March 25, 2023

Casting women in TV and film roles previously given to men, such as in Doctor Who or the James Bond franchise, risks leading young males into crime because the only cultural role models left for them are criminals, a Conservative MP has argued.

Leading a Westminster Hall debate about international men’s day, Nick Fletcher said discussions about women’s safety, such as after the murder of Sarah Everard, risked achieving nothing because of a focus on the idea of toxic masculinity.

Citing statistics showing poor male outcomes in areas such as school attainment, employment, suicide and rough sleeping, the Don Valley MP said men and boys needed better role models, including male teachers.

In culture, Fletcher argued, “there seems to be a call from a tiny yet very vocal minority that every male character or good role model must have a female replacement. One only needs to consider the discussions about who will next play James Bond to see that. And it is not just James Bond: in recent years we have seen Doctor Who, the Ghostbusters, Luke Skywalker and The Equalizer all replaced by women, and men are left with the Krays and Tommy Shelby [a character in the BBC drama Peaky Blinders].”

He continued: “Is it any wonder that so many young men are committing crimes? Such programmes make crime look cool.”

Fletcher said parliament “operates like a pendulum, swinging from left to right as it continually struggles to correct wrongs and injustices”, and it had gone too far when it came to men. He added: “Some may say that men have had their turn, and it is women’s turn now.”

Describing the “awful events over the past year in which the victims have been women”, Fletcher said there had been too much focus on the idea of toxic masculinity. “Yet again we have to ask ourselves: ‘Who does this help?’ I have an answer: no one. How will this situation make boys and young men see themselves? Poorly, that is how.”

He said he was “not really a fan” of days like international men’s day, which took place last Friday, but added: “In recent years there has been a creeping narrative that males have it easy; that their life is a breeze and there is nothing to complain about.”

In a subsequent tweeted statement, Fletcher said his “rather nuanced point” had been misconstrued. He said his argument “in no way linked Dr Who [sic] being a female to crime being committed by men”.

Another Conservative from the 2019 intake, Blackpool South’s Scott Benton, said during the debate that men’s issues had been “swept under the carpet for far too long as society focuses on the false narrative of male privilege”.

Benton said: “The very mention of men’s issues will have hypocritical virtue signallers seething as they try to condemn white men as oppressors.”