too.

Would you (or anyone, really) help me understand why Sally had not considered this happening?

(I don't mind being spoiled for TRF at all - so by all means, walk me through it - explain away!)
neverminetohold
Oct. 9th, 2012 08:24 am (UTC)
I second all of that, though it's really sad that the show doesn't allow for more screen-time for the heroines...

Though TV gives us more tough and independent women lately, like Det. Carter in "Person of Interest" or Jessica Pearson (and the other women) in "Suits"; I like that.
wellingtongoose
Oct. 9th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your support!
sherlockholmes
Oct. 9th, 2012 11:14 am (UTC)
If you want to talk about the validity of these characters, maybe you should do so without making it an extension of your sexism argument because you're still not hitting on what the fundamental problem with the way the show treats it's women is.

I think that you're missing the point when people talk about the fact that we say these characters are defined by their relationships by the men on this show. Saying that they are defined by their relationships by individuals who happen to be men is the same as saying that the majority of violence against women is perpetuated by... people who happen to be men. You're missing the point.

Like I've said numerous times in your other post. Making a woman a detective or a doctor isn't good enough when you consistently abuse her. Please, consider the following.

Sally Donovan is treated differently than her male colleagues.

No one else on the show is insulted for their sexuality or their sexual proclivities or indiscretions. John, for example, has a string of girlfriends who he can't even keep straight (thinking his current one has a dog when she doesn't) and that's played off like it's funny and like it's normal. It'd demeaning towards women.

But nothing, nothing is worse than the fact that Sherlock Holmes, a white male (if you don't understand that men, and especially white men, are on a higher rung of the social hierarchy than women and people of colour, I can't stess enough how important it is for you to look at why people talk about male privilege. Because the fact is that while men and women are equal, socially we aren't) insults Sally Donovan on the job by mentioning the state of her knees. In fact, considering this is in the pilot episode, I wouldn't dismiss an argument that half of the reason Sally is a women at all is so they could get this joke off -- after all, it isn't as though she does much else until series 2, which they didn't know they'd have the chance to make until series 1 was well in the bag.

What you are telling me is that I should be satisfied by the fact that she's a detective. That the abuse that she sustains in that episode and the fact that she is depicted not as a character with strong beliefs or morals but is more or less there for the bad end of s sex joke should be less important than the fact she's on the police force.

And let's talk about her morals. Nothing, absolutely nothing about TRF suggests that Sally is acting for the greater good or bringing in Sherlock Holmes because she really thinks he's responsible. All of it reads like revenge. It reads that it's personal -- which paints Sally (and not Anderson, who is mostly just silent) as the perpetrator of vindictiveness and makes her into a manipulative villain working against the beloved hero of the show.

(Anonymous)
Oct. 9th, 2012 12:25 pm (UTC)
Sorry While I value your other comments, I do not agree that Sally is treated as a a manipulative villain working against the beloved hero of the show in TRF,I also do not read her motivition of exposing Sherlock as revenge, does she hold a resentment against Sherlock, She certaintly does, is it one of main reasons that She had concluded Sherlock is the criminal so quickly ? I think so.But I don't think her behaviour is mainly driven by personal hatered.

I remember just before the little girl scream accident, she actually pay respect and heartly praise to Sherlock, the first time in the whole series,why,She has seen Sherlock cracked so many other cases ,does she say kind words to him before why now,because she is glad that he could save the children,for the first time,She could see how brilliant Sherlock is , and the benefit of it. If she really hates Sherlock guts, she would say bitter words or say nothing,Sher just falls into Moritarity's trap,She really think Sherlock is respinsible, also as a plice woman she must feel the child kidnapping case more deeeply than other case.She was angry,but is it for herself? I don't think so.

If there is a ture manipulative villain, that's Moritarity, He has played the weakness of human nature, that's the main point of Moritarity's plan. I can see your points that the writer do not write Sally as a shining woman detective or even as a positive role, but makes her into a manipulative villain without morals? Well,that's a bit far stretched for me.

