Oh, The Internet, We Can’t Take You Anywhere…
Okay, so Tuesday of last week, Kate Beaton put up a comment via her Twitter handle in 4 parts:
dear internet, you are well meaning, but I’d like to make a point.
when you tell a female creator you like her work so much you want to marry her and have her babies, you’re not doing anyone any favors
first of all, as cute as it sounds in your head, it’s a shitty, disrespectful ‘compliment.’ No one makes comics looking for sexual attention
secondly, by doing so you invite others to critique that person’s works based on their looks, which is uncomfortable, sexist and unfair.
There was a blizzard of responses (including a bunch of negative comments by males, apparently) that sparked a wider discussion about sexism in comics, and on Friday, Gabby Schulz put up a very funny comic about the whole thing.
It has 666 comments as of this writing (no joke!) and they make for some bracing/revealing/funny/depressing reading; sometimes devolving into YouTube-level depravity.
It’s important, before you open Pandora’s Box and go to the comic that you understand a few things that seem to confuse people:
1. Gabby is a guy (who sometimes goes by “Ken Dahl,” though that’s actually a pen name).
2. The comic is fiction. Also funny. It’s not meant to be picked apart like a court transcript.
3. Beaton is right.
It may be true that men and women have traditionally adopted different styles of communication and there are some men who might have reacted differently if roles had been reversed, but now that you know it’s offensive to say such things, it’s kind of ridiculous to argue the point.
It offends. Now you know. Act accordingly.
It’s not rocket science.
[Edit to Add: As some of our comments have pointed out, the ‘babies’ line was just an example, and a mild one at that. There have been far worse, and it’s a pattern reported by several other female cartoonists.]
Ha! Comments are now closed, it’s gonna stay 666 forever! That’s really as high a comment count should ever be. For anything. It’s just so poetic.
The depressingly accurate thing about this comic is that any time it’s posted somewhere, the exact situation it describes always plays out in the comments.
I love this comic, but I don’t always love the response it’s gotten.
Erm…Scott. I’m a big enthusiast of your work and, being this our first time interacting, I want to thank you for all you have provided the world with.
BUT, Keaton is NOT right.
“I want to have your babies” is not a sexual commentary. Especially if you’re a male using it towards a female creator. Why? For a simple reason:
Men can’t have babies.
“I want to have your babies” doesn’t mean “I want to have sex with you and impregnate you.”
I’ve seen it used countless on times, not only on females, but also on males and even non-human concepts.
“OMG George Clooney is so good at making movies, I want to marry him and have his babies”
It’s just a hyperbolic figure of speech used whenever you like something so much you’d like to, figuratively, devote your life to that other person like a 19th century woman would do.
That’s just it, though- her example was fairly innocuous, but she was trying to call attention to a wider problem- that of comments that make women uncomfortable.
And that’s the “correct” response, to apologize. Too many people are like “YOU’RE UNCOMFORTABLE BECAUSE OF MY COMMENT? HOW DARE YOU! LET ME TELL YOU WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BE OFFENDED BY ME.”
Shockingly, Beaton gets to decide if a comment makes her uncomfortable. You don’t actually get to tell her it can’t or shouldn’t. Regardless of intent (or scientific feasibility), that’s a very personal sort of “compliment” to make, and she is well within her rights to find it offensive, particularly given the broader context she was trying to illustrate.
The fact that people (well, lots of men, really) keep jumping on and picking apart that particular example just makes it all the more obvious how unwilling they are to face the broader problem that in our society, women are expected to be sexual objects first and foremost – and this gets expressed in all kinds of subtle and unconscious ways, up to and including commenting on a female creator’s appearance or making otherwise intimate comments INSTEAD of directly discussing her work. (Again – the specific example Beaton chose doesn’t matter as much as the broader point! Some people, even some women, may not find that particular comment to be problematic on its own, but the general atmosphere of constantly objectifying women and subtly devaluing their creative and professional work is a very real thing.)
Well I just thought it was funny as hell but what do I know, I’m just a woman… ; )
the only issue i take with this is def. that it sounds like it’s supposed to be somehow worse when a female gets these kinds of comments. it’s not any less of a dumb or offensive comment when men are on the receiving end of it, and yes, they are on the receiving end of them, too.
Oh I forgot something:
“I want to have your babies” doesn’t mean “I want to have sex with you and impregnate you.”
