Cartoonist, memoirist, and Broadway legend Alison Bechdel has found herself involved in the controversy over PEN’s decision to give an award to Charlie Hebdo. She explains her mixed feelings about this situation, and why she took the action she took, in this blog post.
All posts tagged Alison Bechdel
Posted by acilius on May 11, 2015
Recently in a comment on Alison Bechdel’s blog, I replied to commenter NLC, who added to a political discussion the observation that not everyone who supports the USA’s Republican Party is equally objectionable. I agreed, and added:
@NLC: “There are Republicans and there are Republicans.”
That’s very true. I know some Republicans who, however hard I may find it to understand why they vote the way they do, are demonstrably quite all right in all the ways that really matter. I even know some Republicans who do yoga.
Fox News seems to be the separator, young people who are decent watch Fox News and leave the Republican Party, old people who are decent watch Fox News and turn into something like addicts- seriously, that channel is like crack cocaine for them. I suppose that means that in the long run Fox News will kill the Republican Party, but in the meantime it will kill a lot of worthwhile things.
In remarking on Fox News (a.k.a. the Faux News Channel,) I was thinking of some recent posts on a site that is for the most part at an opposite pole politically from Alison Bechdel’s, Rod Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative. Mr Dreher is still quite conservative, but no longer identifies as a Republican. One reason for this seems to be the effect that he has seen right-wing media have on its elderly fans. In a post titled “Fox Geezer Syndrome,” Mr Dreher quotes at length from several of his commenters who have told stories of aging their aging parents who have made themselves difficult to be around, not because of the opinions which Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of them have encouraged them to hold, but because of the belligerence, the obsessiveness, and the overall childishness with which they have begun expressing those opinions since immersing themselves in a constant stream of such material. Adding to those comments, Mr Dreher writes:
I recognize the Fox Geezer Syndrome these readers identify. This is what happens when conservatism becomes an ideology instead of an approach to life. It indicates an extremely unconservative temperament, frankly. I’m not deploying the No True Scotsman fallacy; these Fox Geezers may well be conservative in their politics, right down the line. What they’re doing, though, is allowing politics to consume their minds and their entire lives, such that they are making impossible the kinds of things that true conservatives ought to be dedicated to conserving: that is, the permanent things, like family. I have been around Fox Geezers before, and I see absolutely no difference between them and the kind of self-righteous loudmouths on the left that make reasonable discussion impossible, because all problems are reduced to a conflict between Good and Evil, and decided in advance.
The tragedy — and I think it is exactly that — is that the elderly often have great wisdom to share with the younger generations, to say nothing of the fact that it is they who have the long view, and who ought to understand how important it is to nurture bonds among family members, especially across the generations. Yet in these cases, it is they who behave like teenagers and twentysomethings, full of piss and vinegar and a toxic certainty, plus a radioactive impulse to crusade. What they lack is the principal conservative virtue: Prudence. I have some strong views too, as you know, but I strive never to let them come between myself and the people I am given to love. If I want them to tolerate me for the greater good, then I must extend the same grace to them.
Conservative that he is, Mr Dreher goes on to identify the same dynamic at work among the elderly liberals and lefties who predominate in the comments section of The New York Times. I’ve certainly seen it at work among acquaintances who regard any criticism of the Obama administration as support for Mr O’s Republican opponents. Such an attitude seems to be as natural a product of habitually watching the rah-rah, Go Blue Team cheerleaders on MSNBC as Fox Geezer Syndrome is of habitually watching the rah-rah, Go Red Team cheerleaders on Fox.
Posted by acilius on September 9, 2014
I wish I’d been in New Zealand to see brilliant young cartoonist Sarah E. Laing meet her hero, comics titan Alison Bechdel. Exxtraordinary to compare the photo below with the comic Ms Laing is giving Ms Bechdel– powers of prophecy that one has.
This is the trailer for The Curioseum – what do you think? I was pretty excited to see all my illustrations animated, albeit in a low-fi way.
Also, I gave Alison Bechdel my Metro comic, the one with her in it.
She seemed pretty excited to see herself there, and she accepted my bundle of Let Me Be Frank comics, but I think I scared her with my enthusiasm. When I saw her at the NZ comics panel the next day she looked a little guarded and apologised for not reading my comics yet. I told her it was ok – she could throw them in the recycling if she liked – but I hope she doesn’t. I felt a bit sorry for her – she probably has half-crazed cartoonists foisting comics on her all the time and she’s too nice a person to tell us to piss off. We…
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Posted by acilius on March 26, 2014
The other day, a commenter on Alison Bechdel’s website called my attention to this list by Jim Rigby, as it appeared on Patheos:
I thanked that commenter, the redoubtable “NLC,” and added this remark:
Hanging out with mellow progressives like Episcopalians and Quakers it’s tempting to forget or understate the sheer bloody-mindedness that so often thrives under the sign of the cross.
