Dave Sim's blogandmail #183 (March 13th, 2007)
Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist
1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.
2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.
3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.
4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.
5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.
6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.
7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.
8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.
9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.
10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.
11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.
12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.
13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.
14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.
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Continuing with Mike Kitchen's recent letter:
I enjoyed (and agreed) with "Tangent" in Cerebus #265. At my time of first reading, I had lived my first four years of marriage, where I had blissfully managed to avoid (and continue to avoid, I might add) many of the "Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast" (admittedly, number 5, at times, needs to be refuted). In recently re-reading the essay, I am surprised that it ever received the reaction that it did. The only caveats I had over any of it were minor ones relating to some allegorical stories used to back up the overall thesis of the essay. Minor stuff, that isn't worth mentioning as it would take away from the vast bulk I agreed with.
Cerebus 300. What can I say? A landmark in my life as a comic-book fan, picking up that issue on March 10, 2004 from Comic Relief in Berkeley. It was a milestone experience. For years I had told myself that I would make my way on a pilgrimage (for lack of a better word) to Kitchener, to be there for the Cerebus 300 bash! But instead? Nothing. Silence. Honestly, I was in shock at the lack of fanfare surrounding Cerebus 300. This was both disturbing and disappointing.
Often I've wondered what degree of ostracism you've received from the comic-book community. When I read some of your comments, I can't help but think "he's gotta be exaggerating". Then things pop up, either in print, or online, with the token disclaimer or pot-shot that makes me think "You know what? Maybe Dave isn't exaggerating after all…" I mean, it baffles my mind. It's comics. Do people really feel that threatened by these ideas? By this commentary on life? Besides what happened to the right to freedom of speech? I know that feminists are collectivists by nature, group consciousness, it's part of the feminine psyche. But we're not just talking females here. These are comic fans. 90% male. This baffles me.
It might be a little easier to understand if you realize that a lot of those 90% don't have much contact with females except for the "Adoration from Afar" bit. This tends, in my experience, to cause them to really lean into the "misguided chivalry" approach to women that effectively makes them female doormats because they put women on such a high pedestal (in the hopes of getting somewhere with them) that even though there are very few women in the comic-book field, they virtually control the thought processes of the male population of the comic-book field. That is, males with little or no experience with women tend to out-feminist the feminists as a means of (as they see it, anyway) competing with each other for the few women that there are to go around. If you've ever seen the drooling and kowtowing and currying favour that goes on in comic-book stores with a female clerk (most of whom have a boyfriend or a husband and in any other environment would be understood to be off-limits for that kind of courtship/mating dance), you know what I'm talking about. Tearing Dave Sim and Cerebus down and throwing them in the gutter was a way of demonstrating feminist bona fides…and, as you've noticed, still is for the most part. It also allowed most of the women to have clean hands. With a handful of notable exceptions they didn't have to tear down Dave Sim and Cerebus, they had legions of fanboys currying favour to do their dirty work for them.
And it isn't just fans. Incorrigible Erin at Night Flight Comics told me that she asks every visiting professional if they'll sign a book "to Erin - I'm your bitch". Evidently Bill Willingham and I are the only two to decline her request so far. All she's doing is making full use of what I see as the extremes of "misguided chivalry": instead of ignoring or rationalizing away the drooling attentions of the customers (as most female clerks do, in my experience – and Incorrigible Erin has a boyfriend) she's "leaning into it". To say that I see that as an unhealthy way for the environment to conduct itself is an understatement. But I also realize that "delusional non-existent relationships" issuing from "misguided chivalry" are a very potent force on the side of feminism and I doubt that Incorrigible Erin is the only one of her kind in the field at this point.
In my view, every time women crank up the dial on feminism, men have to crank down the dial on chivalry. Otherwise we just end up being doormats pretty much universally.
I thought your views on gender got more accurate as the series progressed. One of my favourite gender themes in Cerebus is Fruitcake Park [see pages 362-63, Latter Days], an idea, to this day, that I can't get out of my head as I walk down the streets of Toronto, thinking, "she belongs in Fruitcake Park…she belongs in Fruitcake Park". I was also interested in the idea of a model wife in Latter Days. Which was always a caveat I had about the gender views presented up until then. However Latter Days cleared things up for me and put us on the same page (or at least how I perceive it).
I have always been justifiably wary of women, and especially so in choosing a mate. Interesting that it was a first generation Canadian, with an old-school European father (despite a liberal-thinking European mother). My hunch was always that it would take a foreigner to dodge the typical North American mentality as my experience was that typical North Americans always bothered me.
Well, I'm a first generation Canadian on my father's side – he was born in Glasgow – but second-generation on my mother's side – she was born in Hamilton. If I had to pick the thing that most shaped viewpoints on women and feminism, it was hanging out at Peter's Place and the Athenian in the 90s, which was run by a Greek (Dino) and mostly inhabited by Greeks, Romanians and various Europeans. It was really the first environment I had been in where the guys didn't take women at all seriously. They were chivalrous, up to a point, but not up to the point of being doormats for women. The women carped at them, hectored them, but it was "in one ear and out the other" ("yeah, yeah, yeah"). I'd go to Stages and the other nightclubs looking to get "lucky" and then end up at Peter's Place and the Athenian (it was really the after-hours restaurant downtown) where I could forget about all that. And, in retrospect, that was more often where I would get "lucky", although still very infrequently largely because I wouldn't take women seriously when I was there. So, I went from someone who thought that women should be taken very seriously to examining "okay, WHY should women be taken seriously?" And, in examining what they wanted to be taken seriously about – which really amounted to the Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast – the whole scaffold started coming down at that point. And, being a writer, it made sense to pass all that along in the form of entertainment and (hopefully) art.
In my attempts to understand marriage, (before getting married), I read through the Bible to try and get God's take on the whole marriage thing: figuring if there is a definitive view on anything, THE place to start is Scripture. What I found (and was surprised by) was it had nothing to do with love, as is told to us by society. What it had to do with was children (Leviticus 21:15, Deuteronomy 25:6, Jeremiah 29:6, Malachi 2:15, 1 Cornthians 7:14, I Timothy 5:14). That was interesting to me.
That was what I noticed, too, since I was pretty much "sold" on the authenticity of it very early on. Only, I was looking for God's take on fornication (as can be seen in Guys and Rick's Story) since that was what I was doing at the time and I sure didn't want to give it up. But I was struck by the fact that most of the husbands and wives just show up in the book already married (with the notable exception of Isaac and Rebecca) and the only marriage that's documented is the marriage in Cana of Galilee in John's Gospel. And even there it's just drinking wine at the reception! "Where's the marriage ceremony?" was one of my biggest questions since I assumed "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife…" etc. had to be Scriptural, otherwise what was it doing in church? As you say, all of the Scriptural references are about children…or divorce. No marriage or courtship or "fooling around" rules and advice at all.
Tomorrow: Hey, wait a minute. What is this? Sunday? No Bible talk! Just a little more and then Mike Kitchen is off to greener pastures, folks.
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If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:
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Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2
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