Not Thorita


So what about THOR?

Paris Lees at the Guardian asks.

Hurrah. Marvel comics have revealed that Thor, the God of Thunder, has become a woman. Not in a transgender way, not in a “When Mr Thor gets back from the summer holidays he will be wearing a dress and called Ms Thor” way. No, Thor is simply a woman now and that’s that. And you needn’t worry about her going all soft and silly. As Jason Aaron, writer of the new Thor series, puts it: “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

Excuse me?

Why would it be She-Thor or Lady Thor or Thorita?

That’s like thinking a woman who writes has to be a writeress, and a woman who flies planes has to be a pilotess, and a woman who sciences has to be a scientistess.

We’re not that weird, you know. We’re not that different. We’re not so weird and different that a gender switch necessitates the addition of layer upon layer of fluff and lace and ribbon and meringue.

Anything that breaks up our rigid ideas of just what men and women are supposed to be is a good thing. I’m just not entirely sure that a female THOR does anything to truly challenge the status quo around gender.

Putting women in men’s roles only gets you so far. Sexism didn’t disappear when women started wearing trousers. It’s wonderful that the fairer sex were able to undo their corsets and take on things that were traditionally seen as masculine – whether that be sports, political careers or plain old dungarees – but it has done little to challenge the scapegoating of femininity. We live in a society that still systematically celebrates masculinity while ridiculing all things feminine.

Oh well, give it a few more centuries.

Comments

  1. Claire Ramsey says

    I am reserving judgement until I see the comic. I do like the idea of those silly Norse gods deciding to change history. Hahahaha all this time they were girls. Shut up!!! They are badly behaved gods as far as I can tell. What is one more infraction?

    And of course I am anticipating lots of whining from the Heroes and the Hero-Worshippers. It could be fun.

  2. screechymonkey says

    When it comes to comic book fans, tack on another millennium or two.

    Actually, that’s probably unjust. As with many other groups, it’s a very loud contingent that gives the rest of them a bad reputation. But that contingent’s nerdrage is already out in full force.

  3. Rabidtreeweasel says

    When they talk about Lady Thor, She Thor, Thorita, etc, they are referring to the Ms Pacman trope in video games and comic books. That is, making a gender stereotyped version of a character and giving them an honorific to match. So when they say she won’t be Lady Thor or She Thor they are saying she won’t be derivative. She will be strong because she is Thor. Not that she’ll be the original Thor character, but that she’ll possess the strength and power of the god because she will possess the hammer. They’re intimating that she’ll be her own character, with a personality and desires, not Pacman with a bow.

  4. Jason Dick says

    In addition to Rabidtreeweasel’s comment, there’s also a long history of doing this sort of thing in comic books, e.g. She-Hulk.

  5. John Morales says

    Ophelia quotes Paris:

    I’m just not entirely sure that a female THOR does anything to truly challenge the status quo around gender.

    Ostensibly, it’s an appeal to a demographic—the existence of which this action tacitly acknowledges—that challenges the status quo ante expectations.

    So, perhaps a bit.

  6. Seth says

    Languages are funny; in English, as evinced in the post here, we tend to see a gendering of occupations (e.g., actor vs. actress, waiter vs. waitress) as markers of sexism. In French, where all nouns are gendered either masculine or feminine, *not* giving feminine-gendered alternatives to occupation is seen as sexist (since it implies that only men do the job, then). There are exceptions where the word is the same; e.g., dentiste or médecin (physician). But in the vast majority of cases, occupations have bigendered nomenclature; e.g., avocat vs avocate (lawyer vs lawyeress), and this was largely seen as a progressive adaptation from the 60’s, as women reasserted their ability to operate in the public sphere.

    Of course, the actual ‘genders’ of the French language have nothing in principal to do with the gender of people and things (why is it ‘le vagin’ for a vagina, otherwise?), and ideally the language and culture will adapt out of that mode of thought (if not do away with the gendered nouns altogether, though that isn’t very likely to happen in this millennium). At the very least, perhaps l’Académie Française could adopt the Swedish model, where the language has two ‘genders’ that are labelled ‘common’ and ‘neuter’ rather than ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. But Swedish society is much more experimental with gender roles than almost any other culture, so perhaps expecting the French to emulate them is too much to consider.

  7. thephilosophicalprimate says

    I think Lees’ criticism is… just damned silly. Yes, I get the critique of the “another strong woman” nonsense, but the idea behind this move in the comic is that Thor is a particular ROLE — a warrior deity — that a woman can fill as effectively as a man. The quoted passage about “Lady Thor,” “Thorita” and so on (which I’m confident has nothing to do with a transgender Eurovision contestant) is simply writer Jason Aaron explicitly saying that he is NOT going down the route of remaking the character in pink and fluff and ribbons and offensive feminine stereotypes just because said warrior deity is going to be a woman instead of a man in the upcoming reboot. And although it would be nice if he could go without saying so at all, Marvel is making the announcement of the comic in *this* world, not a hypothetical possible world where no one would ever think that was something that might happen: Aaron mentioning such stereotypes to make it clear that he rejects them should not be used to infer that HE is inclined to think that way automatically; he just knows there are lots of sexist nerd-boys out there who will make that sort of criticism, and he is clearly (if perhaps a little clumsily) anticipating and responding to such criticisms.

