"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

16 Days, Day 10: Gender in Comics, Ain't Violence Funny, Volume 2

Today in Gender in Comics we continue to honor the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, by bringing you a couple of sadly violent comic strips.

Bullies Are Funny!
First up, Monty shows us just how funny the threat of violence between men can be, complete with indifferent woman friend and 'wimpy' guy references:
This is facet of boys-will-be-boys explanations/excuses regarding men's violence against men. We are conditioned to laugh at this, because, y'know, nobody got hurt and we get to see how wimpy Monty is, which is part of the running joke of the strip. But that helps to normalize such violence, just as boys-will-be-boys explanations/excuses helps to normalize violence.

More Bullying
Next up, Fusco Brothers gives us another dose of creepy guys who threaten violence in what is, in one way, the most subtle of ways--by implying that no doesn't mean no:
Creepiest part of this strip is that you can't see anything below chest level. And this has a similar problem as the Monty strip, above: We're supposed to laugh at silly men who can't control themselves, who don't understand the signals women give off (even when those signals aren't signals at all, but rather, statements to get the hell away). Ha! Ha! Maybe next he'll follow her home! Or call her at work constantly! Ack.


Veronica said...

whoa...that second comic really blows me away! that is just f'd up.

zhinxy said...

Day-um. Just day-um...

NiteOwlz / Glenn Page Music said...

The Monty strip doesn't "normalize" anything. There IS violence in the real world, and there are bullying jerks. We don't need a comic strip to "normalize" what already exists, and just because it uses a (sad) reality of life as a backdrop doesn't mean it's tacitly endorsing said reality. And the humor comes from the discrepancy between what Monty says and how he ultimately behaves. It also reflects our own human foibles and our ability to deceive ourselves and others when deep down we are not as great as we think we are or portray ourselves to be. Comics have to exagerrate situations and human characteristics for comedic effect, but I see no evil agenda in the Monty strip.


Jeff Pollet said...

Hey Cuzzino--
Thanks for stopping by.

I didn't say that the author of Monty has an evil agenda--one of the reasons that I think comics are a good medium to look at when trying to understand how gender norms are perpetuated is that we tend to think of them as reflecting, albeit in an exaggerated way, Reality and Truth, when in fact they may reinforce what some people see as Reality and Truth, at the expense of other views of 'what already exists'. Bullies exist, yes (though they aren't always tough-looking stereotypes), but there are myriad ways of reacting to bullies that don't reinforce stereotypes of masculinity in the way that this strip does. And there are other ways for the strip to be funny--later in this series, Monty gets into a Tai Chi 'fight' with somebody else in his class, who is also a bully of a sort, and it's funny because they are both using Tai Chi to fight each other, which makes for a slow fight.

I should be clear--I think the strip in question is both funny and reinforcing of traditional male masculinity. I just think it's important for us to recognize and point out that traditional male masculinity isn't some unchanging part of 'what already exists', but rather is something that we help to create, consciously and unconsciously.

NiteOwlz / Glenn Page Music said...

I agree with your assessment that sometimes the media does reinforce attitudes and beliefs under the guise of "reflecting" it. However, I never meant to imply that male masculinity is fixed and can't evolve or change, just because the strip is reflecting what already exists, to some extent.

I'm not sure it's the job of a comic strip artist to help "push" society on the correct path. A comic strip has a job to make us laugh, and sometimes that's done by poking and prodding the subconscious ambivalence we still harbor over things like gender roles. I'm not sure it's the creator of Monty's duty to be the template guiding society along.

Media and people have a reciprocal effect; one influences the other. Sometimes one lags behind the other, depending on what person or work of art you're looking at.

Couldn't we also say that this strip is making a joke about the fact that society DOES harbor some of these gender roles, rather than mindlessly playing into them? Couldn't we say the joke is that Monty feels he "has to be a man" or that he's less of a man if he doesn't stand up to someone who can CLEARLY pulverize him?

It's not clear cut.