Classism


I got to the party fashionably late. Sita Sings the Blues is a retelling of the Ramayana through Nina Paley’s eyes. It’s recent, but been around for some time. Thanks to Paley and sponsors for making the animated film available to many. It is cute and witty, and the animation – beautiful. I caught some minor flaws, like ignoring the fact that Kaikeyi was a warrior queen who saved Dasaratha’s life, and missing certain details like Surpanakha enticing Laxmana or Ravana dressing up as a sage to fool Sita, but that’s cool. You can read some other discussions on it here and here.

As usual, conservative folks got their panties in a bunch over the supposed irreverence of the film. I take hurt sentiments seriously, and many feminists have protested misogynistic literature themselves, but I don’t agree with the premise of the conservatives when they criticize literary works. You can get a glimpse of their attitudes (read the comments) over another retelling of the Ramayana here.

Sita Sings the Blues is hardly irreverent, especially considering that the Ramayana is an epic with many versions. How absurd would it be if the Greeks got crazy over retellings of the Iliad and Odyssey. Conservative Hindus have this absurd attitude where they despise Muslims for their frenzy and fatwas against Salman Rushdie or Theo van Gogh, then they themselves set a similar example whenever an Indian epic is retold. And God forbid the retelling be from a feminist point of view, then suddenly it hurts the sentiments of the Hindus, never mind that the Indian epics are literature already retold thousands of times, and they aren’t even central tenets of Hindu spirituality!! Hindu epics and even stories of deities are acted out in Hindi drama serials all the time, yet they don’t cause a fiasco because they repeat the same patriarchal bullshit of mainstream versions of the stories.

One of the complaints against this animation is the clothing of Sita, although it’s not unusual for Hindu deities and epic characters to be scantily clad, since clothing of the ancient times were different. It’s only in modern conservative depictions that women wear long sleeve blouses and covering saris; there’s more evidence for a freer clothing style back in the day, rather than what we wear today. Anyone who gets offended by Nina Paley’s or any other feminist’s retelling of Ramayana needs to think whether the Ashvamedha Yagna that Dasaratha performs in Valmiki’s Ramayana is offensive or not. Surely, you don’t think that forcing Kausalya to have sex with a horse and Dasaratha offering his other wives to Brahmins for sex is less offensive than Sita showing some cleavage???

The whole fiasco over sentiments is based on the faulty premise of equating literature with “absolute truth.” We forget that these epics are filled with myths and imaginations that reflect the creativity, or perhaps ulterior motives, of its authors. The better approach is to acknowledge that these epics are after all just text, with readers creating the meaning behind them. To use a Hindu cliche, you have to recognize and extract the spirit of the text as a lotus is “pure” even among the murky water it grows in.

That being said, I now feel inspired to create my own meaning of the Ramayana, though I suspect many other women have found this meaning before me. Whenever I think of controversial literature, I think about my Feminist Theory class in college where we discussed Spike Lee’s Huckleberry Finn. Too bad the script has not become a movie yet, but the premise of the script is to use the original text by Mark Twain, only to give it a whole new meaning by telling it from Jim’s point of view. Here, Jim is not the helpless superstitious slave as Tom Swayer sees him, but he’s a very intelligent person who’s acting comical to survive amongst hostile white people. It also reminds me of Shehrazade of Arabian Nights, who tells stories to delay, and eventually prevent what would have been her inevitable death. These characters could have been quite strong only if you think of them that way.

That would be a refreshing way to view Sita, Rama or Ravana, without changing the story or the text of the Ramayana. Whereas conservative misogynists have used Sita’s character to teach women to be oppressed, feminists can easily point out that Sita gains nothing from her unconditional love, thus rejecting the need for it altogether. Rama gains nothing either. It’s fascinating to think about how a supposed villain like Ravana was actually honorable towards Sita while supposedly honorable Rama did not fulfill his duties as Sita’s husband. I think, ultimately the Ramayana teaches the fallacy of good vs. evil in the material world and questions what we think of as truth and reality. I think Sita provides the most compelling proof for Hindu women that marriage, husband, children, and unconditional love of the material world does not hold the key to happiness. You can remain as “pure” and virginal as you want to, it ain’t gonna satisfy your man if his priorities are elsewhere. The earlier you realize it, the less suffering you’ll go through. I think Jessica Valenti would find Ramayana to be a big Purity Myth! Above all, epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata are full of contradictions, because as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar points out, truth is contradictory. If Self-realization and God-realization were so easy, we would’ve all been happy.