“I want to have your babies” actually DOES mean “I want YOU to impregnate me”
With all due respect to her, I find Kate Beaton’s response a little unmerited, if not completely over-the-top. There’s no reason to lash out so defensively over a phrase that culture recognizes as a benign gesture of admiration. Do we really need to go through the english language and try to rip apart EVERY phrase in existence with the slightest sexist connotations? Really. It only comes off as gender-based insecurity, which is just as childish as the idea of a superior sex.
I just feel lumped in when I read that comic. I’m not one of those guys, but I feel like, if you want to support feminism, don’t make it with a comic that makes all guys look like penis-obsessed babies who can’t think of anything but vaj. It’s gonna generate an emotional response from guys who might otherwise support your message. Also, aren’t there more pressing women’s issues than how guys comment on your webcomics? Look around! it’s the INTERNET! Ignorance and offencivness are everywhere. Grin and bear it.
That’s just the thing though, it isn’t painting all men with a broad brush, it’s only including the ones relevant to the topic. If you don’t feel it applies to you because it’s not something you do, then there’s no need to make it about you.
I agree with Matt, I too felt lumped in with “men” because the comic seemed to not specify “misogynist men”. It does not mean that because I’m a little bothered by it that I am also one of those types of men.
Kate Beaton has every right to say what she did and I also agree with her, but I still look forward to the day when “feminist” and “misogynist” aren’t used to describe ANYONE.
“Grin and bear it?” Seriously? If you’re a creator, and making webcomics is what you do, then of course peoples’ reactions are going to be important to you – and of course you’re going to be bothered if you feel as though people are objectifying you rather than valuing your work. Also–and I can’t believe I even have to say this–the fact that there’s ignorance and offensiveness everywhere is not actually an excuse for any of it.
What disturbs me more than anything about this series of discussions is the way that people seem to be perfectly comfortable telling Kate Beaton how she should feel.
Gabby’s comic is actually intended to refer to specific groups of men and women (the ones who engage in those kinds of discussions and behaviors) – nowhere does it say “these represent all men.” However, I’m finding the end of your comment uncomfortably similar to the behaviors represented there, so maybe it bothers you for a very good reason.
On a totally circumstantial note: It’s Beaton’s website she gets to say how she wants to be talked to in HER comments section. Regardless of what is supposedly “culturally expectable” these days if she doesn’t want that to be the the way people discuss HER work on her site then it shouldn’t be. Feminism, misogyny and culture aside.
As Mccloud said it’s ridiculous to argue what someone should or should not be ok with. If being confronted by talk of misogyny and feminism makes you uncomfortable then just make it simple: Be sensitive, talk to be people how they want to be talked to and when they tell you you crossed a line of theirs apologize. There’s no need for any debate or nuance just apologize and move on.
“Like a 19th Century woman would do…” er, wow…really?
I’m predicting a 666 cut-off to replies here as well. *sigh
Sunlight is the best disinfectant they say…
Guess we’ll see how this one goes.
you might be correct. I might just be a hyperbolic and silly thing to say. BUT I also think that when some one says that to you it is perfectly reasonable to interpret that statement to mean “I want to have sex with you so that I can impregnate you with my seed and then take the resulting babies to live at my house with me.”
Language can be imprecise especially when written. I think if some one says that that statement makes them feel uncomfortable the correct response is “Oh, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention.” If I had to choose between the right to use awkward and silly hyperbole and my female friends rights to feel comfortable talking to me, I will go with my friends every time.
I agree with you in some respects. I think it important to be aware of the way my communications are impacting those around me. I also think it may not be so cut and dry as to say that any communication that is deemed offensive by a party should then be no longer used by the other party.
At what point does this become censorship?
It’s only censorship if someone actually has the power to enforce your silence. Disagreement, criticism and requests for change do not fall under that category.
Actually, no it isn’t. That’s going out of your way to take offence at something you know full well has a perfectly innocent meaning.
I agree with @wwjimd – we can’t simply declare that anything that offends someone is thereafter out of bounds. Apart from anything else, that would validate the murderous response to the Danish Muhammad cartoons (not that I am in any way comparing Kate Beaton venting her frustrations on Twitter with what she sees as sexist comments to burning down embassies or plotting to kill people, just so we’re clear). We have to decide whether or not that offence is reasonable – which means discussion, which means people who disagree having their say. And fair play to Kate Beaton – she said on Twitter that she was glad the guy who blogged about it did so, even if she disagreed with him.
