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(I wonder if I’ll lose any supporters over this cartoon? If so, thanks for your support, and goodbye.)
I used to be part of the no longer existent Ms Boards, back in the dark ages of the web (2003 or so). It was a active and fun forum for feminists, found on Ms Magazine’s website. Eventually, of course, it turned into a morass and grudges and anger, because that’s how the internet works. (But we didn’t know that yet).
But before Ms Magazine mercifully pulled the plug, and before things went bad, the Ms Boards were really important to me. I spent an embarrassing amount of time on the boards, discussing, socializing, arguing.
What most hastened the Ms Boards’ decline was when the largest contingent of radical feminists on the boards (who called themselves “radfems” for short) became openly dedicated to rejecting transsexual women.
It was a wave of ugliness and sometimes gleeful bigotry that I responded to with my reflexive “keep it mild, keep civil, try to see all sides” approach. I really regret that now; from my position of privilege, it took me too long to understand how gross and damaging that group of radfems were to our trans friends and the entire community.
Over the time, that genre of radfem developed into what’s now called TERFs – short for “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist” – and, much as they poisoned the Ms Boards, they’ve poisoned much of radical feminism. A feminism that stands for bigotry against one of the most oppressed and marginalized groups in society is not viable.
Of course, many radical feminists – including some of the best known, such as MacKinnon, Dworkin, Judith Butler and (eventually) Gloria Steinem – have rejected bigotry against trans people. Being anti-trans is by no means a universal position among radicals
In the early seventies, some feminists thought lesbians needed to be excluded from feminism. That view was eventually rejected from feminism, and I believe trans-exclusionary feminism will go the same route.
This cartoon is a straightforward expression of my anger at what TERFs have done to some of feminism. But artwise, it’s my little tribute to the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” in the proportions of the figures and in the use of the treehouse setting. I also experimented with using a rougher brush, to get a bit closer to the wild and awesome lines Bill Watterson uses.
Of course, I can’t draw nearly as well as Watterson, one of the greatest cartoonists in the world. But it was sure fun trying to ape his style.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon is colored mostly in a desaturated orange, except for dark orange shading and white highlights.
On a woody hillside, a light-haired woman in a black tank top and a skirt stands in a crude treehouse, which is nestled in the crook of a tree, ten feet or so above the ground. Slats are nailed to the tree trunk to form a crude ladder up to the treehouse. The light-haired woman is talking to a black-haired woman wearing glasses, who is standing on the ground looking up at the treehouse.
GLASSES WOMAN: I want to join your radical feminist club! But only if it has no Jews.
TREEHOUSE WOMAN: What? NO! That’s NOT what our radfem club is about.
GLASSES WOMAN: To be radical feminists, we must put WHITE feminists first and sideline feminists of color.
TREEHOUSE WOMAN: No, NO! WE might DO that, but never EVER say so aloud!
GLASSES WOMAN: As radical feminists, it’s our duty to align with the Christian right to oppose lesbian and gay rights!
TREEHOUSE WOMAN: STOP this! Our radical feminist club does NOT stand for bigotry!
In contrast to her stern, angry expressions in the first three panels, the treehouse woman is now smiling broadly, opening her arms in welcome.
GLASSES WOMAN: TRANS PEOPLE ARE GARBAGE!
TREEHOUSE WOMAN: Except for that bigotry. Welcome to our club!
Small kicker panel at the bottom of the strip:
A new character, a woman with short hair, talks to the treehouse woman. The treehouse woman yells back at her.
SHORT HAIRED WOMAN: Lots of key radical feminists are pro-trans! Look at Andrea Dworkin.
TREEHOUSE WOMAN: Dworkin was a FAKE feminist!