Here’s a final bone for you to chew on: Ramayana is actually one of three encounters between Vishnu and his two guards in heaven, Jay and Vijay. Jay and Vijay had angered Vishnu so he gave them a choice of being born seven times as Vishnu’s friend, or being born three times, with short lives, as Vishnu’s enemies, as a lesson for their sins. In one of those three lives, Jay and Vijay were Ravana and Kumbhakarna. So there you go, all this hoop-la about a story that was a mere play between Vishnu and his guards. Indeed, the world is a theater!

 

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This post is about a very powerful documentary called The Price of Pleasure, of which you can see a full length preview here. I advise caution before watching this documentary as it contains sexually explicit material as well as very degrading examples of porn. At the same time, it makes you aware of the intense exploitation of the sex workers in porn and the effect it has on viewers and society.

A lot of the debates about porn center around its potential effects on viewers. While that’s certainly an important issue, I first want to discuss the effects on the sex workers themselves. I’ve heard ignorant comments like “they’re getting paid to do it” used to justify degrading acts of porn. But getting paid to do something degrading does not justify it. It’s called EXPLOITATION. How many dollars would you want to be paid for each of these acts: 1) being waterboarded, 2) having your face forced down a toilet and flushed on, 3) being penetrated by a car gearshift, 4) having sex with an animal, or perhaps 4) having 10 guys cumming on your face/in your mouth? These are all acts in certain porns, and not totally uncommon. Even if you can put a price on these acts, do you think a porn actress is getting paid that much? I don’t think so. Assuming that the actresses are getting paid for their work and forgetting the pain they may be going through for the viewer’s pleasure is ignorant.

As for the effects porn has on viewers, I for one don’t believe it causes all viewers to perform degrading acts, but it certainly normalizes it. A lot of violence against women happens in countries where porn is not widely available – South Asia being just one example. The porn makers aren’t the only ones thinking of ideas to degrade other humans (mostly women). However, porn brings certain degrading or unhealthy acts towards women into the mainstream. It even makes degradation seem desirable, as in the Girls Gone Wild videos. Whatever we might consider disgusting suddenly becomes acceptable if being done for profit.

Not all porn aims to degrade women. There are feminist porn films too, which some people prefer to call erotica. Banning any form of sexual images is certainly not the solution. But like any other industry, porn needs to be regulated. It needs to be regulated on the basis of human rights and public health. I’m not hopeful that it’ll happen anytime soon, as Americans don’t even seem to be interested in regulating a corrupt, failed financial system, or a corrupt healthcare system that let’s people die. But that’s the direction we should go for.

I wanted to write some kind of post on this issue after hearing a friend talk about how her boyfriend watched porn with friends. She didn’t seem to have a problem with it since her boyfriend only watched it to laugh at the absurdity. But any kind of pleasure from porn, sexual or entertainment, comes with a price. It comes at the expense of porn actresses, and at the expense of women in general.

One the things feminists have to deal with a lot is the issue of “choice.” We are told all the time, everywhere, that somehow we restrict women who “choose” to be housewives, sex workers, or women who “choose” plastic surgery to enhance their looks or women who “choose” not to breastfeed their infants. Many times we know when someone is making a “choice” that is not really a “choice,” but we don’t have the words to explain logically why we’re right.

While working on my senior thesis on American women’s choices about childbirth, I came accross this little gem by Barbara Katz Rothman that put into words what I had known all along:  “There will never be ‘free’ choice, unstructured reproductive choice. But the structure in which choices are made should, and I believe ultimately can, be made fair, ethical and moral.” It’s so true! Every choice that we make in life is constructed, whether it’s constructed by our skills and interests, resources, social expectations, or a desire to defy social expectations, or usually a combination of all these factors. And all these factors provide the structure in which our choices are made. Hence, it’s really important to examine these structures in which the choices are made to decide whether it is a “free” choice or not. “Free” is a misnomer because really what we’re implying is “happy” or “satisfactory.” But anyways, if a structure is oppressive, then a happy choice really can’t be made in it. That’s why some privileged women might experiment with sex work and find it empowering, but it’s not really empowering for poor, abused women who were unaware of other options in life, or never had any. That’s not to say that all these women need rescuing or can’t be empowered by the money they make from sex work, and it’s also not to say that the misogyny in the sex industry doesn’t exist in others, but what I’m saying is choice is really context dependent.

