Disgusting

Before I begin this post, let me apologize for the editorial cartoon that I am posting in it. This post is about the cartoon, and so the image must be posted; that said, I am so disgusted by the image that I am uncomfortable putting it ahead of this disclaimer.

Quite simply, this political cartoon is vile. It is racist. It is sexist. It may be triggering. It is indefensible. And it is everything that is wrong with the right today. I am sorry I am showing it to you, but I think that it needs to be distributed. People need to actually see what passes for discussion on the right — and why the plaintive pleas that the tea party movement is totally not racist are, flatly, lies.

All right. Here is the image. If you do not wish to see it, please, click away now.

For the image viewing impaired, a description: Lady Liberty sits on a bed in the background, half-dressed, apparently having been raped. In the foreground, Barack Obama pulls a shirt on, and says, “Oh, shut up and stop your whining. You gave all the consent I’ll ever need Nov 2008. [sic] Get yourself cleaned up. I’ll be back — CapNTrade, Immigration, whatever. And I’ll bring ‘friends.’”

This political cartoon by Darleen Click appeared on the website Protein Wisdom — a long-standing cesspool of the right. Obama, of course, is depicted as a rapist, having defiled America by forcing health care on us — and now, he’s threatening to come back to gang-rape America some more.

The image is troubling on two fronts. First, portraying Obama as a rapist is playing on a trope as old as slavery — that African American men are lying in wait to defile good, white women. Lynching became acceptable in the South because it was done in “defense” of whites who wanted to keep their race “pure.” The myth of black sexual aggression and the poor white women who were forced to live in fear of it has been passed down from generation to generation — and it still endures to this day, though we’ve stopped lynching and instead moved on to telling women not to go out alone in the “bad” part of town.

There is, quite simply, no way to portray Obama as a rapist that does not play into this trope; just like drawing Obama as a chimpanzee, the image is ipso facto racist; nobody with the slightest understanding of the troubled history of American race relations would even consider drawing it without understanding that.

The fact that you and I understand this, of course, makes us the real racists; Click herself thinks she was totally justified. In a postscript to the cartoon, she lashes out at critics:

Oh I know I’m going to get called names on this. But I’m not going to play that game anymore. Like the sign at one of the TEA parties that said “it doesn’t matter what this sign says, you going to call it racist anyway.” When even the lawsuits now being brought by 30 plus state AG’s is considered racist, it is time to stop playing that game.

[...]

Heck, I want to shake them up. This is supposed to be a post-racial era? Then deal with the fact that the President of the United States is the head of a gang that just raped our American principles.

I made it a cartoon and not a photoshop and the “woman” is green. Deal, people.

This is not, of course, a post-racial era; only conservatives would think it was. But the idea that Liberty Enlightening the World is a racially neutral figure is absurd. And frankly, even if the Franco-American statue can somehow be depicted as non-white, it doesn’t change the fact that the trope of African American male sexual aggression is about the oppression of African American males1 far more than the victims they purportedly choose.

So the portrayal of Obama as the leader of a gang of rapists is offensive enough. What’s equally offensive, however, is something Click never even bothers to mention in her defensive diatribe — the fact that the cartoon is also offensive to anyone who’s been a victim of sexual assault.

I have, thankfully, never been a victim of sexual assault, but I’ve met my share of survivors, read their stories and done my best, as a compassionate human, to understand what the attacks have done to them, and to work as an ally to make sure that I stand against those who would minimize those attacks.

I cannot speak for anyone who’s suffered through the process of dealing with assault, but I’ve yet to see anyone who’s dealt first-hand with the issue see it as a metaphor to be drug out to describe political events. It’s far too personal for that. It’s like describing a zoning decision as a Holocaust — it’s just too big to be a metaphor.

Using something like health care reform to claim that Obama is raping America is simply ignoring what rape really is. Hell, George W. Bush tortured people and sought to extrajudicially wire-tap Americans — acts far less in keeping with the spirit of American democracy than adding health coverage — and I wouldn’t use the word rape to describe those actions, because damn it, I don’t have the right to.

Click doesn’t even note this, of course — she simply portrays America as a woman who’s been raped, and is going to be gang-raped, and can do nothing about it.

There is far more to pick apart in this cartoon than I can; SEK at Lawyers, Guns & Money noted that it’s deeply ironic that Obama is evidently planning to rape the Statue of Liberty with immigration reform, and I can’t disagree there. And I haven’t even commented on the drawing as an aesthetic piece; I believe it could best be described as “horrible.”

But compared to the graver sins of the piece — vile racism and blatant sexism — they pale. Darleen Click has managed to, in a short cartoon, prove once again that the tea party types are exactly who we thought they were.

  1. Of course, it’s also about deep-seated white guilt over the rape of African American women; the history of that is well-documented, and includes American figures from Thomas Jefferson to Strom Thurmond. []
This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Health Care and Related Issues, Race, racism and related issues, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

66 Responses to Disgusting

  1. 1
    Austin Nedved says:

    What’s equally offensive, however, is something Click never even bothers to mention in her defensive diatribe — the fact that the cartoon is also offensive to anyone who’s been a victim of sexual assault.

    …and thanks to the Miller test, this is protected speech. How do you feel about that?

  2. 2
    a sane person says:

    This is completely, completely vile.

