The Oatmeal Is Actually Pretty Gross, You Guys

26 Sep

When I was a kid, I loved watermelon. Loved it. I couldn’t get enough of that shit.

Then one day, when I was five or six, I ate a bunch of that delicious summertime fruit, caught some kind of stomach bug, and ended up puking violent pink puke all night. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to stand the taste or smell of watermelon.

This is pretty much how I’m feeling about The Oatmeal right now.

A few days ago I wrote a post about The Oatmeal’s recent comic, My dog the paradox. I had some concerns regarding the misogynistic language he used in it, but I was pretty nice about it. I’m a pretty nice person, you guys.

I don’t feel so nice right now.

See, in my post about the dog comic, I was all, I’m disappointed, because I thought that The Oatmeal was smarter and better than this. I’ve since learned that apparently The Oatmeal is not better than this.

Apparently, not only did Matt from The Oatmeal write a comic about his dog, he also wrote an extremely hilarious comic called 5 Super Neat Ways To Use A Hooker. I know! So funny! I bet you’re laughing already, without even having clicked on the link!

Basically it’s a comic about how sex workers are objects, and you could use them in a variety of ways, such as to prop up couch forts, or act as bird feeders.

The whole thing is pretty fucking gross. The drawings, which show garishly made up women with blank stares and bodies hanging out of their clothing, make it even worse.

Don’t worry, though. Matt from The Oatmeal already knows that you’re angry. He knows that you’re offended. He just doesn’t care, because the problem isn’t him, it’s you.

In his contact section, he’s pretty open about the fact that he doesn’t give a shit about what you think. Not only that, but he definitely doesn’t want to hear anything negative from you about his comics:

Do not expect diplomacy. The Oatmeal is a one man operation, and this gives me the right to say horrible things to you if it pleases me. You may even have a valid point or fantastic insight, but this won’t stop me from calling you horrible names and claiming to have spent an evening or two with your mother. [hahaha, a YOUR MOM joke – those things are always hilarious!]

Do not email me because you are offended by: my hooker comic, eating horses, abortion, how Twilight works, or my usage of the word retard.

Do remember that this site is for fun, and to not take it too seriously. If you don’t understand satire don’t email me.

Um, Oatmeal Dude? I think you might be the one who doesn’t understand satire. Let’s have a look-see at how Merriam-Webster defines it, shall we?

1: a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn

2: trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly

In what way is 5 Super Neat Ways To Use A Hooker holding up human vice and folly to ridicule or scorn? I’ve got news for you, buddy: it’s not. What it is doing is reinforcing the idea that sex workers aren’t people.

We live in a world where being a sex worker is the most dangerous occupation in North America, at least in terms the homicide rate. According to one statistic, the homicide rate for sex workers was estimated to be 204 per 100,000. Compare that to the next highest rate, which is for female liquor store employees and is 4 per 100,000 or the highest rate for men, which is 29 per 100,000 for male taxi drivers.

We live in a world where Robert Pickton confessed to murdering 49 women, most of them sex workers. A world where he disposed of their bodies in a variety of disgusting, inhuman ways, and then had the balls to initially plead not guilty.

We live in a world where, in a recent study done in San Francisco, 82% of the sex workers interviewed had been physically assaulted, 83% had been threatened with a weapon and 68% had been raped while employed as sex workers.

A huge part of this violence is because sex workers are viewed by society as things rather than people. Things to be used. Things that exist solely to fulfill men’s needs. Things to be mocked in an online comic.

But, you know, Matt from The Oatmeal is being totally satirical when he compares them to objects or animals, or when he draws their blank, expressionless faces and their sagging, doughy bodies.

I used to think The Oatmeal was smart and funny. I mean, it has a lot of comics about cats, and I am a total sucker for comics about cats! I also enjoyed the way it dissected pop culture, and some of the stuff it had to say about religion. I thought the dude who wrote it was pretty hilarious and cool.

