Free Flowing Misogyny: Re-Thinking My Defense of Dave Sim
When I began reading Dave Sim’s Cerebus, I knew that the cranky, socially barbaric aardvark was a keeper on my shelf. As the volumes began to line up on my bookcase, my interest in the series became less of a love for that three-foot-tall, gray lout, but for his creator– Dave Sim. What would Sim do next?
He rotated the comic page (literally), parodied everyone from Margaret Thatcher to Groucho Marx spot on, and created a rich and deep world for his characters to live. The addition of prose and script pages made the strange narrative tackle new and exciting areas that I didn’t know comics could explore. Sim doesn’t just have a appreciation of the medium but a desire to expand its ability to tell a story. Thus, my desire to defend him, to pull his work off the floor after many maligned it as “misogynist” and “despicable”.
I wouldn’t believe it, and to some extent still don’t. Dave Sim is not a misogynist. He just hates Feminism. He dislikes what feminists have done to society.
Well, I have touted that line long enough, and I must be honest with everyone who reads my reviews of Cerebus and Sim’s new series Glamourpuss (and this essay–which, by the way, “thank you!”): I think Dave Sim has something against women.
There, I admit it. It doesn’t nullify his work or completely contradict my assessment of it. I’m just coming to terms with Sim’s views like :
“…all women have a greater attraction to themselves and their stories than they have to any mate…” (Going Home, Annotation for Page 213)
“How many wives want to have sex with their husbands? How many wives see having sex with their husbands after marriage as making about as much sense as baiting a hook after you’ve landed your fish?” (Going Home, Annotation for Page 272)
There is something deeper than Sim simply hating womankind or maintaining a strident repulsion to a socio-political paradigm (feminism). Sim must have some personal feelings against females, marriage, and matriarchal society. Granted, relationships with women can be difficult. But is it really as bad as Sim describes it?
“…I’ll point out that feminists, thirty years later on, are coming late to the realization that jobs devour lives, leaving table scraps and remnants of time for “everything else” that is commonly regarded as going into making up for “a life.” Very much contrary to Gloria Steinem’s early ’70’s observation –“We have become the men we wanted to marry”– I think it more accurate to say that feminists have become instead the men they wanted– and in most cases did— divorce: workaholics impatient with and intolerant of their “significant others” unwillingness to subsist on the miserly table scraps and remnants of time which are apportioned to them, after the “job” has extracted its own “pound of flesh.” (Going Home, Annotation for Page 272)
I agree with Sim’s argument that career occupation’s “devour” lives and leave little time to much else (especially during the week). But to assume that women who entered the work force some forty years ago had no conception of the difficulties in managing their lives before sending in their resumes seems ridiculous. The only line of argument I’ll accept is that both women and men fail to account for the pressures of career and family. Men suck at it, too (which Sim gives deference to). But I cannot accept that the failure of women in the workforce to see the challenge of career and life is based on feminist hubris. Its the struggle of modern life.
Yet, take note how Sim is delighted in feminists’ failure to succeed in their social theories. Why? Is it the old saying: “I’ve gotten to the age where I rejoice in other people’s misfortunes” ? Or does he have some personal stake in this conflict? Is Sim somehow validated, be it emotionally or rationally, whenever a feminist is wrong (at least in his opinion)?
What made me begin to question my defense of Sim began with reading the Appendix of Going Home, entitled “Chasing Scott.” In it, Sim references every little bit of influence from F. Scott Fitzgerald that made or didn’t make it into the book. The sheer level of research done for the comic is astounding. I was amazed that Sim would read not one but several biographies of Fitzgerald in order to better create his parody, F. Stop Kennedy.
But then I came across this paragraph:
“But, of course, this is not the way of the unfairer sex, who didn’t so much enter the work force as relocate their peculiar domestic priorities (love uber alles, romance matchmaking, gender interchangeability, obsessive interest in their own and others’ private lives, and interference in the private lives of others) bag and baggage into an environment where such “priorities” had, hitherto, been sternly regarded as distractions and irrelevancies where they were not regarded (as I think they have proved themselves to be) as wholly counterproductive and, thus, legitimate grounds for immediate dismissal.” (Going Home, Annotation for Page 272)
What I read was not an astute assessment of feminism and its flaws. I read a rant about how women make the work environment unbearable, and that it was much better place without them. That’s misogynist.
Given, I communicate plenty of ideas in harsh and biting ways for shock value. I know I’m not the only one. But without that coddling sense of irony which many, such as myself, attach to their outlandish statements, these ideas come across as uncomfortable and alienating. How is it Stephen Colbert can scream the “end of racism” on his show, the Colbert Report, in light of Barrack Obama’s presidency and not be labeled a lunatic (or at the very least taken seriously)? Both Sim and Colbert are part of the entertainment industry, but Sim doesn’t make the effort to lull his critics back to sleep with a wink or smile. He says these over the top prognostications about feminism (which are outright misogynist at times) but then decries being called a woman-hater.
For Pete’s sake, Dave, give us a wink. Gives us a smile. Let us know you aren’t completely intolerant and bitter; that your words and persona are vastly misconstrued. Let your fans who see your work as valuable and great have something to defend you with!
Although I have begun to disagree with his views, I will not stop reading Sim. I plan to finish reading Cerebus, and make up my mind as to the quality of Sim’s personal character. It should not interest Sim what some guy on the Internet thinks of him. But Cerebus is too unique and special a book to disregard because of the rantings of its creator. Especially not after reading nearly 4,000 pages of it.
Links to Reviews and Discussions:
Cerebus Vol. 13 Going Home (A review by Glen Carter)
Glamourpuss # 2 (A review by Matthew J. Brady)