  3. 3
    Ben Lehman says:

    Hey, Jeff.

    Speaking as a rape survivor, three things:
    1) While I find this cartoon offensive, I do not find it offensive as a rape survivor.
    2) Please do not speak on my behalf about this or any other topic.
    3) If you’re really worried about something being triggering, put it behind a damned cut.

    I don’t claim (or desire) to speak for all rape survivors, just me.

  4. 4
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    It’s interesting that if there are any racist visual tropes in how Obama is drawn, they’re pretty subtle. As political caricature goes, it’s mild.

    This is about as cheering as the video I saw of a white supremacist being careful to use language which includes women, but I think it indicates something has changed.

  5. 5
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Once again, The Onion proves that it is not satire: it is prophecy. “Raping Lady Liberty” is a frequent theme of The Onion’s political cartoons in “Our Dumb Century”.

  6. 6
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Sidetrack: Lady Liberty is definitely green, but it might be a worthwhile project to recast her (in drawings) as being of various races and racial combinations– why not imagine her as looking a bit more like America?

  7. 7
    timb says:

    Jeff, once the cesspool learns of your apostasy, expect several “clever” ripostes and “hilarious” insults.

    Imagine being thta offended over insurance reform

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    First, portraying Obama as a rapist is playing on a trope as old as slavery — that African American men are lying in wait to defile good, white women.

    I find this cartoon pretty disturbing, but as far as racism goes – she’s green, not white. I don’t particularly like the use of the rape imagery, but you’re on pretty shaky grounds with racism charges.

  9. 9
    Dianne says:

    she’s green, not white.

    She’s light green with white style hair. I think the implication is pretty clear.

  10. 10
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    She’s light green because that’s what color the copper she’s made of turned.

    On the other hand, her features and hair are definitely white.

  11. 11
    nojojojo says:

    RonF,

    The Statue of Liberty is a white woman. Straight hair, Roman nose, “classical” (i.e. Caucasian) features. She was designed by a white French artist for what was, at the time, an overtly white supremacist nation. ‘Scuse my French, but what the fuck else do you think she could be?

    The fact that she was done in copper (which was brown once; she’s only turned green over time) doesn’t make her, say, Indian, any more than being done in gray and white marble makes the guys on Mt Rushmore, say, Morlocks.

    Disgusted on several levels now.

  12. 12
    RonF says:

    To me the Statue of Liberty represents America – all America, not just white people.

    it’s deeply ironic that Obama is evidently planning to rape the Statue of Liberty with immigration reform,

    I wouldn’t say that. After all, “Reform” would mean that the changes that the Administration will ask for in immigration law will have a positive effect. As in the debate for health care “reform”, the very issue of whether the effects of the changes will be positive or negative is up for debate. Most of the people here would certainly view them as reform; I would not. But when the news media call it “reform” instead of “changes” they are editorializing under the guise of informing.

  13. 13
    fannie says:

    I find much of the right’s rhetoric about democratic processes to be infused with the language of sexual assault, whether it’s cartoons like this or their constant cries that Obama is trying to “cram” or “shove” things down our collective throats without our consent.

  14. 14
    leah says:

    You know what? Whether or not the Statue of Liberty represents a white woman (c’mon, we all know she’s French – see Ghostbusters pt 2) – leaving aside the racial makeup of the v/s – portraying a black man – OUR PRESIDENT – as a rapist in the manner that is done in this cartoon, is racist. Full stop. It plays into the racist narratives of dangerous black male sexuality.

    Furthermore, it is simply offensive to all Americans to portray our president as a rapist, any president, of any time period*. I sure hope the person who penned this piece of vilery wasn’t one of those who clamored for the nation to respect the president a few years ago; that would be blatant hypocrisy. This is the most disrespectful portrayal of an American president one could get.

    Moreso it is very, very offensive to myself as a survivor and victim’s advocate. I am so f*cking sick of people using rape as a metaphor, as if they know what it’s like, as if the two were even comparable on any level. It’s belittling rape and it’s revictimizing.

    *unless they, you know, actually were a rapist, but that’s not what we’re talking about here

  15. 15
    Jake Squid says:

    In every comment thread to posts on Alas that point out racism you can find RonF either denying that there is any racism present or excusing the racism present. Every. Single. Time.

    Can you stop it, Ron? Seriously, this has moved from embarrassing to offensive. I’m hard pressed to think of a better way to convince me that you are a racist. Is that really what you’re trying to do?

  16. 16
    jules says:

    I can’t believe commenters *HERE* are saying that this a) isn’t racist or b) can’t be offensive/harmful to victims of rape.

    Using rape to make a joke — to make a political point that has nothing to do with sexual violence — is not fucking ok. I know political cartoons aren’t necessarily supposed to be “funny” ha-ha, but still, rape is not a joke.

    I am honestly horrified to share a species with someone who thinks this is in any way an acceptable line of thought, not to mention an appropriate thing to draw and publish. It makes me want to puke. (But hey, maybe that’s just the PTSD symptoms that get triggered by this kinda bullshit that Ben thinks I shouldn’t have.)

  17. 17
    Sailorman says:

    I despise the cartoon itself. It’s both racist and sexist. But I’m happy to live in a country where it can be published. And the second part is so much more important to me that I am hesitant to attack the cartoon.

    There are two conflicting issues.