This is also apparent in the area of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Are women really “choosing” a C-section because it’s healthy and cool? Or are they choosing it because they’re not fully informed about the risks to both themselves and their babies from a C-section, and that labor pains need not be excruciating, and vaginal tears are unlikely if their births are attended by a good midwife and supportive system? Are they aware of the better systems other countries use? With the issue of breastfeeding, did the women just wake up one day and decide they didn’t want to breastfeed? Or did they find it annoying because our employment structure doesn’t allow enough flexibility, and our doctors aren’t encouraging enough of an option that is clearly superior to the best formula out there? Worse yet, are the women “choosing” not to breastfeed because they hold on to the notion that it’s poor and uncultured to breastfeed, or that breastfeeding will make their breasts sag which will make their “boys will be boys” husbands unattracted to them?

The “choice” to be a housewife is only a “free choice” for those women who are privileged enough to not worry about earning money or housework (done by a maid). Even then, I guess their choices are constructed by the misfortune of not having and interest or skill they could explore rather than just spend money. Being a housewife is not a “free choice” for a woman who decides that childcare is actually more expensive than what her job can afford. Getting plastic surgery is not a “free choice” when a woman is getting it to conform to society’s standard of beauty. How many white women in America choose to be paler? How many choose to be a size 10 if they can be a size 6? I’m fine with women conforming to certain expectations of society, because I do to, but don’t tell me you’ve made a “free choice” to get Botox in a culture that doesn’t like wrinkles!! Recently I heard friends discussing about how a certain woman’s choice to get breast implants was “awesome” because “she did it for herself.” Some people think that a woman is doing something for herself as long as a man is not directly involved, but I don’t think that’s correct. Where did that woman get the idea that getting breast implants was cool? Where did she get the desire to get the implants in the first place? And why didn’t she have the desire to get flat breasts, or artificial wrinkles, or extra fat injected in her tummy? It’s because the society she lives in considers fake breasts to be beautiful, and even though she didn’t get implants to please any particular man, she got implants because she felt better about herself as she fit society’s beauty standards.

In Bangladesh, many women don’t shave their legs because most women don’t show them. In America, many women shave their legs because they have to appear smooth when appearing in public. That choice is cultural. Most women may not mind it, but it is still not a “free” choice. I myself shave my legs and tweeze my eyebrows, but I wouldn’t have done it id hairy legs and bushy eyebrows were in vogue. Would women have gotten breast implants if the beauty standard was to have flat breasts? I don’t think so. The only kinds of choice that might be considered “free” are the ones a person makes for themselves despite unpopularity and resistance from society.

And finally, this concept of choice is important to be a global feminist. Some ignorant Americans tend to question whether third world women have “choice.” The implication is that third world societies are less equal than Western societies. While that might be true, it’s true because third world countries have been exploited and depleted by the West so now we have to deal with another set of problems. Both men and women have fewer choices in the third world, it’s not just that third world men are more sexist. It annoys me to no end when some American women think their choices to put of make up everyday, wear uncomfortable shoes, or get plastic surgery somehow make them “freer” than third world women. Yeah right, they’re freer now to put more toxins in their body like Botox and now Latisse (for “inadequate” eyelashes). Some ignorant women take it a step further and assume that because America is a land of opportunity, it’s a woman’s choice to do porn. Somehow getting a few bucks for having your head forced down a toilet is a “free” choice.

Hardly any choices we make in our lives is a “free” choice by itself. But it can be a happy choice when made in a free structure that doesn’t have preset standards for what is beautiful or what is acceptable. I realize that is utopia, but until we get such flexible standards, please don’t tell me that you made a “free” choice to use Latisse.

I’ve been mulling over these thoughts for quite a while, and giving President Obama the benefit of my doubts. But comments from a prominent intellectual made me think I’m not the only Obama supporter doubtful and disappointed by some of his actions or lack thereof. Dr. Dyson articulated it best when he said “We don’t expect any more of Obama than [previous white male presidents], but we don’t expect any less either.”

I’d modify that by saying I don’t expect any more of Obama than other intelligent, thoughtful,and humane American presidents, (which excludes G W Bush because I didn’t expect anything of him but the worst), but I don’t expect any less either. So while I understand and appreciate his vision of unity and collaboration, there are some issues where I don’t think centrism would be compromised if he did the right thing.

