“Look, I’m all for equality. but if you ask me, feminism is about choice. I choose to be a wife and mother and now, I’m choosing to end this conversation.”
This was a quote made by Lois Griffin to a one-off character named Gloria Ironbox near the end of the episode “I Am Peter Hear Me Roar”. I think it’s very interesting that she said this. This definition of feminism that Lois is outlining is typically attributed to what is called third-wave or liberal feminism. I think this is very interesting because the context in which Lois she says this in is in an episode that spent the twenty minutes before this quote and the last two minutes after it being virulently anti-feminist. I think the fact that something like this can use feminism to justify its anti-feminism exposes a huge hole in any type of feminism (or any social justice movement) that defines itself by prioritizing individualism over collective liberation and justice through dismantling the oppressive structures in place, but that’s another conversation entirely. Let’s focus on Family Guy right now. I don’t think there is actually anything feminist about this episode, or any Family Guy episode really.
“I Am Peter Hear Me Roar” is about Peter Griffin having to attend a women’s retreat under threat of being sued for sexual harassment. He comes back home in touch with his feminine side, but too in touch with his feminine side for Lois or any of his friends. The episode sets itself up for the conflict with Peter making casually sexist remarks and talking to Lois in a condescending manner. This leads to Peter telling a female coworker an inappropriate joke, for which she promptly sues him and the company they work in. Up until now, the episode has mocked Peter’s sexist attitudes but it exposes what it really thinks of feminists with the introduction of the suing coworker’s lawyer, Gloria Ironbox (subtle name as you can see). When Peter returns from the women’s retreat, he comes back a whole new man that is sensitive, considerate, and dedicated to women’s rights. Or as Chris defines this brand-new Peter, “Oh my God, Dad’s a chick”.
The rest of the episode now makes hay of how crazy Peter drives everyone around him by acting like a stereotypical woman. He cuddles with Lois (the male stereotype just likes intercourse, not cuddling), tries breastfeeding Stewie, takes candlelit bubble baths, checks himself for breast cancer, thinks that he missed his (nonexistent) period, and worst of all, can no longer fill Lois’ sexual needs. What finally gets Peter back to his old masculine self is by getting aroused by watching the Dynasty-inspired fight between Lois and Ms. Ironbox. And unsurprisingly, the first thing that the re-masculined Peter does is give Lois a wonderful night of hot sex. He’s gone back to his casually sexist attitude like in the beginning of the episode, but at least he’s a “real man” that can fill Lois’ sexual needs. Although the episode mocked Peter’s sexism, it clearly suggest that a sexist Peter is favorable over a feminist Peter. This is what Family Guy thinks of feminists, women, and men. This viewpoint is completely consistent with a much later episode “Peter Problems”, where Peter loses his job forcing Lois to become the breadwinner of the family. After the episode makes a few jokes about Peter acting like a stereotypical housewife, the conflict arises when Peter becomes impotent in the bedroom. He gets over his impotence by the end of the episode when he gets his job back and Lois quits her’s (and they have really hot sex). Gee, what a coincidence!
Am I being unfair to Family Guy? After all, Seth MacFarlane’s a good, pro-choice liberal who wrote the “Sensitive Male” episode of Johnny Bravo a thousand years ago. Hell, The Simpsons goes back on forth over whether or not it wants to be feminist. Maybe other Family Guy episodes aren’t so anti-feminist, right?