    1) Should people in the U.S. be free to insult the sitting U.S. President*–the most powerful person in the country, and probably the most powerful person on the planet–in any manner that they choose?

    2) Should people be discouraged from using racist or sexist wording/imagery?

    This is an especially pertinent conflict at the moment because the President happens to be a POC. That makes insults more likely to trigger a charge of racism, because there are many more unsavory areas when it comes to historical treatment of POC. It also makes insults more likely to be actually based on racism, because, duh, people are still racist.

    Opinions may differ, but I think that protecting right #1 in is more important than protecting right #2, in the limited sphere of the Presidency. I would argue strenuously against any proposal that our sitting Presidents are due any protections at all. In other words, this cartoon is both reprehensible (racism/rape = bad) but also, in a bizarre way, perfectly fine (attacking the current President = good.)

    This bears a bit of explanation. While it’s not appropriate in general to attempt to ignore race, and it’s not appropriate in general to claim that race shouldn’t matter in an analysis, I believe this to be a unique situation. The special role and stature of the Presidency supports a view that “during their limited tenure, sitting Presidents should be analyzed solely as Presidents, not as people.” Could you draw a President of Race A in the picture? If the answer is “yes,” then we need to be able to draw any president of any race.

    So: is it racist? Yes. But it’s OK anyway, because we shouldn’t limit the ability of the people to attack the current President, even if that attack is racist in nature.

    Same thing with rape. As I said, it’s a horrible cartoon. But when Leah says

    Furthermore, it is simply offensive to all Americans to portray our president as a rapist, any president, of any time period

    I couldn’t disagree more. That sort of restriction goes against one of the main underpinnings of our entire country, which was founded in part through the rejection of the concept of limiting speech, and a rejection of the concept that powerful people should be immune to attack. Of all the people in the country, the current President is the one who should be least immune from attacks.

    * I know I’ve said this throughout, but I want to emphasize that I’m only talking about the current, sitting, U.S. President. The same cartoon in the context of Obama’s race for the presidency, or the same cartoon aimed at him when he was a relatively normal Senator, would have a completely different analysis. It’s only his extreme status as “most powerful person in the world” that justifies the “no protections at all” analysis.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    I despise the cartoon itself. It’s both racist and sexist. But I’m happy to live in a…

    Congrats, SM! That was the 125,000th comment in the “Alas” database!

    Of course, that excludes spam, deleted comments, and the tens of thousands of comments from early years of the blog which got lost in one crash or another. But still, it’s pretty cool!

  19. 19
    delagar says:

    “…And the second part is so much more important to me that I am hesitant to attack the cartoon.”

    As I understand it, free speech gives this Click person the right to say what she likes. It does not give her the right to say what she likes without anyone objecting to it.

    In other words, for instance, someone at a Tea Party is allowed to say any manner of ignorant nonsense about what’s in the HCR bill. But he’s not allowed to expect that he will not be called on his ignorance, or have it pointed out to him that what he is saying is wrong.

    Is this not the same? Click is allowed to post an offensive, racist, misogynist, ignorant drawing on the net. She’s not allowed to expect that people will not then point out to her that she has been offensive, racist, misogynist, and plain ignorant.

  20. 20
    Dianne says:

    1) Should people in the U.S. be free to insult the sitting U.S. President*–the most powerful person in the country, and probably the most powerful person on the planet–in any manner that they choose?

    2) Should people be discouraged from using racist or sexist wording/imagery?

    Yes to both questions. As far as I know, no one here is suggesting that the cartoon be censored in any way, just that it is (to put it mildly) in poor taste and not a good way to get the point across. The cartoon is and should be legal but should not be acceptable in polite company. Which Protein Wisdom is not so I suppose my main problem with it is what it reveals about the thinking of the average tea bagger. Yeck! Since when is enacting a popular reform in any way equivalent to rape anyway?

  21. 21
    Sailorman says:

    Congrats, SM! That was the 125,000th comment in the “Alas” database!

    Of course, that excludes spam, deleted comments, and the tens of thousands of comments from early years of the blog which got lost in one crash or another. But still, it’s pretty cool!

    Awesome! Can I have a cookie?

  22. 22
    a sane person says:

    But I’m happy to live in a country where it can be published. And the second part is so much more important to me that I am hesitant to attack the cartoon.

    Why? I don’t understand. If a person has a right to make an objectionable statement, why should it be considered undermining free speech if someone points out loud and clear how objectionable (racist, sexist, etc) that statement is?

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    Sure you can have a cookie! You have to come to Portland to pick it up, however.

  24. 24
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @RonF – sorry, but what Liberty represents and what she is are two different things. Yes, she represents freedom for all Americans… but physically? She’s a white woman.

  25. 25
    Sailorman says:

    why should it be considered undermining free speech if someone points out loud and clear how objectionable (racist, sexist, etc) that statement is?

    It’s absolutely not.

    The criticisms are not undermining free speech, because the answer to speech is more speech. Free speech, and the challenges to that speech, should be protected in every way.

    They are, however, undermining important speech, insofar as I believe it to be important to have people who attack the sitting President. Even if those people are assholes.

    Does that make sense? Here, I’ll elaborate:

    I don’t think there’s a “right not to have your shitty cartoons criticized.”

    But I do think that talking about restrictions on what is “acceptable” in terms of “how can we attack the president?” is treading on very dangerous ground. Because, of course, there will be other Presidents you want to attack.

