Sexism flamewars explained in webcomic form

Gabby from the Gabby's Playhouse webcomic produced this 2010 installment that neatly summarizes every discussion about gender on the net; click through below for the whole thing.

In which we betray our gender (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. Am I missing an important insight here?

    It seems like you could replace “men” and “women” with “any rhetorical position” and “any opposing rhetorical position” and you’d have essentially the same comic?

    Love the illustration, though. Just not sure I see the logic.

  2. One reason young women take so much heat from young men is because men first want to belong to other men – want to be accepted in the herd. Asserting ‘dominance’ over women is a shortcut, a wormhole to male acceptance. It’s stupid, but it passes.

  3. Some how I just get the feeling that we are never going to be completely fair, equal, and egalitarian.  But we all can certainly do better, and I think that was the point of the hyperbole in the linked comic.

    1. But there’s no point in hyperbole, especially when it undermines the entire message.

      Replace ‘People — straight, male people, in particular‘ with ‘People — uneducated jerks who don’t see the effects of their words‘. The point gets across, and it gets across better than it did before.

      1. I dunno.  Anecdotally I have lots of friends that have made both sexist and racist comments that are also quite well educated and generally empathetic.  I don’t mind the occassional shocking hyperbole if it gets me to examine myself a little more closely.  Again, personal opinion.

        1. I’m not sure that their actions then line up with your description of their empathy.

          I’m a really peaceful guy, except when I punch people.

          1. Most humans have some sort of cognitive dissonance.  The most racist things I have ever heard in my life came out of my mothers mouth, and she’s as peaceful as they come.  So I just don’t think you can chalk it up to education, which is why I don’t mind the comic painting the issue with such a broad brush.

          2. I should probably have said something like ‘experience’ rather than education. Making any kind of discriminatory comment shows a lack of experience: with different cultures, sexes and orientations, religions or whatever it may be.

          3. I’m not trying to be difficult, and I think I understand what you are saying, and if we all really were rational people I think you’d be spot on.  But the degree to which most people have ‘rational blind spots’ (i.e. cognitive dissonance) I think is really, really high.  Many people if they heard the phrase, “asians are better at math” would not equate that with racism for example.  But it obviously is to a rational person.

          4. Someone who makes a racist comment ‘irrationally’ is doing so because they have yet to grasp that it’s a stupid thing to say. If they get called out on it, and are not racist, they will do the rational thing and not say stupid things like it afterwards. They have now been educated as to why it was wrong.

          5. How is it too black and white?

            You either act like a jerk because you don’t know you’re being a jerk, or you act like a jerk because you are one.

            What would the grey area be? You keep saying things that you know are wrong, because ___?

          6. Because you tell them they are acting like a jerk, and they don’t think they are.  In that situation, who is correct?  Are you, the one calling out the other being overly sensitive and the other person is correct in their opinion, or are you correct?  What if it is a joke?  Yes, if I was infallible, this would be easy.  But am I?  I sure don’t think so. 

          7. Well it’s not going to happen after one time. This is why racism and sexism shouldn’t be left unchecked, or not responded to. But even that being said, if someone doesn’t think they’re a jerk because they said something racist, they’re either racist or still just as misinformed as before.

            This still leaves us with two options for looking at racism:
            1) Person is a racist, unlikely to be reformed.
            2) Person has yet to internalize that other people are like them.

          8. i have to run so i can grill some lamb chops with quince jelly, but i guess it just all boils down to this: in my opinion it’s just not that simple.

          9. It is that simple. Excusing hurtful comments in any way just normalizes the stereotypes.

          10. but who decides what is hurtful?  you’re coming from the ‘i know it when i see it’ camp it appears, but everyone is not exactly like you.  so no, it is not that simple.

          11. So we just leave it all alone then? Who does decide, and what’s the other camp I could belong to?

          12. *you* get to decide, but that doesn’t mean you are correct. 

            i guess all i’m saying is:
            1) the broad brush the comic uses works for me, it engaged my brain in a positive way
            2) determining if something is sexist, racist, or offensive is not easy, so displaying the problem in such a simplified way isn’t very constructive.

            hats off though for a reasoned discussion, even if we disagree with each other.