I don’t think I see politics through rose colored glasses. As great as Obama is, he’s had to get to the top somewhat like all other politicians, through powerful allies to whom he’s obligated, even though they’re not his ideals. His election was partly revolutionary but equally just regular politics. So I don’t expect him to be like Gandhi or Dr. King, revolutionary leaders who I don’t think would’ve been presidents. I have realistic expectations of President Obama. I also admire his continual efforts to unite people of different ideals and opinions, even though I think, and he probably knows, that those efforts won’t actually be successful. I disagree when some liberals say that Obama should just govern without regard for what Republicans/conservatives say, now that liberals are in power, just like what conservatives did when they were in power. I think it’s a great political move by Obama to continually reach out to people of the “other” opinion because it places the ball in their court. And as we’ve seen so far, Republicans haven’t been playing too well because now instead of just criticizing Obama, they have to come up with the alternatives. This reaching out also sets Obama apart from previous tyrannical presidents.

I also appreciate Obama for the things he did do right already: reverse the Global Gag rule, sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act, stop federal funding to the harmful abstinence-only “no safe sex allowed but spreading diseases and unintended pregnancy are A-okay” programs, propose the closure of Gitmo (though thwarted by idiotic, inhumane congresspeople – do they get off on watching the torture of unethically imprisoned “exotic” men?), as well as his nominations to the HHS, Dept. of Labor, and recently the Supreme Court.

If you’ve had the patience to read till here, you’re probably wondering what the hell disappoints me about Obama. Here goes, in no particular order of priority:

1) His comments on race and ethnicity in America, articulated well by Dr. Dyson in the video above, so I won’t repeat.

2) His pick of economic advisors and “czars.” Really, Obama, I mean REALLY?? Lawrence Summers??? Really? Thanks for saying a big Fuck You to all the human rights people who voted for you. Thanks. If you won’t appoint intelligent and humane people to direct American and world economy then we can’t expect any other president to do so. Exactly why do you have to appoint the wrong Clintonite people over many other great alternatives? Exactly why do you have to pamper selfish, evil executives of insurance companies and then crack down on the companies of blue-collar workers? Being Republican much? Why do you perpetuate this idea that somehow capitalism and the whole realm of economics are only understood and should only be directed by ignorant, inhumane oppressors like Summers and Greenspan when it’s understood just as well, and directed better by economists who don’t disregard human rights?

3) His direction so far of healthcare reform: American healthcare reform could’ve been started while the wave of change around Obama’s election lasted. But alas, that wave has almost ended and the chance for true reform is distant again. No matter how difficult the logistics of universal healthcare in America maybe, why is Obama so weak in articulating the ideals of basic human rights? Only some ignorant Americans think good healthcare for American citizens is somehow a liberal or conservative issue, that it’s somehow contrary to capitalism. Conservatives and capitalists of other industrialized countries don’t make healthcare a political issue. That’s because just like public education, public housing, public transportation (roads and highways), and public communication (mail), healthcare is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT, and not a product or a service of corporations. Good health of workers increases productivity, which serves both capitalist and human rights interests. Ignorant conservatives have a patriarchal, corrupt and oppressive idea of capitalism, which is not the kind of capitalism necessarily theorized by Smith, Keynes of Pigou. The American conservative’s idea of capitalism is just an oppressive application of neutral ideals, much like their application of neutral religious and spiritual morals to oppress poor people and women. As mentioned before, the logistics of universal healthcare is something to be worked out and there too, I don’t expect utopia. But that’s no reason to not be clear about what is ideal and what Americans should achieve. I can collaborate with people of different views who recognize the utterly disgusting human rights violations in American healthcare and the need for a good basic health coverage. But there’s nothing to debate with people who are so blinded by their privilege that they don’t see the suffering, or worse, those who see the suffering caused by oppression and don’t prioritize change.

4) His indifference to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:” This is just one more of of the things Obama should’ve taken care of in the first 100 days. It’s so simple I can’t believe he hasn’t done something about it. Although enacted during the Clinton years, this policy is not the intention of Clinton but the kind of harmful, idiotic policy you get when some stupid Democrats, after being the majority in Congress, think it’s alright to compromise on human rights. Now I understand that many people don’t care about the rights of non-heterosexual people, but at least they can care about their MONEY!! This policy has done nothing but wasted money after thousands of qualified gay servicepeople have been fired after money was spent on their training. So the American military is willing to let convicted criminals serve in the military, but not qualified gays? They’re willing to waste money on Blackwater Security, an unnecessary and criminal Republican business that is supposed to “protect American armed forces,” by employing violent criminals who have documented cases of rape and murders of Iraqis against them, but they’re unwilling to invest in enforcing safety and solidarity for female soldiers? BTW, Obama has renewed the contract with Blackwater too. Go figure.