    Like I said, it’s a conflict, and to my eyes it’s an issue about which people can reasonably disagree. I think it’s better to voluntarily limit the exercise of our right to protest the shitty cartoon, in favor of avoiding any strictures (including social ones) on what we can say about a sitting President. That’s because I put a huge weight on governmental process. If you value things differently, you’ll come to a different conclusion.

    * Actually, I’m a bit of a free speech nut. And if you follow this sort of thing, you’d know that the country is developing more and more restrictions on speech. My free speech rant follows:

    I’m not talking about restrictions which are placed by the federal government, mind you. But remember how you didn’t used to be able to speak out in favor of liberalism and communism, without fear of unofficial censure? The same is happening now in academia, and occasionally in the workplace.

    In certain respects it’s not so different from the same sort of societal restrictions which have always been in play. It’s partly a swing of the pendulum from “conservatives enforcing speech codes against liberalism (broadly defined to include anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc.) ” to “liberal enforcers enforcing speech codes against conservatism.”

    But the problem is that the general concept of “free speech as an inalienable right” has to some degree been the domain of the liberals, because it fit with other philosophical issues. In other words, on that particular issue we do IMO a better job defending ourselves than the conservatives are doing. And as a result, since we’re now in the “enforcing” position, free speech overall is going down.

    That’s why I support organizations like The Fire, even though they often end up being on the conservative side of debates. And that’s why I am so careful of condemning certain types of very important speech (like this) even if i don’t like what it says.

  26. 26
    RonF says:

    Why? I don’t understand. If a person has a right to make an objectionable statement, why should it be considered undermining free speech if someone points out loud and clear how objectionable (racist, sexist, etc) that statement is?

    It’s not, as long as that someone does not then further propose suppressing the first person’s speech through violence, “hate speech” laws, etc. Pointing out loud and clear that you find someone else’s speech highly objectionable is the epitome of one of the most appropriate ways to use your right to free speech.

    In every comment thread to posts on Alas that point out racism you can find RonF either denying that there is any racism present or excusing the racism present. Every. Single. Time.

    First, I’d challenge your assertion “every single time”. I’d be very suprised if you found me even commenting at all on every single assertion of racism on Alas.

    What do you find me occasionally commenting on is that it seems there are people here that figure that every time you see something involving two people of different races, racism is automatically involved. And that’s nonsense. He’s the President, she’s America. That’s what that cartoon is all about. Now, you find symbolism in the fact that he’s black and you interpret the Statue of Liberty as white, and you then fill in a racist subtext. I think you’re wrong. There were plenty of jokes about President Bush screwing America when he was in office; in fact, I think you could find such things going back to Kennedy at least. President Obama is black. That doesn’t magically turn such commentary into racism. I’d certainly agree that there’s a deliberate use of rape imagery here, and that’s reason enough to condemn this.

  27. 27
    RonF says:

    SiF, I won’t question that the statue is based on a white woman. But symbolism is what the cartoon is all about. She doesn’t symbolize white women, she symbolizes America. I reject the concept that the point of the cartoon is a black man assaulting a white woman; I think that’s absurd. The man is black. Most people in the U.S. are white. If you’re going to create a cartoon of the President interacting with the American people you’re going to have him interacting with white people for the most part. That doesn’t make such cartoons racist if the interaction is negative.

    In thinking further, I’ll tell you where I’d be on the racism side here. If the cartoon had a generic white woman in the cartoon labelled as “America”. Then I’d say that it as a racist impact, and agree that it was arguably likely that the cartoonist’s intent was racist as well. But the Statue of Liberty is a far more encompassing symbol than that.

    An aside:

    I’m sitting here thinking about the analysis of how she was originally brown/copper colored and is now green due to corrosion. It occurs to me that I’d bet that if you asked 100 people on the street why the Statue of Liberty is green at least 70 of them would either say a) she was painted green or b) that’s what color copper is. Any takers?

  28. 28
    a sane person says:

    But I do think that talking about restrictions on what is “acceptable” in terms of “how can we attack the president?” is treading on very dangerous ground. Because, of course, there will be other Presidents you want to attack.

    I believe we should talk about what is “acceptable” when you attack anyone, not just a person in power.

    I don’t have a problem with attacking the President, this one or any other, but I object to an attack that is racist and that calls a person a rapist. I object to anyone who proclaims someone to be a rapist, unless that person is actually a rapist. And I don’t think we should refrain ourselves from condemning a racist attack, regardless of whom it is directed towards: a liberal, a conservative, a President or a man next door.

    Saying that condemning the content should be avoided because it is “important to have people who attack the sitting President” makes no sense to me. I object the content of this attact, not the idea of a virulent attack on the sitting President.

  29. 29
    RonF says:

    Fannie:

    I find much of the right�s rhetoric about democratic processes to be infused with the language of sexual assault, whether it�s cartoons like this or their constant cries that Obama is trying to �cram� or �shove� things down our collective throats without our consent.

    “Cram” and “shove” are code words for sexual assault now? Seriously?

  30. 30
    Jake Squid says:

    Here are some samples Ron.