As for the focus of the “Ten Things” on the Bible, one thing I think the Bible makes crystal clear about homosexuality is that homosexuality wasn’t a particularly controversial topic when the Bible was taking shape. The Bible is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, and the antigay crowd can find only six brief verses in the whole thing that support their position at all explicitly.
What’s more, most of those six verses are actually about something else, and none of them contemplate anything like the same-sex relationships that exist in today’s world.
Sure, the tone of the six snippets make it clear that same-sex sex was not well-regarded in those days, and neither the law nor the prophets nor anything in the Christian scriptures pushes back against that hostility. But so what? None of those writings push back against slavery or any of a number of other institutions familiar in those centuries, but Christians nowadays seem confident that they have disassociated their religion from those things, and in fact often propose it as a bulwark against them. I fully expect the Christians of the 22nd century to be united in a smug sense of superiority over the homophobes of that day, just as their counterparts now are quick to cite the Christian Abolitionists of the 19th century.
The more I think about it, the more I find to disagree with in the “10 Things.” For instance: (more…)
Posted by acilius on February 10, 2014
Recently, two of my favorite blogs have featured comment threads that turned into lists of silly jokes. On her blog, Alison Bechdel promoted some prints by Diane diMassa; as one of the prints shows a person holding up a sign with the word “fuck” written on it, many commenters shared jokes involving that word. I posted a comment which I immediately regretted, realizing that it was terribly depressing; to my great relief, subsequent commenters not only refused to let me spoil the fun, but even turned it into an opportunity for more merriment.
At Language Log, a post looks at a comic strip in which a character can’t understand why the Fire Department won’t give her fire. She’s also disappointed when the home and garden store will sell her neither a home nor a garden. The comment thread starts with jokes of the same type (why do we park in the driveway, but drive on a parkway?” etc,) then moves on to other topics. Here’s an observation about life in the USA that’s worthy of any standup comic you can name. Fortunately, I avoided playing the role of Captain Bringdown there, although I did offer a non-funny remark about a sad book.
Posted by acilius on December 17, 2010
Here’s a comment I just had occasion to post on Alison Bechdel’s site:
This morning, I was teaching a class about English words derived from Latin and Greek. One of the exercises required them to write definitions of English words and illustrate their definitions with examples of the words in use.
I wanted to show them how they could use Lexis-Nexis* to find example sentences. So I projected the computer onto the screen in front of the classroom and opened the Lexis-Nexis search window. I asked the class which word they wanted me to look for in my demonstration. From a list of several dozen words, someone picked “neurosis.” So I typed “neurosis” into the search window. Up came hundreds of results. Looking these over, we could see not only potential definitions, but a good deal about the usage of the word. For example, finding it in hundreds of daily newspapers but only one medical journal we formed the hypothesis that it is a word that is no longer in technical use, an hypothesis which that one journal reference** explicitly confirmed.
Then I wanted to show them that you can narrow the search so that it only brings up items posted today. When I did that, paragraphs six through eight of this article appeared on the screen***:
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I gave a little eulogy for Harvey Pekar and said something like, “Hey, Alison Bechdel! She’s great!”**** Then it was back to lexicography.
**It was the 2 May 2009 edition of The Lancet, in case you’re curious; “Twisted Science, Regulation, and Molecules,” by Peter Tyrer, Pg. 1513 Vol. 373 No. 9674, wherein appear the sentences “The condition from which my patient suffers used to be called depressive neurosis. It was not a very good diagnostic label, and its boundaries were unclear, but it did allow anxiety and depression to coexist without the need for splitting them into interminable subgroups that, when they were subsequently found together in one person, were pompously described as “comorbidity.””
***The portion that appears on screen starts with the search term you used to find the article. The first appearance of “neurosis” was near the top of paragraph six, and the screen I was using had room for that paragraph and the next two.
**** Come to think of it, it may have been closer to “Whoa, there’s Alison Bechdel!” Or maybe “Whaa–! Alison Bechdel!” It may even have been “Alison Bechdel! Golly!” I taught another class right after that one, so I can’t be certain of my exact phrasing.
Posted by acilius on July 19, 2010
Earlier today I was catching up with the latest of the fascinating discussions that always go on in the comment threads at Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For blog. In response to a topic that had come up, I began writing a comment that was far too long to appear in a comment queue. So I cut most of it, and pasted it below.
