Now that The Simpsons has sold feminism the fuck out, I’d like to give props to one cartoon I can still count on. I’m talking about South Park, which, after 14 seasons, still offers up some of the finest social satire ever to grace American airwaves.
Okay, so maybe it’s not perfect. The main characters, Stan and Kyle, are baby bros who use words like “gay” and “pussy” as derogatory slurs, and Cartman’s bigotry would make Archie Bunker blush. But as the boys navigate their world, they encounter a lot of hypocrisy—including sexist behavior. And when the writers bring their social scalpel to these situations, the results can be hilarious, heart-breaking, (potty-mouthed), and yes…feminist.
Don’t tell Trey Parker and Matt Stone I love their pro-woman work, because they try hard to make sure every group gets ruthlessly ridiculed (it’s how they avoid hypocrisy). So until they animate Susan B. Anthony sniffing glue, let’s celebrate some episodes well done. Enjoy!
When Bebe is the first girl in her class to develop, the boys suddenly revere her as smart, funny, talented, and all-around awesome. When she realizes it’s only her boobs that are getting attention, she tries to get a breast reduction, but of course the plastic surgeon will only perform breast enhancement. It’s a refreshing take on body image, and the focus on Bebe’s experience as the reluctant busty girl is rare and unnervingly sensitive.
Wendy gets involved in Breast Cancer Awareness Week and has to endure relentless teasing from class chauvinist Cartman about “killer titties.” She threatens to fight him, but Cartman tattles to her parents, even while he continues to taunt her at school. After some surprising encouragement from the school principal, Wendy decides to literally fight for what she believes in. It’s a visceral but satisfying moment for any girl who ever had to deal with schoolyard sexism.
A Canadian TV show called Queef Sisters catches on, and queef jokes take South Park by storm. All the men are deeply offended, and join together to ban queefing (while maintaining that farts are hilarious). I’m not sure if this specific double-standard has been experienced by many women, but the situation makes a great metaphor for society’s discomfort with female bodies, and even the suppression of female-centric humor.