Cartoon: Sexist Joke

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This cartoon is another collaboration between me and the wonderful Becky Hawkins. As well as political cartoons, Becky and I collaborate on the webcomic SuperButch – hey, did I tell you folks SuperButch won a Prism Award? – and of course please check out Becky’s solo work.

My favorite parts of this cartoon – the extreme perspective in panel 2, the red panel, and the spiral lettering – were all Becky’s ideas.

That’s the best part of collaboration, for me – seeing the ideas that Becky comes up with that I hadn’t even considered when I wrote the script. Becky and I work well together because we think about comics similarly in many ways – but its our dissimilarities I enjoy the most.

This cartoon is about what’s (sometimes derisively) termed “microaggressions.” Quoting Wikipedia: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups. ”

In some ways, microaggressions are actually more stressful to experience than flat-out aggression. For example, if someone yells “hey fatso!” at me out of a passing car, that’s easy for me to categorize and deal with. I give the car the finger, and later on I sneer about it to my friends, who I can be sure will take my side. Microaggressions, on the other hand, are mentally stressful. Should I say something? Will I seem oversensitive if I complain? Will anyone take my side?

That stress – and the time and mental energy microaggressions can cause us to lose – is what this cartoon’s about. For all of my readers who have experienced and been bothered by microaggressions, I hope this cartoon makes you feel a bit seen.


This cartoon has five panels.


We can see five people around a table in a business conference room (although there are probably more people around the table, we’re only seeing part of the table). All the people are wearing business clothes, and there’s a whiteboard at one end of the room, showing a growth chart. There’s a glass of water in front of each person.

At the end of the table, a gray-haired man is standing, addressing the room, grinning as he speaks. Everyone else – all men – is laughing uproariously (there’s a “ha ha ha ha” sound effect). Except for one woman, in the foreground, who is not laughing and looks subtly alarmed. She’s wearing glasses and a pink business blazer.

GRAY HAIR DUDE: They scampered like frightened little girls!

EVERYONE: Ha ha ha ha

GLASSES WOMAN (thought): Oh God that was so sexist what should I do?


The same scene, except now shown in more dramatic perspective, with the woman with glasses in the extreme foreground looking at her colleagues.

GLASSES WOMAN (thought): I could say something but I need my colleagues to like me.


This panel shows the woman’s nervous face, looking straight out at the reader, floating in an abstract face. A spiral of words – her thoughts – are superimposed over her face, going around and around her.

GLASSES WOMAN (thought in a spiral pattern): It was just a joke! I don’t want to see shrill and humorless but this wasn’t the first “joke” … If I speak out would anyone take my side? But it’s not just me, it’s all the women in the office! But I don’t wanna be the office buzzkill. But if I don’t say anything then…


A narrow panel, all in red, shows a very tight close-up of her determined face.

GLASSES WOMAN (thought): I’m gonna say something!


The room is dark. There’s no one in the room but Glasses Woman, who looks surprised, and a woman in a janitor’s uniform who’s mopping the floor.

GLASSES WOMAN: Hey, where’d everyone go?

CUSTODIAN: They went home an hour ago.

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2 Responses to Cartoon: Sexist Joke

  1. Well done! This reminds me of an assignment that I used to give my business writing classes. I’m not going to type out the whole thing because it would take too long, but this is the gist:

    You are the first woman partner in a a very successful engineering firm that has been around for ten or so years. The firm was started by two graduates of [I don’t remember offhand which university]. Each subsequent partner, and there are now five of them, came to the firm from the same university. They are all men.

    Every Friday since the firm’s founding, the partners have met for a working lunch at a local Hooters-like restaurant, where the waitresses are all young, conventionally attractive, scantily-clad, very flirtatious with the male clientele, etc.

    You’ve been to two of these lunches and found them very uncomfortable. You don’t want not to go because these are meetings where assignments are made, work gets done, etc. You would definitely miss out and it would hurt your career. Your task is to write a memo to the head partner—that you intend to leave with him after a face-to-face meeting—explaining why these lunches are problematic and offering suggestions for alternatives.

    I gave the assignment over a period of eight or so years—which means I started giving it about 10 or 12 years ago—and it was really interesting to watch the evolution of the responses, from both men and women.

    Unfortunately, I need to go. But I will try to come back later to say a little more about that

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    But I will try to come back later to say a little more about that

    Looking forward to it! I’m curious as to how things have changed.