Of course we should strive to avoid sexism, and there’s never any excuse for harassment. I don’t believe the example Kate Beaton used, and later backed away from, counts as either. I can’t comment on other examples she hasn’t shared. And I think Gabby Schultz’s cartoon deals in sexist sterotypes which I find offensive – but nobody should try to claim that my offence is the final word and everybody else should just shut up now.
I agree that pushing boundaries is necessary to having intelligent dialogue. But when someone directly calls out a certain phrase, vocabulary or conversational method as making them uncomfortable then I see no way challenging them will serve any positive intellectual goal but ones own desire to justify his actions.
Pushing boundaries is a good way to live and communicate but when boundaries are outright trespassed upon then an apology is in order.
Why Tyler Crook, it seems the voice of reason has a name. Well said.
Everyone needs to stop focusing on the “babies” line. That was just an example she used, most of what she gets is a lot worse.
… I’d avoided commenting on the comic when I saw it linked, because in my experience, these sorts of things are destined for cringe inducing horror which benefits no one in the end. Which is seemingly exactly what occurred…
My experience, in case it becomes a question, is multiple years as a volunteer, multiple event organisations and some as a advocate/councilor/union leader involved in equality issues.
I have had to cut down most of my activity in that field as it was, bluntly, slowly killing me. And again, bluntly, in no small part because of actions which follow a similar pattern to the creation/post of this comic.
Basically, well intentioned actions which are so indiscriminate or badly put into practice that they cause polarization that sets back the conversation/movement, rather than move it forward.
While I read in the comments that the author’s intent was not to indicate entire genders, it’s incredibly difficult to perceive that without the context of the previous events… and that context is also hidden within the multitude of comments. I also have to say, sentences like: “But people can be weird, man. People — straight, male people, in particular — sure can have some strange misconceptions about how the world spins.” Do not exactly function as a good preamble if that was the intent, as they would indicate the opposite (meaning broad bigotry).
I can certainly understand the anger at what occurred, that this was perhaps a snap reaction. But, anger and lashing out, especially in such a broad way without considering the need for clear distinction, simply get it returned and often amplified. Effectively, it generates support for that which is being opposed by framing an entire group (in this case, the male gender) as an enemy…
Or to say it another way, lack of clarity in meaning/target while giving out harsh and potentially dehumanizing commentary shows a distinct lack of empathy and enactment of the very principles that were seemingly being condemned. Even if it was accidental.
The only way the cause of equality moves forward is by undermining the arguments of the extremists (on both/all sides) through communication, understanding and mutual support between fair thinking individuals (regardless of their associated group).
Hope that my own attempt at communicating and explaining these thoughts functions =)
Be well all.
The way I see it, people misinterpreted Beaton’s observation and overreacted accordingly, Gabby saw this, made a funny comic, which people took seriously and, again, overreacted.
Seems to me that whenever the internet underbelly makes a fuss, it’s mostly because someone takes a harmless comment the wrong way
Luna, you summed it up perfectly. And yet… people are still arguing…
Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t get it, since I thought Kate’s example of one thing not to say to a female creator was just that, an example. I don’t get the storm of “your example isn’t perfect, therefore you’re wrong/ too thin-skinned/ don’t understand how the internet/ feminism works” responses. I don’t get why so many people are fighting so hard to avoid just owning up to the fact that sometimes as humans we say stupid shit, and when someone calls us on it, we should say “I’m sorry, that was some stupid shit I just said” and then move on with our lives, maybe being slower to say stupid shit the next time.
I disagree. In a world where the web serves as an escape for teens to express both their sexism and racism, there is no point in trying to tell such people to stop. Why? Because it’s only going to grow worse. Probably into a meme where Beaton is the mascot. Best to just ignore fools like that fellow. It’s the best defense. If you acknowledge those guys, it’ll only spiral worse. Kinda like with Oprah and the “9000 pedofiles” video remixes on YouTube.
I agree with you in the broader sense. But I think that mostly applies to really immature, loud troll types i think calling out one or two slightly offensive commenters who might have simply been a bit careless with their choice of words id fine, even a good thing. I think it’s important to set standards when possible. sometimes it is impossible, but I think it’s easy enough to tell when it is. I guess in the end these commentors turned out to be the unreasonable type or at least got the attention of allot of the unreasonable type but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with one simple “Stop please.”