Ps: sorry about my anon stauts, and my English skills, as English is not my first language.
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sherlockholmes
Oct. 9th, 2012 11:14 am (UTC)
Molly Hooper

Once again, I think you're looking at this backwards. The writers wanted a pathologist to crush on Sherlock and date Jim, so of course she had to be a woman. You have to look at the reasons and the choices that the writers clearly made this character up. Because to say that they decided to make her female and then developed the entire Jim-tricks-Sherlock plot around that fact later seems a little bit short sighted.

Now let's talk about how abused Molly is, by the writers and by Sherlock

Sherlock goes through the entire first season well aware of her crush on him he isn't naive to it. He uses it against her to get what he wants, he manipulates her feelings, he ridicules her weight, and sends her running from the room upset.

((I think it's important, again, to mention that Sherlock doesn't make fun of men for anything but their intelligence. The mild exception to this might be Lestrade, because he makes reference to his wife's infidelity, but once again, that seems to be insults directed more at the unnamed wife than at Greg.))

He embarrasses her at the Christmas party, and then after apologising and then the writers undercut his apology by embarrassing Molly again when she's standing over 'Irene's body. He blames her for the fact she didn't see through Jim's disguise (when he didn't either) and tells her that she should never date.

That is continued emotional manipulation and abuse in every episode that she appears.

But then he tells her that she matters to him and so suddenly she leaps to help him in TRF.

To me, that is... horrible, it's too little too late on the part of the writers and it's a terrible way to treat Molly as a character.


SO YEAH.

Making Sally a detective and Molly a Doctor isn't good enough when you treat the characters that poorly.

Edited at 2012-10-09 11:19 am (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Oct. 9th, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
Just a quick comment about how Sherlock insults Molly's weight and but only Lestrade's intelligence.

You clearly see that Sherlock knows how to manipulate Molly into getting what he wants so you know that he understands what upsets a person. Molly Hopper is... infatuated, i suppose, with Sherlock so to hear that she isn't pretty from that person would obviously hurt her. Lestrade is a man who often struggle sin his field of work so the be called an idiot would hurt him.

Sherlok Holmes knows what people care about and uses it to hurt them.

And, Sherlock "abuses" pretty much everyone around him. Regardless of gender. You could pick out some for Anderson, just as much for Lestrade and more for John. Telling Lestrade that his wife was cheating on him in such a callous way was just as cruel as telling Molly she has gained weight.

And Lestrade would have jumped to Sherlock's aid just as quickly had he said it to him instead.

That wasn't as short as I'd hoped.

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sophiap
Oct. 9th, 2012 11:17 am (UTC)
This is wonderful! I especially like the reminder that the Molly we see with Sherlock is very likely NOT the Molly her colleagues see on a regular basis. Now you have me craving fic where we get to see Molly acting all competent and professional when not in Sherlock's presence.

Also, thank you for your write-up about Sally. I do think she honestly believed she was doing the right thing by exposing Sherlock. Of course, there was probably a lot of dislike and resentment fueling that belief, but it was not the only or even major component. And YES, getting to be a sergeant in the Met's CID is no simple feat for anyone. Add on top of that the fact that Sally is a) female and b) a minority, that makes the climb even steeper. I don't think Sally is necessarily a nice person, but she's no villain.
sherlockholmes
Oct. 9th, 2012 11:23 am (UTC)
The Molly we see interacting with Sherlock is not the capable professional woman, she is deliberately letting go of her façade because she wants to be that love struck teenage girl again. She is stunned, flabbergasted and thrown off balance by him but in a way she likes that. When you have to be in complete control of your emotions all the time during your professional work, it is nice to meet someone you simply can’t fathom and having a giant crush on them is great way to actually get in contact with your emotions. In her interactions with Sherlock, Molly allows herself to feel the joy, sorrow, surprise and heart-ache of someone who is in love and that isn’t a luxury doctors can indulge in most of the time.


The thing is, you can't prove this unfortunately because we never see her working when Sherlock isn't around -- only when he is, and then she's a bit of a joke, isn't she? having trouble with her gloves and carrying so many books that she actually can't see over them? You're supporting your argument based on speculation. And the fact that you can only support your argument based on speculation should start alarm bells going off in your head about why we're dealing with a sexist portrayal of a woman. We only see her crushing on and being kicked around by a man like an unconditionally loving abused puppy. We don't see this other side to her that you're talking about at all so we don't know that she has it. You can't tell me what she's like when she's working without Sherlock, because you don't know.

