Crankshaft criticized for implying that older women aren’t assaulted

E&P reports that a feminist blogger took issue with Wednesday’s Crankshaft because of a infered joke regarding rape. In the strip by Tom Batuik and Chuck Ayers depicts the Lois character standing over the contents that spilled out of her purse including a can of pepper spray and Crankshaft comments, “You’re sixty-eight, Lois. You can probably stop carrying the pepper spray.”

Jessica Valenti, the executive editor of writes:

Not only does it attempt to make a joke out of rape, it also plays on the gross myth that only young, ‘attractive’ women get sexually assaulted. Which, of course, is a version of ‘rape is a compliment.’

In the comment section a reader defended the strip saying, “I don’t mean to detract from the rape inference because clearly that’s what mentioning the age is doing, but on another level — 68 year olds also get mugged and beaten. Why would anyone advocate that after a certain age you should stop worrying about defending yourself?”

32 thoughts on “Crankshaft criticized for implying that older women aren’t assaulted

  1. Damn. I used to visit that website regulary (yeh, I used to be quite liberal). From what I’ve seen, they will complain about anything that’s remotely making fun of women.

    Not the best place for an honest criticism of comics and the entertainment medium in general. Once I realized that, I finally visiting the site.

  2. I don’t know anything about that site, but are you people seriously defending Crankshaft on this one? I don’t think pointing out the antiquated (and dangerous) sexual politics of this strip (and NOT calling for boycotts, demonstrations or anything close to censorship) is overreacting in any way. They’re 100% right – and rape aside, I’d think that 68 is the PERFECT age to be carrying pepper spray! Older women are at a huge risk of being targets of theft and assault.

    This to me is emblematic of the doom of newspapers. Crankshaft’s creators and editors, the paper’s editors and presumably all their readers felt this was a cutesy joke about an old crank insulting an old lady’s aging looks. The fact that a Comics Curmudgeon regular noticed it and sent it to a Feminist blog is telling of the type of people who *aren’t* reading newspapers enough to be offended by this moronic crap, but when they are, they take it to the web.

    If creators and editors keep aiming for this ancient demographic, while alienating younger readers with offensive outdated social mores, newspapers will surely die an ugly death.

  3. You are exactly right, Dave. Crankshaft deserves the grief. Unbelievable that this stupid, old, sexist tripe gets published. We who work for newspapers are truly the living dead if this is the best we can do for our readers.

  4. “are you people seriously defending Crankshaft on this one?”

    No. I am not defending Crankshaft, a fictional character in a comic strip. But some people, including Crankshaft, would make remarks like that.

  5. I agree with Dave. And for those who argue that Crankshaft represents the Archie Bunker faction in society, well I agree. Is that any reason to let this slide? The creators of the strip in going for the gag achieved just that, because it evoked a gag reflex in me. Is this the same strip that seriously addressed the social issues surrounding alzheimer’s disease? In this case, Crankshaft’s insensitity could have been addressed by a third party whose indignity at his outrageous comment could have served as a springboard into a discussion about the serious issues surrounding such attitudes toward a crime which is nothing but violent and reprehensible.

  6. I am a fan of both Crankshaft & Funky, but I’m also an old woman, and this strip DID get me a bit miffed. (No censorship problems there, I hope!:-))Old folks (of both sexes) are targets for muggers; older women are more likely to carry a traditional purse that can be grabbed. Maybe Lois (who is supposed to be Ed Crankshaft’s ‘girlfriend’) should ha’ maced him. THAT would have been funny.
    But let’s hope the cartoonists don’t decide to get her mugged or worse to make this point. Lisa dying of cancer was brouhaha enough.

    And yes, Crankshaft generally IS an example of the south end of a northbound horse. But just when I think I can skip it (as if I ever skipped anything in the funny papers!There’s an empty threat!) he hits the nail right on the head and I forgive him. Evidently this is Lois’s probalem too. Go figure.

  7. Matt Bors said:

    “No. I am not defending Crankshaft, a fictional character in a comic strip. But some people, including Crankshaft, would make remarks like that.”

    To clarify, when I said “are you people seriously defending Crankshaft on this one?â?, I meant the strip and its creators, not the character. As Mark said, if you depict someone making an outrageous comment, and someone else calling him on it (or at least acting horrifed) then the editorial intent is clear that you’re depicting this character as repugnant.

    But if you use an offensive comment as a punchline in a two panel comic strip, where the only reaction depicted is a slightly exasperated look, then the editorial intent becomes clear that this is meant to be funny, or at least that this character’s perspective is meant to be funny. There is no indication in the strip that the creators are letting Crankshaft (the character) swing on his own petard here. They think he’s hilarious.

