xckd stupid

Just when xkcd does something good, they start blundering around in a sexist haze.

Restraining Order

Because women who get restraining orders are all dishonest, conniving bitches who are just out to make your life difficult.

Cue Bingo commenters. Go on, who wants to be the first?

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Lauredhel is an Australian woman and mother with a disability. She blogs about disability and accessibility, social and reproductive justice, gender, freedom from violence, the uses and misuses of language, medical science, otters, gardening, and cooking.

This author has written 1613 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Lauredhel »

31 responses to “xckd stupid”

  1. Dave Bath

    A lot of xkcd’s posts make it into my shared items – this one didn’t.

    I guess you won’t be putting including 415 on my post asking for xkcd faves ;-)

    Hmmm. http://forums.xkcd.com/ seems to be awfully slow at the moment….. Now, let me see…. candidates for DoS perps…

    Dave Bath’s last blog post..HealthSMART shows the future of HealthBook

  2. Pinko Punko

    I think this one fell flat trying to skewer a hot/cold kind of relationship, but it’s total FAIL because it explicitly went for hyperbole in a situation that can never be funny. blech.

  3. Belial

    Eh. Knowing Randy, this was more of a “how funny would it be if you set up a restraining order this way?” joke rather than a “Lol, wimmenz is crayzy!” joke. I see how it could be taken that way, though.

  4. Rebelleink

    I, too, typically like xcdk, the ‘girls suck at math’ one being an interesting comment on the theme. This one just… ugh.

  5. jfpbookworm

    Intentional or not, the casting was really stupid. Why not have Black Hat Guy obtain the order?

    jfpbookworm’s last blog post..The 50 best cult books

  6. tigtog

    #3 Belial: I’m totally sure that it was meant to be just a funny little thought-experiment joke. I don’t think that Randy meant to imply anything more. Unfortunately, the social context surrounding various framings of restraint order narratives is there lurking in the background willy-nilly.

    Just like the jungle-native imagery in a feminist book that we’re criticising in another thread, just because someone doesn’t see racist/sexist themes underlying certain artistic choices doesn’t mean that those racist/sexist themes aren’t there in the work nonetheless.

  7. Belial

    Tigtog: Oh definitely. I just think it’s important to separate the ones that are actually conscious or unconscious digs from the ones that just represent a failure to account for every scrap of latent sexist framing in one’s head.

    Mostly because the former represents being kindof an asshole, whereas the latter represents being a socialized human being.

  8. InfamousQBert

    Belial – the issue isn’t in the intention. to take an extreme example, whether or not you meant to kill someone doesn’t change the fact that you did. there’s actually an excellent post up at shakesville that explains why, even when the intent is innocent, sexism is still there and doing its work.

    sexism
    101

    InfamousQBert’s last blog post..my day

  9. Belial

    This is what I said at Shakes:

    Yeah, I’m going to concentrate my replies there. I didn’t really mean to split it up and have this conversation in two different places. Apologies.

  10. tigtog

    #10 Belial,

    I respect you not wanting to have the conversation in two places, but (edited to add) I wish you’d chosen to continue the conversation here, on Lauredhel’s actual post. One of the recurring netiquette issues is the typical scenario where a BigBlog links to a post at a SmallerBlog, and then instead of people following the link and commenting at the SmallerBlog, they comment about that post at the BigBlog, which doesn’t really need the extra traffic.

    Liss is very generous with the way that she links to other bloggers, and I’m sure that what she hopes is that she will generate some new readership for the blogs that she links to. Discussion is what drives readers to keep coming back, so when the discussion of a post takes place elsewhere, that really doesn’t help the SmallerBlogs.

  11. Brooklynite

    A couple of thoughts, reposted from the Shakesthread.

    First, my hunch is that making the dominant person in the comic a woman may have been intended to ameliorate the ugliness of the subject matter. A guy dictating to a woman where she’s got to live is going to read to a lot of people as creepier than the reverse.

    Second, the problem with the cartoon isn’t only the gender stuff. It’s that stalking and domestic violence aren’t that funny. “Wacky orders of protection” just isn’t fertile comedic territory.

  12. tigtog

    I agree. The only way that “wacky orders of protection” become in any way amusing is if one frames restraining orders as just a way to jerk another person around, instead of being a valid response to abusive behaviours. Which isn’t very funny to people already battling to have police respond adequately once restraining orders are in place, let alone beforehand.

  13. Brooklynite

    The only way that “wacky orders of protection” become in any way amusing is if one frames restraining orders as just a way to jerk another person around, instead of being a valid response to abusive behaviours.

    Well, there is one other way. As you suggested in an earlier comment, it was intended as a thought experiment.

    I was a bylaws geek in college, when I was on student government. I get the enrapturement with the ins and outs of rules, and the paradoxes that can arise from them. I totally get that. The premise of the cartoon is alluring, even to me, on that level.

    Until I remember what an order of protection is actually about. Until I think about the content, the real-world implications, rather than the form.

    The form of the joke is elegant and witty. It’s necessarily grounded in a real-world context that cannot be incorporated into an elegant and witty joke. That’s the problem in a nutshell.