Which makes everything you're saying here almost entirely irrelevant unless I'm missing something and you can support your argument with evidence that's on the show itself and not just your personal experience in the field.

Edited at 2012-10-09 11:28 am (UTC)
wellingtongoose
Oct. 9th, 2012 11:47 am (UTC)
I don't think what I've said is irrelevant. This meta is about looking beyond what we see on the screen. It's an extrapolation rather than analysis of what has been presented. Yes, it is based it on my own personal experience working in medicine and I've made assumptions along the way.

This meta isn't about proving anything, it's my interpretation and extrapolation of the show.

I agree there's not much to work with just in terms of the show but this meta wasn't about the show it was about extrapolating from what we can see.

I'm trying to point out that Molly does have a stressful job and the fact that she is working in a world reknown hospital as a doctor is proof that she is professional and capable.


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(Anonymous)
Oct. 9th, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC)
women defined by their relationship to men...
Thanks for this little analysis, it fits my own opinions on the show quite perfectly, even though I wish they had named molly's actual position at least once to clear things up. they do, however, give her a tiny little bit more attention on her website which, although very short, is highly interesting, characterwise - if I may quote the entry of january, 28th: "It's like I'm Molly Hooper, in control. 'Little Miss Perfect' as my mates call me. Until he walks into the room and then suddenly I'm this little mouse. He turns me into a mouse" - perfectly describes that there is more to her than we superficially see.

On people's complaints that all the women in the show are merely defined by their relationships to men, I want to say: Yes, you're right, they are. They are all defined by their relationship to Sherlock. BUT: the same goes for the men. Everything and everyone in this show evolves around this one character, no one is important unless his has some kind of relationship with this man - Lestrade? just your more or less average DI at NSY, successful in general (he made it to the position of DI), clueless at times, you wouldn't look at him twice (you don't even look once at his colleagues, do you?) but then he's clever enough to accept Sherlock's help and suddenly he's in the spotlight. John? tough ex-soldier with PTSD, suffering from depression, no close friends or family, unable to cope with his life, but - whoa! - he meets Sherlock and suddenly: no limp, a job, great life, a famous blog and more girlfriends than a man can handle. Even Mycroft! we have no idea what exactly this man, who is supposed to be even more amazing than Sherlock himself and yet needs his little brother to take care of Britain's most dangerous criminals, is doing all day long except: worrying about Sherlock, looking after Sherlock, having all of London's CCTV following Sherlock, bribing Sherlock's potential flatmates to protect Sherlock, abducting Sherlock's enemies, cleaning up the mess his brother leaves...
So...why is nobody complaining about how weak these men are? Oh, right, because they're men. Men aren't perceived as weak just because they're average. Hm, who's sexist now?
sherlockholmes
Oct. 9th, 2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
Re: women defined by their relationship to men...
On people's complaints that all the women in the show are merely defined by their relationships to men, I want to say: Yes, you're right, they are. They are all defined by their relationship to Sherlock.

The problem isn't that they are only shown in their relation to Sherlock, it's that that is all that is show. We even know about Lestrade's homelife (and failed marriage) -- which shows that he's got things going out outside of his role as Sherlock's handler.

And it isn't just that they're mostly depicted in their roles in the lives of men -- but that they're depicted poorly and mistreated by characters and the writers alike. The are used solely as plot devices and nothing more, whereas characters like Lestrade are fleshed out.

John? tough ex-soldier with PTSD, suffering from depression, no close friends or family, unable to cope with his life, but - whoa! - he meets Sherlock and suddenly: no limp, a job, great life, a famous blog and more girlfriends than a man can handle.

... Oh, so no limp, great life, famous blog and lots of girlfriends can call be used to describe John's position and you don't see how that is using women only in a way is about the male character? I mean, you just did it right there. They're just John's 'girlfriends' they don't have a personality of their own, they're not important -- they're just there -- and no men in the series are treated like that.

So...why is nobody complaining about how weak these men are? Oh, right, because they're men. Men aren't perceived as weak just because they're average. Hm, who's sexist now?

