Everywoman vs. the World

This is a small excerpt taken from Everywoman (Vol. 1, No. 2) that informs the structure of the entire exhibition. A cartoon taken from another newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, is curiously placed above a four-line untitled and unattributed poem with themes that parallel the cartoon. This placement is likely intentional as both these works are a commentary on the appearance of women. The cartoon mocks the appearance of an “ugly” feminist woman by arguing that sexual objectification would not apply to her. It is likely that this cartoon is responding to the Second Wave Feminist Movement. It represents the anti-feminist stereotype that some women are feminists because they are unattractive or masculine. The woman in the cartoon is old, overweight, and disheveled. The humor comes from the fact that this is “wrong” and unexpected for a woman because it subverts societal expectations for feminine bodies. In this context, the woman asserting individuality is seen as unreasonable.

The poem, by contrast, illustrates how men are unable to “look (women) in the eye” and see them as individuals (Everywoman, 7). The poem is a critique of the cartoon. It critiques the irony in the cartoon’s message. The cartoon’s argument that appearances can deny the need for feminist action proves the very necessity of it. The woman is being objectified because the cartoon relies solely on appearance to define her.

The newspaper is filled with juxtapositions like this. Everywoman takes images from other, well known, newspapers and magazines and uses them as proof that society is patriarchal. Then they go on to challenge the arguments of the images, mainly focusing on how humor about women are often insensitive and unfunny to women reading them.    


Everywoman, vol. 1, no. 2, 1970.

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Playboy’s Parallels with “Letter from a Battered Wife”

Above is a cartoon from Playboy (vol. 5, no. 10) and an article from The American Women’s Movement titled “Letter from a Battered Wife” that was initially published in Del Martin’s Battered Wives. Both are contrasting portraits of domestic violence. The cartoon is very blunt and unapologetic in its use of an act of violence as a point of humor. The comedic technique being used here is a reframing device. The final line “And that’s why I slugged you” puts both the man and woman’s behavior in the previous panels in a new context. The man’s desire to come home to see his wife is recontextualized as either a desire to relieve stress by beating up another person or to express jealousy of the fact that his wife is not working outside the home and is exempt from the kind of stress he experiences. The woman, meanwhile, conceals her face throughout the comic, and the new context allows the viewer to immediately understand that she most likely is hiding a black eye. If we juxtapose this cartoon with the 1976  “Letter from a Battered Wife,” we can reframe this moment again. Del Martin reminds us of the painful reality of spousal abuse: “Few people have ever seen my black and blue face and swollen lips, because I have always stayed indoors afterwards, feeling ashamed” (Martin, 2). The woman in the cartoon is alone with her husband yet she still hides under the covers. This can be an indicator that she is afraid of her husband but it may also be an indicator that she is ashamed just like the woman in “Letter from a Battered Wife.”

The concealment of the face also reminds the viewer of the isolation victims of domestic violence experience. The letter’s author states that she “cannot depend upon any outside help” because outsiders will “excuse (her) husband for distorting (her) face” but will not “forgive (her) for looking bruised and broken” (Martin, 4). The author goes on to detail this isolation and how it stems from traditional views that no one should interfere with an intimate relationship even if it is abusive. The woman’s lack of movement also reflects the letter’s description of how wife-beating “destroys the beaten woman’s self-respect and paralyzes her will” (Martin, 8). The woman in the cartoon is trapped just like how many victims are trapped.

The dialogue from the man also parallels a commentary made by the author explaining how society’s view of domestic violence often rationalizes the situation as “a nagging wife who has driven her husband past all endurance. Having reached the limit of his patience he “pummels” her into blessed silence.” (Martin, 6). The husband is stressed and tired in the comic so it is supposed to make sense that he would take it out on his wife.   

The cartoon was published in Playboy in 1958 while the “Letter from a Battered Wife” was published in 1976, in the middle of Second-wave feminism. The letter ends with an optimistic view of how communities are starting to see domestic violence as a grave social problem thanks to organizations like the National Organization for Women (NOW). However, she continues to push the necessity of treating domestic violence as a public issue.