Now, though, every time I think of The Oatmeal, I get that pukey watermelon feeling. I can’t ever look at it the same way, and it’s going to be hard not to yell THIS GUY HATES WOMEN when people try to share his comics with me.

You know what pisses me off the most? The fact that I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The fact that I was all, well, I’m sure he didn’t mean to be a misogynist. Even if I’d just seen his hooker comic, I might have been able to continue to believe that he didn’t know any better, or that he didn’t understand. But no, his contact section clears that right up for me – he knows that what he’s saying is terrible, he just doesn’t give a fuck. He doesn’t give a fuck because it’s satire.

I’m so angry and disappointed. I’m so fucking tired of smart, funny things that are basically men-only spaces. I’m tired of feeling like I’m a persona non grata just because I have a vagina.


37 Responses to “The Oatmeal Is Actually Pretty Gross, You Guys”

  1. greenstockings September 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm #


    • bellejarblog September 27, 2012 at 1:40 am #

      Thanks, friend!

      • Kevin May 5, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

        Good article. The Oatmeal has taken the cartoon down. Didn’t exactly repudiate it, but said it wasn’t “very” funny. Might be worth an addendum.

  2. mandaray September 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Wow, that comic is pretty disgusting.

    It makes me sad to see stuff like this, because The Oatmeal’s comic on religion is pretty much my favorite thing ever. It perfectly describes my feelings on the situation. I also liked how he handled that whole issue he had with that stupid lawyer trying to yoink all his charity funds. A lot of his other comics are amusing too.

    Ironically, the whole time I was reading the dog comic, all I could think was “You let your dog act like that? Wow. Thanks a lot for continuing to normalize having an untrained, aggressive dog as something ‘cute’ and ‘funny’. As if I don’t have to put up with enough badly behaved canines in my neighborhood.” I didn’t even notice the bit with the woman until your post pointing it out, but it’s more of the same.

    Part of me gets him having a contact page like that, too. You don’t really care that much about all the people who are going to email you and scream “i’m offended!!!111 omg jesus luvz u” and you kind of want to make sure they know that. (As someone brave/foolish enough to regularly use sarcasm on the internet, I have gotten some pretty interesting email in my time.) But shutting down an entire discussion on a very sensitive topic like that is pretty sad.

    I hate stuff like this, when you’re faced with a person who has a lot of cool or intelligent ideas/outlooks, but then they’ve got that one black spot in their personality that makes them too odious to stand. (And is also very telling about our society today)

    Then again, that’s what our generation’s wave of feminism looks like. We’re no longer fighting against people who are obviously evil, who are trying to do obviously sexist things to us like say we’re too weak to vote or to go out in public without a corset…we’re fighting against people who want us to think that all of our thoughts and values are total overreactions, that humoring a woman’s crazy feelings is just something men have to do in order to get along with them, (haha, isn’t it funny) that we should just shrug it off and have a better sense of humor. After all, it doesn’t bother us, why should it bother you?

    • bellejarblog September 29, 2012 at 2:14 am #

      That’s a good point about finding it funny to have such a badly-behaved dog! I honestly hadn’t thought of that, but it’s true.

      And yeah, I understand him having a contact page like that, but it’s too bad that he comes off as someone who has zero interest in starting a dialogue about what some people find offensive about some of his comics.

      Also, your whole last paragraph is spot on.

      • mandaray September 29, 2012 at 4:20 am #

        Yup, it’s something I noticed as soon as I started watching the show “Dog Whisperer”. People are so used to seeing dogs running at the ends of their leashes, barking, jumping, etc., and just generally being out of control, that they accept it as normal or even “cute” if it’s a little dog. Same thing goes for children. They are so used to seeing children throwing tantrums and being out of control or unattended that they think it’s just “kids being kids”. It really frustrates me.

        And thank you. 🙂

  3. Savage Jester December 5, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Seems to me, if one sells one’s vagina as a thing to be used, a thing that exist solely to fulfill men’s needs, that is what people will view it as. Vast misogynistic conspiracy not required.

    Besides, men can be hookers, too. Many are. So no vagina required, either.