You can't be sexist against men. Check this out, it might help you understand why.
"You're a bit like my dad." - (Anonymous) - Oct. 9th, 2012 07:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "You're a bit like my dad." - sherlockholmes - Oct. 9th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "You're a bit like my dad." - (Anonymous) - Oct. 9th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "You're a bit like my dad." - sherlockholmes - Oct. 9th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "You're a bit like my dad." - sherlockholmes - Oct. 9th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
light_frost
Oct. 9th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
Here, have a naive young person jumping in among the intellectuals to say thank you for writing this.
wellingtongoose
Oct. 9th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the support! I am certainly not an intellectual on the topic of sexism. I just took one look at Molly and thought - there has to be more to her than a silly girl with a crush and then I reasoned from the things she said and did that she's a doctor.

She might not be - I don't know how much Moffat understands about morgues and medicine but I want to see more to Molly.

la_victoire21
Oct. 9th, 2012 05:12 pm (UTC)
This is one reason why i do love Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat- they always seem to create strong women in any of their shows, even if its unintentional or not a overtly obvious character- characters like Sally Donovan are highly appreciated.

Being a feminist myself, i like Sally even if she can be a bit cutting to sherlock; she holds her own against in, and she isn't afraid an opinion that contradicts others around her. I agree with everything you said about her.

I actually think Molly is more complex than we give her credit for- even if she was upset after sherlock exposed Jim as 'gay', she did get over it and carry on, instead of breaking down. Whenever Sherlock cuts her, she isn't afraid to answer back, even if its means showing her emotions and potentially embarrassing herself- a sign of courage, in my opinion anyways. Plus, Molly must be very patient and must have persevered if she gets on with Sherlock at all- as we know, he isnt the easiest person to like. I hope they develop her characetr in season 3- they have enough scope for it, as they pretty much showed that she is capable of carrying out sherlock's fake death and even ultimately hiding it.


Great entry. sorry if i rambled:)
wellingtongoose
Oct. 9th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the support! I think there's a lot of positive qualities to Molly. An utterly irrelevant point - Molly is actually one of the few characters in Sherlock I'd like to be meet in real life.

As a medical student, you learn quite quickly to tell which doctors are the "nice" ones and which ones you should just leave well alone. Molly definitely falls in the first category. I believe she would carry over her positive qualities into her professional job. She's understanding, compassionate, patient and always willing to help. She's not going to ritually humiliate me if I get something wrong.

John, I have to say, I would steer clear of as a medical student. He's very nice man to know outside of his professional capacity. However he seems a highly disciplined, military doctor who must have high standards of both himself and his students. He might not deliberately humiliate the students but I think his tolerance for ignorance or failure is precisely nil. When you've worked in an environment when the wrong split second decision could cost someone their life, you're not going to be sympathetic to the student who can't remember how to treat massive haemorrhage.

Edited at 2012-10-09 07:20 pm (UTC)
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darth_stitch
Oct. 9th, 2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
This is just me, offering an alternate look at Molly's character.

Molly, to me and in IMHO, seems to be reminiscent of a certain type of character archetype. She's the writers' butt monkey/chew toy for a specific reason and just to me, it's not because she's a woman or a "silly girl." She's the kind of character who is portrayed as the shy, sweet, fangirl or hero-worshipping type. The "hero" of the story tends to overlook her or take her for granted, until at least such time that he finally realizes her real value to him. I think of Shia's character in the Constantine movie, Yoda before revealing himself to be the BAMF that he is or even, heaven help me, the Star Wars Ewoks.

Hey, I think the Star Wars Ewoks may be more like Molly than we think. They're cute, fluffy, cuddly creatures but they're hella dangerous when poked and I don't know about you folks, but these guys helped take down Imperial Stormtroopers and win a Galactic War.

I'm trying to imagine gender bent Molly and I could very well imagine a boy version of Molly crushing or hero-worshipping Sherlock, getting shot down in the same manner and getting a similar character arc. Since they've already begun this show being fairly open about people being in gay relationships (John and Sherlock mistaken as a couple, Mrs. Hudson telling them about the "married ones" next door), then it's something that they could easily have pulled off.

