Cartoon: The Time Before Gender Ideology

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This cartoon is drawn by my so-frequent-we-call-each-other-comics-spouses collaborator Becky Hawkins, who writes:

This cartoon combines two of my favorite things: period settings and making fun of gender norms!

I had a blast (and took a trip down memory lane) looking for details that would place the reader in each location and time. I remembered a second-grade classmate’s WWF shirt, a Lisa Frank poster, and raiding my mom’s closet for dress-up items. I also remembered that if you’re a kid and don’t know that a slip is underclothing, it looks like a fancy lacy dress.

Here’s a combination of Barry’s script, my commentary, and our gChat conversations:

Panel 1: Colors for 1-3 are in sepia, like century-old photos (unless you don’t like that idea), but fashions and cultural stuff are from the 60s-80s.

I did not like that idea. As the clothing styles of my childhood and teen years swing back into fashion and my eyeballs are confronted with colors that I swear I haven’t seen in decades, I’ve become aware of how strongly colors can evoke a time period. I wanted to lean into that.

Barry’s script didn’t specify that the kids were dressing up in adult clothes, but that’s the activity that came to mind. These could be grandma’s clothes or mom’s pre-motherhood clothes that she doesn’t want to get rid of. Either way, they feel fancy and exotic to the kids. I tried to go hard on 1960s carpeting and wallpaper, and more 1940s with the pillbox hat, gloves, belted dress, and handbag.

From Barry’s script:

Panel 2: A girl being confronted by two other girls. Might be a playground or a park. One of them has a “pac-woman” lunchbox or shirt.

Could also be a sleepover in one of the girls’ bedrooms. (Bringing posters and PJ patterns into play to help date it.)

Surprising but true fact: I was never a little girl! So I’m especially open to suggested rewrites in this panel.

IM exchange between Becky and Barry:

Becky: The sleepover panel in your latest script gets my former girlchild seal of approval 🙃

Barry: Good! I mean, not good in the sense that it sucks that this is a real thing. But you know, good that the script works. :-p

Becky: I still remember some girl I barely know making a big deal that I filled in “Brad Renfro” on a questionnaire in 7th grade 🤷🏻‍♀️😆

Barry: LOL! Panels 1 and 3 are so autobiographical for me!

From Barry’s script:

Panel 3: Roger is a fat boy (age 10 or so) who was just sitting on the ground reading and is now being confronted/surrounded by two or three bully boys. Lunchboxes or tee shirt themes or action figures could include A Team, Knight Rider, smurfs, Bionic Man, E.T. the Fonz, Pac Man or Pac Woman. (In any of panels 1-3, not just this panel). Or any other ideas you have for dating the scenes in panels 1-3.

Barry, thank you for giving me so many ideas that I completely ignored.

Panel 4: Middle-aged crabby man talking to a couple of gender-ambiguous-dressed teens. This panel is in full color, not sepia. One or two of the characters are carrying smartphones.

Setting: Could be a public street. Or a family-Thanksgiving like setting. I’m open to ideas.

I find it funny that the last panel, scripted as the “full color” one, ended up being the least colorful. I didn’t feel like cramming a public street or a Thanksgiving dinner into the panel, so I tried drawing the people in a generic fast food restaurant. I thought about switching it to a mac store, but asked Barry for a suggestion. He suggested a mac store. Done! I think the spare white background provides a good contrast with the other panels.

I hear a lot of complaints that “androgynous fashion” is used to mean “boxy beige and gray clothes for skinny white people.” Also, when you search that term:

The floral romper, bright boots, and pride shirt in panel 4 are in keeping with the clothes I see in Portland and on my corner of the internet these days.

Barry and I had this IM exchange because of the name of the shared Photoshop file:

Barry: I just got a dropbox notice which said “Becky Hawkins changed gender ideology.” 😆

Becky: ROFL… I feel so powerful all of a sudden.

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This cartoon has four panels, each showing a different scene.


Three children are playing on the carpeted floor; behind them we can see a wooden dresser, one drawer left open, and wallpaper with a pattern of hearts. There’s a jewelry box open on the floor with them, and they are wearing dresses (and in one case, a slip) over their ordinary clothing, opera gloves, a hat with a veil attached, etc.. Judging by hair length, they are two girls and one boy.

OFF-PANEL ADULT VOICE: Bobby, take that OFF! Dresses are for GIRLS!


A girl’s bedroom; posters on the wall, a bed with a pink blanket matching the pink phone and lamp on the nightstand, snacks and backpacks lying on the floor. Three girls are on the floor, lying on bedrolls, dressed in sleep clothing (we can see Ariel from The Little Mermaid on the back on one’s shirt, and a rearing unicorn on another‘s). A fourth girl is lying on the bed. The girl on the bed is speaking to one of the girls on a bedroll; the girl on bed is cheerful, the girl on the bedroll looks nervous.

GIRL ON BED: Which boy do you like? Keep in mind that your answer WILL be dissected by us and you’ll be ostracized if we don’t like it.


A schoolyard or sports field; green mown grass, bleachers in the background. Three boys, standing, are surrounding and making fun of a fourth boy, who is sitting cross-legged on the ground and holding a book protectively. Two of the bully boys are grinning; a fourth is yelling loudly.

1st BULLY: Roger is weak and bad at sports and he reads a lot.

YELLING BULLY: UNACCEPTABLE! Let’s hit him and tell everyone he’s gay!


We’re in an Apple Store, or something similar; white walls, widely-spaced counters displaying tablets, phones and laptops. A middle-aged man, scowling, with close-cropped hair and a dark tee shirt, is glowering at a couple of younger people. The two younger people are a bit gender-ambiguous in their dress. One is wearing a newspaper boy style cap with a rainbow-striped crop top shirt, suspenders, and big clunky purple shoes; they’re giving the middle-aged man the finger. The other has long hair, a van dyke beard, and is wearing a green floral jumper.

SCOWLING MAN: There was never any “gender ideology” when I was a kid!

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In The Time Before Gender Ideology Existed | Patreon

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One Response to Cartoon: The Time Before Gender Ideology

  1. 1
    JaneDoh says:

    This is a great cartoon! I love the kids’ expressions in the first panel. I definitely saw plenty of panels 2 and 3 in my childhood.

    I like Becky’s background choices. I think the backgrounds in panels 1 and 2 evoke the appropriate decade, and that having the past be in sepia would not be as effective in evoking the past. The 60’s and 80’s definitely had their color schemes!

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