          13. ‘determining if something is sexist, racist, or offensive is not easy, so displaying the problem in such a simplified way isn’t very constructive.’

            That is also what many of us (I suspect) find wrong with the comic.

          14. fair enough, i guess i just see it through the bias of empathizing with her apparent frustration with the situation.  am i wrong, and is the comic sexist itself?  i don’t know.  it did make me reflect on my own actions and conversations with women though, so if it was sexist at least for me it had a positive effect.

          15. Sometimes ignorance can be positive, if it encourages others to reflect upon their own thoughts and actions, but usually it is just unproductive.

          16. Aren’t comics about hyperbole?  As one poster pointed out, if you don’t identify with the people bearing the Mars gender symbol on their faces, then that means you’re probably not the guy the comic is about, but I’m sure there are plenty of them out there.

            Grow a sense of humor, dude.

          17. Ah so, I guess my comment is that what we are viewing is a comic, nothing more (A very effective comic at that, if it is creating such a visceral reaction in people).  Not to overgeneralize, here but the job of a comic and satire in general, is to oversimplify things.   Comics are about hyperbole, not nuance!  I just don’t see some people getting that.

            And this comment has probably already been expressed, here by four people already.

          18. srsly, 0-120 comments in an hour.  and the performance of Disques is still pretty decent.  Hey Cory, excellent stress test! :D

  4. Holy christ on a sidecar, dudes. If you aren’t a sexist dude, then this comic ISN’T TALKING ABOUT YOU.

    Why is that so hard to grasp?

    1. Because the comic draws no distinction between sexist dudes and non-sexist dudes.  It doesn’t acknowledge the possibility that somebody can be a dude, and not be sexist. (or misogynist, or however you’d like to cast this form of bigotry)

      That is why your assertion is hard to grasp.  That is why the comic is propagating the problem it purports to prevent. 

      (couldn’t resist the alliteration, sorry!)

      1. Comics don’t generally present all sides of a story.  They take one POV and exaggerate for comic effect.  This isn’t an essay, it is a COMIC.

        1. Sorry, Karen – not all sequential art is comedy, nor do all storytellers use the medium the same way.  Please don’t minimize an entire art form into a single genre.

          1. You are nitpicking.  Most comics are exaggerating for “comic” effect.  Thus the name.  It is abundantly clear that this is a COMIC comic.  Yes, I know about graphic novels and art that is called a comic when it is not comical.  That doesn’t apply here and you know it. 

    2. If you aren’t a sexist dude, then this comic ISN’T TALKING ABOUT YOU.

      And if you aren’t a terrorist, then this movie in which every Muslim is a terrorist ISN’T TALKING ABOUT YOU. And if you aren’t a ditz, then this TV show in which every female character has trouble with math ISN’T TALKING ABOUT YOU. And if you aren’t a pedophile, then this book in which every gay man desires sex with nine-year-old boys ISN’T TALKING ABOUT YOU.

      Why is that so hard to grasp? Everyone should just swallow unflattering stereotypes, because they’re obviously just referring to a subset of the population. I mean, jeez.

  5. After seeing so many male chauvinist pig trolls and easily-offended feminists whale the crap out of each other on the Internet, this got a chuckle out of me.

    It’s true, a lot of men are dogs, and I have met very few self-identifying feminists who actually have a detectable sense of humor. These things don’t become stereotypes for no reason, folks. And the ability for people to be anonymous on the Internet has just amplified the worst behavior of both sides. You don’t need to apologize to some random screen name on a forum, but you do need to if you’re going to continue working with them IRL.

    At the same time, you can’t tell how old someone is from posting. I’ve had a few exchanges with people making noises about all porn being degrading to women. Except they seen to forget that gay porn exists. I’ve also had a few words with what appeared to be a thirtysomething who never got emotionally older than thirteen who was making those kind of crude statements.