5) His stance on the Israel’s occupation of Palestine: Now it’s refreshing to hear an American president say clearly that Palestine has a right to exist, and for the first time tell Israel to stop further “settlements.” And yes, Obama’s speech in Cairo was more nuanced than anyone of the previous administration could’ve dreamt of speaking. But it’s just not enough to say Palestine has a right to exist, because Israel doesn’t disagree there. It’s merely lip service and infuriating empty rhetoric. NO DUH, Palestine has a right to exist, and now let’s make it possible. Obama told Palestinians that they should not use violence to justify their cause. Great. Why did he miss telling Israel that the violence they use to justify their cause, so many magnitudes greater than that of Palestinians, is wrong as well? As ignorant as Americans already are about the Israel-Palestine colonization, why do you perpetuate the biased and completely wrong view of the situation, President Obama? You lead those ignorant people to continue to believe that Palestinians are the only ones using violence, that Hamas is the culprit, and if they only started being peaceful then the problem would be solved. No the problem would not be solved until Israelis stop violently destroying humble Palestinian homes to build their pristine mansions. It would not be solved until Israel stops destroying Palestinian roads with their tanks,until they stop cutting off electricity and water supplies to homes, schools and hospitals, until they stop bombing homes and hospitals of Palestinian civilians – they fucking bombed Palestinian hospitals in January 2009, though not reported by Rupert Murdoch’s media. Palestine can’t exist unless Israel stops making giant concrete walls cutting off civilians from their schools and work, setting up checkpoints just to harass Palestinians and non-Israelis. And Palestine sure as hell can’t exist if America continues to fund Israel’s terrorism, which it is doing even under Obama. Some people will equate my stance with anti-Semitism but those people can keep their heads buried in the sand. It wasn’t Muslims, Hindus, or any one else but a group of Europeans who slaughtered Jews during the Holocaust. Most people’s opposition to Israel today is against their occupation and colonization of Palestine, having nothing to do with a dislike for Judaism or Jews. Yet ignorant people continue to point to Ahmedinajad as somehow being related to supporters of Palestine, though he has much more in common with G W Bush. They continue to disregard the disproportionate amount of Palestinians murdered while focusing only on murdered Israelis. Isn’t one of the lessons of the Holocaust not to let another one happen? Do we have to wait for six million Palestinians to be killed before we change something?

Well, that’s enough for one post. I’ll give the black man in office more time to clean up the rest of the mess a bunch of stupid rich white frat-boys on “legacy scholarships” left behind.

-vidyarthi

ISSUE 3) “I think classism (or sexism) is a bigger problem than racism.” How many times has a well-meaning white friend said this?  This comment is misguided. Not because classism is a lesser problem than racism, but because those are variables you can’t compare. To use a cliche, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. When examining racism, you have to study it within every economic class, within every gender, within every sexual orientation and within every other identity. When you study sexism, you have to study it within each ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and so on. Ignorant people will always point to Oprah, a range of other colored celebrities and now President Obama, to refute the claim that racism is a problem today. Never mind that for one Oprah, you have many other white billionaires at or higher than her class – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the list is endless. Never mind that for one Obama, you have 43 other white male presidents. Never mind that for all the pop culture colored icons, you have many more white icons who are often paid more, and among colored people mostly the lighter skinned are represented, and paid more. It’s always those few colored people who’ve moved up the ranks that now make classism or sexism a bigger problem. Well, they are all problems. And for a poor colored woman, not one is bigger than the other, and not one can be prioritized. To make a logical judgment about an issue, you have to compare it with the right variables. And guess who’s losing among people of low economic status? Colored people, cis-women, gays, lesbians, trans-people, etc. Guess who’s behind among the rich Americans? Oprah.

