Harriet Harmen=praying mantis. Thanks Times.

// 17 July 2008

Times cartoon depicting Harriet Harman as a praying mantis, in high heels, biting the head off another praying mantis. The text reads: 'Praying Mantis, Feminista Upyoursmister, The male patronises the female worker mantid at its peril. He will perform a condescending courtship dance leading to vigerous sexism, after which she snaps his head off and has him for breakfast. There's also an image of a plate, with two pink balls on it, labelled Fig 1. Breakfast

(Via feminist bite)

Because calling for legislation to counter discrimination in the workplace is EXACTLY THE SAME as biting a man’s head off.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 17 July 2008 at 6:52 pm

The Times shows its true colours by displaying a misogynstic cartoon. Irrespective of Ms. Harman’s politics apparently it is acceptable to sink to the level of reproducing misogynstic stereotypes. Can we expect a similar cartoon of Brown or Cameron wherein the focus will be on challenging their masculinity rather than political issues.

Amy // Posted 17 July 2008 at 7:50 pm

Horrible and childish. They must feel really threatened. However, there were similar such cartoons around during the Suffragette movement and women still got the vote.

tom hulley // Posted 18 July 2008 at 9:21 am

Ironically (and unintended), it does challenge men’s masculinity, Jennifer. What does it say about a man that he wants women to be submissive and compliant? It says he is uncertain of himself -blustering and bullying as misogs are.

Shame on the Times but take heart as the misogs are floundering. These are not men but a subspecies of mackerel.

Sarah // Posted 18 July 2008 at 9:41 am

I agree with Amy – women have always been mocked and ridiculed for standing up for their rights, there’s always been this moral panic about feminism.

Doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid and offensive though. I do read the Times sometimes – it’s often quite good, with sensible, intelligent news coverage and some interesting columnists. But every now and then you come up against something misogynistic like this – or the recent series on the family courts which seems to be determined to frame the whole thing as an evil conspiracy against men.

Leigh // Posted 18 July 2008 at 10:36 am

I’m not sure if I can agree with your reading of the cartoon, Jess. It odes say she bites his head off after he performs a ‘condescending courtship dance leading to vigorous sexism’. Isn’t the cartoon then more critical of the (thoroughly vanquished) male than Harman?

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 July 2008 at 10:59 am

Leigh – Not really.

Here’s my interpretation – the cartoon is more complicated than an outright support of the imagined sexist.

Although on one level, the cartoon is critical of sexism, describing this activity with negative words such as “patronises” and “condescending”, there is more to the cartoon than this.

The cartoon portrays Harriet Harman as biting the head off the sexist and eating his testicles “for breakfast”. It imagines the workplace power structure (and feminism) as involving vicious women, ready to emasculate the hapless male who makes a sexist statement (or, as the reproductive metaphor employed suggests, perhaps makes a pass at his female colleague). Look at the way their legs have been portrayed – the male mantid has soft, wiggly legs dangling helplessly in the air (one pair actually clasped together in prayer) compared to Harman’s legs (and teeth!) which are sharp.

What does this imply about actual power balances in society, the workplace, etc? How realistic is that?

Meanwhile, the cartoon also calls on the idea that feminists are not, in fact, calling for equality, but some sort of matriarchy (i.e. praying mantis society, one presumes). The idea is to exaggerate feminism’s arguments in order to make them seem outrageous and extreme. It also implies that, for men, being equal, and not being able to be openly sexist or sexually harass their female colleagues – say in the workplace – is the same as being emasculated.

How is Harriet Harman portrayed? It’s a political cartoon, so it’s not surprising that she is, not only an insect, but an ‘ugly’ one. But the ‘praying mantis’ image plays on the fact that it is usually seen as negative for women to be strong or dominant in our culture – the feminist as ‘ball breaker’, etc.