One of the most significant movements within the Second-wave was the Battered Women’s Movement which worked to frame wife-beating as an epidemic that stemmed from a large scale subordination of women (Schneider, 23). These two images display the initial societal views of domestic violence in the 1950s and the attempt change those views in the 1970s. Prior to the movement, domestic violence was not seen as a very big deal and wife abuse was viewed by law enforcers as “domestic disturbances” that were a private matter. Newspapers refrained from even reporting incidents of domestic abuse until 1974 (Pleck, 182). The cartoon’s heavy-handed depiction of violence, even if it is possibly a critique of the husband, reflects the attitude that law and media had towards domestic violence at the time. “Letter from a Battered Wife” is a direct response to these feelings, emphasizing the personal horror victims experience and giving weight to instances of abuse.



Playboy, vol. 5, no. 10, HMH Publishing Co., 1958.

Del Martin, “Letter from a Battered Wife.” The American Women’s Movement, 1945-            2000, edited by Nancy

Schneider, Elizabeth M. Battered Women & Feminist Lawmaking. Yale University Press,        2000.

Pleck, Elizabeth H. Domestic Tyranny: The Making of Social Policy Against Family                Violence from Colonial Times to the Present. Oxford University Press, 1987.


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Daddy issues in Both Playboy and Plath

The cartoon above was published in Playboy (vol. 25, no. 2) in 1978, thirteen years after Sylvia Plath published her poem “Daddy.” The connection between these works comes from how they both bring to mind the Electra complex, the female version of the Oedipus complex. Both the woman in the cartoon and the speaker in the poem seek their father in their partners. The cartoon paints this as something quirky and amusing while the poem is deeply disturbing in its description of a father.  

“Daddy” is often viewed as Sylvia Plath’s most famous and controversial poem, according to Linda Anderson  (Anderson,182). While not explicitly feminist, “Daddy” is certainly critical of patriarchal dominance in society. In the last two stanzas, Plath compares both her husband and her father to inhuman vampires that she has killed. The poem was written on October 12, 1962, the twentieth anniversary of her father’s leg amputation and the day she learned Ted Hughes, her husband, had agreed to a divorce (Platizky, 106). This was also around the time of Adolf Eichmann’s trial and execution, who may be the source of the poem’s Nazi imagery. The poem mixes the personal with the impersonal to paint the father as an evil but beloved figure.

The poem is about a woman desperately trying to overcome the male dominance of society. The tragedy comes from the fact that even in death, a father has power over his daughter. When juxtaposed, the cartoon can be viewed as a simplification of Plath’s ideas. Both women are controlled and exploited through their desire for a father. This allows the cartoon to be seen as something deeply tragic with the man reducing something deeply personal into a shallow means for sexual favors.     


Anderson, Linda. “Gender, Feminism, Poetry: Stevie Smith, Sylvia Plath, Jo                          Shapcott.” The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century English Poetry,                  edited by Neil Corcoran, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007: 173–186.

Platizky, Roger. “Plath’s Daddy.” The Explicator., vol. 55, no. 2, 1997, pp. 105–107.

Playboy, vol. 25, no. 2, Playboy, 1978.

Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy .” Poetry Foundation, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1992,                   www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48999/daddy-56d22aafa45b2. Accessed 11             Dec. 2018.

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Two Perspectives on Women in the Workplace

Both these cartoons display gender discrimination in the workplace and how being female can change the attitudes of employers and superiors. The cartoon from a 1958 Playboy (vol. 5, no. 10) illustrates a man sexually harassing an unamused woman with one of his fantasies. It is possible that this cartoon is critical of the man. However, both the time period and the nature of Playboy as a magazine push the idea that this cartoon is supposed to be amusing or arousing for the viewer. Unwanted sexual advances at work were only made legally actionable in 1964 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and this was due to lawyers and advocates convincing the American judiciary that harassment was gender discrimination in the first place (MacKinnon and Siegal, 8).

