There's no way to discuss this without talking about the ending. In other words, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.
Let me start by saying that I loved Skyfall. I can comfortably state that it's one of the top two Bond films (I'm unable to declare it better than Goldeneye without seeing that old favorite again). Skyfall finds the perfect balance between acknowledging the tropes that make Bond such a treasured film commodity and acknowledging their quaintness.
But the problem, as the film so ably points out, is that Bond (and the whole of MI6) can't be judged by its activity in the past, but must be judged by the needs of the present. As a result, it becomes impossible to ignore that Skyfall gives us the most regressive gender politics since the Sean Connery era.
Two female characters are bedded and disposed of (quite literally in one case) with zero fanfare or sentiment. One is LITERALLY TOLD TO SHUT UP by her male colleague during a court proceeding. Meanwhile, in series regular territory, we're back to having a posh toff male heading up MI6, while our clever and highly competent field agent suddenly reveals her life's aspiration to be "sexy secretary". That's zero for five, Skyfall.
Let's start with Eve, who inspired this post. She spends the entire film being punished for a small mistake she makes under M's orders, while Bond goes around screwing up so badly that he can't even pass the physical fitness exam. Even worse, despite saving Bond's (and everyone's) lives twice in the interim, she somehow decides that she's not competent to be a field agent, simply based on a throwaway comment from Bond. The kiss of death? It turns out that she not only decides to be a secretary, she's actually gonna be that secretary (you remember the one. In fifty years of Bond films, she's notable for alternating "sexy" and "nagging" and "why don't you ever return my calls?".
To be honest, if she started the film as a secretary who went out into the field and then decided she wanted to stay behind the desk, I might have hand-waved it. But to invite the audience to smile knowingly as a capable agent surrenders her power to a man who was once her equal palls.
And why the hell did she end up shaving Bond? Is she his wife? Fail.
The head of the government inquiry may have been a touch long-winded, but her points were neither hysterical nor invalid. And as any student of the British government knows, long-windedness is not an affectation, but an expectation. Mallory's flippant shutdown of her right to speak (she's the fucking head of the inquiry!) is both against the way government inquiries work, and just flat offensive. And also, the audience is supposed to laugh. Women talking too much! Hilarious!
The whole Séverine subplot was incredibly bizarre. Bond finds her both traumatized and full of fear from being sold first into sex slavery and then to Silva, and nonetheless chooses to have her by sneaking up on her in the shower. Of course, James Bond is basically male privilege made flesh, but come on dude, she's TERRIFIED. She doesn't want your dick. Also, if he was so desperately taken with her, one would think he'd have slightly more of a reaction to her death-by-dick-measuring-contest. But la-di-da.
M comes closest to success, but we've spent enough time with her to know her pretty well (remember her fantastic introduction in Goldeneye?) Nonetheless, she dies pretty stupidly. She has no facility with a gun, knows it, but still sits out as a target, despite a wonderful escape route? Sure, she set off some exploding chandeliers, but what was the plan here? She's the head of the MI6, not some domestic terrorist. So we not only get Mallory accusing her of incompetence, she proves him right. M, who never makes a false step, makes a series of them in Skyfall. So she dies, freeing Bond of the only female who can stand up to him in every regard.
After the women are handily put in their places, Skyfall leaves us with the image of Bond and Mallory talking shop, drinking whisky and smirking about a job terribly done (guys, the head of MI6 is dead! I don't know how you define a job gone horribly wrong, but I am PRETTY SURE THAT'S ONE OF THEM). Mallory failed to track Silva despite Q's technical wizardry, and he still ends up boss. All the women end up dead or demoted, and the men get promoted.
I haven't even discussed the queerification of Silva ("Sure, he's killed a lot of people and blown up buildings, but what's really horrifying is that he might be homosexual!"), but that may be a topic for another day.
So long and thanks in advance for your polite, well-reasoned comments.