Thursday, July 17, 2014

Give the rabbits an inch and they'll take a rabbity mile

It's become something of a catch phrase of mine, but never ever give in to the pressures of the rabbit warren. Never apologize when they demand an apology because they aren't interested in contrition but only a public confession. Ignore their whining about sex and gender because even if you give them what they ask for, it still won't be good enough.
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." I can't help but wonder if "Thorita" is a subconscious reference to Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag queen who won this year's Eurovision.
Female THOR (in manly capital letters, please) is, of course, a good thing. 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.
When this marketing gimmick inevitably crashes and burns, they're going to blame us for not being progressive enough to appreciate true equality and tolerance. Here's my rule of thumb for female characters: if they aren't going to be feminine or girly, then what is the point of making them female? Ripley from the first two Alien movies is a feminine woman. Vasquez is not. If your female character is just going to be a man with different sex organs, then what point in making that character female besides hitting your diversity quota?
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. Women who adopt masculine clothing are seen as serious and businesslike. Men who adopt feminine styles are sneered at.
As well they should be sneered at. This article confirms in spades that for all of their conscious aping of men, feminists still do not and cannot understand masculinity the way men do. A beautiful woman in a dress is a lovely sight. A man who's built like a linebacker wearing a dress is a punch line. A man who looks like John Scalzi in a dress is pathetic. A woman in a conservative business outfit can indeed be seen as serious. A woman who tries to behave like a caricature of manhood is repulsive no matter how pretty she may be on the outside.
I doubt Thor will become female in the films but if they do ever cast a woman, it sounds as if she will be strong and powerful and all the things we associate with men. Another bloody "strong female lead". That is not to say that women are not, cannot and should not be those things – but when we have a "feminised" male superhero celebrated for his traditionally girly qualities, we might be a little further along the path of true equality. Bring on Thorita, I say.
 Good luck with that. A sissified male superhero is likely to repel both sexes.

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