So for the past week my mom and brother have been visiting, and we got to do some camping and visit the coast, and it was great. One night I showed them the “Cautionary Tale” comic to see how they reacted. I wanted to see if anyone else understood the point I was trying to make with the piece. After viewing it, I asked them if there was a moral to the story. My brother, whose weight lifting has made his neck as wide as his head, answered: “Yeah, this is why men should be in charge.” To give a bit of background, my bro is 18 years old and joining the Marines in 23 days (a decidedly proud hyper-masculine organization), so he’s not very sophisticated about gender issues (or any other issues for that matter). But still, for someone to misinterpret the comic so broadly, I knew I had failed. My mom’s interpretation wasn’t much better, and I had to explain what I meant to portray.
First let me say that when talking about gender differences, you’re talking in generalities. Traits like aggressiveness, competitiveness, power, and violence are most often associated with masculinity, but we know women can embody these qualities too. Likewise, femininity is associated with nurturing, compassion, equanimity, etc… but a mature man contains these also. So, generalities.
I’m a feminist. I would love to see more women in leadership roles, and more traits associated with femininity exalted in our culture. So this comic is a commentary on the direction of feminism and where I feel like it’s gone astray.
Seems to me that many women strive to beat men at their own patriarchal game and call that victory for feminism. If you hate what thousands of years of patriarchy and male domination has done to this planet, you don’t bring more of that energy to earth, right? If the CEO of Exxon is a woman, and is better able to exploit and dominate the earth than her male counterparts, is that a feminist success? Is simply having females in powerful positions in the male created structure the goal? What is the goal?
These were some of the issues and questions I was trying to prod with this comic. I love illustration because it can portray a complex idea quickly and powerfully, in a way that no written explanation can. I feel like I failed to do that with “Cautionary Tale”, because it’s very open to misinterpretation. Perhaps I took on too complex a concept for my current skill level. A successful comic wouldn’t need a blog post explaining it.
What do you think about all this? Is the goal of feminism to make women equal to men, or is it more?