ISSUE 2) “I’m a cool white person, not the ‘white trash racist’ kind!” I know I’m not the only one who has heard this comment in one way or another. These cool young white folks readily separate themselves from the “wrong” kind of white people, i.e. the “white trash,” and have a number of colored friends they speak of. It’s not unusual for these colored friends to be of South Asian descent, since we so readily grow up and socialize with suburban Americans (whites), yet maintain out exotic status thanks to traditional parents and summer trips to South Asia. Many of these white folks love the “stuff white people like” blog, and few of them don’t, both for the wrong reasons. Some don’t like the blog because it’s a kind of “reverse racism,” a wrongful stereotype of white people that is unacceptable because stereotypes of colored people aren’t politically correct either. What these folks might not realize is that in reality, even they themselves recognize many cultural commonalities and group identities among people of different ethnicities, and white people are no different. If the blog was a hateful creation by colored people that would be one thing, but it’s written by white people, mostly for white people. Now to the white folks who love the SWPL blog – my issue with them is that as much fun as they poke at having their privileges, they are nonetheless complicit in them, and do little to change the inequal structure of society. I mean, it’s funny and all to read the blog entries, but now what? What use is the privilege to buy a Prius, various scarves, and bangs at the expensive hairdresser, if you’re not aware of the structural inequalities and not doing at least a little to change them? My biggest issue with “cool” white folks’ disassociation with “white trash” is that their racism is what hurts colored people the most!!! The “cool” white folks are the ones with both race and class privilege, and their ignorance is much harder to deal with than “white trash.” Firstly, why call people “trash?” Why make it even more obvious that you think of poor white people as garbage, that you don’t see beyond the stereotypes of Jerry Springer or Maury’s show, and that you focus on those stereotypes and not the struggles behind them? Sure, many poor whites are racists and have prejudices that Republicans make good political use of. But just as that racism hurts colored people of the same economic status and allows rich white people to divide and conquer, so does the ignorance (= racism) of the “cool” white friends agonize richer colored people. In some ways, the cool white folks’ racism is even more unacceptable considering the formal and social educational opportunities they get. I wish before making another ignorant comment some of them used their iPhones to find the evidence against their claims. Can POC get an iPhone application of anti-racist ammunition?

quirksmith_ethiopian_food_fight

This cartoon drawn by Grant Woolard was published in The Cavalier Daily, an independent UVA newspaper in Sept. 2007. Why discuss this now? Because recently a friend told me how she found the cartoon funny, and without seeing it I found the concept really distasteful. Today I decided to actually look the cartoon up… lo and behold it’s even more disgusting than I thought. Why write about it in a Desi blog, you ask? Because the South Asian countries also have a majority poor population, many of them without food, and I think this cartoon, while using Ethiopians, is an insult to all people of colour.

Firstly, it’s extremely distasteful for a privileged person to make fun of exploited people’s oppression. The very idea of a food fight is privileged because one has to have enough food to waste to fight with it. If you have food to waste, why make fun of people who don’t? Secondly, the cartoon just repeats a stereotype of Ethiopians not having food. While some, even many, Ethiopians might not have food, many Ethiopians do have food, and I’m tired of the third world not having food images. And lastly, what the hell is up with the loincloths? Has the cartoonists ever seen real Ethiopians? There might be some specific tribes in specific countries (not limited to the African continent) who wear loincloths, but I don’t think the cartoonist is knowledgeable enough to know their identities. To portray Ethiopians as not wearing clothes is factually incorrect and perpetuates colonial stereotypes.

While web surfing, I came across Woolard’s defense of his cartoon. You can read it here. He laments the fact that nobody inquired about what he wanted to convey by the distasteful cartoon. From his explanation, it seems that he’s very concerned about the food inequalities of the world. So it’s possible that he’s a good person but a bad cartoonist. Either that or he’s a good cartoonist but a racist person. If he really wanted to draw attention to food inequalities, why not draw the food wastage in America as the cause of Ethiopia’s food shortage? Why not draw McDonald’s, or make caricatures of Americans as gluttons (which I don’t agree with but I’m trying to make a point)? As he pointed out in his own defense, Ireland also experienced a potato famine. Why not draw that? Why colored people? And all the excuses in the world cannot defend to me drawing Ethiopians wearing loincloth. This is more than just a small issue to me. I’m from Bangladesh and a girl in high school here asked me if people run around naked in my country like she heard. What the hell!! Bangladesh is so conservative that modesty often includes covering hair!!

And while the author’s views are important in structuralist analysis, reader’s views are also important in post-structuralist analysis. The author shouldn’t have been oblivious to what reactions his work might provoke in readers. I don’t think it’s always wrong to make satiric cartoons, especially if they’re against despotic rulers or groups. But who is Woolard offending here? He’s offending the very people who’ve historically been exploited and still face racism. Many privileged people seem to find this cartoon funny. It’s minorities and sensible allies who objected to it. What’s the humor in offending victims?

Finally, there was additional controversy over this cartoon when Woolard was fired from the newspaper, even though the board had agreed to publish the cartoon. I agree that Woolard was unfairly fired. I think Woolard and the whole board of Cav Daily should’ve resigned. – vidyarthi