I love Kate Beaton, she’s one of my favorite web-comicers out there. And, being a lady myself, I totally see where she’s coming from. Sure, there are those here that say ‘that wasn’t sexist’ and such but the thing you might not be realizing is that was probably the last straw.
I have been harassed by men on the internet countless times. I hate it. I hate that they try to validate enjoying anything I do by telling me that they think I’m attractive, I hate how surprised they are when they learn I’m into video games, comics and anything else they like am also not horrible to look at, and I hate that the only real way to avoid it is to pretend you’re a boy.
Not all men are ignorant, or pigs, or care what the artist whose work they enjoy looks like. But there are enough that are all of these things that it’s obnoxious.
Unfortunately I agree with Mangaman. But it’s sad 🙁
I understand the defense of not feeding trolls, and that getting angry or passionate in response to a troll being the equivalent to a victory for them. But this is larger than trolls, this is more about people who don’t (or refuse to) understand that a problem even exists.
Kate has a right to be upset about dubiously well-intentioned compliments that come of sexist and a right to express her emotions on the topic. If she just stays quiet as you suggest, sure a bunch of dicks don’t get to make fun of it, but also the offending parties never get to know they’re being offensive. No one learns anything, and the status quo digs itself a little deeper in. How does that benefit anyone?
No one’s really upset with the trolls, the upsetting thing here are the prevailing attitudes which Gabby’s comic is mocking.
See, if ever I were to use said offending phrase (which I admit, I’ve thought, but never expressed), it’s because a comic (or piece of writing) is so brilliant, it leaps over the forebrain where considerations like personal looks, personal habits and ability to communicate live, and goes straight to the hindbrain, that says “Ayoogah” and his me reacting like the wolf in that old Warner Brothers cartoon. Brains are sexy.
That said, expressing admiration in such a manner as is being complained about is hardly going to work as a method of seduction, and is rude and impolite, but for the kinds of men who write that sort of thing, sometimes they’re offering the highest compliment they can think of: themselves.
As a discussion of institutionalized sexism, and how conditioned some men are to think of sex (with them particularly) as a reward, this whole discussion is fair game and perfectly reasonable. It’s when people start taking the posts personally (“I bet you think this tweet is about you”) that things start to fall apart.
And Scott? Just based on what you did on Zot! all those years ago…yeah. But in a manly kind of way. Grunt.
Kate Beaton has the right to have an opinion, but I think she missed the point. I mean, come on. Who hasn’t said that for somebody(‘s work) at least once? It’s a common expression for admiration. If you feel awkward about it (which can happen, and it’s not bad if you feel this way), you’re free to state it so that people know.
On the other hand, she’s probably sick of getting those comments to react that way, haha. I guess it can get a bit annoying and repetitive at times. The best thing to do is either appreciate them for their true intentions, or just ignore them. But the remark she made sounded a bit stuck-up to me (I repeat, cause of the internet: TO ME.)
Also, the comic made me laugh, but I can understand the guys’ comments here saying that they felt generalized in a bad way. This comic was just about the drama, it didn’t mean to go much further than that imo.
The comments make Kate uncomfortable.
So stop making them.
Don’t tell her what kind of comments are supposed to make uncomfortable or not.
Ah. Thank you.
This is exactly what I’ve trying to wrap my head around.
If something makes a particular person, in this case, Kate, uncomfortable, then stop making that comment to that particular person. Don’t make excuses for it. Don’t try to convince another that they should not feel uncomfortable. We, in our infinite (im)perfection, should be able to manifest the subtly & complexity of human BEING all ways possible, and all those ways should be respected.
A problem, however, comes in when we start taking our personal uncomfort and projecting it outward to become a universal uncomfort applicable to a set of other BEINGS that share a arbitrary set of similar characteristics. IOW, when one says all women, instead of just me, will take offense to a particular communication style, so that communication style should never be used. Or, even worse, that communication style is bad, in this case sexist, in essence.
For some reason, my spam-catcher temporarily flagged this. Sorry about that.
Why do I feel like I’m back in my Ethical Philosophy class?
Has this become another polarizing issue?
Those are the only two comments that I could give. I don’t think this is going to go away any time soon.
It’s pretty bizarre that this happened right before gawker’s christine o’donnell article.