On the other hand, the cartoon from The New Woman’s Survival Sourcebook is certainly critical of the man in how he treats the woman. Rather than being humorous, the cartoon intends to express the difficulty in finding work as a woman and how employers will use convoluted reasoning to avoid hiring women. As described by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique, “fewer and fewer women were entering professional work” in the 1950s to the 1970s because there was a large societal push to keep women in the home (Friedan, 46). Aided by Friedan, the Second-Wave Feminist movement in the 70s would work to challenge this push and combat sex discrimination in the workplace (Maclean, 24). Cartoons like the one from The New Woman’s Survival Sourcebook were drawn during this movement to call our attention to the inability of many men to take working women seriously. This criticism reframes the cartoon from Playboy. From a feminist viewpoint, it is the man who is now seen as unprofessional and incompetent.


MacKinnon, Catharine A., and Reva B. Siegel. Directions in Sexual Harassment Law.          Yale University Press, 2004.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. Norton, 1963.

Nancy MacLean, The American Women’s Movement, 1945-2000, Bedford/St. Martin’s,        2009

Playboy, vol. 5, no. 10, HMH Publishing Co., 1958.

Grimstad, Kirsten., and Susan. Rennie. The New Woman’s Survival Sourcebook                  Edited by Kirsten Grimstad, and Susan Rennie. 1st ed., Knopf, 1975.


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Rape Joke: A Present Day Perspective

Patricia Lockwood on the rape joke

When Patricia Lockwood wrote a poem titled 'Rape Joke,' she had no idea it would start a global conversation. Warning: Distressing Themes.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Friday, April 28, 2017


With the advent of the Me Too movement, rape culture has been further pushed into public consciousness. Rape and the idea of rape have always been closely associated with women. Susan Griffin calls the act a “form of mass terrorism” that is used to “keep women passive and modest” (Griffin, 100).

The comic above is from Playboy (vol. 25, no. 3) published in 1978. It depicts Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz speaking to a police officer after being sexually assaulted by other characters from the book. The humor is supposed to come from the fact that a story from many people’s childhoods is being retold as an incident of rape. This may even be commenting on the original story in how it is dangerous for a young woman to travel with male strangers. The policeman in this comic is seemingly baffled and stunned by this event and he serves as a type of audience surrogate. Comedy may come from the sheer strangeness of this incident. However, this may also unintentionally reflect the history of the American legal system neglecting cases of sexual assault. An example of this would be the high percentage (15 percent) of rape complaints deemed “unfounded” in 1973. Police have the ability to identify a claim as “founded or “unfounded” and this is what determines the necessity for a subsequent investigation. This may be due to police skepticism of a claim but it can also result from complaints being outside jurisdiction and other bureaucratic formalities (Estrich, 16). 

Patricia Lockwood’s poem “Rape Joke” satirizes works like these by repeating over and over the phrase rape joke. The opening lines of the poem, “The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. / The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend” (Lockwood) are perhaps a commentary on how cases involving a prior relationship is taken less seriously in court. This is due to these cases being seen as more “private” and not “the business of public prosecution” (Estrich, 24).

This repetition within the poem questions rhetorically how sexual assault can be funny. Similar to the cartoon, there is a somewhat casual and humorous tone used in the poem in how it references pop culture: “Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock” (Lockwood). However, here it is used to make the reader uncomfortable in how the rapist is humanized with a quirk many people may share. By making the act personal the poem reframes all rape jokes, including the cartoon. It forces the reader to empathize with the victim and then asks if the rape was funny. As a result, when looking back at the cartoon, the viewer is pushed to consider the personal trauma the cartoon’s Dorothy may have experienced and this erases all of the humor within the work.


Susan Griffin, The American Women’s Movement 1945-2000, edited by Nancy                     MacLean, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009

Playboy, vol. 25, no. 3, 1978.

Lockwood, Patricia. “‘Rape Joke.’” The Awl, 25 July 2013,                                                     www.theawl.com/2013/07/patricia-lockwood-rape-joke/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2018.

Estrich, Susan. Real Rape. Harvard University Press, 1987.

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