    • gildedbat December 8, 2012 at 4:32 am #

      The sex act agreed on is the commodity, not the vagina.

      If you bought one muffin in a shop, would you consider it fair to expect to eat anything else in the store you wanted, just because you paid for a baked good? If the type of muffin you want isn’t on the menu, do you expect them to go out and make something specially for you? Would you consider it fair to make the baker bake or sell a muffin to you when the shop is closed? No. Because businesses and commodities have boundaries, and no reasonable person argues with this. But when the sale in question involves a woman’s body, suddenly customers think they’ve bought the theme park because they paid for a single admission, as it were.

      My analogies might not be the best ever, but your post well illustrates the dismissive attitude the OP is speaking about.

      (Also, since men sell sex too, that means there is no cultural bias concerning female sex workers? May I suggest this introductory guide to logical fallacies:

      • fineandfair January 21, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

        That was actually a really awesome analogy and I’m going to use it forevermore.

    • Kelvan December 8, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      This also ignores the fact that unless they are being forced into the role of a sex worker, they made the choice to do so. They may think they don’t have a choice, but they always do. If they were forced into it, there are a lot more issues on top of some peoples way of treating them. They chose a dangerous path to walk, which generally ends up breaking their minds and with the seedier ones, you would get doughy bodies and dead wooden expressions. That aside, that comic clearly wasn’t intended to be taken seriously in any way, and honestly, if any hooker got picked up and paid to play Mario Kart instead of having to risk rape, assault, murder, or stds, he or she should be so fortunate.

      • bellejarblog December 14, 2012 at 2:59 am #

        So you blame anyone who has a dangerous job when they are hurt or killed? Firefighters should’ve known better than to be firefighters, right? And most of the people who choose to become sex workers end up with safer jobs; it’s typically the ones who don’t feel that they have a choice who end up in more danger.

        And the way you talk about hookers here kind of proves my point about why this really isn’t satire, or if it is, it’s not well done. You clearly have no respect for prostitutes and think of them as being barely human.

    • bellejarblog December 14, 2012 at 2:55 am #

      So anyone who sells a service that they provide with their body should be viewed only as a thing? Massage therapists? Yoga instructors? Dancers?

      And yeah, sure, men can be hookers, but none of the hookers shown in this comic are men, are they?

      Maybe try being less gross in the future.

  4. Ru December 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Has he responded to the criticism for the hooker comic? Because I just read it now for the first time following reading this article and it seems to me like a comment on the disgusting ways that hookers are “used” as a commodity. It’s not an eroticised comic, it’s supposed to look kind of disgusting.

    • Trav December 11, 2012 at 7:01 am #

      What Ru said. I just read that comic for the first time and thought, “That’s disgusting how he is showing those people like objects… oh.” He took a vile practice (treating others like objects) and put such an odd twist on in that it showed how sick and shameful it is to treat people as objects. The absurd practices shown in the comic may force people to think about the way they view sex workers in a new light.That’s pretty much satire, as defined by the definition you cited. It’s offensive (if you let it be) and disgusting, yes, but so is a lot of satire. Say I was to propose that we could solve our economic woes is we simply sold off our babies as food…

      • bellejarblog December 14, 2012 at 3:06 am #

        A Modest Proposal works well as satire because people don’t actually eat babies. This comic does not work as satire because people actually do think of sex workers as objects. Considering that there are a few people on here arguing that sex workers ARE objects, I think it’s pretty clear that, if satire was Matt Inman’s intent here, he failed.

    • bellejarblog December 14, 2012 at 3:00 am #

      As far as I know, he has not responded to the criticism regarding this comic.

      I don’t think that there’s any satire in making prostitutes look disgusting, as that’s what many people think they are. If this is satire, it’s poorly done.

      • Blackacre December 16, 2012 at 12:08 am #

        Satire is intended for social criticism and the forcing people to question accepted practices as perhaps shameful or disgusting. While it is generally intended to be humourous (I’m Canadian, so ignore my use of “u”) it’s primary motive to cast light on socially accepted practices that deserve greater examination from a societal perspective.