Leigh // Posted 18 July 2008 at 11:24 am

Okay Jess. I didn’t actually see the breakfast bit, and that does make it more pernicious than I first took it for. The quality of the jpeg had something to do with this- has it been resized/resaved before being saved on the Fword server?

Cara // Posted 18 July 2008 at 12:16 pm

Great analysis, Jess. My thoughts, but articulated much better. :-)

I like the theory that backlash increases when women make real gains. And it certainly has increased.

The Times is misogynist. They published a whine by rapist Benjamin Bree on how he didn’t rape the victim cos you know, she totally wanted to have sex even though she had just vomited! Not to mention a recent piece on the pay gap that said women should just, you know, get used to it “or give up men and children”. Because doing the bulk of childcare and housework is, you know, the natural order of things.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 July 2008 at 12:54 pm

Leigh – I’m afraid I got the image straight from feminist bites

Cara – Thanks!

After reading back what I wrote, I realise I should clarify that when I use the word “emasculate” I mean it in the sense that I think the Times implies – which involves complicated and problematic ideas about what it means to “be a man”.

Christina // Posted 18 July 2008 at 5:13 pm

Why is it that when a woman stands up to male domination and oppression she is portrayed as something ugly and evil.

Men have oppressed women since the beginning of time and this is considered fine. But when women decide that they have had enough of this form of sexism and stand-up to it then all of a sudden they are considered evil

Jack Leland // Posted 18 July 2008 at 9:54 pm


I am not so sure the cartoon is as negative as you say. It starts with the caption “Nature notes”. That would suggest that vicious women emasculating men by advocating for political rearrangement of public and private spaces that purports to be equality but really is matriarchy is entirely natural. It also shows the feminist winning, which would suggest that it is natural for feminists to succeed in their project. In other words, the cartoon could validly be read the opposite way.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 July 2008 at 10:09 pm

Jack – I really can’t see how this could be read in any way in support of feminist reform. It actively misrepresents feminism in order to scare people off and ridicule it; it portrays a reversal of actual power dynamics in society, in order to do so. That is the only reason Harriet Harmen is shown as ‘triumphing’ in some way, and that triumph is transformed into cannibalism and domination, rather than a measure of equality; this is a very specific anti-feminist and anti-woman agenda.

Jack Leland // Posted 18 July 2008 at 10:47 pm


I’m not really sure where the misrepresentation is; it is an accurate representation of what many people think of feminism. But, even though many people think that is what feminism represents, most people support feminism as they understand it.

As for it representing an actual reversal of power dynamics, part of power is psychological persuasion. If men feel emasculated by feminism and feel its advance is vicious, inevitable, and dominating, then its psychological impact is to emasculate and dominate, and its advance will likely meet self-sabotaging resistance.

As for depicting cannibalism, that is simply taking a political cartoon too literally. It does not depict cannibalism; it depicts praying mantis mating rituals. No assertion is being made that feminists will eat men. Only that feminists will compel men to serve feminist ends against their own interests. That is an unsurprising criticism, as all politics aims to do that, because all politics is about dominating others through societally agreed upon valid means.

Marx // Posted 19 July 2008 at 2:09 am

Jennifer Drew: “misogynstic”

What is ‘hateful of women’ by attacking ‘feminist, selective equality’? This does not ‘hate’ on women, it mocks feminism for what it is (a misandric and supremacist movement) but by no means does it ‘hate’ women.

Predictably, the word is so overused, it’s become meaningless.

Anna // Posted 19 July 2008 at 12:17 pm

I can’t say I’m particularly misandric or supremacist.

Shit me, I’d better stop calling myself a feminist then, right?

And honestly, if you need someone to spell out to you what is misogynistic about attacking equality on the grounds of gender.. well, you’re a moron, and it seriously offends me that you’re pissing over Marx’s grave in such a manner by using his name.

bola // Posted 19 July 2008 at 2:23 pm

Marx’s grave? You mean the founder of the most oppressive and murderous ideology ever to be invented by mankind. How dare we?