  14. tigtog

    The form of the joke is elegant and witty. It’s necessarily grounded in a real-world context that cannot be incorporated into an elegant and witty joke. That’s the problem in a nutshell.

    Nicely expressed. That’s exactly it.

  15. GirlTM

    Hmm. Is Belial crapping toenails yet? ;)

    I agree wholeheartedly on the domestic violence/=funny point; my first thought on reading it was “Why in god’s name would she do that?! Keep that asshole as far away as possible!” It really kills the whole joke. The only way I can think of to actually keep it amusing is to remove the first-person framing entirely and have the caption be something like, “Dicking with the legal system, part 1.”

    …The amusement value of this framing may be lessened once I sober up.

  16. Belial

    Okay. So in answer to the question (over at shakesville) about how to fix the joke, the answer is simply to scrap it entirely?

  17. Brooklynite

    Okay. So in answer to the question (over at shakesville) about how to fix the joke, the answer is simply to scrap it entirely?

    Yeah, I don’t think there’s a way to do it.

    I’m not one to say that some things “just aren’t funny.” One of my favorite jokes is about breast cancer. But you can’t make some kinds of jokes about some kinds of topics. You can’t make light, breezy, erudite jokes about domestic violence. It just doesn’t work.

  18. tigtog

    You can’t make light, breezy, erudite jokes about domestic violence. It just doesn’t work.

    A pun about domestic violence lost an Australian politician his party’s leadership in the early 90s.

    It was quite a clever pun. That wasn’t the problem. He moved from high levels of voter popularity to being almost a pariah. Shortly afterwards he lost the party leadership to John Howard, who went on to become our Prime Minister in the next election. I’ll never forgive Downer for that either.

  19. Belial

    Okay. That makes sense.

    Though, to muse for a moment, once you get away from the choice of gender for the two characters, is it not funny because it’s sexist, or not funny because it’s just too serious a topic?

    And at that point, is it an issue of the joke being objectively wrong anymore, or is it an issue of personal sensitivities about what’s funny and what isn’t? After all, I doubt the breast cancer joke would be terribly funny to most people who have had it or lost loved ones to it.

  20. Dave Bath

    It seems a lot of readers at http://forums.xkcd.com/ did see it as a mathematical joke, e.g. some with algebra, and some assuming that restraining orders were a spherical physical force, and thus levitating if three people “owning” restraining orders came at you up a hill in an equilateral triangle, others saying “that’s why airline flights are so uncomfortable”. Many IT geeks (male and female) are gender-blind (and long-haired males are very common, so both parties could be interpreted as homosexual males!)

  21. Belial

    Gender-blind, maybe. Which just means they run facefirst into sexism and roll around in it joyously.

    I realize that with the position I’ve been taking, that’s kindof the pot calling the kettle black, but after a year or so on that forum, I’ve seen so much rabidly defended sexism it’s ridiculous.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be badmouthing the place, but…seriously.

  22. Chris E.

    “Because women who get restraining orders are all dishonest, conniving bitches who are just out to make your life difficult.”

    Knowing xckd, though, I’d never assume that the woman is supposed to be unsympathetic. Characters in xckd come up with devious pranks all the time, and the reader is meant to admire them for their cleverness. For instance, the guy in this strip is rubbing his fancy-schmancy education in the face of his harried waiter for shits and giggles, but you’re not supposed to hate him.

  23. Brooklynite

    Let’s see … I kind of like GirlTM’s gloss, and I think the pun Tig mentioned is a sort of interesting one. Bel, the breast cancer joke I mentioned doesn’t really work in print, but trust me — it’s not something you could only find funny if you had no personal experience of cancer. Quite the opposite, actually.

    I once went to a talk by a historian of the holocaust who said he’d been working forever on a manuscript on the humor of the victims of the Nazis. It was a joke book, in essence — 1001 jokes from the death camps. He said it was really funny stuff, a lot of it, but that there was no way he was going to publish it, except maybe posthumously.

    You can find humor anywhere, is I guess what I’m saying. But a joke about a dark subject is pretty much going to have to be a dark joke. This was a light joke with a dark premise, and those just don’t tend to work for me.

  24. Belial

    This was a light joke with a dark premise, and those just don’t tend to work for me.

    Okay, yeah, that I can get behind. I’m still not sure that’s a matter of sexism as much as personal taste, though.

    And yeah, GirlTM’s version does improve it, I think.

    I will admit that I am probably going to be a good minion now and go tell all of this to Randy so he can improve the funny in the future.

  25. Belial

    Hah. Beat me to it. Then I’m just going to go drink.

  26. Crissa

    I had a friend who had the spouse of someone he bought some stuff from online put a retraining order on him in another city because they had an argument – and he said some inappropriate things.

    This led to the person using the restraining order to keep my friend from attending several events, using certain hotels at certain times, and basically screwing him over each time they’d have had two degrees of separation. It was obnoxious.

    I understand the need for restraining orders, but when they involve public venues things get a bit hairy. Who’s supposed to leave the neighborhood store when the other arrives? Should security cart one out if the other decides to attend an event with a few thousand participants? A few hundred? How long should such orders last?

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