    It’s the equivalent of “If you know only young, attractive women are valid targets of rape, then you’re a Plugger!” Ha Ha Ha…

  8. There is a big difference between editorial intent and a character’s voice. I don’t think any reasonable person can claim the creators of this strip had the motive to proliferate the idea that rape is a compliment. If I’m not mistaken (I don’t read this strip), this remark is well in keeping with Crankshaft’s character.

    That said, I agree that it’s an stupid remark and that it’s reasonable for people to point that out. So long as the reaction doesn’t go overboard and call for the strip to be dropped, the creators’ heads to be delivered on a plate, etc., etc., then I don’t have a problem with it.

    I do have a problem with people trying to control the content of publications that they don’t even read. To imply, as Dave has, that newspaper cartoonists must create comics according to the mores of the Internet is as ridiculous and arrogant and naive and outrageous as if newspaper readers demanded that Web cartoonists must stay in keeping with their own sensibilities.

    It’s a moot point, at best. Making comics PC-perfect would not save newspapers. What comics need in order to thrive is MORE character voices that spawn more good discussion as Crankshaft has, not PC Nazis regulating what cartoonists say.

  9. Hold on a second, “Dawn Douglass.” You have a problem with people calling for the strip to be dropped or trying to “control the content of publications they don’t even read”, and decry “PC-Nazis regulating what cartoonists say”, but you don’t seem to have a problem with putting words in people’s mouths or accusing them of things they haven’t done? Glad you brought some rationality to the discussion.

    I never said I didn’t read newspapers, and I never tried to “control the content” of or “regulate” anything. If you were to read what I wrote (and maybe even go so far as to look up some of the tougher words so that you could then understand what I wrote) you’d see that instead of trying to control a newspaper’s content, I was calling for them to broaden their audience base instead of reinforcing their current one and alienating the very audience that might save them from oblivion.

    If you’re so concerned about people “controlling” their “content”, then maybe you should be focusing your indignation on the shortsighted and timid features editors who keep dusty relics in their pages to mollify their decrepit fan base at the expense of more innovative fare that might enliven the medium. What the comics certainly DON’T need is more outdated nonsense like “Crankshaft.” This debate has done nothing but show how out of touch newspapers are with anything but their own imminent death. Which, I suppose I should say outright so you don’t get confused, is something I don’t want to see.

    And by the way, if the creators of the strip didn’t have “the motive to proliferate the idea that rape is a compliment”, by making a lighthearted joke out of it they certainly weren’t doing anything to disabuse anyone of that notion. Personally I think it was a typically lame attempt on their parts to make a mean-spirited joke that happened to land with a particularly tone-deaf thud on the wrong side of good sense and good taste. I’m sure if they had happened to have a later tee time that day they might have put a few more minutes thought into it and realized what they were actually saying. Sadly, no such luck.

  10. Calm down, Dave.

    First of all, I never accused you of calling for the strip to be dropped, I never said that you personally don’t read newspapers, I agreed with you that it was a stupid remark and supported you pointing that out.

    I also never put any words in your mouth. Regarding the PC-Nazi regulation, you’re the one who wrote this:
    “The fact that a Comics Curmudgeon regular noticed it and sent it to a Feminist blog is telling of the type of people who *arenâ??t* reading newspapers enough to be offended by this moronic crap, but when they are, they take it to the web.” In other words, people on the web who aren’t reading newspapers are eager to pounce on cartoonists who are writing the voices of characters targeted to a newspaper audience. Sorry, but those are PC-Nazi’s in my book. How is that different from the Far Right throwing a fit about Harry Potter books supposedly promoting witchcraft? I don’t like that, either.

    Odd that you would put my name in quotes, as if I’m a fake person, when I have given my full name and a link to my blog.

    Garey, I like you’re idea. That would have been good.

  11. Since I obviously wasn’t clear enough in my first post, I’ll try again, because I do think this is important.

    All cartoons shouldn’t be mistaken as editorial cartoons. It’s not fair to cartoonists or to readers either.

    This Crankshift flap is mostly due to confusion and resentment over authorial intent. I think cartoon strip writers have as much right to create characters with disturbing voices as any entertainment writer does, without people getting personally abusive about it. Dave himself clarified that to him, this is about the strip and the creator, not just about the character who said something stupid. That seems to be the case for a lot of people, and I don’t think that’s fair.

    I don’t like slasher movies, but I recognize two things: 1) they aren’t written for me, and 2) the writers aren’t themselves would-be serial killers and aren’t intentionally promoting murder.

    “Intentionally” is the loaded word. Yes, people are influenced by media, whether it was intentional or not. And if you don’t like something you read or view, then by all means, say so. I’m all for that right. But I get really tired of people going overboard about it. It seems that everybody these days is too quick to be offended and to demand that their own view of the world be the only view available.