    It’s one thing to be annoyed that the only way women are portrayed positively in so much fiction is by being remade into a “man” as viewed by traditional, narrow gender-binary stereotypes. It’s another thing — a strange, foolish, axe-grindy sort of thing in my view — to single out a superhero comic about a warrior deity who wields a lightning-flinging warhammer against foes as a specific target in such a critique about those general patterns. There definitely SHOULD be more positive portrayals of women in media who aren’t just a gender-bent version of a stereotypical “masculine” hero; but that doesn’t logically entail that it’s always and necessarily wrong-headed and harmful and stereotype-perpetuating to portray women who do have some of those qualities. (Is “Aliens” less feminist because it’s an action movie whose women are portrayed as tough and capable of violence? I don’t think so.)

    I found it especially amusing that Lees mentioned possible future movies in the context of this particular critique. Did she actually see “Thor”? In the first movie, the title character regains his divine power and the right to wield Mjolner when he learns not to be a macho, arrogant, violence-is-the-answer-no-matter-the-question, self-involved asshole, and instead demonstrates caring, compassion, and a willingness sacrifice his own interests for the welfare of others — you know, genuinely good human qualities often derided as “feminine”? That’s exactly the sort of narrow-gender-role-defying narrative Lees should be able to get behind, if she weren’t so busy putting axe to grindstone. (Mind you, that transformation happens far too quickly, and is undermined by being a part of a cliche woman-in-peril/love story narrative; I’m not saying it’s thought-provoking feminist cinema. But the story DOES make the unsubtle and explicit point that when Thor is a stereotypical macho-man type, he ISN’T really a good person or a hero to be admired — even though many DO admire him.)

  8. John Morales says

    In passing, I wonder whether Thor will get pregnant?

    (The mythic Thor was fertile and had progeny)

  9. hopeleith says

    this would be cool, if it were actually the first time a woman had picked up Mjolnir, but it’s not. several women, a couple of men, captain America, Black Widow and a horse faced alien have all wielded the hammer in the comics. But for the first time they’re treating Thor as a title, not a name, and the original male Thor is also around trying to become worthy of the hammer again. doesn’t affect movie Thor, who is still played by a big Australian guy. A lowcost, low risk way to look like they’re doing more for female characters, instead of taking a chance on a female- led film

  10. Rabidtreeweasel says

    I think of a female Thor as being similar to a female Doctor. Because it could happen theoretically, why shouldn’t it happen in actuality? In relation to Doctor Who, show runner Stephen Moffat has been (rightly) criticized for making a female character who has similar abilities to the Doctor but who is less powerful than him and exists as a vehicle for the Doctor’s character growth, when for years fans have been clamoring for the show to have a regeneration of the Doctor who is simply female. What they are doing with Thor is very similar in theme to what fans have wished would be done with the Doctor.

  11. Rabidtreeweasel says

    In terms of the film franchise, I guess there might be the issue of contracts, but producer Joss Whedon says he loves the idea of a female Thor. I think if he can get away with it he’d do it. In terms of being a feminist he isn’t perfect, but he sure tries. If he did go that way I’d be really excited to see the result.

  12. Rabidtreeweasel says

    @13

    Girls don’t always wear dresses. Sometimes, men wear dresses. Neither of those things are actually laughable or bad. So why shouldn’t he be willing to wear a dress? But obviously, wearing a dress is not what makes one female, since as I noted women don’t always wear dresses. So if Whedon wanted a female Thor the casting would have to be changed, and the contracts have already been written for Avengers two so that won’t happen, but it is fun to imagine who could play Thor if Liam Hemsworth weren’t already slated. But I get the impression what you were actually doing was making a gender stereotyped joke.

    Ha.

  13. Crimson Clupeidae says

    If facebook rumors are true, Joss Whedon is already considering Katie Sackhoff as the new Thor.

    Shut up and take my money! :-)

  14. Rabidtreeweasel says

    Well I think he was making the point that people (misogynists) had scoffed at the idea of a woman playing Starbuck and how incredibly bad-ass she turned out to be in order to preemptively shut down any detractors. But yes. She’d be perfect.

  15. hopeleith says

    it’s Chris Hemsworth, not Liam Hemswrth as Thor, and so far from being recast he’s currently filming Avengers 2. Liam is the younger brother, he’s in the Hunger Games

  16. Rabidtreeweasel says

    Yes you are right, I was responding to someone else and was operating under the assumption they had used the correct name. I myself am pretty terrible with actor’s names. I recognize faces for the most part and can tell you what movies they’ve been in, but ask me their name and I flail about for 30 minutes feeling weird about myself. But yes, as you and I have both noted, the movie is already being filmed and the part is already cast.

