New Yorker character breakdown by race and gender

Chart of the Day: The white dudes of New Yorker cartoons

The underrepresentation of women and people of color in media extends all the way to the cartoons tucked into the New Yorker, according to an analysis of every cartoon published in the magazine last year. The journal Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science found that about 70 percent of the characters were men and 95 percent were white. 

Next the researchers looked at each character’s role or occupation. Most characters simple fell into the “Person” category, but women were more likely to be in non-occupational roles, such as Parent, Spouse, Student, Party Goer. The only job in which they outnumbered men was Assistant. People of color’s best showing? The Fantasy Figure category, mostly because they frequently appeared as wise men.

In part, the researchers suggest, this gap is explained by the dearth of female cartoonists. Only 12 of the 70 people who published cartoons in magazine in 2014 were women. And the few female cartoonists featured almost twice as many female characters in their cartoons as their male counterparts.

But they also point out that the form of cartoons — in which understanding the humor requires quickly associating two unrelated ideas — may make them especially prone to relying on gendered and racial stereotypes. But at this point — when New Yorker Cartoon Land is considerably more sexist than the actual world we live in — it just seems lazy. I think we’ll still get the joke if there are a few female taxi drivers, doctors, and scientists thrown in the mix.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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