Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sexism in Ware (Final Project)

Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth makes statements and arguments about a number of issues. It is clear, though, that the main issue Ware wanted to get out to his readers is concerning misogyny and sexism in our society. Ware gave great examples of men being misogynistic and rude towards women in the story, simply because they are women. He also gets his message across through his illustrations and how he drew certain men and certain women in different situations.
On the very first page of Jimmy Corrigan, Ware all but confirms that what the reader is about to read is going to be primarily concerned with gender and sexism. The first question on part 5 of the “General Instructions” asks: “You are a. male   b. female            If b, you may stop. Put down your booklet. All others continue” (Corrigan). The “exam” then asks questions about interacting with the opposite sex, your relationship with your father, what type of bag you prefer to keep your investment funds in, etc. This was Ware’s clever, yet blatant way of telling the reader that this book was going to address misogyny and gender inequality. Females were told to put down this exam because who cares how they feel about interacting with the opposite sex? How would a female be able to answer a question about what type of bag she prefers for protecting her investments when males are obviously the only ones who need to be worrying about money? This was Ware’s sarcastic way of pointing out how women are treated in our society. This simple “exam” makes a big statement about the gender roles women are expected to take on just because they are women. In real life, there are things that men are expected to do, but for some of the same things, women are told to just “Put down your booklet,” and wait for men to take care of something women are perfectly capable of handling themselves.
            Ware doesn’t waste any time in the beginning of Jimmy Corrigan, as within the first few pages, he illustrates an example of a way women are objectified every day. Jimmy meets a Superman actor at a classic car show. Superman is kind to Jimmy as soon as he sees Jimmy’s mother scolding him. Superman takes Jimmy and his mother out to lunch, and then has sex with her. The next morning, Superman sneaks out because he had got what he came for: sex. Superman never had any interest in taking Jimmy’s mother out for a second date or inviting her over to his “great little beach house in Burbank,” even though he led her to believe he would. He used her the same way that men all over use women on a daily basis. The way that Ware illustrated Superman in this part of the book was interesting. In the beginning of the sequence, Ware drew Superman’s face hidden behind a mask. After Superman asks Jimmy’s mother out, his face is not shown again. This is because Superman is no longer just Superman. He becomes Ware’s symbol for all of the men in society who use women for sex by duping them with their lies. The face of Jimmy’s mother is also hidden from the view of the reader as she becomes the symbol for all of the women in society that are used by men for sex. Ware illustrates her chest as she is buttoning up her shirt to show that Superman only used her for her sexuality. This type of thing happens all the time; a man will lie to a woman and tell her everything she wants to hear to get into her pants. Ware wants to bring attention to this because he does not think it is right.
            Jimmy has other encounters throughout the novel with men who really don’t think women are worth a damn. One of his co-workers has a long conversation with Jimmy about how he refuses to tell women that he likes them unless he has sex with them at least six times. This man’s face is also not illustrated by Ware. Ware did this because he didn’t want to give the man a face or a name, but rather use him as a symbol for men in the workplace who bring their unwanted opinions about women and try to push them on others. Jimmy didn’t want to have a conversation with this guy at all. This guy didn’t care. He represents men in society who speak about objectifying women even when no one wants to hear about it. We see something similar when Jimmy and his father are at the restaurant together and Jimmy’s father absolutely berates the female cashier for putting ketchup on his burger. Jimmy’s father was an example of misogyny in the novel where the perpetrator’s face was actually shown. Ware did this to show that the average everyday person, like Jimmy Corrigan, most likely has at least one person in their family that has controversial or sexist views, and is not afraid to talk about them.
            In the section of the book where we follow the story of Jimmy’s grandfather as a young boy in Chicago, we learn about his friendship with a red-haired girl. Jim’s grandfather and the girl played around a lot, but she was always teasing him. He was a lot smaller than her, so he just took it most of the time. However, one day when she was teasing him about being a bastard and not knowing who his mother is, he fought back and that led to a full-on fist fight between the two. After that, the two never really hung out again. I believe that this silly little fight led to Jimmy’s grandfather having a bad view of all women which he passed on to his son, Jimmy’s father. Because Jimmy was raised by a single mother, overbearing as she may be, he wasn’t exposed to a father figure who was disrespectful to women. If the primary goal of this novel wasn’t to make an argument about misogyny and sexism, Ware could have left the part about the red-haired girl out of the story entirely, but he didn’t. Ware put it in to show where the roots of Jimmy’s father’s sexist attitude came from. Ware wanted to show that people are not just born sexist. Having a sexist attitude could come from a really bad experience with someone of the opposite sex or it could be engrained in you by someone close to you, like your father.
            Jimmy’s father had an adopted daughter named Amy that Jimmy didn’t find out about until late in his life. Amy was the result of the relationship Jimmy’s great-grandfather had with one of his servants, so she and Jimmy were technically related. Amy and Jimmy met when their father was in a car accident. Ware put Amy in the story so she could save Jimmy. Jimmy was down and out, blaming himself for his father’s car accident, but she was there when no one else was.  Ware needed to have a strong female character in the story to represent all of the strong women who live in our society and do great things every day.

Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware made an argument about how prevalent misogyny is in our society. He represented perpetrators and victims with characters in the novel. A lot of their faces were never illustrated because Ware wanted the reader to see them as more of a symbol than just one person. Jimmy Corrigan was surrounded by misogynists on a pretty frequent basis whether it be a co-worker or family member or even his favorite superhero. Ware used Jimmy as a message that the chain can be broken. Just because his father was a bit of a sexist doesn’t mean that he had to be. Although Jimmy was an odd man growing up in a sexist society with an overbearing mother, he still turned out to be a good man. Ware wants his readers to look around and notice the sexism in society. He wants us to put a stop to it.

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