A couple of days ago Dan Fincke posted a cartoon on his Facebook page, and a lively discussion followed. The cartoon was about the bind women are in: no matter what we do, we get shit for it. Be more feminine/you’re a slut type of thing. I have Dan’s permission to quote from the discussion (and his posts are public, so you can see it for yourself). Part of what made it extra interesting is that Ben Radford participated. Yes that Ben Radford.
Ben Radford I agree with the premise, but unfortunately the piece ignores important distinctions between WHO is saying these things: A respected parent, or an anonymous Internet troll? Just because someone hears a criticism (or compliment) doesn’t mean they pay attention to it or influences them.
That’s convenient, isn’t it. No worries. Internet trolls don’t matter, and people at work don’t matter, and shouts on the street don’t matter – we can all just go back to sleep.
Dan and Heina make the same point. Radford goes on pushing his, though, insisting that not all comments are equally significant (when no one had said they were) and pretending that brought no implied message (“so calm down already, it’s not a big deal”) at the same time. Later he thought of another point.
Dan, another reason why I find this piece superficial, since you asked, is that it suggests a problem without providing, or even hinting at, a solution. The only way to prevent people from using sexist slurs or expressing their opinions is censorship. Unless the comic creators (or anyone else here) thinks curbing free speech is a good idea, I’m not sure what the proposed solution is.
Now that’s some hard thinking he did there. Nothing to be done other than censorship! No social pressure, no social consequences, no argument (despite the argument going on around that very comment) – just censorship, or nothing.
…pointing out social problems is easy. Racism exists, sexism exists, poverty is a problem, etc. No one denies that, and yes, I would say that without offering at least some hint of a way to solve the problem, simply stating that it is a problem is, as Dan would say, a truism. Carl Sagan noted, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
As I noted, I agree with the cartoon’s message… I’m pointing out that the issue of this sexist language is a legitimate and serious problem, and that it is much more complex and nuanced than can be shown in this cartoon. Apparently we can’t even agree on the message of the cartoon, so perhaps that’s part of the problem… I just wish it offered solutions to the problem instead of simply stating that it exists, which we all know. I’m not saying the cartoon is wrong, I’m saying it doesn’t go far enough toward clarifying the issue or offering a way to address it.
“Which we all know?” Oh really – then what’s all this been about, lately?
His final contribution:
Curious that people are touting how important and socially relevant this cartoon is, while at the same time diminishing its importance as “just a cartoon.” (And we can’t even agree on what its message is!) I make no apologies for wishing that it had suggested a solution to the sexism it highlights, instead of merely pointing out that it exists. If others are okay with cursing the darkness that’s fine, but I prefer to light a candle.
And which candle would that be, exactly?