The Opposing Gender

Let’s talk gender-bending for a second.

I’m not gonna hijack my lovely co-author’s territory of Marvel comics–unless we’re talking about pedagogical theories and Civil War, I’m out of my depth with Marvel–but, the Lady Thor malarky has me thinking about some of the criticisms I’ve heard about good ol’ rule 63.

I kind of hate calling it that, for kind of the same reasons I have issues with the criticisms of gender-bending characters, which all comes down to the patriarchal presence online. I’m not gonna get into a gigantic rant about that (not right now, anyway), but the internet appears to be so ensconced in sexism and misogyny, it’s nigh inherent.

“Rule 63” is the internet rule that “For any given male character, there is a female version of that character” and vice versa. It started out as a form of fetishism and objectification, and still is in many an unseemly corner of the interwebz. However, it has also become a tool of many fan-fiction writers. Yes, of course a good amount of said writers are also fetish-practitioners, but more writers are not.

Fetching guess. I dare you.

One of the most popular criticism of gender-bend, as it is practically an umbrella topic, is that the changing of a character’s gender–particularly male to female–is damaging to the character itself; that it turns the once male figure into a Mary Sue and would have been better off treated as an OC (“original creation”).

Sometimes, I would agree that does happen and that often a gender-swapped individual is little more than a ready-made “self-insert” template. However, when someone says that to make a male character female, the personalities should not change, nor should their origin or any part of their backstory, that’s when I have issues. Take a look at this video of Dustin Hoffman discussing his role as Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie (if you’ve not seen it, ohmygoodness check it out):

 In it, Hoffman posits the question, “How would your life be different if you were born a woman?” He was very clear about not “if you were to become a woman,” but born as one, how would you be different?

Society treats men and women differently, from birth to death. That’s a “no duh,” but really think about it. How will Thor, as a woman, be treated in canon now? How will she be different? What’s more, because this Thor isn’t a reboot (ala DC), making an originally male character into a female, consider taking a character and “reboot” them as their opposing gender. When do the parallels divide?

That’s it. Second’s over.

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