I'd read DTWOF here and there, mostly on the interweb, like especially when the main character, Mo, decided to go to library school in 2001, and the link to that strip got forwarded around the bibliosphere like crazy. But without regular exposure, I had not realized just how brilliant the biweekly comic strip is. I can't believe (okay, I can believe but don't want to) that it isn't syndicated in every newspaper that carries Doonesbury, or at least Boondocks. I'm guessing it's the title? Which is unfortunate also because this comic is relevant to all people with radical left politics. Maybe even liberals!
The book's first strip is from 1987, which is around when I first started to enter the activist world. In fact I might have done civil disobedience at the same March on Washington that Mo did. That's one thing that kills me, especially the early strips, is that the rants and the chants are so familiar. Though many of the characters are lesbians, there are straight and gay men, bisexuals, transgender people--including a kid, and maybe a straight woman or two. I don't recall any straight women, now that I think of it, but I didn't notice that while I was reading the book. Bechdel is also good about including people of all races, and it doesn't seem obligatory or forced.
In this 25 year compendium, Mo and her friends take on Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, political organizing and committee work, pride marches, independent bookstores, big box stores, marriage equality (Mo thinks lesbian marriage is an aberration), love, break-ups, polyamory, academia, child rearing, homeschooling, and lots more. Plus there are a lot of cats. Nearly every strip that takes place in someone's house has a cat (or a dog) in it.
Some favorite moments:
Strip 46, 1988 Mo doesn't want to get out of bed until the electoral college is abolished. She decides staying in bed is a form of protest. Her lover Harriet shames her, by saying, "Y'know, you're absolutely right! I think you've hit a very symbolic form of protest here! Yes! As a citizen of a privileged country, renounce the power you have to actively dissent and educate! Just stay in bed! That'll show those republicans a thing or two. What a meaningful way to express your solidarity with the people who are sleeping five to a mattress in refugee camps and shantytowns and prisons! Can I get you a blanket before I leave?" ... Mo gets up and asks, "Whatever happened to bribing your lover awake with hot blueberry muffins?
Strip 162, 1993 Back from the Dyke March, Mo says, "I know this march was even bigger and better than ever than the last one, but I felt kind of lost, somehow. I mean, baseball, hot dogs, and gays in the military is not the agenda I signed up for. ... Why are we scrambling for a piece of the pie when the pie is rotten? We've gotta change the system, not get co-opted by it! And I'm gonna scream if I hear one more person say we're 'just like everyone else'!"
Strip 190, 1994 About what a disappointment Clinton is. The more things change...
Strip 193, 1994 The staff at Madwimmin Books tangles over inclusion of transsexuals and bisexuals. Mo: "What am I supposed to do? Have bi women and drag queens come in here and read about schtupping their boyfriends? ... I'm still trying to adjust to lesbians using dildos! What am i supposed to make of a man who became a woman who's attracted to women?" Lois, "Love is a many gendered thing, pal. Get used to it." [Emphasis added, because I think it's so clever.]
Strip 374, 2001 Wordless 9/11 strip. So affecting. Authentic, not that sort of icky almost celebratory misery that seemed opportunistic and manipulative. The final panel with Mo hugging her girlfriend Sydney while they're both looking at a picture GWB in the newspaper conveys all the sadness, fear, and disgust of that day.
Strip 423, 2003 Madwimmin bookstore owner Jezanna helping a Somali refugee understand America at the supermarket. Hint: Organic filet mignon cat treats don't help. Cut to Lois and Mo in "Bounders" books. Lois: "Hello, Mo! What brings you to the temple of Mammon?" Mo: "I need the latest edition of Library Journal. I tried going to the library--novel thought--but they've cut back their hours. ... And I was counting on getting a library job when I finish school. God, when Bush is done with the economy, there won't be any libraries left. I should be getting a degree in defense contracting or automobile reposession." (So true!)
Strip 436, 2004 Gay marriage is legalized and Sydney proposes to Mo, "Will you do me the honor of paradoxically reinscribing and destabilizing hegemonic discourse with me?" (Reminds me of Eric asking me to compromise my hatred of the state with him. ♥)
The best thing of all--the book has an INDEX! With entries like beefcake, contract on America, dildo-ontology of, impeachment (passim!), tofu and pups.
Now, off to reread Bechdel's contribution to Revolting Librarians Redux.
PS Is the strip really not online? I'll seek out the print for upcoming strips, but what do I do to find out what's happened with the DTWOF gang between May 2008 and now? Maybe a trip to the Lesbian Herstory Archives will clear that up?