Sinfest, Part 1

Creator/s: Tatsuya Ishida
Run: 1/00-current
Schedule: Daily
Section/s: Strip 4,709, "Women Only Space 5"; strips 4,708-4,727

The beginning of the strip is structured to show the adolescent development of a girl and the patriarchal oppression that accompanies each stage. The first panel, which shows a toddler, demonstrates anonymous online harassment and reflects the cruelty of subjecting misogyny and sexuality upon such an innocent, vulnerable target. The middle two panels then show two progressively older girls, one tormented by her peers (which are clearly implied to be boys) for daring to express herself artistically, and the other being antagonized by a hostile father figure. The final panel then has our heroine reach adulthood, in which she's neglected when occupying the sex- and violence-oriented patriarchal society. While these panels are successful at providing a dramatic victimization of women, they fail to address the reality of women oppressing other women. In the first panel, for example, I wonder, where's the mother figure who's responsible for insulating this toddler from online creeps? And in the next panel, couldn't it be other girls doing the bullying? The third panel shows a father being cruel, but aren't mothers sometimes cruel, as well? And with the last panel, it isn't difficult to imagine a man being neglected by a woman. Thus, a major flaw of the strip, which prevents it from serving as valid social commentary, is that it lacks positive portrayals of men and negative portrayals of women. Instead, it simply pretends that these exceptions don't exist, when, given the comic's own criteria, we know that this is inconsistent with reality. And a political comic like this relies heavily on reality to be relevant, especially when it's so obviously lacking in the humor department.

The ability for the creator to make meaningful content is also hindered by the decision to show the women as asexual children and the men as sexual adults. Not only does this strategy brand patriarchy with the taint of pedophilia, but it also appeals to the reader's sense that childhood should be a happy, innocent phase free of perversion and sexuality. Aside from being lazy, this adult-child dualism is highly problematic in that it prevents the consideration of healthy adult relationships, including those which recognize female sexuality. Further, if sex is a characteristic of patriarchy, then what context is lesbian sex placed in? It's clear that the strip's polemical nature has robbed it of the ability to respond to adult issues, forcing the creator to resort to ignoring them completely. However, at the same time, the comic's abrasive politics aren't consistent with a childlike perspective, either. This constant alternation between adolescent and mature viewpoints is highly confusing for readers and ruins any of the writing's potentially appealing aspects.

The strip concludes with the women forming a separate, perfect, matriarchal society, and this would be a poignant development if it marked the end of the comic's 13-year run. However, the comic continues the next day as if nothing had happened. If patriarchal oppression's blamed for all the problems in the comic's world, then, logically, how can a place free of patriarchal oppression be inherently problematic? It's unfortunate that the creator blatantly avoids addressing this issue, especially considering how little intellectual content the strip has. There's also no regard for the problem that such a radical restructuring of society can't actually happen spontaneously, as women would realistically attach themselves to a variety of ideological positions. There's another underlying factor at work here, though, which is how hopelessly dependent on feminist rhetoric the creator's gotten to be. He makes his living depicting women being abused by men, meaning that excluding men from the comic would be self-destructive.

It's an embarrassment to feminism that the most high-profile webcomic to champion its cause is so incompetently and unintelligently written. The ideas that all men are evil while all women are good, and that all men hate women and all women hate men, are so simplistic and nonsensical that it's baffling an adult would actually bother to publish them.

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