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One of the cool things about being a webcomics enthusiast for so many years is witnessing my fellow artists grow and change. I've watched Penny Arcade go from this to this. I've watched Questionable Content go from this to this. Perhaps most amazingly, I've watched DMFA go from this to this. (Side note: in that time, I've also watched that artist's surname change to match mine. I'm not saying being married to me will dramatically improve your artistic ability, I'm just pointing out the correlation and allowing you to draw your own conclusions.)

One of the comics I've seen change the most has been Sinfest.

Now, I'm not just talking about the visual art (although going from this to this is unquestionably impressive). Sinfest has shown marked improvement in terms of visual esthetics - putting out a daily comic for fourteen years will do that - but more significant is the transformation of the subject matter. In its early days, Sinfest was puerile, immature humour based around racism and sexism, under the flimsy I-hate-everyone-equally excuse that an artist can't be considered a bigot as long as the shit he's spewing is evenly distributed. These days, Sinfest is a progressive manifesto, a platform that artist Tatsuya Ishida uses to make bold and poignant statements about feminism.

...or, at any rate, I'm sure Ishida would categorize himself and his work as feminist. I'd challenge anyone to read strips like this or this and deny that they come from a deeply misandrist place.

Misandry, like misogyny, is inherently negative - that's why it begins with a "mis". Negativity feels bad, it drives people away, and it's counter-productive... but the problem is that it isn't necessarily wrong. If I trot out the old chestnut that one in three women experiences some form of sexual abuse over the course of her life - and point in the general direction of the obvious implied corollary about one in three men - you could accuse me of being misandrist and negative and counter-productive, but you certainly couldn't accuse me of lying to you. Similarly, I could point to any number of horrifying statistics about race or economics or the environment and while they may motivate you out of anger or fear or even hatred, they'd still be, at their core, fundamentally negative.

And, as I've said previously about the emotion of guilt vs the action of remorse, action trumps emotion. I don't particularly care if someone is misogynist or misandrist or racist if the actions they take and the effect they have on the world is a net positive.

I recognize that this is somewhat self-serving, coming from someone for whom the phrase "check your privelege" prompts a response of "check, check, check... yep, got'em all!", but I like to think that gender and racial and economic equality can be served just as well, if not better, by a focus on the good. Are pay rates for men and women different? Yes, but they're getting better. Are kids still bullied and beaten up for being gay? Yes, but it's getting better. Are people still being disproportionately arrested and charged based on skin colour? Yes, but it's getting better.

So I'm still going to keep reading Sinfest. I look forward to seeing Ishida's continued improvement in artistic techniques and storytelling prowess. But, more importantly, I'm looking forward to seeing changes in his mindset and his attitudes, hoping for a shift from negativity to positivity, from scolding the bad to celebrating the good.

Or, failing that, more Percy and Pooch strips. Those are cute.


(Wednesday night, INT: EB and JH's apartment, living room)

JH: Well, attached as I am to my prairie oysters, you have to admit, Lily does kind of have a point.
EB: No, Jamie, no. We don't have to admit that.
JH: Testosterone does correspond to aggression and violent crime. That's why you get dogs and cattle neutered.
EB: Melanin also corresponds to violent crime, you want to run that one to its logical conclusion?
JH: Melanin corresponds to arrests, and I'd argue that that's down to economic inequality, and yes, I'd love to run that to its logical conclusion.
JH: Look, neurochemistry affects behaviour. If you didn't believe that, you'd never drink caffeine.
EB: I think what you're trying to say is "I'm a good feminist because I agree that all men are bad", but what I'm actually hearing is "I'm not responsible for my actions because the devil in my ballsack made me do it".
JH: Well, if there is a devil, and we know where he lives, why shouldn't we be proactive about exorcising him?
EB: Why am I on this side of this argument?