Tag Archives: comics

Rape Jokes and The Oatmeal

5 Dec

Yesterday, Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal wrote a comic about the “delicate relationship” that he has with his keyboard.  This was the final panel of the comic:


The comic in its entirety was about how he feels and behaves towards the various keys in his keyboard. This panel specifically was about trying to get a webpage to load when you have a slow connection, with the joke centering around Matt “raping” his F5 key in order to make the page load faster. Yes, it’s a rape joke. No, I’m not surprised. Yes, it’s supposed to be funny. No, no one would ever  actually “rape” a computer key. Yes, in spite of all that, I’m still grossed out. Now that all that is out of the way, can we talk about how terrible this is? Because it’s terrible. Really, really terrible.

The panel above is the type of joke that normalizes and trivializes rape. Instead of showing rape as an act of sexual violence that will haunt someone for the rest of their life, it’s hilariously portrayed as pushing your F5 key one too many times. What it tells readers is that rape is no big deal, that it’s just this thing that happens. It tells readers that rape is not a powerful word, but instead is a term you can use to describe any kind of forceful action. It tells readers that rape is normal, and even worse it tells rapists that rape is normal. The problem with jokes like this is that not only do they make rape victims deeply uncomfortable, they make rapists feel comfortable.

And I mean, you know what? As far as rape jokes go, this one isn’t that bad. I mean, not really. It’s not graphic, and it’s not even describing a plausible situation since, again, computer keys can’t be raped. If we didn’t live and participate in rape culture, this joke on its own wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But you know what? If we didn’t live in a culture where rape was constantly aided and abetted, a culture where rape is so normalized that we think nothing of making light of it, a culture where rape victims are frequently hushed up, dismissed or outright disbelieved, this comic would never have been made. This comic is a product of rape culture and it perpetuates rape culture. The message that this comment sent out to The Oatmeal’s nearly 800,000 Facebook fans (and the myriad other readers who follow the comic on Twitter or directly on The Oatmeal’s website) is that rape is no big deal.

It is a big deal, though. And when some readers of the Oatmeal told Matt Inman that rape jokes are a big deal, this was his response:


I mean, first of all, it seems bizarre to blame Daniel Tosh for this backlash. Just because Daniel Tosh was called out for making a rape joke doesn’t mean that he was the first to do so, or that he invented rape culture. This joke wouldn’t have been funny before Daniel Tosh, and it sure as hell isn’t funny now.

Second of all, it’s really great that Matt Inman donated money to a battered women’s group. But that doesn’t give him license to say whatever he wants. It’s not like making a one-time donation gives him some kind of immunity to ever being called out on misogynistic shit that promotes rape culture. That’s not how it works.

Third of all, this isn’t censorship, and I hope that Matt Inman never lives in a place where true censorship exists. Freedom of speech means that you can say whatever you want, sure, but it also means that I get to call you out when you’re being a dick. You get to make jokes, and I get to tell you when they’re offensive. We are both afforded the privilege of freedom of speech. And you know what? I’m not even offended by this comic; I’m not going to give anyone that satisfaction. See, Matt Inman wants to believe that he’s done something so cool, so edgy, that regular, Family Circus-reading folk will be “offended”. Well, I’m not. I’m contemptuous of this comic, and I’m contemptuous of you, Matt Inman. Every time you make a joke like this, I think less and less of you. So no, you’re not being censored; you’re just hearing the reactions of people who aren’t on board with what you did.

I’m sure that there are people who will accuse me of being so wrapped up in feminism, so focussed on seeing misogyny wherever I look, that I’m just not able to recognize humour anymore. There are people who probably want to tell me that nothing is so sacred that you can’t joke about it, that “censoring” comics is the worst possible thing you can do, and that if I don’t “let” people make rape jokes then I’m some kind of fascist.

First of all, anyone who would think that should look up the definition of “fascist”.

Second of all, I don’t think that all rape jokes are bad. In fact, I even think that some of them are funny. The thing is, in order for a rape joke to be funny, it needs to do two things:

1. Not make rape victims the butt of the joke

2. Challenge the status quo, i.e. rape culture

Below is a video by Louis C.K. in which he makes a joke about rape that’s funny. If you are a comic, or aspire to be one, you might want to take notes:

See, what he’s doing in this joke is challenging the idea that rape is sexy or desirable. He’s challenging the idea that some men would leap at the chance to take a woman without her consent, while she is repeatedly telling them no, just because she’s giving out some kind of vibe. He’s challenging a culture that persistently insists that women don’t know what they want, that they play hard to get, that they lie and manipulate and shouldn’t be taken at their word.

That is a joke that challenges the way we think in a humourous way. That is what comedy should do.

Matt Inman did, thankfully, end up removing the rape joke panel, and tweeted the following earlier today:

It’s not the greatest apology, but at least it’s an apology, you know? I wish that he hadn’t included the “if”, because obviously people were upset, no ifs about it; it would have been better had he just flat-out apologized for the fact that people were hurt and upset. However, this apology is better than nothing, and it’s waaaay better than artists who continue to defend themselves after they’ve been called out for inappropriate behaviour. So I guess there’s that.

Sometimes stuff like this feels so relentless, like there’s no way to fight against it because you’ll just never win. Working to bring down rape culture feels overwhelming, because it’s literally everywhere. How do you fight nearly every movie you’ve ever seen, every book you’ve read, every casually misogynistic word that’s ever been spoken to you? Where do you even start?

Every once in a while, though, you do get someone who reconsiders what they’ve done and issues an apology, and that feels like it’s maybe the beginning of something. And like I said, maybe it’s not a great apology, but hopefully it will start people thinking. Maybe this will get fans of The Oatmeal really considering what that rape joke really meant, and why it wasn’t funny.

I think that if even one person who laughed at that comic sits back, thinks hard and changes his opinion, then this fight is worth it. If this post gets even one person to change their minds about how they view rape, and especially rape jokes, then I’ll be happy. Hell, even if this post does nothing more than get people who agree with me to start a conversation about this, then I’m good. The fact is that talking about this stuff, getting it out into the open and engaging people about it, is a huge first step to changing the status quo.

And I really, really want to change the status quo.

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.


How The Oatmeal Turned Me Into A Humourless Feminist

23 Sep

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-


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.