It seems to me that many people are missing two important points:
a) Kate Beaton used the “want to have your babies” comment as an example of a broader problem. That example may or may not be the most effective one she could have used, but its perceived flaws don’t undermine the broader issue she was discussing. (As the discussion continued, any number of other female creators stepped up to mention that they’ve encountered similar discomfort, for pete’s sake.) This isn’t a rhetorical exercise, and the urge to turn it into a semantic battle is just a derailing tactic, whether you’re aware of it or not.
b) Some people (some creators, some women) may not find “I want to have your babies” an intrusive or offensive comment; they may be perfectly comfortable with it as hyperbole. HOWEVER. Given the inherently personal nature of the statement (hyperbolic or not), and particularly given the history of inappropriate comments and attention that nearly all women who are public figures of any kind have had to endure … any individual person/woman/creator has the right to say “that makes me uncomfortable.” And if you make someone uncomfortable, whether you intended to or NOT – the appropriate response is to apologize. Period.
Gabby’s comic is funny because it’s true, but it’s a painful kind of humor. Here we go again.
If prostitution were legal, then guys would only have to be smart enough to engage in a commercial exchange to have at least one relationship which lets them know through practice how stupid how they behave and what they say to women sounds.
You can’t ask people to think their way out of what they don’t know. That’s why our art needs pictures.
I observe that the further we get from the original incident, both in time, and causally linked articles, the higher-quality the discourse on it. Even the people arguing against the artists’ complaints are actually coherent now!
I’m sad this is a controversy. Isn’t the right thing to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you” and walk away? Once someone is hurt by a comment, continuing in the discussion will just make it go much worse.
Sadly, not any more. With email, twitter, facebook, and actually the comments feature, in general, you can’t simply just walk away. Unless one of two things happen…one, you become not well known…two, turn off the comment section.
Kate and everyone else needs to remember a couple important things:
1) The internet is not real life. The way people act via the anonymity of the internet is not an accurate representation of how a majority of society feels or acts in real life.
2) A creator who does things out in the public can never and will never be able to change how people react, respond or correspond with them. A creator can only affect what he or she chooses to read, take to heart, or ignore.
3) Making broad generalizations and assumptions about a gender based on the idiotic emails of a vocal minority of assholes is unfair, and unrepresentative. It’s not a large enough data pool to make sweeping comments like “this is a real problem” or “It just goes to show you how sexist the internet is.” or “This has got to stop.”
What truly has to stop is all the bad habits we web-based creators have formed during our breakdown of barriers between ourselves and our readers.
We don’t have to read everything that comes into us. We don’t have to be over-accessible. We don’t have to always be available via twitter, IM, Facebook, email, forums, comments, blogs, google chat, etc. We can build up some layers and it’s healthy to do so.
It’s a sisyphean effort to try to stop people from being jerks to us online. It’s a waste of time to repeat this cycle of addressing this “problem.” Unless the way people interface over the internet fundamentally changes everywhere, we’re going to have this problem.
Re: #1: no one is entitled to their own facts, but we are all entitled to our own account of what we’re going through. Everyone is entitled to their own account of what offends them.
Carl Jung commented that when he was establishing the structure for categorizing personalities (introversion/extroversion, thinking/feeling, intuition/sensation) he said he had the opportunity to base it on our behavior, rather than our awareness, because people are hypocrites and how they behave is how they really interact with their environment.
He instead chose to base personality typing on awareness, because otherwise people would start to be typed solely from outside observation.
We have to choose whether we allow others their account of what they go through. If you disallow it as a right for anyone else, then your own account is that it can be taken away from you. Then it sucks to be you.
Re: #2: All innovation is based on a disobedience to some kind of convention. There was a time when about half the country hated Jackie Robinson.
Advocating dishonesty only seems hostile to art and progress.
Re: #3: Sheltering a vocal minority of assholes by taking a gender hostage — like terrorists claim to act on behalf of religion — is a real problem, shows you how sexist the internet is, and is the kind of parasitic neediness I would really like to see stop.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Everybody (with increasing thoughtfulness as the thread progressed IMO).
I’ve been a bit under the weather, so unable to comment myself, but I appreciate your participation.
i agree that these are less savory compliments to be had, but in the end wouldn’t it just be better to ignore it? i mean, a compliment is a compliment in the end.
yes it may be immature, sexist, juvenile, stupid. but in the end, when you boil it down, A. Dude is still one of your fans.