    White Privilege
    Evaluating the Outrageous
    A Simple Exercise
    Harry Reid’s Negro Comment
    What If Black Women Were White Women
    Shut Up Ralph Nader
    The Low Cost of Being Racist

    Do I need to go on? Do I need to say that my claim of “every single time” is hyperbole? Would you prefer, “every single time that the person accused of racism isn’t somebody that you disagree with politically?” That’s pretty close.

    If I were you I wouldn’t dismiss this criticism out of hand. It took me, what? 10 minutes to go to the archives and find those links. Those links only go back as far as October 26, 2009. That’s a lot of dismissing or excusing racism in 6 months.

  31. 31
    Jake Squid says:

    Maybe never mind if that last comment is viewable.

  32. 32
    Austin Nedved says:

    As far as I know, no one here is suggesting that the cartoon be censored in any way

    I am.

    As I understand it, free speech gives this Click person the right to say what she likes

    In this case, “freedom of speech” a narrow definition of obscenity gives this person the legal right to publish rape jokes. Why is everyone who’s defending the legality of this sort of material appealing to “free speech” rather than the more accurate and specific “narrow definition of obscenity”? Hmm…

  33. 33
    Asada says:

    interesting.
    In any case, I get the point they are trying to make, and the imagery is disturbing.
    I’ve always seen rape as more of an ongoing intense crime scene than a woman crying in a bed. When I saw this I thought “She look more like a woman who slept with a man and now really regrets it”. I will look more into what images come to mind with rape.

  34. 34
    leah says:

    Same thing with rape. As I said, it’s a horrible cartoon. But when Leah says

    Furthermore, it is simply offensive to all Americans to portray our president as a rapist, any president, of any time period

    I couldn’t disagree more. That sort of restriction goes against one of the main underpinnings of our entire country, which was founded in part through the rejection of the concept of limiting speech, and a rejection of the concept that powerful people should be immune to attack. Of all the people in the country, the current President is the one who should be least immune from attacks.
    rson in the world” that justifies the “no protections at all” analysis.

    Way to NOT READ WHAT I TYPED

    Did I say that it should be restricted?

    HELL NO

    Somehow saying it’s OFFENSIVE means saying it should be BANNED?

    Stop putting words in my mouth.

    It *IS* offensive. That doesn’t mean free speech should be restricted. FFS. Learn logic.

  35. 35
    Austin Nedved says:

    It *IS* offensive. That doesn’t mean free speech should be restricted.

    Really though, why does everyone keep referring to a narrow definition of obscenity as freedom of speech? Why not call it what it is?

    “Now, once they have emptied and purged these from the soul of the man whom they are seizing and initiating in great rites, they proceed to return insolence, anarchy, wastefulness, and shamelessness from exile, in a blaze of light, crowned and accompanied by a numerous chorus, extolling and flattering them by calling insolence good education; anarchy, freedom; wastefulness, magnificence; and shamelessness, courage.

    …cohabitation and fornication, basic liberties; homosexual relationships, marriage; a narrow definition of obscenity, freedom of speech.

    It’s all starting to make sense.

  36. 36
    Jeff Fecke says:

    Austin, the reason people refer to a narrow definition of obscenity as freedom of speech is that an expansive definition of obscenity curtails freedom of speech. It doesn’t take a constitutional scholar to know that one person’s obscenity is another’s free expression; I would despise living in a country where, say, discussion of homosexual sexuality was banned because the discussion was “obscene.” And yet, if we expanded the definition of obscenity to include Click’s cartoon, I think we’d certainly be at the point where discussion of sexuality would be constitutionally suspect.

    I absolutely, positively want Darleen Click to have the freedom to post her vile filth. Indeed, I’m grateful to live in a country where she can. Not because I agree with her message, but because her freedom to express her hate tells the world, in no uncertain terms, that she is a hater. If Click was barred from posting this comic, she would still be a racist, sexist douchebag. She’d just have to hide it. Now, happily, we know who she is, and what she really thinks.

    Moreover, I support Click’s right to speak her mind — disturbing as that mind is — because it is the same right that allows me to call her a douche. Don’t misunderstand me; I also think the only appropriate response to this comic is condemnation and opprobrium. I’m glad she was able to create it freely, but I lament that her soul is so twisted that this is what she created. Saying so is simply true. And I hope that Click some day wakes up, realizes she’s acting like a jerk, and stops being a racist and sexist.

    But the solution to speech, always, is more speech. The solution to Click’s hateful cartoon is opprobrium and scorn. Not banning. Never banning. Simply pointing, and mocking, and saying, “This is wrong.” That’s the beauty of the First Amendment — which is a guarantee of liberty that is something all Americans can truly be proud of.

  37. 37
    Robert says:

    Hear, hear, Mr. Fecke.

    Click has turned PW, a site which was a lot of fun when it was just Jeff G jousting at an abtruse level with the Progressive Menace (and making a lot of drug jokes), into something…well, I still like Jeff G so I won’t go into specifics. But I don’t read it anymore.

  38. 38
    Austin Nedved says:

    Austin, the reason people refer to a narrow definition of obscenity as freedom of speech is that an expansive definition of obscenity curtails freedom of speech. It doesn’t take a constitutional scholar to know that one person’s obscenity is another’s free expression; I would despise living in a country where, say, discussion of homosexual sexuality was banned because the discussion was “obscene.” And yet, if we expanded the definition of obscenity to include Click’s cartoon, I think we’d certainly be at the point where discussion of sexuality would be constitutionally suspect.

