I love James Bond. I love the excitement, the intrigue, the glamour and, of course, the gorgeous Aston Martins. Ever since watching Casino Royal, I have been hooked by the fast-paced, thrilling life of 007. Last week, Pierce Brosnan, the dapper spy turned Abba expert, called for the next actor to play James Bond to be a woman. Brosnan’s remarks had good intentions but his attempts to be “woke” were misplaced. Like so many, he has missed the mark of what it means to achieve gender equality – and the creation of ‘Jenifer’ Bond will not help him get there.
I don’t want a female James Bond. It is infuriating that in order to achieve proper representation in the mainstream media women must be pigeon-holed into a traditionally heteronormative, masculine stereotype. Rather than creating a new, innovative and exciting opportunity for an actress to develop a refreshing and empowered original character, she must instead squeeze herself into a space which, since its conception, has been occupied by a male consciousness. This is not equality. Placing a woman in a role which is entrenched in decades of masculinity assumes that stories and characters occupied by heteronormative men are the default.
The same can be said of wider society. Take politics as a primary example. This country has fielded two female Prime Ministers. Yes, it was a step in the right direction; a woman in Downing Street broke down the barriers of an office traditionally occupied by patriarchal masculinity. The first and most important steps have been taken. But examine what both Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May had to go through in order to be accepted as a worthy leader. Thatcher underwent voice training, May was dubbed the “Ice Queen”, both women became more traditionally masculine as they took on their premierships. After establishing themselves in a male environment, they themselves were pushed to become more male.
The suggestion that heteronormative masculinity is the default is not limited to public life either. Recently, pupils from a school in East Sussex were sent home if they failed to comply with the school’s gender-neutral uniform. Again, setting out with good intentions, but the school’s decision to ban skirts and make trousers compulsory missed the mark. Evidently, gender neutral does not mean masculine. Rather than squeeze all genders into the bracket of heteronormative masculinity, the school should have allowed all pupils to wear any uniform, regardless. How can masculinity occupy neutral ground?
A female James Bond is not the answer to equality. A female James Bond implies that to achieve recognition women must adapt themselves to the masculine norm. What I want to see is more roles and opportunities for women free from their establishment in patriarchal structures. We can make this happen by seeing the encouragement and acclamation of female directors and more films with strong female leads. Let’s hope that our next female Prime Minister, whoever she may be, does not feel the need to lower her voice or refrain from displays of emotion. We come in a range of sizes, shapes and temperaments – it’s time to stop pretending that straight, white and male is the norm.