  6. With the small addition that occasionally a good feminist man also will defend the person, this is totally true.

    Also: I get that Disqus is all the rage and it’s totally awesome and everything, but I kinda missed the old system. It was prettier! Oh well, I shan’t be one to stand in the way of progress :)

  7. So… I read the whole comic… read the bio of the author/artist. _He_ is making a comment about the behavior of most straight men on the internet as _he_ sees it… which likely justifies in his mind the caricatures he’s created.

    It is certainly a provocative comic, and it does immediately raise the hackles of those who don’t behave in that manner — trolling commentator is trolling — but now I find myself asking a question I hadn’t: “Can I see where he’s coming from? Do I recognize this behavior?”

    And if I think about it, I _do_ recognize this behavior on the internet. Maybe it’s modified a bit and maybe it’s not as blatant as described in the comic, but there are some quite large communities where the hive-mind reactions described take place.

    Was the comic elegant? Not particularly. Was it inaccurate? Not necessarily.

    1. Thanks for pointing out that the author/artist is male.  I missed that!  The fact that this male author gets the female comic-er experience so spot-on is truly amazing.

      (edited for conciseness)

  8. I get the feeling the original initiator of the argument (in the comic at least) has been missed here. Gentlemen, your penis is not so special a reward that you need offer it to every woman for her accomplishments. Sexism, gender bias, stereotyping of the comic aside concede that at least… dickheads.

  9. Truly spectacular irony in this comment thread.
    Immediately the commenters are lining up saying “I must take exception!”  “I must split hairs while missing the larger point!”  “I must immediately accuse the writer of bias and one-sidedness, while refusing to acknowledge the truth of the overall statement!”
    And filling up the thread.  Just like the comics says they always do.
    Uncanny lack of self-awareness here.
    Q.E.D., quod erat demonstrandum.
    What was to be demonstrated.

    1. Right. The thing making me lol is that the scenario in the comic happens all the time. I’ve seen it over and over again, most of us probably have. The comic is referencing a specific thing that everyone knows happens. But the first response of many isn’t “sucks that that happens,” it’s “but I’M not like that so why are you persecuting me? I demand disclaimers!” 

    2. Except that virtually no one here seems to have missed the point, or denied the reality of sexism. You seem to be projecting your expectations.

      The problem isn’t the message, it’s the execution.

  10. To all of you so excited that this thread is ‘OMG, just like the comic!!!11!’:

    This thread has, Otto not withstanding, been remarkably civil and thoughtful, even if we disagree.

  11. This was posted to adequately test a comment system at high capacity. The fun side of fundamentalism has just been achieved √ =D 

    1. People who have different immutable characteristics than me are invariably wrong.

    2. This is one of the many reasons that we can’t have nice things on the internet. There have been no more than a tiny, cute little handful of people here claiming that sexism either doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem.

    3. I know, just LOOK AT IT! XD

      And, once again, a bunch of men come out and show their true colors. Hyper-defensive about something women deal with every day. Bitchez be crazy, rite? /s

  12. Thanks boingers, you’ve demonstrated that you (many of you) are part of the problem. It’s a comic it doesn’t have to pander to both sides, it doesn’t have pull the false pretense of journalistic objectivity. She is describing what happens and it did happen. She’s complaining about the bad guys, and many of the bad guys are right here in this thread. If women cannot safely describe their experiences on the internet without this bullshit occuring then they can’t safely do it! The comic is describing the current state of the internet!

    1. Except she’s describing his experience. If that makes no sense, you’re not trying hard enough.

    2. Because I don’t like how a comic presents a problem, I’m part of the problem? How is that line of thought even remotely useful?

        1. It’s going to be delightfully illustrated, and it will concern how you having an opinion doesn’t invalidate someone else’s opinion.

        2. And what’s that supposed to mean anyway? Is commenting on subject a waste of time? I have to make my own comic to validate my viewpoints? I’m just a lazy man showing my true colors?

          Where’s your comic at? Why do your comments on the same matter rank higher than mine?