Marx // Posted 19 July 2008 at 5:50 pm

“I can’t say I’m particularly misandric or supremacist.”


When people mention “The Wage Gap”, do you ever mention “there are MANY factors to account for, such as the ‘average’ man works more overtime, has less days off, and such compared to the ‘average’ women”, or do you – most likely – not say a word and allow the misrepresentation that “women earn less than men” *as if* men are quite literally paid more per hour than women?

We all know that it *has* happened, in the past, but the wage is not *only* because of discrimination, as feminist ‘studies’ would imply… which is plain deceitful.

As such ‘studies’ promote hostilities between the sexes, I’d suggest *any* feminist who declines to speak up for the reality of the wage gap as being misandric. By demanding the ‘wage gap’ vanish, knowing that most women *choose* to work less hours, it effectively promotes women to be paid *more* for less work (feminists demanded same pay for less work on Wimbledon, remember? Men=5 sets/women=3sets = same pay = blatant discrimination).

Thus, feminism clearly promotes supremacy (pay us more for less work) and promotes misandry (creates unnecessary hostility between the sexes).

Laura // Posted 19 July 2008 at 6:03 pm


Seeing as your first (predictable, anti-feminist) comment slipped through moderation, I’ll give this a quick reply then you can go.

1) It’s pointless comparing how much paid work men do to how much women do when women still bear the brunt of unpaid work (child care, domestic tasks etc). Until men pull their weight and employment practices better accommodate parents, this really is a nonstarter.

2) Women ARE directly discriminated when it comes to being paid less for the same job. The fact that it’s illegal doesn’t stop it happening, particularly when there is such a culture of secrecy surrounding our salaries, and women who are discriminated against have little support seeking legal redress of the situation.

3) On Wimbledon: the women train as hard and put in as much effort as the men, while plenty of three set matches last just as long, if not longer, than the male matches. They deserve equal pay. What’s more, plenty of female players want to play five sets, but sexist traditionalism in the sport prevents them doing so.

4) We’re not going to shut up because highlighting gender injustice could “promote hostility between the sexes”. Besides, there’s plenty of that already: mostly male violence against women.

Bye now.

Laura // Posted 19 July 2008 at 6:13 pm


Umm, unless myriad copies of The Communist Manifesto have suddenly sprouted limbs and taken up arms, I don’t think we can really say that Marx’s ideology killed anyone – people do that.

Only post relevant comments from now on please!

Anna // Posted 19 July 2008 at 7:18 pm

I think we’ll agree to disagree on this one, Bola. Though I do recommend reading Violence by Zizek.. :)

Marx’s nonsense I won’t even bother to respond to, since I took the time to look at your site and clicked on ‘rape’ – why is it every thread about rape on your site is dealing with a false allegation? Sigh. That was five minutes of my life I’ll never get back, anyway.

bola // Posted 19 July 2008 at 8:03 pm

“Only post relevant comments from now on please!”

-I’m responding to a comment from Anne that passed moderation, how could my response be off-topic?

“Umm, unless myriad copies of The Communist Manifesto have suddenly sprouted limbs and taken up arms, I don’t think we can really say that Marx’s ideology killed anyone – people do that.”

-Oppression and violence are implicated by the marxist theory. It’s inevitable. Marx was perfectly aware of this.

Laura // Posted 19 July 2008 at 8:06 pm

I meant to direct that at everyone bola, sorry.

Jess McCabe // Posted 19 July 2008 at 8:34 pm

“Oppression and violence are implicated by the marxist theory. It’s inevitable. Marx was perfectly aware of this.”

I thoroughly disagree with this. Not only is it inaccurate to blame Marx, it sickeningly diverts the blame from those who actually committed genocide – Stalin killed millions of people, and a series of leaders used a caricature of socialism to justify horrific crimes.

None of this has anything to do with Harriet Harmen, however, except to note the socialist roots of the Labour Party.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds