There’s this comic from the Oatmeal that’s been making the rounds on my Facebook feed. It’s called My dog: the paradox, and it’s basically a sequence of short vignettes about how stupid and crazy (but ultimately loveable) this dude’s dog is.
Most of it is funny and cute, but the seventh panel really rubs me the wrong way. The image is of a woman (wearing a tank top, short skirt and heels) being confronted by a furiously barking dog. Said dog is being restrained by his frustrated-looking owner. The text is as follows:
He’s hostile towards people that I’d like to get to know better.
Woman: Aw, what a cute dog. Can I pet hi-
Dog: I’LL KILL YOU! MAKE-UP SLATHERED HORSEBEAST STILLETOS AND PERFUME LYING HORSEBEAST SLAGBUCKET
Let’s be clear about a few things here:
1. I know that Matt from the Oatmeal is trying to be funny
2. I know that this is not his opinion on women
3. I don’t think that he was trying to be cruel or malicious
4. I know that most of you will say that I’m overreacting (and maybe I am)
I can’t help it, though. I read stuff like the words written above, and my heart starts to beat a little faster. I start to feel a little nervous, maybe even a little panicky. That kind of language, used against any woman in any context, makes my hands go clammy.
The thing is, even though I get that this is supposed to be a joke, I can’t find it funny. I can’t find it funny, because that line of thinking up there? Isn’t actually that uncommon.
I know, I know, it’s not real life, and the whole damn comic is supposed to be about how stupid the damn dog is, anyway. I mean, right? Only a stupid, crazy dog would think things like that about a woman. Certainly no nice, rational human being would ever say stuff like that.
Except that I’ve known nice, rational human beings who have said stuff like that. Maybe not in those exact words, and maybe not with such vitriol, but certainly the idea behind the words was the same.
She’s wearing too much makeup
She dresses like a slut
If she gets raped, it’s her own fault
All women lie
All women play games
All women are crazy
We live in a culture of casual misogyny, you guys.
We live in a culture of casual misogyny, and when Matt from the Oatmeal writes out words like the ones above, he is contributing to it, even if he doesn’t mean to. Every time someone laughs at what he’s written, and maybe thinks they find a tiny grain of truth in it, they’re contributing to it. Every time someone dismisses another person’s concern and tells them that they’re overreacting, or don’t understand the humour, or just plain need to get over it, they’re contributing to it.
What I want you to remember is this: whenever you use words like this, even as a joke, you are helping to normalize it. You are helping to perpetuate the idea that it is okay, or even funny to talk about women this way.
If you still don’t see why this bothers me, try looking at it this way: imagine that instead of being a woman, the character in the comic is Jewish, or a person of colour. Imagine that instead of saying lying horsebeast slagbucket, the dog is saying, greedy hook-nosed kike, or lazy nappy-haired n-word, or any other type of hateful speech. Would you still be fine with it?
I’m not angry, and I’m not offended. Mostly I’m disappointed, because I thought that The Oatmeal was smarter and better than this. Mostly I’m tired, because my kid was up puking all goddamn night and instead of going to bed, I decided to just start writing this post, and then I couldn’t stop. Mostly I’m sad, because I dunno, everything kind of makes me sad sometimes.
When I was a teenager, I used to get so irritated with my mother, because she would dissect everything I found funny and explain to me why it was offensive and gross. And now I get it. God help me, I get it. I’ve finally turned into the humourless feminist my mother always wanted me to be.
Don’t worry, though – I still think poop jokes are hilarious.