The Essence of Politics

Graphic Arts, Literature, Politics, Social Issues
An obese woman talks to a friend about unfair medical treatment

I was very privileged to have a brief Twitter conversation with Alli Kirkham, one of the many thoughtful, talented, and concerned contributors at Everyday Feminism. It was my first visit to that site, as I had been informed of the Politically Incorrect Man comic after seeing it reviewed by the Amazing Atheist. Like most things that good man says, I don’t agree with every critique he makes, but I did take exception to several points that the graphic artist made.

As a black man, I am very sympathetic to people like Kirkham who genuinely believe they are fighting the good fight for the underprivileged. Sadly, there are several popular movements as of late that have the commendable goal of improving social consciousness, but they frequently reason that either they should be completely immune to criticism, due to the plight of the people they are trying to protect, or that any form of criticism of their thoughts/actions is ipso facto harassment. I must say that the reaction I received from this good artist fell right in line with that unfortunate stereotype regarding modern social justice warriors.

The best example of righteous political activism gone haywire is the Black Lives Matters movement. Yes, black lives matter, but indeed, as we all well know, every sperm is sacred. Instead of bringing people together with objective facts, they garner sympathy by outright lying, such as in regards to Michael Brown’s shooting, which I will have a lot more to say about in good time, where they perpetuated the lie that the autopsy found that he was shot in the back, but if you read the DOJ report, you will find that that characterization of the autotopsy’s findings are false (page 7). There was scant evidence, if any, that Michael Brown was shot while running away, and plenty that he was shot while charging towards Darren Wilson. But again, more on that later

I want to be very clear that my own critique of Kirkham’s work, which is a critique of her reasoning and, in my opinion, skewed perspective, was focused on the cells in this post’s featured image. My response to that exchange in particular resulted in the following conversation:

And so, now that I have the opportunity to properly respond, a crucial first point to acknowledge is, yes this is a work of fiction. But, as I’ve said before, as an artist myself, I engage other artists in conversations about their expressions. And when the medium involves prose, and is clearly satire, then there is absolutely nothing unusual about someone else disagreeing with an artist’s social critique, and addressing their specific points. A troll is someone who is specifically trying to harass you, or get under your skin. That is their only goal. This kind of critique, in contrast, will inevitably get under the skin, but you will only find me making points with validity and authenticity. These topics are of genuine concern to me, and so that’s why I engage in conversation.

Of course, the obese person depicted is not solidly established in just a couple cells, but remember that the very nature of this work asks us to sympathize with this individual, and we can’t do that without some knowledge of their background. Whatever isn’t said, the reader fills in the blank, but the writer is consciously providing just enough structure to help us make concrete determinations about this character.

In this case, the character tells us that being fat has resulted in her not getting effective medical treatment. Her conversation partner, whom purely for the sake of brevity will be referred to as her “friend”, says she should “stop making excuses and just lose some weight”. (By the way, forgive me for saying “loosing” rather than “losing” earlier. And I suppose I meant more “perspective” than “perception”.) So of course, there are many legitimate questions like, What illness does this person have? What treatment has she received? One of the most important questions would be, Is there a treatment you’ve learned about that you believe your doctor is withholding? One would reasonably think that the argument made by the character is that she is not only getting ineffective medical treatment from her doctor, but anticipates just as poor of treatment from anyone else, and so it seems to be a comment on a general problem in the medical community.

Her “friend” takes the view that her medical problems can be curbed by her dietary and lifestyle choices. The overall, very bluntly and perhaps rudely made, comment is that her “friend” believes she can influence her medical problems a lot more personally. Whether or not that is true for someone who is obese depends on a great many factors. There is little question that an individual can do a lot to influence their weight, especially if one is overweight, by whatever metric. A realistic view of this scenario is that the character was perhaps told by the doctor that losing weight will have a significant positive impact on her medical issues. The character’s response in the second panel makes crystal clear that she does not agree that losing weight is an effective medical treatment, which was why it seemed to me that the word “healthy” was on the tip of her tongue before being interrupted.

And therein lies the dilemma: she disagrees with the doctor’s medical advice and believes she understands her own body better. If that’s really the case, why is she asking the doctor for medical advice, rather than simply proving her case that she has certain ailments/symptoms for which certain treatment that she is aware of is effective? Why even have a disagreement with the medical professional if she’s already found a good answer?

My main point is that works of this nature, which have a noble purpose of sharing awareness of the nuances of complex issues, are flawed in their one-sidedness. This comic is too committed towards bashing the “privileged” that it does not care that the points it makes are poorly constructed and rife with contradiction. If there is a good, solid, sound argument about a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, that is proven to be more effective than curbing one’s obesity and smoking habits, so as to render those particular strategies obsolete, then the above depicted conversation would make a lot more sense.

One final point: What in the Sam Hill is Mx. ?? For the love of Pete Moss, feminists invented Ms. ! And it is everything they wanted it to be, except for anyone who thought that such a thing would de-stigmatize sex/gender. As long as we are human, we will remain ever-so subjected to the sexual stigmata.

What say you?