  17. says

    [ Thor –> Thorita ]

    Sex changing gods are not unknown. Pallas Athena famously transformed back and forth to Mentor (a wise old man). Is there any reason Thor could not transform? Especially as, becoming older (and hopefully wiser), he becomes more like Mentor. It would be far more interesting than simply tweaking a male template.

    Why do all these godesses need to take a back seat though? There are plentiful, awesome goddesses, who can once again be brought back to life: Eir, Eostre,Freyja, Freyr, Frigg, Fulla, Gefjun, Hel, Hlin, Iounn, Joro, Lofn, Nanna, Nerbus, Nott, Saga, Ran, Sif (wife of Thor), Sjofn, Skaoi, Snotra, Sol, Thruer (daughter of Thor and Sif), Var, Vor, Yggdrasil … (Not even getting onto the giantesses.)

  18. Shatterface says

    I think of a female Thor as being similar to a female Doctor. Because it could happen theoretically, why shouldn’t it happen in actuality? In relation to Doctor Who, show runner Stephen Moffat has been (rightly) criticized for making a female character who has similar abilities to the Doctor but who is less powerful than him and exists as a vehicle for the Doctor’s character growth, when for years fans have been clamoring for the show to have a regeneration of the Doctor who is simply female. What they are doing with Thor is very similar in theme to what fans have wished would be done with the Doctor.

    I think it’s harsh to criticise Moffat for creating a female character almost as powerful as the Doctor when his predecessor spontaneously granted his female companions godlike powers through no action of their own, then withdrew those powers as soon as they’d rescued the Doctor, before wiping their memories and packing them off home to the bosom of their families.

    And given the state of fantasy television these days, having a Doctor with gray hair is far more significant.

  19. geekgirlsrule says

    Hel/Hela is already a villain in the Marvel universe. But yeah, there are plenty of Norse Goddesses they could have used. Granted, it would not have made the same OMG! impact as making Thor female.

    Shatterface: Grey haired dudes are still dudes.

  20. says

    I think it’s harsh to criticise Moffat for creating a female character almost as powerful as the Doctor when his predecessor spontaneously granted his female companions godlike powers through no action of their own, then withdrew those powers as soon as they’d rescued the Doctor, before wiping their memories and packing them off home to the bosom of their families.

    I’m not following your reasoning. Davies did something worth criticizing (in your opinion), therefore it’s harsh to aim similar criticisms at Moffat for doing similar things?

  21. says

    I’d rather see them actually make a strong female character than appropriate a male character. It feels like a fucking gimmick. Here, let’s take a well loved male character and turn it into a female character. That will make all the male fans angry at the female fans and then when it inevitably flops for both that reason and because it’s a stupid idea, they can say ‘look, ladies, we gave you THOR and you still weren’t happy so clearly, it’s a waste of time for us to even try’.

    I’d rather see something that makes some frickin sense, like passing on the ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Captain America’ identities to a woman in a ’20 years into the future’ type idea. I’d still rather a strong female character on her own merits, but apparently, there is some kind of rule against those in comic-book superhero land.

  22. Rabidtreeweasel says

    There are many legitimate criticisms that have been levied against both Davies and Moffat; do we have to weigh all of them in order to determine which is worthy of criticism? Or perhaps we could just point out where people make mistakes regardless of whether or not someone else in the universe made a larger error one time.

    In terms of grey hair; yeah, you’re right. Grey hair is way more marginalized than womanhood and hoping for a woman doctor is the same as hating Peter Capaldi.

  23. says

    I’ve read the first year of Jason Aaron’s run on “Thor”… has anyone else here done that? I’ve been reading comic books for more than three decades, and I’m getting caught up on the current stuff in a big way.

    Aaron is clearly doing something special with the “Thor” book. Speaking of The Doctor, he started his current run with a time travel epic containing past, present, and future Thors. In those books, he laid the narrative groundwork for a replacement Thor, based on Thor’s past and present insecurities and foreshadowing massive failures experienced by future Thor. There’s a lot of “Thor is epic, the greatest of the gods to ever stride across this universe” along with “This Thor will fall as far as any god can fall and still survive”… so “replacement Thor” doesn’t seem entirely like a stunt.

    As for the rest, I can see when Thor falls, and a woman takes his place, she bluntly states “I’m the only Thor you’re going to get, so get over it and get used to it”… I expect nothing less from anyone worthy of carrying Mjolnir.

  24. Nathanael says

    Ahem, reading archives for other reasons, couldn’t resist making the Doctor Who comment:

    Both Davies and Moffatt have very bad records when it comes to equitable hiring; very few female writers or directors. Andrew Cartmel did better in the 1980s, and so did Eric Saward also in the 1980s. When it comes to scripting, it’s obviously more debatable, but I think there are more, stronger, better-written female characters in both the Saward and Cartmel periods than in the entire revival of the show. It’s seriously embarassing as a fan of the show that it’s more sexist now than it was in the 1980s.

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