At the risk of consequentialising…

Catching up on my blog reading recently, I noted Feminist Allies: Gender Identity in the Comics post about (and it’s early, so I direct quote)

“I think comic strips are an interesting place to see how gender is reinforced in our daily lives, and how that reinforcement often affects us all negatively.”

it’s an interesting piece, and one that’s noticeable in a quick scan of the black and white single panel to three panel dailies. Gender roles are reinforced or if broken, are broken as the form of a punchline.  “So MaleRole was done by A FEMALE *cue audience guffaw*” Oh Beetle Bailey, how wacky art thou! I mean, I gave up reading Cathy years back because it started to grate raw nerves with me. Don’t get me started on the creep out inducing stuff that goes on in For Better or For Worse (for worse actually) since there’s enough other people on the internet covering that watch.  There are problems in the funny pages that reflect society and show both comic and society needs work.
What got me thinking was jeff’s last paragraph….

Mountains and Molehills
Some might say I’m trivializing gender stuff by focusing on a small segment of pop culture–comic strips. But again, these are solid parts of our day-to-day lives (ok, of my day to day life, and I think this is where a lot of the work on recognizing gender norms and how they might negatively affect us can be done.

In short, I think jeff’s nailed the importance of this in a nutshell.  This is reality, real life, day to day, common touch ordinary people territory – the funny pages.  I’m an academic, I hang with an elite crowd at work, teach at a university (highly ranked one at that).  I don’t run with the average person in a lot of respects, but I do read the same comics in the paper as they do.  It’s the one point where I can say that I intersect with a lot of other people.  Sure, I read Cathy in preference for the Phantom, but still, I could talk about the Phantom to the other boys at school.  It’s more real to a lot of people than big issue changes like social reform or equity or equality of wage, or domestic violence shelters or war in Africa.  It was a common ground, and a part of people’s real daily life (go on, tell me that reading the comics isn’t important because it’s done by ordinary people)
The so called small issues are places where you can intersect with the real life of people, yet we’re forever on the defensive about whether we’re trivialising the big picture by addressing these smaller real life issues. So this got me thinking about the “But you’re trivialising…” concept in other contexts, namely the fact that I’m in the process of moving apartments.  Did I trivialise the apartment moving by packing the small objects before moving the bookcase?  Or was it a hell of a lot easier to move the bookcase once I’d dealt with the raft of smaller objects, freeing me up to take on the bigger issue of the bookcase as part of the biggest issue of moving the entirety of my possessions?

Tackling what we can, where we can, and bringing about incremental improvement in all areas of society isn’t trivialising the major cause.  Assuming that the only change is big change is that none of us can really ever feel that we can acheive is to make what we work for into something of little significance or value.  Getting to people’s self interest in small ways each and every day is much more significant, and a hell of a lot more valuable.

That, if you want to take Answers.com’s second meaning of trivial, is the whole point of well constructed social change – taking it from the unachieved and unachievable and making it something ordinary and commonplace (and achieved) is the endgame scenario.

Change enough of the smaller parts, and the composition of the bigger picture alters. If making a better big picture isn’t significant and valuable, then what is?

One Response to “At the risk of consequentialising…”

  1. DS, that’s a very interesting, and profound, take on being concerned over “trival” issues. Thank you!

    Best,
    Tim Liebe
    Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce – and co-writer of Marvel’s WHITE TIGER comic

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