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Comic Strip Shocker: Women Still Marginalized!

Blondie: She likes purses.

Brace yourself, readers, because this may be tough to believe! The Daily Cartoonist reports on a paper presented to the American Sociological Association that discusses the role of female characters in newspaper comics. The paper examined a full year’s worth of strips from “Beetle Bailey,” “Blondie,” “Dilbert,” “Family Circus,” “Garfield,” and “Hagar the Horrible” and found that women were more likely to be used as punchlines than actual characters, with things like motivations and feelings.

To which I can only say… “No duh.”While the paper is interesting, it does raise a few questions. All of the strips that were examined are at least twenty years old, and “Blondie” turns a sprightly eighty years old this year. “Dilbert” is essentially nerd humor, something that tends to be pretty cruel to women in general. None of these strips are as modern as something like “Foxtrot,” which has adjusted its jokes and style along with the times. No, these strips are essentially the great grandparents of newspaper strips, so is it any surprise that they have retrograde sexual politics?

This quote from the paper really says it all:

Other than being a straight man or foil to the laugh-inspiring male character, women were used mostly to reinforce certain humorous stereotypes, such as the harried or henpecking housewife, Fernandez-Baca said.

The henpecking housewife is a stereotype straight out of sitcoms and bad stand-up comedy. With these kinds of punchlines, is it any wonder that there are precious few comic strips that people still speak of fondly?

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