The above political cartoon is the subject of today’s HTML. Rather, the above misogynistic attitudes and the overall disgusting tactics of the American political media circus and political cartoonist Gary McCoy is the subject of today’s HTML. I understand there’s been quite the debate raging on about Planned Parenthood, pro-choice rights, and federal funding. We’ve all got our opinions about that debate, and I’m not taking that on today.
This is a picture of the real Sandra Fluke:
When political cartoons are made, the cartoonist exaggerates certain features to illustrate a point. President Obama may be drawn with large ears or taller than others to connect him to his physical stature. Cartoonists also exaggerate features to convey attitudes about the subject, like the many political cartoons where President George W. Bush was drawn to resemble a monkey to show him as stupid. Understanding that cartoonists draw in particular manners to convey messages, tell me…what am I supposed to understand about Sandra Fluke based on the above cartoon? (One could try to cop-out, saying that the sign above says “Pro-Choice,” not “Sandra Fluke…” if this is meant to make a statement about ALL women who are pro-choice, then this becomes even more offensive.)
There is, of course, the explicit written accusation of hypocrisy against the pro-choice movement, that they, on one hand, want the government to stay out of reproductive affairs while also funding birth control with the other hand. A well-crafted essay could have told me that point.
So, what does this political cartoon tell me that I couldn’t have drawn from a well-crafted essay? What does political cartoonist Gary McCoy tell me in his picture that I can’t take from the words? He says that Sandra Fluke is overweight, unattractive, and promiscuous.
Tell me, did you jump to the bold words above and automatically gain an opinion on Sandra Fluke? Did you make assumptions based on just one quick glance? Gary McCoy preys on that glance in his cartoon to shape your attitudes about his discourse.
The real Sandra Fluke is not overweight, is not unattractive, and there’s certainly nothing in that picture could lead one to believe she’s promiscuous. But a better question is this: “Why does her weight, attractiveness, or sexual habits even matter?” We idolize those who look like heroes, we villainize those who look like our enemies. When either of the aforementioned presidents are portrayed as evil, they might be seen with a pitchfork or a devil’s tale… so why is Sandra Fluke portrayed as fat, ugly and (as Rush Limbaugh so elequently put it) a slut? Because that’s how we call women evil in our culture.
It sickens me that today, in 2012, there are those that would rather simply demonize women than confront their ideas head-on. Look at the colors, the bulges, the art style as a whole..the “message” of the words is an after-thought. Readers are meant to see this cartoon, and instantly see a woman as vile, disgusting. Filthy. A whore. And that is a shame.
Let me make this statement outright, loud and clear: No matter what side of the aisle a person is on, anyone walking into the realm of political discourse deserves to have his/her ideas confronted and addressed without blatant bigotry and hatred infringing on the discussion. The idea that Gary McCoy would dare to strip such a complex political issue down to such pitiful hatred is sickening; this cartoon showcases sexism to the nth degree, and it saddens me that there isn’t more anger about this subject.
HuffPost’s “questionable” caption for the cartoon is wrong. There’s no “question” about it; it’s sexist, misogynistic. Just plain wrong. If we were looking at a cartoon of Obama hunched over like an ape wearing a skeleton mask, dancing around watermelons and buckets of fried chicken, there’d be no hesitation to call out the cartoonist for the offense he’d made. But the idea that this cartoon is considered “questionable,” that there’s anything that would cast doubt in the mind of someone who would point the finger and say, “This cartoon is absolutely offensive…” perhaps that’s the saddest part.
If someone came up to me and kept antagonizing me, calling me “nigger” over and over again while mocking my intelligence I’d certainly be angry, and most everyone would say I’d have the right to be. That word is a contextualized assault in the situation, meant to do nothing but demean and dehumanize regardless of any other point in the argument. It’s a statement, a statement that says, “It really doesn’t matter what you say or do, you’re still just a nigger. You’re less than human; nothing you say counts.”