After taking the bold stand that women have been unappreciated for their contributions to comics, (something that hasn’t been true for literal decades,) Batiuk now declares that WOMEN BE SHOPPING.
And I’m pretty conflicted on it. Because on the one hand, it’s a tired old stereotype. It’s Pluggers level humor. It’s an insult to Cayla’s character. And who is Cayla or Batiuk fooling? She hasn’t changed her hair in any meaningful way since Les paid the chemically relaxed shoulder length cut an anemic compliment back in 2011.
I feel like we can be too reactionary against stereotyping in general. Stereotypes are usually based on observable trends. Moreover stereotypes are such a fundamental part of human humor, that trying to go on a moral crusade against them is a dumb and fruitless as Baptists trying to ban dancing. (See what I did there.)
Some of the oldest written comedies we have are full of humor based in gender, generational, or cultural stereotypes.
LYSISTRATA: Hello Lampito, my dear friend from Sparta. How beautiful you look, so sweet, such a fine complexion. And your body looks so fit, strong enough to choke a bull.
LAMPITO : Yes, by the two gods, I could pull that off. I do exercise and work out to keep my butt well toned.Lysistrata, Aristophanes. 411 B.C.
CHREMES: He maintained that women were both clever and thrifty, that they never divulged the Mysteries of Demeter, while you and I go about babbling incessantly about whatever happens at the Senate.
BLEPYRUS: By Hermes, he was not lying!
CHREMES: Then he added that the women lend each other clothes, trinkets of gold and silver, drinking-cups, and not before witnesses too, but all by themselves, and that they return everything with exactitude without ever cheating each other; whereas, according to him, we are ever ready to deny the loans we have effected.
BLEPYRUS: Yes, by Posidon, and in spite of witnesses.The Ecclesiazusae, Aristophanes. 390 B.C.
It’s not the dumb shopping stereotype that’s the problem here.
It’s that an obsession with shopping is literally the only character trait other than doormat that Cayla has been given in the TEN PLUS YEARS she’s been part of the strip. Nothing makes her unique. She has no agency or desires of her own. Except for her skintone she is identical to Cindy, or Holly, or Mindy, or Jess.
Every female character in this strip is as thinly drawn as the forearms of HE WHO SHALL NOT BE MENTIONED.