          Seriously, what are you trying to imply with that comment? I’d like to know.

  13. is there a world record for the most affective Troll?? Cory should call Guinness an check

  14. I gotta say, this is a pretty accurate, if hyperbolic, account of my experience on the internet.

    Sexism happens on the internet, and I imagine most of the time, people just don’t mean it. But, for example, I get the pleasure of looking through 120 comments about how my experience and something I resonate with is wrong and horrible and unfair and not legit. Which… is kind of the point of the comic.

    Semantically, yes, it is boiled down to its essences. Men can be feminists and do good things and help and contribute and be lauded for their efforts. Women can not be feminist and maintain the status quo and argue that there’s nothing to see here, sexism is over, etc. But if you’re focusing on those details, when I think we’re all smart enough to look past them and see the point of the comic, then maybe this isn’t the conversation for you.

    It’s okay if this comic doesn’t resonate with you. Really! It is. Everyone has their own experiences and perspectives. But eliminating the possibility that this could be someone’s experience isn’t doing any favors to anyone.

  15. Jonas, it is GOOD that you do not see yourself in the comic but can you tell me you do not see plenty of other men online who do exactly what that comic portrays?  So why are you upset?  The comic does NOT say every human male is the same.  It honestly puzzles me that men who say they do not do what the comic makes fun of are upset about how it takes a poke at guys who do.

  16. The cartoon just isn’t insightful or clever. And it uses a number of the same devices as texts that typically come from a misogynistic perspective. But still somehow, as if magically defying the laws of the universe, neither of these things change the fact that sexist people suck.

    “What???” you ask! “Someone can not like the cartoon and still be AGAINST sexism?” HOLY FUCKING SHIT! *and then your hair catches on fire*

  17. I wonder if it would change anything here if people knew the artist was a man. 
    I don’t know if it’s sexist to say there are men out there who do such and such. No one said all men are one way or the other, but I’m endlessly amused by all the men willing to cry “sexism” when they see unfavorable generalizations as opposed to reflecting on them at all and how they might be feeding into them. 
    And by endlessly amused I mean infinitely disappointed. 
    I keep hoping we’ll just outgrow them, but they keep popping up, younger every day…

  18. I have to go, but one last comment.  I am a fan of the WNBA (women’s pro basketball).  Go to any mainstream sports site and you will see gangs of men who go to WNBA discussion groups so that they can join together and talk about how women can’t play basketball, how the league should not exist, how all female basketball players are ugly, and so on.  They go there, they profess to LOATHE the sport, and then they stay there for hours insulting women together, goading one another to greater and greater nastiness.  Nearly all of their comments can be logically refuted with ease, as they don’t know what they are talking about.  It doesn’t matter.  They are there to get some kind of affirmation from one another in their united superiority over women.  It is ugly and discouraging and, for me, baffling. 

    I see the same thing here sometimes, just better disguised because the IQs here are generally higher.  I find that even more disheartening.

    Have a good one, and thanks to the guys who get it:  I love you guys. 

  19. Regardless of the actual content of this comic, there’s a pretty obvious problem with excusing anything, in any situation, by saying “It’s a comic, sillies!”

    To become aware of this problem, imagine a comic written from the perspective of sexist idiots, complaining about how women are too sensitive to being called names.

    You’ll soon realize that it’s just a comic, you guys!!!

    1. I agree, its not a good idea to dismiss something just because its a comic, but at the same time its important to keep that in mind and not read too deeply into the intent.  I think that the discourse here is a direct result of the comic and has been a valuable, civil discussion, even if it has devolved into a metadiscussion about comics themselves.

      However, it is also valuable to see the comic for what it is and recognize that it is a simplification, and disassociate that with the actual propagation of stereotypes.  If anything a comic writer should have license to point out a stereotype without worrying about affirming said stereotype.  

      Personally, I don’t  think that this comic really affirms said stereotype, but that’s just my opinion.