    You can draw a line between political speech and obscenity. It’s easy. Something like “the history of gay rights” is political speech, whereas a gay romance novel is obscene. It’s the difference between speeches and poetry. There’s a pretty big difference between arguing that fornication should be legal or socially acceptable, and Sex and the City. The line can be drawn.

    But the solution to speech, always, is more speech. The solution to Click’s hateful cartoon is opprobrium and scorn. Not banning. Never banning. Simply pointing, and mocking, and saying, “This is wrong.” That’s the beauty of the First Amendment — which is a guarantee of liberty that is something all Americans can truly be proud of.

    When I said that this cartoon should be labeled obscene and banned, I didn’t only have this particular cartoon in mind. It’s not even the best example of what I’d like to see burned, because it doesn’t show or allude to rape in a permissive way.

    I’m more concerned with material like this, and this, and this. Media that encourages rape, sets unrealistic beauty norms that women starve themselves trying to achieve, and anorexia how-to websites all ought to be legally obscene. And I’m going to be blunt – I don’t think it’s political speech you fear would be threatened by a more accurate and comprehensive definition of obscenity.

    Broadening the definition of obscenity would allow us to censor rape and anorexia-positive media. This would probably prevent a great deal of rape and an even greater amount of anorexia. On the other hand, expanding the definition of obscenity would allow us to censor more than just that. This could really deal a blow to our permissive attitudes towards sexuality in general. Between the huge amount of avoidable rape and anorexia, and the effects of a more broad definition of obscenity, you’ve chosen the former as the lesser of two evils. (This is your guys’ space, so I’m going to bite my tongue (fingers?) and try to be as nice and polite about this as I possibly can. It’s going to be hard. Very hard.)

    And right now, you have your way. This sort of material is Constitutionally protected, which means that we as a country have chosen the avoidable rape and anorexia over the effects of a broader definition of obscenity as being the lesser of two evils. This is not something to be proud of. This is something we should change.

  39. 39
    piny says:

    Ron, Lady Liberty is meant to represent America, and all Americans. But she’s a woman with caucasoid features, she’s a variation on a contemporary archetype–sort of Pallas Sarah Bernhardt–that is exclusively white, and she was dedicated in an era when people of color were not used to personify Western nations or Western virtues. The statue’s facilitators, like their contemporaries, probably universalized America–and Humanity–as White.

    There are reasons a proud white lady was chosen to represent the honor of America when the statue was built, and there are reasons she was chosen to represent the violated honor of America when Darlene deployed her Tijuana-bible-level draftsmanship. There are other personifications of America. Uncle Sam is a general example; Harry and Louise are another. This one was meant to highlight our vulnerability and decency, but also Barack Obama’s fundamental savagery. Darlene is drawing a line between Lady America and the Scary Rapine Black Man What Wants to Have His Way With [You].

  40. 40
    Chris says:

    Austin–”You can draw a line between political speech and obscenity. It’s easy. Something like “the history of gay rights” is political speech, whereas a gay romance novel is obscene.”

    It is?

    “There’s a pretty big difference between arguing that fornication should be legal or socially acceptable, and Sex and the City. The line can be drawn.”

    Perhaps it can, but I see absolutely no reason why it should.

  41. 41
    jules says:

    Did Austin just suggest that freedom of speech is responsible for eating disorders and rape, and banning (gay) romance novels and “Sex and the City” would fix it?!

    The mind boggles.

  42. 42
    Jake Squid says:

    … we as a country have chosen the avoidable rape and anorexia over the effects of a broader definition of obscenity…

    Can you list the effects of a broader definition of obscenity? Without that, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to understand your position.

  43. 43
    Myca says:

    Can you list the effects of a broader definition of obscenity? Without that, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to understand your position.

    Well, and what, exactly, that definition would be.

    —Myca

  44. 44
    Doug S. says:

    Indeed, that cartoon was disgusting.

    /me ponders what reaction the cartoon would have gotten if it had either Bush or Cheney instead of Obama…

  45. Pingback: feminist blogs in english » » Seriously, why are they so obsessed with rape metaphors?

  46. 45
    mythago says:

    Oh, for crying out loud. Do we really need to allow Austin to derail the discussion about why this cartoon is vile to a discussion of US obscenity law, particularly when it doesn’t apply to this cartoon?

    And we’re still talking about the racism only. Amanda over at Pandagon already pointed out how pitiful it is that certain far-righters still think rape is a dandy metaphor meaning “waaaa, I didn’t get what I wanted.”

  47. 46
    a sane person says:

    I came across an older article Sady Doyle wrote for the Guardian, about how right-wingers in the media use the rape metaphor to provoke fear and revolt against the government:

    Limbaugh, Savage and Beck talk to American conservatives for a living: specifically, unpleasant, unreasonable, hair-trigger, angry, reactionary conservatives. They trade on a very specific variety of American fear – the fear that some Other (probably gay, foreign, brown, non-Christian, or all of the above) is coming to take away one’s way of life. They need their audiences, therefore, to feel under attack. And there are few attacks more viscerally terrifying than rape.