This character archetype may well be there to teach the hero of the story not to take people for granted or any of a myriad lessons to humanize Sherlock. Because Sherlock begins the show as this logical "machine." He likes to think that he is beyond sentiment but he's drawn to create emotional relationships for himself anyway - witness his relationship to Mrs. Hudson for example. And for all his apparent cruelty to Molly, one would think that she must have seen something in Sherlock (and I believe we've a few scenes in TRF that bear that out) that make him attractive to her, other than simply being a pretty face.



sherlockholmes
Oct. 9th, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
When you're writing a post "[that] isn't a discussion about sexism in Sherlock."

You might not want to make the first sentence "There has been a great deal of noise made about the blatant sexism of BBC Sherlock and I often wonder have I been watching the same show?"
wellingtongoose
Oct. 10th, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
What I assume people will realised is I'm stating I don't think Sherlock is blatantly sexist, but I'm not going to discuss that in this meta, I'm discussing my interpretations of of sally and molly.
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baudown
Oct. 10th, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
First, I want to thank you, wellingtongoose, for the time and effort you've put into these posts. I've found them to be very interesting, even if I don't agree with all of them.

I've been waiting to get home from work to comment, but that introductory line has been running through my head all day: "There has been a great deal of noise made about the blatant sexism of BBC Sherlock..."

I'm guessing you might imagine that when you characterize the opinions of others as "noise," it will provoke a noisy response!

I love Sherlock -- I adore it. And I recognize that it does, at times and through various characters, perpetuate unpleasant sexist attitudes. I am a fan, and a critic, simultaneously. I don't feel the need to make excuses or re-write the show in order to justify what I see as the sexism in it. I think it's very tempting, when a show is as brilliantly conceived and written and acted as this, to want to whitewash its flaws. But...it doesn't mean it's not sexism because it's in a pretty package.

I'm not going to restate the arguments as to why the show is in some ways sexist. I think those have already been made, pretty eloquently. But as to these characters being strong women? Molly sums herself up by saying "I don't count." And while I find that heartbreaking and relatable and touching, it's hardly the statement of a strong woman. It's the statement of a woman who thinks she's nothing because she hasn't garnered a man's esteem. And how does she get validated? By Sherlock's acceptance of her offer that he use her. As for Sally -- I just don't see her actions as being portrayed as laudable. She acts out of hatred and jealousy and spite, not moral conviction. She's duped and takes Moriarity's bait. I think she's meant to be seen as petty and foolish.
wellingtongoose
Oct. 10th, 2012 07:13 am (UTC)
I certainly don't think the opinions of others as noise, by noise I mean the general attention and a media publicity of this. If you feel this is some how insulting then I will change my wording but as I said this is suppose to be a bit of light reading - not written up to journalists or academic standards and serious not to be over analysed

I'm not rewriting the show, this is my interpretation and i have given logical reasons to back my claims. Heavens there would be must I'd like to change if I was able to rewrite the show. If you choose to interpret Sally as petty and foolish then that's your prerogative. Whether or not she is meant to be interpreted that way is something that neither of us has any proof of given we don't have insight into the writer's minds.

Just because she takes Moriarty's bait does not make her unintelligent, petty or foolish. She looks at the evidence and voices her suspicions for the safety of the public, even going over the head of her boss which is an incredibly brave thing to do. She has damaged her career, she's not naive enough to not realise this.

Edited at 2012-10-10 07:20 am (UTC)
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bootoye
Oct. 11th, 2012 12:00 am (UTC)
I agree that Molly and Sally are both strong professional women.

I think Molly has been empowered by the role she plays in Sherlock's fall.

I like Sally too and especially that bit where John punched the superintendant....Sally knew not to mess with John LOL...
What I don't like about Sally though is her affair with Anderson which is still going on up to the Fall.
sherlockholmes
Oct. 12th, 2012 02:08 pm (UTC)
Why don't you like Sally because she's having an affair?
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johnnypenn
Jan. 10th, 2013 12:26 am (UTC)
I've been thinking about writing a Molly fic and a Team Lestrade fic because I think they do solve cases without Sherlock's help. I just don't feel qualified enough to do it until I read your essays. :)
Thanks for writing them, even just for fun. This had to be a lot of research.

So question - is it likely that the CID team could be demoted? As in, could Sally go back to being a street cop?
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