  20. Is there some minimum number of flags a comment has to get before the text disappears for review? I ask because a comment from Y E W F T was just posted and the content disappeared in the few seconds it took me to comment on something else.

    Not to imply that it wasn’t an offensive comment (I never saw it), but if it just takes one flag, I can see that being abused elsewhere almost instantly.

    1. Good question. I’m especially curious because it was in response to something I said. Should I be worried?

  21. Nope. It’s just saying that whenever there is a discussion about sexism and woman-type stuff on the internet  the trolls will come out, not that all men are trolls. 

  22. Can we declare near-total victory? For the new system and for civility? This has been really good. Hopefully most of us learned something.

  23. No, your conclusion is wrong, and, as others have previously pointed
    out, that line of reasoning supports the point that the article is
    trying to make: i.e., that when a woman attempts to explain how she
    prefers to be interacted with, she will inevitably be overwhelmed by
    voices telling her to stuff it. Those voices usually begin with the
    premise that their particular types of experience (usually masculine,
    but not always) are being over-looked, degraded, or otherwise censured.
    They metonymically supplant the intended message with their own sense of
    injustice, thereby completely devaluing and disregarding the intended
    message of the original speaker. The comic’s message, then, is about the
    futility of attempting to speak of the feminine experience, online or
    otherwise. Her message with be met with all levels of resistant, which will range from well-phrased to hate speech.  Thus, “discussion” speaks to the broader message that is
    being disseminated, not the particulars of some feminist men or some
    misogynist women.   If we can focus on the easily-verifiable fact that
    women who politely stand up for themselves by explaining how they prefer to be treated
    are often met with senseless verbal and written attacks, then perhaps we
    can make this conversation more productive.

    1. Are you aware that the cartoonist is a man? It doesn’t actually matter, but you seem to think the gender of the cartoonist is a woman and that it does matter because that line of facts would support your argument.

      I agree that there are a lot of trolls on the internet and many of them are likely entitled white males, but that is irrelevant to my assertion that if the cartoonist, regardless of his gender, intended to convey that it was only a particular subset of the male population rather than every single member, he failed to make that clearly known.

      That’s all I’m saying. If the cartoonist were a woman, she would have been just as unclear of that intention. Gender is irrelevant to the point I’m making. All I’m saying is that the cartoon does seem to generalize and thus may not be the most productive message.

  24. Does anyone care to engage Cain? I just feel as if we’ve had too much good discussion here to revisit the top of the thread.

  25. This men/women thing, hey I never knew there were so many great points of view. You’ve all given me a lot to think about. Many insightful, provocative, soul-searching nuggets here. Thanks to you all and much love.

    /goes for Likes.

  26. Constructive criticism to the artist, if they’re reading this:

    If you want to make a point, which you do, have a bunch of different people calling out the sexist name-callers. My experience may be anecdotal, but that’s what I normally see: a large number of people piling on someone for being a jerk. Although comment sections may get down to name-calling, I can’t remember a one I’ve seen that seemed to be split along gender lines. The line was drawn between average people and trolls, if anything.

    Hell, if you want to use hyperbole, just draw the commenters as trolls.

  27. I’m sorry, how does the artist’s gender matter? I am talking about the phenomenon that the comic is illustrating. The primary character of the comic is female, and thus it is attempting to encapsulate female experience. Yes, it is in a nutshell. Yes, it is a generalization. But the generalization is more about what women face when attempting to share their reactions than it is about how all men everywhere are evil. It is a small, albeit important contextualization to keep in mind  when reading t comic

  28. I used to post at Digg back when it had traffic so I know how it goes. You have to be able to laugh at it as this comic shows. If you try to have a logical argument with some people you are just wasting both your time.

  29. “He longed to hint to her that not here lay her vocation; that a woman’s power and charm reside in mystery, not in muscular rant.”  — from EM Forster, A Room With A View: the thoughts of a buffoonish character, meant for ridicule.  

  30. I know the author is exaggerating for impact, but I still am bothered at the implication that every guy on the web is one of those idiots, as I’d really dislike being lumped in with them.

