535: It Might Be Cool

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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It Might Be Cool
'And ovaries. Man, ovaries, huh?' [awkward pause] '... faithfully.'
Title text: 'And ovaries. Man, ovaries, huh?' [awkward pause] '... faithfully.'


Cueball (or Randall) is musing about the possibility of being a woman, to the confusion of the man next to him. His uninsightful rambling would likely be unimpressive and somewhat odd in most situations, but not odd enough on its own to prompt the second man's baffled reaction. However, the true reason for his confusion is revealed by the caption: Cueball is administering the presidential oath. The oath is administered by reciting it to prompt a new president to repeat them back to him. However, he botches it completely by forgetting about his task completely and wondering aloud about an unrelated topic. Thus, the president's confused question at the beginning is not him asking for clarification; he is repeating what he at first believed to be the oath of office, but got flustered when he realized Cueball had deviated from the script. When Cueball then continues by replying that "the menstruation thing is freaky," the president is completely derailed.

On January 20, 2009 the inauguration of Barack Obama's first office took place. Chief Justice John Roberts, who was administering the oath, made a mistake while reciting the words. This comic references the event and wildly exaggerates the deviation from the oath for comedic purposes.

In truth, the error was rather small: the oath as prescribed in the constitution is:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Due to a missed memo on the pauses planned by the Chief Justice, Obama inadvertently interrupted Roberts during the first phrase - Roberts begins by saying I, Barack Obama, do solemnly swear, and Obama repeats his name while Roberts finishes that sentence. This disturbs Roberts who was not using notes, and he rendered the next phrase as "that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully," misplacing the word faithfully and saying president to instead of president of. Obama repeated, "that I will execute", then paused. Roberts attempted to correct the wording, but stumbled: "the off— faithfully the pres— the office of President of the United States." Obama then repeated Roberts' initial incorrect wording.

However small the error was it was big enough that Obama did retake the oath of office the day after the mistake was made.

The title text continues the wondering about being a woman going on from the menstruation to the ovaries. To make sure it is clearly the oath mistake that is referenced the sentence ends with '... faithfully.' Thus mimicking the real mistake of placing this word last.


[Cueball is administering the presidential oath with the coming president also drawn as Cueball.]
Cueball: You know, it might be cool to be a woman.
President: It... might be cool to be a woman?
Cueball: Yeah, but the menstruation thing is freaky.
President: Yeah, but... the... um. What?
[Caption below the frame:]
Turns out I'm even worse at administering the presidential oath than John Roberts.

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How many life sentences has the idiot had to commute? And how long after they were given?

I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 19:01, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

You're going to have to be more specific on which idiot you are referring to. Your comment is kind of a non sequitur. -Pennpenn 01:55, 4 December 2015 (UTC)

Thank goodness, we all now know how transphobic this cartoon, and by extension Randall Munroe, is. Who says a woman has to menstruate, or have ovaries? 12:10, 17 March 2024 (UTC)

Not sure you can assert any of that, from the comic. You're reading too much into it. But, just so this statement isn't left hanging, I'll run through some obvious counter-arguments.
Yes, trans-women currently cannot menstruate, etc. Yet I bet there are some who would want to, should medicine (or magic) be able to grant them that ability. Left-Cueball might well be imagining just such a hypothetical and technomagical situation where trans-ness isn't just a case of finding a sweet spot along the line of "passing/top-surgery/top-and-bottom-surgery" that you can happily reach, but extends all the way to total biological and corporeal sex-flip, internals and all. The series of comics have presented far more radical 'reality shifts' than that.
This particular comic targets and parodies the swearing-in process, as referenced. The (wrong) words are not important, except that they are one non-sequitur of many possible ones, just because it needed something sufficiently out there and not really relevent to the situation, that fits the "not a conversation, but a ceremony-gone-off-script" format. If he'd gone with something like "how do I know that the red that I see is the red that you see?", you could argue he was colour-blind-ist, but still the joke is the same, and there's really no reason to believe Randall has transphobic tendencies by deliberate exclusion.
Failure to be inclusive is harder to deal with. (By failing to have many (any?) non-white Cueballs, maybe it could be said that he's implicitly racist, but he's definitely not explicitly racist and has definitely included non-white real-life/externally-fictional characters with no reason to suspect malice. Just hasn't balanced things up, perhaps, in his standard homegrown 'cast of actors'. But, if he does, you just know that he'll be accused of being too woke, by the kind of person who thinks 'being woke' is an insult.) Social failure, but not necessarily a personal flaw and attitudinal bias. That said, who knows how many 'female' characters are (without us knowing it, and no 'performative fuss' made to explain it) actually M2F-trans, and 'male' ones vice-versa?
They're stick figures. They can have any biologies they need to have, including Infinite Wings! Arguably, Randall is sympathetically feminist, given the diverse roles he gives (apparent) female characters, but there's no reason at all to consider him a TERF. 14:23, 17 March 2024 (UTC)
Please let this be a troll post. Putting aside the fact that this is a 2009 comic certainly written without this angle as its focus, how is associating females with menstruation transphobic? If he said, "it would be cool to be a bird, but that flying thing is freaky", would you say he has something against penguins? This comic was clearly written to highlight Randall's quirky wandering line of thought and how it confounds people around him, not to define what a woman is. This is not malicious, and calling it ignorant is unfair - trans people weren't in the public consciousness in 2009, so it's not his fault for thinking of this angle when writing a short comic about, ALLOW ME TO REPEAT, a COMPLETELY UNRELATED TOPIC. 15:13, 18 March 2024 (UTC)
I'm all for inclusion, but not actively including isn't necessarily excluding. (To be clear, this is the same post is from the same guy as the one above. Why did my IP address change?) 15:25, 18 March 2024 (UTC)
Your IP changes because (even connection to connection) the proxy gateway betwixt you and this server changes. And I (, above, whatever this signs as) was trying to say the same as you, I think. More or less. Not sure if OP was trolling or actually seeing a problem that really isn't there. Hard to tell, what with Poe's Law. 15:34, 18 March 2024 (UTC)


Right, eggs. An egg is a person who is transgender that isn’t aware of the fact that they are trans, perhaps due to not being exposed to the LGBTQ+ community yet in life. Here in the comic, the first Cueball is shown musing about biologically female reproductive organs and processes. He is wondering what it would be like to be a woman, and have processes that come along with having those body parts. This fits in with typical “egg” behaviour, as he is displaying behaviour that is shared with many other “eggs”, such as thinking that it would be “cool” with being a woman.[citation needed] Of course, there is also the alternative that he may just be wondering, and may not actually want to have these body parts. But at ExplainXKCD, we don’t know exactly what Randall is thinking when he drew the strips, and therefore we usually like to explore all possible options and explanations. 42.book.addict (talk) 18:45, 22 May 2024 (UTC)