Monday, 30 March 2015

My take on the feminism in comics debate, part 1: Female Thor

Hemsworth after shaving
There are two recent events in comics that have me scratching my head. Events headed, or praised, by people who profess feminism. The claim here is that totally approving of these events constitutes feminism, whereas anything but constitutes misogyny.

That’s a problematic dichotomy; mostly because feminism, in my understanding of the term, is a terribly diverse school of thought. You have feminists who complain that a sexualised character is “pandering to male desires” making arguments with feminists who may celebrate a character in her “strong, independent sexuality”. Many contemporary feminists argue that abortion is a woman’s right, but the founding feminists actually argued against it, claiming that it allowed men to have their way with women without having to face the responsibility of child-raising. It’s not a uniform position.

I’ve heard two major definitions of feminism in my time; one says that it’s about campaigning for the rights of women in a male-dominated society (fair enough), another says that it’s about empowering feminine qualities (eg. compassion, emotionality; also, fair enough).

My problem is, I’m not sure that either of these comic moments are feminist, by either definition. Let's start with the older moment first;

Feminist Thor

So, apparently, the new female Thor is outselling the previous Thor: God of Thunder. That’s good, I’m proud of them for revitalising the character and shaking up the status quo in a way that allows for Thor to be an essentially new character (though her identity hasn’t been revealed), and happy that it’s selling well. Shows bold decision-making pays off.

But the internet are calling female Thor a feminist.


I’m currently on the third issue of my Thor reading, and, honestly, I don’t see how she’s a feminist. According to either definition that I’ve listed above, I don’t think she is. Has she done anything that furthers the cause of women? Not by Thor #3, she hasn’t (even if it is a woman holding the hammer, other women don’t seem to benefit any more than they did from a male holding it). Has she empowered feminine attributes? Certainly none but the physical (she clearly has breasts- but those aren’t the attributes I have in mind). In fact, in terms of attitude, she’s almost indistinguishable from a male. If it weren’t for the female figure, I would have thought the new Thor was Peter Parker.

But then there’s this scene, which I know is in issue five, which seems to “make” her a feminist.

“THERE!” you say, “She defended feminism! That makes her a feminist!”

Does it?

I would argue no, she’s done nothing with that comment to help the plight of women or to empower the feminine. Yes, I know, she let's the Absorbing Man know that it was a woman who beat him, but that does little more than benefit her, rather that women in general. What she seems to be doing is approving and supporting feminism. That makes you a supporter of feminism; not a feminist by association. And that’s fine; I consider myself a feminism supporter even though I’ve done nothing to advance the role of women. I have other problems with the above scene, but that’s another article entirely. In the meantime, can’t we just be happy about the character being female without being a technical “feminist”?

Next time… I talk about the Batgirl cover. Yes, THAT Batgirl cover.

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