One commenter linked to this Newsweek story titled “The Anti-Lesbian Drug,” about a project that a scientist named Dr Maria New is currently conducting. Another commenter, who is personally acquainted with Maria New, protested that Dr New is not at all the sort of person to try to invent an “anti-lesbian drug,” and gave reason to believe that her work has been caricatured. Here is the comment I posted there:
@Alex K #73: I’m perfectly willing to accept that Maria New’s research may have been distorted in the press. The standards for science coverage generally seem to be pretty low, even when no hot-button social issue is at stake. When right-wingers see a chance to twist the work of a female or minority researcher so that it sounds like something that supports their agendas, all restraint goes out the window.
Whether Dr New ever contemplated developing an “anti-lesbian drug,” the Newsweek article Calico links in #67 and the reactions it reports go to something I think about all the time. Lots of same-sexers and allies seem utterly certain that a scientific explanation of the biological basis of homosexuality will be a great blow to homophobia. Yet it seems obvious to me that nothing of the kind will happen. On the contrary. Homophobes will take that news as confirmation of their idea that homosexuality is a disease. That will be bad enough; what is vastly worse is the likelihood that they will be armed with drugs with which they can “treat” that “disease.”
Every time this comes up I have a very strong sense that I know just what’s going to happen, and it is horrible. So I’m writing a post on my own blog about it, because I don’t want choke up this thread with a long essay. Suffice it to say, I’m worried.
Here’s what I cut out:
Today, people who disapprove of homosexuality may make the same-sexers in their lives miserable by insisting that they should turn themselves into heterosexuals by some more or less magical process of willpower. They may push them into various flagrantly bogus imitations of psychotherapy. Or, they may resort to violence against them. I doubt that any of these approaches has ever turned a homosexual into a heterosexual. Each of them, however, has turned living people into corpses, whether directly from violence or indirectly in the suicides and addictions to which they sentence many of their targets. To oppose these methods, same sexers and their allies need not discuss sexual morality. We can simply appeal to the common decency that recoils from bullying and embraces life.
Looking ahead, it seems to be just a matter of time before biologists and anthropologists identify some physiological processes that are associated with an increased rate of homosexuality and other processes that are associated with an increased rate of heterosexuality. It’s hard to imagine that behaviors as widespread and persistent throughout human cultures as same-sex attraction and the construction of social identities built around that attraction could fail to have a biological basis that explains at least part of their prevalence. When these processes are identified, the people who now support antigay bullying will see an opportunity to develop methods that will in fact achieve the goals their current strategies so consistently fail to meet. They will demand that pharmacologists develop drugs that suppress processes associated with an increased rate of homosexuality and promote processes that are associated with an increased rate of heterosexuality. And sooner or later, this demand will be supplied.
If society makes as much progress in coming to terms with the rights of same-sexers and the dignity of their relationships in the next 40 years as it has in the last 40 years, then perhaps by 2050 the world will be ready for an explanation of the physiological factors that contribute to sexual orientation, gender identity, and related social phenomena. In that future, there wouldn’t be much demand for heterosexualizing drugs, and a definite stigma against anyone who promoted them.
But that isn’t the way things are in 2010. Public opinion surveys in the USA still consistently show that about one American in three believes that there should be criminal penalties for consenting adults who have same-sex sex in the privacy of their homes. Billions of people around the world support violently heterosexist religious and political groups. In the current climate, the first company to produce a viable drug to ensure prospective parents heterosexual offspring would make immense profits, probably well into the trillions of dollars. For all that Dr Maria New and other self-respecting scientists might refuse to be part of the research that will produce that drug, they won’t be able to stop any number of others from joining in the contest, not when the prize is so fantastically lucrative.
What happens once the heterosexualizing drugs are on the market? If the world is like it is now, same-sex attraction will soon carry not only the stigmas already imposed on it, but also the stigma of low social class. If the drugs are not paid for by public-sector insurance, as they likely would not be in countries where there are enough pro-gay forces to keep governments from endorsing them, then homosexuality will become a badge of poverty. In those cases, parents who refuse on principle to use prenatal drugs to impose the standard sexuality on their prospective children can expect children who do turn out to be same-sexers to beg them for whatever treatments are available at their age. Where the drugs are available to all, such parents can expect their own peers, and therefore their children’s peers as well, to regard them as neglectful and unfit. Again, the children are likely to beg the parents for treatments rather than join in their disgrace.
As heterosexualizing drugs become more effective, homosexuality will become less common. That means that those same-sexers who remain will be less likely to find each other, less likely to come out, less likely to jolt the people who care about them into stopping for thought. As unsatisfactory as the world of 2010 may be for millions of same-sexers, it may well seem a paradise compared with the world that is coming. A world where homosexuality is not only seen as a disease, but as a disease of the past, is likely to look with incomprehension on the idea of sexual freedom.
My view, therefore, is that those of us who do not want to see a world where a standardized sexuality is routinely imposed on children should move now to increase social acceptance of same-sexers and of others who do not comply with that standardized sexuality. Time is running out.
Posted by acilius on July 6, 2010