    To take the position that these newspapers cartoonists don’t deserve to be defended for writing a character who said something the Web doesn’t like, is going too far, IMO. That’s the kind of thought that leads to people burning books, calling for boycotts of movies and demanding that comic strips be dropped and cartoonists be fired.

  12. I guess people have already forgotten Archie Bunker……

    for crying out loud. Crankshaft is a cartoon character. I highly doubt his comment is going to wreck havoc on society.

  13. It’s a stupid punchline which reveals the ACTUAL attitude of the creators, it’s not a clever writer inhabiting a character. The strip has never been that clever.

    I don’t advocate the strip be closed down, I wouldn’t flatter it with the idea that it has that kind of influence.

    It’s revealing that editors let this one ride, whilst censoring the funnies pages so that they only appeal to the slop-fed, suspendered and bible-belted aging demographic.

  14. I think Tom Batuik is a smart cartoonist. Why?…you might ask?

    Because it gets people talking about his strip, and then other people want to read the strip that everyone’s talking about. That generates a bigger readership. Very clever.

    First he gets people talking about Lisa’s cancer (Funkywinkerbean) and now that she’s passed on, people are talking about the crude comments in Crankshaft. I’m not saying Batuik is right or wrong, but it works.

    Maybe if other cartoonists did the samething in their strips, ya’ know, get a little more edgey, it would generate a larger readership for all. Isn’t that what we ALL want?

  15. What is this strip about? An abnoxious cranky old man. He is EXPECTED to behave like this. If he didn’t, he would’t be Crankshaft anymore. All the criticism is absolutely RIDICULOUS. He’s a fictionary character, not a real person. If you don’t like him, don’t read the strip.

  16. Malc said “Itâ??s a stupid punchline which reveals the ACTUAL attitude of the creators….”

    Really? How do you know that? Was Archie Bunker’s racism the actual attitude of Norman Lear and his writers? Is the politically incorrect comments on South Park the actual attitudes of Trey Parker and Matt Stone?

    Jeff V is right. It’s a clever move to create readership and interest.

  17. First of all, comparing Crankshaft to Archie Bunker, or claiming that this was an effort to generate interest in the strip is giving the creators WAY too much credit as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read Crankshaft on and off for years and I’ve never seen anything to suggest that this character is there to make people think or challenge people’s prejudices. Remember, Archie Bunker had a fleet of people around him calling him on his retrograde prejudices. All Crankshaft has (in this strip, at least) is Lois, who is seemingly only insulted that ‘Shaft thinks she’s too ugly to be sexually assaulted. That’s not really confronting his ignorance in any capacity, which is the same as condoning it.

    Second of all, Dawn Douglass (I don’t know why I put it in quotes, sorry) you’ve missed my point twice now. My point was never that “people on the web who arenâ??t reading newspapers are eager to pounce on cartoonists who are writing the voices of characters targeted to a newspaper audience.” That’s obviously YOUR point which is what I meant about putting words in my mouth. MY point is that younger people don’t read newspaper comics specifically because of ignorant, lazy garbage like “Crankshaft” littering its pages. I thought it was telling of the industry that everyone involved in getting that strip from bristol board to newsprint thought it was okay, while the audience that might save newspapers from oblivion didn’t, and expressed themselves through the medium that is swiftly making newsprint obsolete.

    Newspapers can continue to preach to the converted and become extinct along with the antiquated social perspectives of their readers, or they can try to woo younger readers by filling their slots with more innovative fare. And who knows, maybe they’ll end up broadening the horizons of some older readers who still cling to their Depression-era notions of sexual politics.

    It’s not about censoring anyone or burning books or banning movies as you are so quick to assume. It’s about not perpetuating stereotypes of any kind. I doubt any of you would be so quick to defend old ‘Shaft if he was bitching about Chinese drivers or lazy Mexicans or diseased homosexuals or unintelligent blacks, with no one challenging his assumptions in the context of the strip.

    And no one has accused this strip of potentially influencing anyone into violence. It’s just the opposite. It’s reinforcing ignorance. Should it be “banned” or “censored” or “burned”? No. Should it be criticized? Hell, yes. Do I think it should give up its space to make room for a better, younger, more invigorating comic strip? Yes, but not for political reasons, for creative and business reasons. With this attitude newspapers are just whistling past the graveyard. Defend it all you want, but it’s just another nail in the coffin.

  18. “MY point is that younger people donâ??t read newspaper comics specifically because of ignorant, lazy garbage like â??Crankshaftâ? littering its pages.”

    That simply isn’t true, which is why I dismissed this point (which I did get) when I said that making comics PC-perfect wouldn’t save newspapers. It’s a lot more systemic than that.