  31. The males in this comic are depicted as faceless because they’re acting in a stereotypical manner.  Not all men are behave like this, but a lot do, and it is completely valid to point this out.  I mean, geez.

    The problem is that there are these cliques out there where people reinforce their opinions, then they go out forth from them and proclaim their mad wizdomz unto da world.  People look around them, perceive a norm, and take it for a societal norm, instead of a local one.  Infiltrating these cliques and vocally disagreeing with them can help shine in the cleansing light.

    This problem is far from limited to sexism; it’s why politics are so toxic in the US right now.

  32. that line of reasoning supports the point that the article is
    trying to make: i.e., that when a woman attempts to explain how she
    prefers to be interacted with, she will inevitably be overwhelmed by
    voices telling her to stuff it.

    If the cartoonist is a man, then my criticism of his lack of clarity or his tendency to generalize doesn’t fall into the scenario that the cartoon is illustrating. So your criticism of my statement as supporting the point of the article is irrelevant.

    I’m sorry, how does the artist’s gender matter?

    As I said, Are you aware that the cartoonist is a man? It doesn’t actually matter, but you seem to think the gender of the cartoonist is a woman and that it does matter because that line of facts would support your argument.

    I only brought the cartoonist’s gender into the discussion because you seemed to think the cartoonist was female and therefore my criticism of him/her fit into the scenario of the cartoon itself and thus supported its conclusions.

    It’s actually just me saying that the cartoon seemed to generalize too much to be productive. I was commenting on the cartoon itself and how the creator conveyed his ideas rather than about the scenario depicted in the cartoon, which is completely unrelated to anything I was saying.

  33. I hear that! But, if there is name calling or threats of violence, those people should be banned.

  34. Hey Cory, great stress test. 
    Im late, but this hyperbolic comic is based on woman creator who get comments on her comics (and in person) to the tune of ‘i want to have your babies’. She posted a little rant on the topic of ‘why you gotta sexualize me?  just compliment the comic, not my vagina!’  This post got, well, a lot of the responses pictured here by faceless men.  It also got a lot of female creators telling similar stories and why they were creeped by it, AND men creators who got it from women but not as much, but were creeped by it as well.  So this comic is representative of not just ‘every sexism arguement’ but one specific one. And I watched it, and it did happen like this.  With hyperbole.  

    And basically, if you think the dudes are you, maybe you should stop telling Emily Dickinson that you’d like to get YOUR dick in, SON!

  35. Reading this comic as saying “all dudes, everywhere, are like this” is a hell of a leap. Do you dudes just automatically identify with any dude depicted in any media form? Doesn’t that get tiring? And confusing?

    1. But it wasn’t just a bunch of random guys. It was figures specifically drawn with male symbols on their blank faces, on a blue background. Even if you didn’t see it that way, can you at least understand how someone else would?

  36. I was all like nuh-uh, that’s not what it’s like. Then I read the comments and realized that I have all my gender arguments on facebook and liberal websites and have a totally different view of what gender arguments on the internet are like. Mind you, I’m a democratic socialist that lives in Portland and grew up in Vermont, so the vast majority of my friends are either feminists of one type or another or people who don’t care to get into arguments with feminists. Most of the feminism arguments I get into are between slutty feminists and prudish feminists…

  37. I have participated in many an online discussion about feminism, women’s rights, or even just anecdotal evidence about women’s experiences with sexism. And yet NONE of them are devoid of this bullshit. I’m curious as to why it’s so hard for so many men to sit down, suck it up, and listen when we talk about our experiences. If I had a dime for every time a man has told me (blatantly or by implication) that his knowledge about sexism should trump mine (despite my VASTLY greater experience), I’d be well on my way to rich. 

  38. So every Internet discussion about sexism is conducted between reasonable, respectful women and hateful, petty, insecure men?

    And it is a complaint about sexism?

    What a bizarre way to make a point… The type of men that the author of the comic criticises are certainly wrong, but the way she criticises them can only lead one to conclude that she is not much better than them.

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