Category Archives: activism

Fat So Funny

Election’s over, so what’s a political cartoonist to do? It’s not like there are any really important issues to consider. Could do something about the Congo or Rwanda. But, really, this is America: those places might as well be Oz, for all we care.

I know! There’s a new study about obesity! Several studies! Oh boy! Now political cartoonists can do what comes naturally: mock fat people, draw a newspaper with a headline and let a bad pun do the work.

Dana Summers fat teen cartoon

Yes, apparently there is some study about teens getting fatter or something. Causes? Remedies? Flaws in the study? How studies like these fit in a larger culture neurotic about physical appearance, hyper-consumption, and fast food? Who cares? Let’s mock fat people — and teens, too!

Steve Kelly fat teen cartoon

Ha ha! Get it! Teens only want to get drunk!

But you know what’s missing? A tie-in with popular culture. It doesn’t have to be relevant, or insightful, or even current. It just has to stimulate some region of the brain that stores random images osmotically absorbed from the general culture environment. Hey, Bat-man!

Ken Catallino's fat cartoon

Good thing the wind is blowing that newspaper high above the skyscrapers in such a way that we can read it. Otherwise I would have no idea what the hell this cartoon has to do with real life.

You know, you don’t have to be a hack cartoonist to squeeze out turds like these. You can be a well-respected, intelligent, and talented lion of the field like the great Clay Bennett, whose work I generally love:

Clay Bennett's obesity cartoon

Apparently Americans like to shovel their food served on plates decorated with the Presidential seal. Or something. It’s kinda abstract, really — so let’s go back to mocking fat youth!

Chip Bock's fat cartoon

Drew Sheneman's fat cartoon

Wow, okay, that’s enough. I could probably dig up more. If you feel masochistic, cruise through Slate.com’s health section of political cartoons and you will find 476 (as of today) that deal with general health issues, the majority of them focused on obesity. All of them will exploit some stereotype of fatness, teenagers or youth culture, consumption and gluttony for the sake of a cheap punchline and at the expense of insight, compassion, intelligence, context, and originality. As my friend and political cartoonist Barry Deutsch has pointed out many times, fat people are easy targets, perhaps the last “safe” target (along with the mentally ill and poor Southern whites) for comedians and other humorists to treat as an “other”, that slightly less-than-human category of people who deviate from The Norm and thus deserve mockery and marginalization. Of course, if these studies are true, then more Americans are getting fatter, so these cartoons act as a way of policing our behavior, inducing guilt and shame for being all-consuming gluttons. And there the conversation ends. But I’ll let Barry have the last word, because he puts it so well:

The reason fat activists have formed a movement is that it’s unjust to be denied good medical care because we’re fat; we think it’s unjust that we can get fired for being fat; we think it’s unjust that we face job and wage discrimination because we’re fat; we think it’s unjust that we can be charged more for basic services (like insurance) because we’re fat; it’s unjust that people glance at us and assume that we’re lazy and care nothing for ourselves; and yes, although you’ll sneer at this as “the right to feel good,” it’s unjust that fat people are taught from childhood to think of themselves as deficient, wrong, and disgusting.

Anit-fat bigotry isn’t wrong because it’s the same as facing lynch mobs. It’s wrong because it’s unjust. It’s unjust because we’re human and don’t deserve to be treated as second-class people because of the shape of our bodies.

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California Gays and Lesbians Can Get Married – Hooray!

Most of y’all have already heard about this, but it’s such good news, I wanna put in my two cents.

The California Supreme Court Overturns Gay Marriage Ban.

Such a nice headline.

Here’s Gavin Newsome celebrating:

What are the chances of something similar happening in Oregon where I live? Right now, not good. In 2004 the fundies and the homophobes pushed through ballot measure 36 to ban same-sex marriage via the Oregon State Constitution. It will take a repeal movement strong enough to override the amendment, not likely on a good day, but hopefully the California ruling will give it a boost.

Or generate a backlash. Adam Nagourney reports that the National Organization for Marriage in California is already taking steps to introduce a ballot measure to overturn the court’s ruling; yet he also notes that the issue may not resonate with homophobic voters the way it may have in 2004:

There is considerable debate whether the marriage issue helped Republican candidates in 2004. And it seems questionable if voters are going to find it compelling this year, at a time when the country is facing a prolonged war, an ailing economy and skyrocketing gasoline prices, the issues that Mr. McCain and the two Democratic candidates are confronting on the campaign trail every day.

“At best, it doesn’t move voters, and at worst for Republicans, it moves them against them,” said Matthew Dowd, who was chief strategist for Mr. Bush’s campaign in 2004. “Not so much on the issue, but it becomes, ‘Why are we having a discussion on this issue when we should talking about things that matter, like the economy, or health care, or the war?’ ”

Even more interesting: the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for gay marriage makes it more difficult for Senator John McCain to exploit the issue, something he has shown little inclination to do anyway.

What if – and this is a BIG IF – what if people are slowly, very slowly starting to grow up?

Everyone, that is, except fundies and The Pope, of course. I won’t surprise anyone by saying, “screw them.”

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Match It for Pratchett

I just donated a humble ten bucks toward the Match It for Pratchett charity drive, an effort by fans of author Terry Pratchett to match his donation of half a million pounds (about a million U.S. dollars) to research to treat and cure Alzheimer’s Disease. Specifically, the money goes to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. I have also put a donation button on the right column of my blog.

I had considered offering up original artwork for sale – a move launched by Shaenon Garrity of Narbonics fame (or many other avenues to glory; woman be bizzy!) – and I may still do that. But the quickest and easiest route for now is just direct donation. If you have a PayPal account – or wish to use your online bank account – the donation process shouldn’t take more than three clicks. Any donation amount is acceptable and, in fact, encouraged. The Match It for Pratchett fund-raisers strive to get at least 500,000 people to donate a pound (or $2.00 U.S.) toward Alzheimer’s research.

For those needing a little more background, Terry Pratchett is best known for the 35 novels in the Discworld series, stand-alone novels set in a comical and magical universe and featuring a wide assortment of mythical creatures. Call it fantasy, sci-fi, satire, parody, what-have-you. Pratchett is an excellent humorist and, as time goes on, a much needed humanist observer of war, money, belief, crime, equality and so on.  I have not read all of them, but I’m getting pretty close; and when I finish, I’ll move on to his other novels he has written outside of the Discworld series. The guy is crazy prolific, highly inventive and demonstrates a sharp wit. So the irony of his affliction escapes no one of his fans.

That said, he’s quite well and flourishing. He “atetn’t dead yet,” and I hope our efforts will contribute to keeping his mind alert and fertile for many years to come. Moreover, the benefits he might derive from the products of Alzheimer’s research and development should help others who share his affliction, if not his wealth and fame.