How does your issuing advice demonstrate others withholding advice is such an easy thing to do?
At least the advice you are advising being withheld is self-serving for the advisor. What is your excuse for breaking your own standard?
Machiavelli observed that the reason politicians can take every opportunity to lie to people is because people don’t need to look past appearances most of the time. Maybe Kate doesn’t want to die by the appearances her critics insist she live-by.
I know I’m late to this discussion.
“I want to marry you and have your babies” can and has been used by females to praise males. In internet culture, it doesn’t strictly lean one way.
Anyway, Kate is right. She is also wrong. This rests on the belief that the stranger’s comment was sexual rather than hyperbole (example of potentially offensive yet inoffensive use of hyperbole: you my nigga!). Yes, yes, yes…whatever offends the offendee should be taken into account and not spoken again out of sincerity. But it’s worth trying to make the offendee aware that the hyperbole wasn’t meant to be taken literally; not just as a way to excuse the person who said it, but also to make the offendee not feel as bad (because the interpretation was misconstrued).
You ever have those moments when you say something casually but then it offends the person you said it to? Who hasn’t tried to take it back? Part of this discussion is an overblown scientific elaboration of why we can’t take it back.
Kate is indisputably right…in context.
“Anyway, Kate is right. She is also wrong. This rests on the belief that the stranger’s comment was sexual rather than hyperbole…”
Sexual and hyperbolic are not mutually exclusive adjectives, making it a mystery what makes hyperbole a mitigating factor. Therefore, there remains no ambiguity on the part of those taking offense.
Again, yes, there was a time when about half the country hated Jackie Robinson. He offended people for what we now celebrate him for. But comparing the need to be fairly judged by one’s accomplishments to the need to enforce an intimacy against the account of another — well, I’m sorry, dude, but I just don’t know you. That’s my purse.
>Find this post via Facebook
>Kind of late to discussion, but hey.
I think it was a good comic, but face it – women aren’t 100% correct. At the same time, neither are men. And neither gender are 100% wrong. I think this is why we say, “We’re only human.” Not man. Not woman. Human.
As for the people who say, “Power to women is going to screw the kid’s futures!”, check this – a youth myself, I have the misfortune of knowing I’ll grow up in a world with a system of allowing men to harass women, allowing women to unfairly take control of the kids, allowing everyone to be absolute jerks in the name of comfort and convenience and blame the other side when the going gets tough.
I guess all humans want to feel better than someone else to try to give themselves a point in an otherwise futile life – racism, sexism, religious intolerance, ect., a lot of that may just spawn from people knowing that, in the end, we’re all equal in our fate – death – and there is no way to be better or worse than everyone else if, eventually, we’ll all reach that fate in the end. We want to feel important because that makes us feel more secure in our chances of survival, makes us feel comfortable. So basically, humans running on the lowest level of instinct ruin lives for many people of many chastes (even white straight men get screwed over by this. EVERYONE does!)
Perhaps this is why the arts and literature (and combinations like comics) exist – to try to communicate on a level that isn’t survival instinct or “insist on deserving survival” instinct. Maybe that’s our hope, openmindedness and tolerance.
>inb4 someone calls me a hippie liberal punkwad who has no idea what the world is like and that somehow there actually is a WAY to justify being a hateful blockhead. God, I’m going to go write a comic now. Thank you, Mr. McCloud.
Why, of all things, are you directing your call to inaction at the comic? Why is everything else not urgent, except criticizing the comic?
Well… wow. I didn’t expect to run into this. All I can say — and I hasten to add that I am not saying “this is the answer” but rather “this is another data point” — is that back in the days when Usenet was not yet superseded by the Web, I was a regular on a rec.arts group where a very common response to someone who had made a particularly funny, or perceptive, or articulate remark was “Marry me?”
Made by heterosexual men to heterosexual men, heterosexual women to heterosexual women, from anyone to anyone — simply as a humorous way of saying “I love the working of your mind so much it makes me feel warm about you as a human being” (which, if you think about it, does not go without saying on the Internet today and even less so in those days when many people had trouble grasping that the Internet was not some category separate from “real life” and Internet acquaintances not some category separate from “real people.”)
I will freely concede that the “babies” line may be “just an example, and a mild one at that” of a much worse pattern that female cartoonists experience… I just wish it wasn’t such an ambiguous example.