        Therefore, your comment that the comic doesn’t work as satire because people do actually think of sex workers as objects indicates that you have no idea what the purpose of satire is. Rather, it works exceedingly well, specifically because it makes us question an actual practice that is socially accepted.

        I would suggest that the comic is not intended to make prostitutes look disgusting, but to question our acceptance of the use of women as prostitutes and instead demonstrate how our tolerance of viewing prostitutes as objects, and not people, is disgusting.

        You appear to have missed the forest for want of even looking for a tree or two. Once again you have demonstrated that you are more comfortable taking offence and pissing out your knee-jerk intolerant reaction rather than thinking critically about what is actually being presented.

        I have had the uncomfortable misfortune of meeting and teaching many people like you, most of them engaged in undergraduate studies at campuses across North America. I find this adherence to automatic indignation and the seeking of slights at every turn is nothing more than a perverse and selfish need to feel vindication of one’s belief’s through the arbitrary assignment of opposition and subsequent labeling of such contrary thought as “evil”.

        As a result, you wind up in situations where you completely and disingenuously misapprehend commentary of others that is deserving of consideration, or at the least, rational challenge and critical examination.

        The best way to strengthen and justify your beliefs, is to challenge them yourself – not spew unenlightened venom and vitriole at others.

        I assume this will not pass moderation.

      • bellejarblog December 16, 2012 at 2:11 am #

        I approve all comments, whether or not they agree with what I’ve said. I think that’s pretty obvious.

        This comic might make you question practices that are socially accepted, however that clearly isn’t true for everyone (given the comments above regarding why it’s fine to treat prostitutes as objects.

        It’s interesting that you’ve come here to tell me that my reaction to two misogynist issues is “knee-jerk” and “intolerant”, and yet, isn’t your reaction the same? You come here to lecture me about my lack of critical thinking, and my desire for “automatic indignation” and “seeking slights”, but I could say the same to you. Isn’t that what you’ve done here? You’ve come to tell me about your indignation? And you’ve cleverly cloaked it in an argument about how unintelligent I am (and managed drop references to the fact that you’re a professor who has had the “uncomfortable misfortune” of teaching people like me). Well done, sir.

        I don’t think that you’re evil. I do think that you’re a misogynist.

  5. xavier December 11, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    First of all, let me point out that -like this article’s author- I do not appreciate misogyny. I do not, however, appreciate self-righteousness either.

    “5 Super Neat Ways to Use a Hooker” is funny essentially because it subverts the immediate mental association between hookers and sex. The strip portrays “hookers”, yet none of them are being coerced -neither through physical force nor financial necessity- to perform acts of a sexual nature, a fact that the author of this blog post failed to mention in her uncomprehending reading of the strip. The strip’s humour arises from the fact that the women in question -to whom the blog’s author mistakenly refers as “sex workers”- are in fact partaking in leisurely activities (console games, couch forts) or put in absurd positions where they perform ridiculous roles (bird feeders, jousting horses, weightlifting spotters): no actual sex takes place.

    The essence of the joke would remain intact were the subjects to change. Had the strip be titled “5 Super Neat Ways to Use a Priest” (or Rabbi, or Buddhist Monk, or Politician, or Angry, Self-Righteous, Pseudo-Feminist Blogger), the strip would remain a success in what regards humour.

    Humourless individuals, however, would still fail to find it funny.

    • bellejarblog December 14, 2012 at 3:08 am #

      Sex worker is an umbrella term for anyone who works in the sex industry. Hookers are sex workers.

      Oh, and I am definitely far from humourless; however, I don’t find this kind of misogynistic treatment of women to be funny. You’ll notice that it’s all males who are defending this comic. Interesting, no?

  6. Ariel December 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    I like to think of myself as someone who believes firmly in the rights and humanity of all people. I’m not sure I agree with this post though.

