This essay was first published in Hammer, Oak, and Lightning: A Thor Devotional written by Jeremy Baer.
Masculinity and Feminism
I have been asked, on more than one occasion, how I, as a feminist, work with the most manly of Gods. After all, while Odin and Loki are well documented for their gender-bending escapades, Thor is less than thrilled to put on a wedding dress, even for the critical mission of retrieving his hammer.
Thor, the strongest of Gods, the wielder of the mighty Mjolnir, the husband of Sif, seems to embody what even today we see as a masculine ideal. He is stronger than anyone else, he is a protector, a hallower. He’s a good father and husband, defending his wife’s honor when it is called into question. In a word, he is everything that is pushed into the stereotype of a cis-het-male that so often feminists consider toxic to healthy relationships.
Unverified Personal Gnosis
Unverified Personal Gnosis, or UPG, is what we call it when we have a personal experience with a being and it becomes part of our truth. Not everyone finds other people’s UPG relative to their own experiences. So, like any assertion someone makes, know that none of this is The Truth.
One of the criteria I personally use to think about UPG is whether it contradicts the Lore or is an extension of it. For example, no where in the Lore does it say that Thor likes coffee. Of course, I’m pretty sure the ancient Norse didn’t HAVE coffee. And yet many modern Heathens have found that Thor seems to like offerings of good, strong coffee almost as much as he likes good, strong beer. That’s UPG. If it works for you, great. If not, ignore it and move along.
I certainly cannot answer for everyone. Everyone has different experiences. What I share with you is my own personal experience and UPG on the matter. If it helps you, great. If not, feel free to move along.
I first met Thor when I was a teenager. I was going through a phase where I was questioning religion in general and Christianity in particular. I was feeling disconnected from Christianity because I did not feel it represented women fairly. Women weren’t able to be priests, and the ones who were sainted were those who were meekly obedient. Growing up, I had not met my biological father. My parents were not married and he was completely absent from my life. He didn’t support us financially and I had never even seen his picture. While historically, this isn’t an unusual family structure, at the time it WAS unusual for middle class white families. Some of my friends had divorced parents, but they did all KNOW both their parents. I felt like I was completely different, and Christianity did not have a model for our family structure. Especially not in the Catholic Church.
Anyway, I was rebelling. Our high school choir was on tour and we were singing in quite a few churches. At one of the churches we were to sing during their church service. I didn’t want to participate, especially when they told me I was to wear their church robe and a heavy crucifix necklace. I asked to be excused from the performance, but our director said if I didn’t sing, he’d give me an “F” for the day. So, I donned the robe and necklace feeling awful.
As I did, I heard this deep voice saying to me not to worry about it, he’d fix it for me. At the time, I had no idea who it was and thought I was hearing things. As we were processing into the sanctuary, I was literally poised one foot about to step over the threshold when, out of a clear sky, a bolt of lightning hit the steeple of the church. All the power went out. The organ stopped mid-note. Fuses blew. Mass was cancelled.
It was glorious.
From that moment on, I knew that there was someone watching out for me. Someone had my back. I didn’t know who, but I knew it to the core of my being. I didn’t figure it out who it was until twenty or so years later when I discovered Asatru.
In my practice today, I work primarily with four deities: Odin, Nott, Skadi, and Thor. The more time I spend working with Thor, and the deeper my practice grows, the more the idea of a feminist avoiding him seems silly. Many characterizations of feminists are the very things that Thor encourages in his followers:
- Strength, both internal and physical.
- Hard Work.
- Taking a stand for what’s right.
- Protecting the weak.
- Defending justice.
Throughout the Lore, Thor smashes anything that threatens the Aesir. He is the defender of the folk, of the innengard, of the farmland and fields that sustain society.
Some might argue that feminists focus their rhetoric in one of two ways, either as liberal or as radical. Liberal feminists want a bigger piece of the pie. Radical feminists say the pie is rotten, they want to bake a new pie. On the surface, this seems to be the opposite of what Thor stands for: protecting the created order of the cosmos. But when we consider why feminists say the order is misaligned, we see the role Thor can play in a feminist Heathenry.
Feminism is about equality, about not judging people based on their sex or their gender identity. Feminism is about allowing people, all people, to have choices. Choose to work or stay home with your family. Choose to have a family or not. To get married or not. To express yourself as your true self, so long as that expression doesn’t cause harm. Embracing this mindset is where inner strength begins, and that is where Thor enters the picture.
Thor encourages the strength to stand up for what’s right for you and for those important to you. To defend the weak. While “Social Justice Warrior” is seen by some as a pejorative term, the idea that one should stop at nothing to make the world a better place aligns very closely with my experiences with Thor.
If you seek to find your inner strength, to push yourself for the betterment of your society, then Thor is one who can and will help you. And if you are willing to share a beer (good, strong, dark beer), or a coffee, or some meat and cheese with him while you chat, so much the better.
One thought on “Thor: A Feminist God?”
Thank you for sharing this essay. I was very insightful.