The Danish Cartoonist

A few days ago one of the infamous Danish cartoonists was attacked by a knife and axe-wielding Somali man in his own home, with his grand-daughter on the premises, prompting this editorial from Nancy Graham Holm.  What's so very stupid about the editorial is not, surely, the questioning of whether those cartoons should have been created and published.  That's got to be a legitimate matter for debate.  The problem is the timing.  As people have been saying all over the internet, the author seems to be blaming the victim, Kurt Westergaard.

Analogy. It's perfectly fine for a concerned party to talk to female students about what they wear when they make their way home late at night, perhaps walking home alone from the subway station.  Yes, there's a right to express yourself, but it just might not be worth asserting that right, if it means putting yourself at risk of being attacked.   That conversation is fine.  But if the attack actually happens?  At that point, the issue of what a woman was wearing is no longer fine.  She may have been imprudent, but bringing that up inevitably sends the message that the attacker is to be excused. 

I have to admit, I did learn something interesting from the editorial.  There are 87 men named Kurt Westergaard in Denmark, all now under police protection.  Some enterprising journalist ought to write an article about them, or even make a little film.  It strikes me as somehow poignant that your life could be turned around just because of your name. 

I also learned something from the response to Holm.  When women are attacked for their ideas, they are often attacked in gender-specific terms. She's a bitch, a this, a that (this blog is PG rated--use your imagination).   I should say, rather, something I already knew was confirmed.  Lately I've been noticing the same thing in animal rights quarters.  A man is attacked for being an idiot (or some such) but a woman is a bitch, a this, a that.  No links, because this stuff doesn't deserve a readership.


Wayne said...

I think the most optimistic thing to say about the current misogynistic state of our world is.... at least its a lot easier to trans-valuate bitch into something positive than idiot.

Jean Kazez said...

Ah...so "bitch" at least implies some forcefulness or power to intimidate? An idiot is like...a village idiot. Somebody wandering around drooling. Hmm!

Melissa said...

I would rather be called a bitch than an idiot -- if given a choice. It often seems that a woman is called a bitch when she's simply asserting herself or voicing an unpopular or dissenting view -- probably why a lot of women are afraid to voice an opinion. I would agree that the word bitch is positive in a sense.

But it can be rather frightening when a man directs violent speech toward a woman (the R and X-rated speech) and that's perhaps because there's that threat of actual physical violence. Of course women are fully capable of violence as well...

In my experience vegetarians are far less violent/agressive and generally more respectful in speech than vegans, generally speaking of course!

Ophelia Benson said...

I think it's hopeless trying to transvaluate 'bitch' - because even if it does mean powerful and scary it still always also means someone who has no business being powerful and scary and who should probably be slapped around.