I just despair.
There is sexism everywhere, and there are battles to be fought. I agree completely that there are strong strains of odious stereotypy running through our culture, and that we have to be vocal in opposing them. Much of it is unconscious and not intended maliciously, but it still perpetuates a problem. It’s good to oppose it.
But this morning a raging flame war exploded in a thread about a cute bunny cartoon. The bunny who is the voice of religion is wearing a dress; the practical bunny playing the role of science wears pants. Some people said it’s sexist; some people said it wasn’t. And then the war was launched.
This is the WRONG BATTLE.
Are you really fighting for the right for the cute bunny in the dress in a cartoon to not be the religious one? I have never seen feminism reduced to such appalling depths of triviality as I have in that thread. I am literally embarrassed to see a 300+-comment thread erupt over this inanity, and to see it begin in only the second comment to the thread…it’s ridiculous.
I tried tracing down the source of the image, with no luck; it appeared on reddit, on a couple of discussion forums, but no one seems to give credit to the artist. If we found more examples of this person’s work, and there were a pattern of always making the girl bunny the dumb bunny, then you’d have a case — the artist is consciously or unconsciously expressing a sexist trope. Without more information, you cannot possibly judge this cartoon as a reflection of an underlying bias against women. You cannot see a pattern in a sample of one. It’s also simply not true that portraying women as stupid is a staple of cartoons — from Fred Flintstone to Homer Simpson, the trend goes the other way. Yes, it’s still sexism — but if the comic in question had swapped the pants and dress on the bunnies, someone could object just as strongly. Given only two characters, one representing reason and one irrationality, there is actually no combination of sexes that isn’t going to offend someone, if you choose to see it only as a parable of sexual relations.
It isn’t. The two characters are having a conversation about science and religion, they are not using gendered language, and they’ve both been made childlike by portraying them as little cute bunnies. It’s fair to note that there are sexist biases in our culture, and that many of them belittle women, but that’s not what the comic was about; note it and move on.
Move on to change it where it matters. You want to say society diminishes women’s roles? I’ll agree with you. You want to complain about the unjustified authority given to men? I’ll back you 100%. You found some weasel who wants to deny that women are treated like second-rate citizens? I’ll join in the stomping. But show prolonged outrage at one twee cartoon that just happens to have a bunny in a dress playing the role of Simplicio, and you’ve lost me.
I’m going off to Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m not going to pay any attention to Pharyngula for a while. Go ahead and make me the target for your ire for a while, I expect this thread to turn into a screaming melee, too. I’ll be more impressed, though, if you take a moment to instead come up with real instances of oppression, discrimination, and intimidation of women (they’re not hard to find), rather than railing about the importance of toy bunny dresses.