    Young people largely don’t read newspaper comics, because they largely don’t read newspapers!

    For those who do read newspapers, there is plenty on the pages for them.

    You seem to want ALL comics for them/you. My response to that kind of thinking stands.

    Older generations are the only reason newspapers still exist and thereby the only reason that newspaper comics like Dilbert, Pearls Before Swine and Get Fuzzy exist. People who want to take their beloved comics away, strips that they have been reading for decades in some cases, are being intolerant, hateful, selfish, short-sighted and selfish.

  19. I appreciate you finally acknowledging my point, but don’t be disingenuous. As impolite (and cowardly) as dismissing my point was (twice) instead of offering a counterpoint, you went even further and distorted it to fit your own needs, which displays an even more reactionary sophistry. My guess is you’re used to getting away with that kind of nonsense.

    As to your eventual explanation that you dismissed it because it “simply isn’t true”, I’d love to hear any further evidence of that. I realize this is anecdotal, but younger people I talk to dismiss newspaper comics because they open the page and are turned off that Blondie, Momma, Family Circus and the like are still around. Now, I don’t think they should be gone because they’re offensive in any way, but because they’re taking up space that more innovative fare could use to bring in younger readers. It’s a business decision, not a political one.

    I think we both acknowledge that newspaper readership is aging, and while catering to that audience is certainly keeping it afloat for the time being, keeping younger readers away isn’t exactly forward thinking. Your point about Dilbert, PBS and GF is a good one, but those should be the rule, not the exception. And I think that younger readers might actually read newspapers if there were more in there for them to read. But that may just be crazy talk.

    “People who want to take their beloved comics away, strips that they have been reading for decades in some cases, are being intolerant, hateful, selfish, short-sighted and selfish.”

    I’ll give you “selfish”, but really, you need to tone down the rhetoric, sister. For someone who decries “PC Nazism” you’re pretty quick to throw around terms like “hateful” and “intolerant” when you’re just talking about individual tastes. Is it hateful and intolerant that strips like Candorville, Big Top, Little Dee, Ink Pen and Diesel Sweeties struggle to find an audience while Hagar the Horrible runs on fumes for another decade? Of course not. Is it stifling the creativity of a new generation of cartoonists? Definitely. Is it a fatal business decision? We’ll see…

  20. Jeff,
    The point has already been made here, I don’t want to HAVE to repeat it, but…

    If the strip creators were SO clever, and didn’t want to be confused with their cranky old coot character, they would simply have another character putting in a punchline, i.e. criticizing him and letting the audience know that the character didn’t speak for them.

    They didn’t do that, because they didn’t think of it.
    They thought the punchline was funny and deserved to stand alone. They genuinely (if subconsciously) believe that old ladies don’t need Mace-type protection. The inference in the punchline was clearly that old ladies need not fear sexual assault, because if the creators had considered the possibility of Mace being a protection against bag snatchers, their punchline could not have been used.

    It’s actually very simple and the evidence is all there.

    Wilde’s quote that “there’s only one thing worse than being talked about and that’s NOT being talked about” is quite apt, yet there is such a thing as negative publicity.

    And this is it.

  21. What I’m really surprised about is how such a poor strip got by Tom Batuik and Chuck Ayers. They’re better than this, and have been for a long while.

    Are they’re editors at the syndicate giving them free reign based on their history, and Tom Batuik’s current media exposure? Are the editors afraid to edit shoody strips like the one in question?

    We’ve seen several controversial cartoons written about here this year, and most were examples of poor execution of their medium by young, inexperienced, college cartoonists. To have one done by well respected vets of the comics page is a bit embarrassing…IJO…

  22. Are theyâ??re editors

    Oops…this is why you don’t post first thing in the morning! I meant “their”…damn. Tired from watching all these late night Red Sox victories! WHOOOOOOOOOOO!

  23. Dave: “MY point is that younger people donâ??t read newspaper comics specifically because of ignorant, lazy garbage like â??Crankshaftâ? littering its pages.”
    Is that also the reason those same young people don’t read books and magazines? I hardly think comic strips “littering” newspapers is why kids aren’t reading much anymore; the internet and video games deserve a lot more of the “credit’ for that, don’t you think?

  24. I didn’t say that’s why they don’t read newspapers, I said that’s why they don’t read “newspaper comics.” I’m sure they don’t read the rest of the newspaper for completely different reasons.

    And, while I admit I’ve been laying it on pretty thick, my real point is that if editors want younger people to read newspapers they need to provide content for them. It may not work, but isn’t it worth a chance? As it is, they’re just catering to an ever-dwindling audience and guaranteeing their obsolescence.

  25. There’s an error in the article. That last paragraph is clearly not someone “defending” the strip, but pointing out another problem with it.

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