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This one was fun to draw! Probably the most challenging thing to draw was the coffee shop counter in panel 3. As a cartoonist, there’s a balance to be found here: You want to draw enough detail so that it’ll feel right and recognizable to readers without them having to think about it, but not so much detail that readers look at the setting more than at the characters.
I’m never going to be great at drawing backgrounds, but I’m getting better, and that feeling of gradual growth is honestly so much fun. I’m so lucky to have this job! (Thank you, patrons!)
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There’s a funny cartoon I’ve seen around, mocking the kind of political cartoon where we see the characters speaking for the point of view the cartoonist disagrees with, yelling and waving their hands and being angry, while the opposing character – the one the cartoonist agrees with – is calm and reasonable.
And when I say “I’ve seen it around,” I mean that people have posted it on social media as a response to cartoons I’ve drawn that fit that pattern.
(I really wish I could find this cartoon to show it to you here! But I can’t find it at the moment. “Political cartoons about political cartoons that show their political opponents as angry” just isn’t a fruitful google search string.)
Anyway, yes, guilty as charged – it’s a trope I’ve used a lot. So I wanted to do a cartoon in which the characters I disagree with are calm and collected, while the characters I agree with were angry arm-wavers.
And the “civil debate” issue – the constant demand that even bad-faith trolls, or outright racists, must be accommodated whenever they ask to debate – is perfect for that framing.
Look: I LOVE debate. I was obsessed with competitive parliamentary debate in college. I used to spend ten or twenty hours a week debating people online. I have to discipline myself NOT to do that nowadays, because I want to get other things done. (Although I admit, I’m not as fond of debate as I used to be).
But no one is obligated to debate anything. In particular, no one is required to debate their own human dignity with anyone. “I’m not going to debate that with you” is a perfectly reasonable response, even when said angrily.
Journalist Jesse Singal recently got egg on his face on Twitter, responding to someone asking if slaves should have debated slave owners by implying it would have been disastrous if former slave abolitionists had said “I refuse to debate with people who don’t see me as human.”
(I think Singal eventually deleted his tweet, while denying that he had been mistaken in any way, but the tweet was preserved in screen captures, such as this one of Noah Berlatsky responding to Singal).
Singal is a very prominent and admired voice, and his attitudes are not unusual. The “debate me!” crowd really seems to have no idea of how change actually happens – nor of how debilitating such debates can feel.
By the way, in case anyone thinks the argument I attribute to the Jordan Peterson fan in panel two is a strawman: It’s not a strawman. (At some point, I might do a cartoon of nothing but ridiculous, extreme things Jordan Peterson has said.)
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels, each of which takes place in a different setting, and with a different set of characters.
A man wearing a polo shirt and jeans follows a woman down the street. The woman is wearing a hoodie and is walking a small dog. The man is talking cheerfully, doing the “explaining with my hands” palms up gesture; the woman is looking back at him out of the corner of her eye and has raised her voice testily.
POLO SHIRT: So you see, when you “transgenders” insist you’re women, that’s you forcing society to along with your delusions. Let’s discuss this.
DOG WALKER: LEAVE ME ALONE!
DOG (in thought balloon): Jerk!
A woman and man are walking on a path in a park, the woman walking away from the man. The man is bald-headed with a van dyke beard, and is wearing a t-shirt with a big exclamation point on it, and an open black vest over the shirt. The woman has tattoos and blue hair.
The man has a friendly smile and has raised one forefinger in a “professor explaining a point” style; the woman is holding up a smartphone and speaking angrily.
VEST DUDE: When men aren’t allowed to hit women, men have no means of controlling crazy women. If I may quote Professor Jordan Peterson-
BLUE HAIR: DUDE! GO AWAY!
A customer at a coffee shop, a blonde woman with curly blonde hair, is chatting with a friendly expression with the barista. The barista, who is Black and wearing cat’s eye glasses, is waving their hands and yelling. The customer has a “Q,” in the same font as the “Quilette” logo, on the back of her shirt.
CUSTOMER: There’s no need to get mad. I just want to politely debate whether or not Black people have genes that make them stupid.
BARISTA: i’M NOT GOING TO “DEBATE” THAT!
Three characters from the previous three panels – Polo Shirt, Vest Dude, and Customer – are sitting around a round table with coffee cups on it. They are all looking annoyed and unhappy.
POLO SHIRT: These “identitarians” are so rude!
CUSTOMER: Why won’t they debate us?
VEST DUDE: They’re cowards!