Ever since it took a hard turn into radfem, I've always felt a little weird about this comic.
I remember finding the pre-radfem 'dudebro' humor offputting (a lot of eye-rolly racist/queer-baiting/sexist junk), but there was enough genuinely pleasant humor (plus the art was nice) and I could just push on through. Then, the girls on trikes showed up.
"Okay," says 2009 me. "This is weird, and some of the framing makes me uncomfortable, but I'm starting to understand that radical feminism has some salient points, so I'm gonna stick with it." And I did! And it challenged a couple of not-so-great positions I held. In particular, its raw contempt toward male-oriented culture (the use of "johnbies", attacks on men as faux-allies, and even the idea of excluding men from women's spaces) helped me eventually re-adjust my way of thinking where I could understand how, y'know, feminism isn't really about me
or respecting my
Then the SWERF (sex-worker exclusionary rad-fem) stuff started cropping up. Okay. That made me uncomfortable, but not in a "this-is-a-good-kind-of-discomfort!" way. I grew increasingly confused and skeptical regarding how he portrayed sex-work. Not the horrors that go on within it (which, even then, I was certain existed!), but his insistence on presenting sex-workers less as people, and more as objects without agency.
I struggled over this -- particularly since the comic had previously forced me to confront something wrong about myself. Was this just another case where I needed to get over myself? Was I just lost in my own preconceptions about what feminism should be? Was I missing something?
But no matter what angle I looked at it with, this felt fucked up. I started noticing a lot of other things: He used men being gay as the butt of a number of jokes (like, the literal joke would be "look how gay this guy is"). Other jokes relied on men behaving as feminine (or failing to be adequately 'masculine') as a punchline. His sex-workers were literally
sex-bots -- sex-bots who only became capable of agency when their software "malfunctioned" (and I started to suspect this was less about how they're perceived of by men, and more about how he perceives them himself
). Etc; etc.
I grew increasingly distraught. Eventually, I just stopped reading -- the cognitive dissonance was too bizarre. Either I was completely wrong about feminism, or... well, he was.
Flash forward to a week or so ago: I see some tumblr talking about sinfest in passing. So, I look it up out of curiosity. And... well, I'm not going to link to the comics. I'll just upload and post them here.
Content warning for transphobia:
(I skipped one comic which isn't particularly relevant, and amounts to just a viagra joke)
Since I stopped reading, I've learned a bit more about the intersection of SWERF and TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminism), so this doesn't surprise
me. In a strange way, it's a relief; that sense of growing distress I had after the SWERF reveal wasn't just me failing to let feminism challenge me. It was my intuitive discomfort with a deeply regressive model.
But that's not the only reason I'm posting this here. This actually upsets me in a way that's hard to express. It's not just that he's engaging in these TERF-isms (I mean, that bothers me; I'm not transgender, but there are several people I care about and love who are!). It's those last three comics in particular. There's a narrative disconnect here that distresses the shit out of me, because I can't understand how he doesn't see it:
, a boy picks up a barbie doll -- violating gender norms. The gender police arrive to take him to 'gender correctional camp'. Okay, got it: Enforcement of a gender binary is toxic and sick.
, we see a person coded as a Johnbie (the author's code for "non-woke", non-feminist men) putting on lipstick. A pyramid drone (the author's code for surveillance/government control) demands to see their "gender papers" for violating gender norms. They produce a hastily scribbled note that satirizes people who defy the gender binary. And then... the gender police let them go? Wait, what?
Enforcement of a gender binary is toxic and sick -- but defiance
of that binary is also toxic and sick? A sort of toxic sickness that society permits, presuming you have "papers" and are a "Johnbie"?!
And then, 2019-05-08.gif
: We see a series of billboards where gender is being advertised (satirizing the notion of gender as a product that culture has sold us on). Of particular note is the billboard to the right, which reads: "You're Not You When You're Binary!"What the fuck?
I'm not even angry about the TERF stuff, now (I mean, I am, but that's not why I'm writing this post). I'm angry about the complete fucking lack of ideological coherency
Is the enforcement of a gender binary toxic, or is it not? Is gender binary bad, good, or none of the above? Fuck if this comic knows! In the span of three pages, he's gone from saying: "We need to let people defy the gender binary!" -- to "But isn't it fucked how we let some
people defy the gender binary?" -- to "Gender is
binary, you FUCKS!".
I find this ideological incoherency utterly infuriating. How
can you cram this much inconsistency in the span of three comics? TERF arguments are absolute fucking garbage, and yet I feel like I could make a better case for them than he can.
Don't read sinfest. Definitely don't recommend it to any of your friends. It's misogynistic transphobic trash.