    It’s customary to say that people who misuse “rape” as a metaphor for general unpleasantness don’t take rape seriously. But I think Limbaugh, Beck, and Savage take it very seriously. They may not have educated themselves on how rape actually happens; they may not engage in anti-rape activism, and they may not make a point of raising audience members’ awareness of actual rapes in the world; they may have less than no time to spare for discussing actual sexual assaults, in their catalogue of imaginary figurative rapes. Still, they trade on the public’s terror of rape, and apparently respect the word’s power to shock and horrify, if nothing else. Which is why these three leaders of men are working, as hard as possible, to create a mental link between that kind of gut-level fear and any or all progressive initiatives and figures.

  48. 47
    joe says:

    Ronf, you comment a lot, and you politely say the same things over and over and over again. Sometimes you offer new ideas or information but it’s often lost in the repetition of arguments you’ve made many many times.

    Jeff, I don’t see the racism in this cartoon. I see your argument, but I think it’s wrong.

  49. 48
    Joey Maloney says:

    I see racism in the comic (good thing I saw it before it was apparently pulled down), but not as a black-on-white rape trope.

    What says racism to me is the way Obama is depicted. His facial features, carriage, and hairstyle are all altered to make him look like the stereotype of a ghetto gangbanger and less like the handsome mixed-race person he is.

    Beyond all that, I have to say I don’t see the metaphor as being all that out of bounds. In fact, looked at in the context of US political commentary throughout the nation’s history, it’s, well, not comparatively mild but certainly not an outlier. Lest we forget, Thomas Jefferson was portrayed as an ACTUAL, not metaphorical rapist by his opponents. And I can recall cartoons depicting Ronald Reagan buggering a mestizo-looking woman labeled “Nicaragua”.

  50. 49
    mythago says:

    Joey, are you really saying that if something is a ‘common trope’ throughout US political commentary, it can’t possibly be offensive?

  51. 50
    jules says:

    Thomas Jefferson *was* a rapist.

  52. 51
    MissaA says:

    @Sailorman

    Racist forms of expression do not further the ideal of freedom of speech, because such expression silences the voices of PoC by “othering” them, by trivializing their experiences and opinions, and by intimidating them. The extreme rhetoric that is increasingly prevalent in the USA is not a sign of the health of USian political dialog. It’s designed to shut down and silence the other side.

  53. 52
    Elusis says:

    It’s customary to say that people who misuse “rape” as a metaphor for general unpleasantness don’t take rape seriously. But I think Limbaugh, Beck, and Savage take it very seriously. They may not have educated themselves on how rape actually happens; they may not engage in anti-rape activism, and they may not make a point of raising audience members’ awareness of actual rapes in the world; they may have less than no time to spare for discussing actual sexual assaults, in their catalogue of imaginary figurative rapes. Still, they trade on the public’s terror of rape, and apparently respect the word’s power to shock and horrify, if nothing else.

    I think it’s no accident that there is almost always an overtone of *homosexual* rape in the imagery Limbaugh etc. uses. Limbaugh loves to talk about his fear of getting “bent over” by this boogeyman or other. It’s the old “the worst thing that can happen to a man is for him to be turned into a woman” trope.

  54. 53
    Joey Maloney says:

    mythago, are you really saying that’s what you understood my comment to mean? Wow, I suck at clear writing, apparently.

    I’m saying the cartoon’s level of offensiveness is nothing new, nor especially or uniquely outrageous in the tradition of American political discourse.

    I thought the cartoon depicting Ronald Reagan raping Nicaragua was a concise and effective way of communicating in pictures what was wrong with out Central American policy. Its effectiveness was entirely due to the shocking and outrageous image.

    This cartoon depicting Obama as raping Liberty is a concise and effective way of communicating in pictures that Darlene Glick has no fucking idea what she’s talking about, AND is mind-bogglingly clankingly tone-deaf to US racial politics besides.

    jules, be fair, the most we can say is that Jefferson or some other person in his male line was a rapist.

  55. 54
    Small suggestion says:

    My suggestion is that you use a thumbnail (a really tiny one) or a link to the drawing rather than post it directly.
    I feel sick just looking at it and your article is wrapped around it so it’s kind of hard to ignore.

  56. 55
    mythago says:

    I’m saying the cartoon’s level of offensiveness is nothing new, nor especially or uniquely outrageous in the tradition of American political discourse.

    Yes, I know what you’re saying. Nobody is disagreeing on this point. In fact, people are pointing out over and over again that reactionaries reach for that metaphor over and over again, particularly in a racist context. Why do you feel it is important whether or not this is a novel tactic?

  57. 56
    NewsCat says:

    (Let me get out of the way that I’m a progressive Democrat who was *mostly* happy with HCR passing…)

    But if the cartoon depicted George W. Bush raping lady liberty over torture and due process (and immigration reform) would the response be the same that such a cartoon is only offensive to women because of the rape imagery? I guess what I’m trying to puzzle over is what is the line in imagery a political cartoonist much watch when your president happens to be black?

    I think the cartoon is offensive. I think it’s message is an overblown hysteria over the actions of President Obama. But the dialogue about this cartoon would make for a whole ph.d in political cartooning. For example I detest Dick Cheney but if I was drawing a cartoon of him having him spit on the Constitution would be a better image to convey a message than having him rape the statue of liberty. What I’m trying to puzzle out is whether the concept of deliberate offense (the rape imagery) can be uncoupled from the race of our president. (Plus anyone notice the typo in the cartoon?)