    When I read the comic about sex workers I thought it was funny. To me it just took how society already views sex workers (mindless objects to be used) and took it to the extreme. It shows how absurd and awful it is to view a person in that light by taking the viewpoint outside of judgmental peoples comfort zone and displaying it as what it truly is. It highlights how dehumanizing it is or at least it did for me. Considering the other comics he posts and the apology he made on twitter for the offensive rape joke I think it goes to show that that was more the aim of the comic.

    • bellejarblog December 14, 2012 at 3:17 am #

      I think that if his intent was to satirize, then he needed to be more explicit about it. It seems pretty clear that not everyone understood this from the comic, considering how many men are defending it by saying that sex workers deserve to be treated as objects.

      I think that if you create something and a bunch of women tell you that it’s sexist or misogynistic, then maybe you (by you I mean Matt Inman) should listen to them. They’ll have a wealth of experience in dealing with this type of thing that a dude won’t. It’s the same way that if I created something about people of colour and someone told me that it was racist, I would take them seriously. Know what I mean?

  7. Manfist McStoneslab December 27, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    You are aware that Matt is trolling, at all times, right?

    I mean… everyone knows this… right?

    Taking the Oatmeal seriously is like taking a feminist seriously… OH WAIT.

    • bellejarblog December 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      Your misogyny is adorable. OH WAIT.

      • Manfist McStoneslab January 2, 2013 at 4:22 am #

        Misogynist? No.

        Find radical first world feminists who complain about literally nothing annoying as all holy hell? Yes. Very much so.

  8. Jonathan February 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    The Oatmeal, to his credit, did redact the last panel which I think was definitely commendable. But I read the hooker comic more as a condemnation of underground prostitution, not as a bash of sex workers. To me it seemed like he was juxtaposing these dehumanizing situations with a prostitute to emphasize the fact that some people really do treat prostitutes like subhuman objects. The Oatmeal seems to be one of those people who use humor to deal with taboo subjects. That’s just my opinion, but I’d love to hear what people think about it.

  9. Bellejarblablablabla February 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    There is a difference between being a feminist and being an overly-sensitive, whiny, self-centred, utterly humourless, narcissistic douche bag. I believe you fall into the latter category.

    • bellejarblog February 27, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      I love when people like you come here to prove my point.

      • Null June 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

        Then you’ll enjoy me as well. You can choose never to read the Oatmeal again, just like I’m going to do with your blog. Now I could write an article about your blog, just so I could capitalize on it’s popularity to bring readers to me, but I already have more than 3 readers.

      • bellejarblog June 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

        So you have a blog, with more than three readers evidently, but you’re not brave enough to post under your blog’s name?


  10. guaparella October 15, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    Reblogged this on guaparella.

  11. Anon January 16, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    Prostitution should never be credited as a legitimate “job”, it is ridiculous to expect men to stop seeing women as sex objects IF THEY CAN JUST PAY WOMEN TO BE SEX OBJECTS.

    This is why feminism is a total fucking fail and will go nowhere. Way to bow to your overlords. Stop defending this bullshit and start promoting action to empower women to be able to do something THEY WOULD ACTUALLY ENJOY DOING.

    Shite, pure shite.

    And some women “enjoy” being such a thing, they deserve to be murdered for perpetuating horrible treatment of women and children THAT WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH SUCH THINGS.

    We simply cannot have it both ways.

  12. amyripley September 4, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. Also, the comic was removed. Guess he finally figured out that it wasn’t okay.

  13. Sarahlynn November 12, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    I just love (sarcasm alert) how this whole discussion turned into a critique of the hooker comic, leaving aside the original concern (misogynist language in another comic, suggesting a pattern) and Inman’s response to complaints. While I enjoy The Oatmeal’s humor and POV I gave it up years ago because of the “retarded” thing. Someone wrote him a very polite email explaining why using “retarded” as a pejorative to indicate extreme stupidity is problematic. He published the email, but … (see above). I don’t see the “retarded” line in his about section anymore, but is that because he got tired of the “easily offended” people constantly emailing him or because he finally understood that he was being an ass and the “joke” relied on putting down a lot of people who aren’t doing anything to “satirize?”


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