On Cathy Guisewite

On Cathy Guisewite

Love her. Love her work with a deep and abiding love that will not be affected by peer pressure, which I will not grow out of, which no one understands.


Here’s my review of Cathy Guisewite’s collection of cartoons entitled Work.


One of the dichotomies of cartooning is the efficiency. Just a few words and pictures, and you are done, so not everything is said. It is therefore a delight to read Guisewite “talking” in her real voice, filling in the gaps in ideas necessary to the medium. Great selection of “work” cartoons over the years. Lovely, funny essays. My opinion is that the much maligned Cathy will be recognized in the future as the almost-genius it is. Long before it was a part of mainstream conversation, Cathy took on sexual harassment. She took on gender pay bias, the double standard of physical beauty for men and women, and since the issues have not gone away, she never let go. If the humor was tedious at times, it’s because the source material–real life–hasn’t changed the way it should. Good for you, Ms Guisewite, taking on the issues, making me laugh, and persevering.







Right now there’s a lot of buzz about the “pink tax” which means that everything designed for or marketed to women costs more than similar products made for or marketed to men. This is BIG topic in the past year. Guisewite addressed it in the 1980s and in the 1990s.

And the gender pay gap.

And men in their 40s or 50s marrying women in their 20s.


A complaint about Cathy is that she never changed. Here she was, just before retiring, STILL complaining about dates, discrimination, and diets. What was WITH her?


I’ll tell you.


She was complaining about things that still hadn’t changed.




In the beginning of Cathy, she was a smoker, and spent several strips covering her quitting.

In the early years, she hated shopping. She actually began shopping as a past time after noticing other workers who shopped more getting ahead faster. (Gross.)

In the early strips, she made jokes about being unable to buy the top of a bathing suit in one size and the bottom in another. Well, we can do that now, in fact, most places do this now (and charge the price of a full suit for the half suit—but we shoulda seen that coming).

Those things that changed, she didn’t joke about any more.  But many things have not changed.

My school aged daughter reads all my old Cathy books, which has saved me the trouble of some conversations about gender bias, workplace discrimination, dating, and business trips.  (She also found my collection of John Callahan books. Whoops. This started conversations I would rather have put off for a few years, but one can’t have everything.)

If you think it is tedious reading about Cathy fighting the same battles for 40 years, imagine LIVING them.

Imagine fighting the same goddamn battles against gender bias, and seeing little change, for 30 or more years.


It DOES get less funny.




2 thoughts on “On Cathy Guisewite

  1. Hmm I had never heard of her before but I looked at the link and read a few, they were pretty funny! Why don’t people like her? Also, I don’t know how you feel about Hillary Clinton (I don’t know 100% how I feel about her either?) BUT…

    “since the issues have not gone away, she never let go.”

    “If you think it is tedious reading about Cathy [Hillary] fighting the same battles for 40 years, imagine LIVING them.”

    “Imagine fighting the same goddamn battles against gender bias, and seeing little change, for 30 or more years.”

    …I kinda felt like I was reading about her.


  2. With the Cathy comments, the most common complaints are that the art is primitive, it is not funny, and she has the same issues again and again. The primitive art is a complaint you could easily make against Close to Home or Ziggy. Not funny is subjective. The same issues thing applies equally to Doonsbury. I really think it is the same ol’ thing: default for men and men’s activities = It’s OK. Default for women and women’s activities = PROVE YOURSELF.

    I never saw the Hillary parallel before! Thanks for that.


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