1000 Times

23 Mar
The Difference between 1 million and 1 billion is a misogynistic joke. Swell, aint it?

The difference between 1 million and 1 billion is a misogynistic joke. Swell, ain't it?

I get xkcd.com updates in my RSS feed-reader, so I saw this update on Friday (March 20, 2009), but I didn’t want to deal with it. Then, Hoyden About Town‘s lauredhel posted a link to it on Twitter, and I got annoyed all over again. So I’m blogging my ire, because I don’t know what else I can do. xkcd has a history of both getting it right and fucking it up when it comes to feminist issues, so this is definitely not the first assy thing to come from the comedic stylings of Randall Munroe.

“Dear news organizations: stop giving large numbers without context or proper comparison.

The difference between a million and a billion is the difference between me having a sip of wine and 30 seconds with your daughter, and a bottle of gin and a night with her.”

Let’s unpack that, shall we? What the narrator appears to be saying is that differences in dollar amounts can be equated with time spent with a woman (specifically, the person being spoken to’s daughter) and a variation in the amount of liquor he or she ingests. First off, money cannot and should not be equated with human beings. Particularly not with human beings that have historically been considered possessions. Women, especially daughters, have been valued as the property of men, and to compare them to economic concepts, even (or perhaps especially) as humor, is offensive and oppressive.

Dear Randall Munroe: stop using women as an economic system in your jokes. It isn’t funny, and it perpetuates a patriarchy which places women on an uneven footing, where we can’t help but bang straight into the glass ceiling. It continues a cycle where women are valued only as property, as camels in an Internet quiz.

As Melissa McEwan said the day before this comic was posted (emphasis hers),

[H]ow can it be [harmless], knowing what we know about women still being valued (or not) primarily for their bodies and sexuality? There’s nothing innocuous about playing into the idea that the greatest contribution any woman has to offer is her body as a sexual reward or or babymaking machine. There’s nothing innocuous about implicitly reinforcing narratives that sex is a … cheap commodity to be bought, nothing innocuous about rendering the sexual-emotional spectrum down to its two extremes and thus its female practitioners down to one half of a familiar dichotomy—the virgin who rewards the prince with her precious cherry, or the whore who gives her body in exchange for something of value…But how can it be [ironic], knowing what we know about women forced into sexual servitude around the world? It’s only ironic if women (all women, women full-stop) have agency. If they don’t, it’s merely privileged—a proud display of agency that we have that other women do not, tinged perhaps with the anxious fear that we are not as far away from forcibly bearing babies against our wills as we’d like to believe that we are.”

This comic is misogynistic, even if unintentionally so, because it was written in a society that is misogynistic. It’s only ironic if women aren’t used as a form of property – which they are. Women and daughters are used as a commodity far too much to make it funny when they’re compared to money.

That is the cycle you perpetuate when you portray women as property.


2 Responses to “1000 Times”

  1. Kirsten March 23, 2009 at 6:07 am #

    I initially read this comic as ‘YOU having a sip of wine… with your daughter’ rather than ‘ME having’. Which made it confusing, rather than just horribly offensive.

    Anyway, great analysis.

  2. Anonymouse March 31, 2009 at 1:47 am #

    Actually, Kirsten, it might not have been you–the original version didn’t have the “me” in it which made it very easy to read as an incest scenario (!)

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