  58. 57
    piny says:

    They did that, except he was a vampire, which is a lot different from a graphic rape reference.

    Nobody, especially an American president, happens to be black. Racism–clients, originators, -lovers and bleeding hearts, voters–has been a part of the public discussion of his presidency and healthcare reform since before inauguration. It would be nice if you could remove cartoons like this from their context, but you can’t, and the context is unavoidably racist. Ms. Click doesn’t intend for this cartoon to be removed from that context, either–I think it’s fair to say that she’s pretty freaking racist, but she knows her audience is, too.

  59. I see how ambiguity about the race of the victim makes portraying a black man as a rapist less racist.

    Sailorman:

    But I do think that talking about restrictions on what is “acceptable” in terms of “how can we attack the president?” is treading on very dangerous ground. Because, of course, there will be other Presidents you want to attack.

    Inevitably. I’ll just have to find some way of doing so without calling them rapists, even in a metaphorical way.

    It’ll be a struggle, since as we all know, rape is the only bad thing in the world and every bad thing ever is rape. But I’m sure I’ll manage.

    Without sarcasm, then: I have no problem calling someone out as rude or inappropriate for taking certain approaches, regardless of the target. I wouldn’t mind if certain, yes, objectively offensive rhetorical strategies disappared — not unavailable necessarily, but just everyone tacitly agrees not to use them. That’s not a restriction on freedom of speech, since it’s not messages I’m condemning, and I’m even less calling for certain people/offices/philosophies to be off limits, and in any case I’m not calling for a ban. I think you would agree that some things are very offensive, and being avoidably offensive is bad, right?

  60. I don’t see. Wow. I don’t know how I did that.

  61. 60
    Sailorman says:

    Hershele Ostropoler Writes:
    March 30th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
    …That’s not a restriction on freedom of speech, since it’s not messages I’m condemning,

    It certainly can be. See below.

    …I think you would agree that some things are very offensive,

    Yup. Sort of. Well, offensive to some people, in some settings, at least some of the time. Actually, I’m not sure about that, if you’re talking about objective offensiveness… OK, no, I don’t really agree with what I think you’re saying.

    and being avoidably offensive is bad, right?

    Not necessarily. I occasionally choose to offend the shit out of people, but I use my vast and astonishing powers only for good. Those who offend me, however, are inevitably on the side of pure evil. I am good; they are bad. I am Speaking Truth To Power and they are not. I am pro-, and they are anti-. And so on.

    There is more than a bit of subjectivity there.

    And on that subjectivity note, I might also point out that when you combine [people can define their own offenses] with [it is always bad to offend people] then you run into some pretty serious control issues. OTOH, if you choose to avoid that and go with a theory of “offense must be viewed objectively” then you get the fun (!) task of telling at least some people that they’re overly sensitive and shouldn’t be offended. Good luck with that.

  62. 61
    Jake Squid says:

    Look at this! I’m going to agree with Sailorman for the first time in a long time…

    …and being avoidably offensive is bad, right?

    I will respond to this by saying, “Lenny Bruce.”

    I’ll further go on to agree with Sailorman on non-existence of objective offensiveness. Offensiveness is by its very nature subjective.

    As an example of disagreeing, may I point to the cartoon that Richard just posted in his most recent post. The cartoon is offensive, funny and says something important through and probably gets more attention because of its offensiveness. This is a case where, for me, being avoidably offensive is good.

  63. 62
    DaisyDeadhead says:

    jules, be fair, the most we can say is that Jefferson or some other person in his male line was a rapist.

    Oh, bullshit.

    I can’t believe this thread.

    Can white people be saved? (If I had to base my answer on this thread, I’d say we’re all going to hell in a handbasket.)

  64. Pingback: “Rape” as Slang? « Kittywampus

  65. 63
    makomk says:

    jules: welcome to the more interesting parts of the feminist movement, enjoy your stay. Yes, people really do believe that gay erotica, and especially gay porn, are responsible for the rape of women. Yes, there really were attempts – by some fairly well-known feminist activists, no less – to lobby for laws that would (in theory) have allowed people to have been arrested for possessing it if someone could convince the police that it did. These views are thankfully fairly unpopular now.

  66. 64
    Grifter says:

    Found this via StumbleUpon, so sorry it’s been a few days since last comment, but I wanted to put in my two cents.

    This comic is NOT inherently racist. I would challenge anyone here to tell who the cartoonist SHOULD have used to generically represent “Liberty” while making the metaphorical point that Obama was raping our freedom.
    I don’t agree, of course. It’s a stupid argument using offensive imagery, that doesn’t even entirely make its point (removed from context, it’s unclear that 1 that’s Obama, and 2, that we’re talking about healthcare reform, also what’s the “friends” thing about?)…but it IS valid commentary, and NOT racist. (though, the molester mustache and soul patch might be, arguably…but if you’re making the point that he’s a rapist, making him look douchey isn’t necessarily that bad.)

    I’ve had a lot of issues with people saying EVERYTHING the Tea Partiers do is racist. Are many of them racist? Oh yes. Most? Maybe. And are most of them coming from that background to make their points? Yep. BUT, that doesn’t mean everything they do is racist JUST BECAUSE they use Obama in their point.

    And people have been using “rape” imagery for a very long time, just for its shock value. They use other offensive metaphors, too. Godwin’s Law anyone?