Laurie Toby Edison

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The Politics of Hypersimplification

Laurie and Debbie say:

Ampersand, one of our favorite bloggers, is also an excellent cartoonist, and has taken to putting his cartoons on his blog.

Ampersand transphobia cartoon

As if the cartoon wasn’t enough, the 80+ comments in the comment thread are brilliantly representative of how people respond to the issue of gender essentialism, .

We’ve been thinking and talking to each other a lot recently about bridging gaps, reaching people across apparently unresolvable disagreements, and so forth. Amp’s cartoon appears to be speaking to the opposite: how people can be in passionate agreement on a specific issue despite the apparently vast gaps that divide them. We think (and many of his commenters have similar reactions) that both the cartoon and the underlying issue go deeper than that.

One way to read the cartoon is that the “radical feminist” is somehow wrong-headed because she agrees with the “conservative Christian.” Maia of Capitalism Bad, Tree Pretty comments on Amp’s blog:

If radical feminist and conservative christian discourse overlaps in some areas then there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that (I’ve got a conservative christian who hangs out on my blog and he’ll often agree with my posts about violence against women). Either what radical feminists/conservative christians are saying is wrong, or it isn’t (and I disagree with every one of the statements from either character). But that stands on its own merit, not on the fact that they agree with each other.

We agree completely.

What we both see here, however, which no commenter seems to have addressed directly, is that the reason the two characters in the cartoon appear to agree is that their positions are hypersimplified. We seem to be living in a time where most political/social/gender opinions and expectations have been reduced not just to the sound bite but to the bumper sticker. Oversimplified opinions lead to false agreement and false disagreement.

It may perhaps be true that most (but not all) “conservative Christians” (whatever that term means) are transphobic. It is certainly not true that most “radical feminists” are transphobic. At the same time, it is probably the case that, in the United States, radical feminists and conservative Christians put together provide more aid, support, and relief to low-income communities than everyone else in the country put together: because that’s a primary value in both groups, even if one group calls it “helping the poor” and the other calls it “battling class privilege.”

We think Amp’s cartoon opens more than the issue of false agreement, implying the failure of bumper-sticker beliefs and predetermined categorizations. No matter how hard one may try, no one fits perfectly into the narrow confines of a single identity, let alone the prescribed politics of that single identity. What’s more, the prevailing cultural belief that we all do fit into these narrow confines causes an extraordinary amount of contortion, confusion, and pain.

Conversation, connection, and hope all lie in the space after the last panel, where the two “friends” talk. In the next cartoon in the series, a Christian feminist transperson might enter…

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3 Responses to “The Politics of Hypersimplification”

  1. Stef Says:

    This is a brilliant post. You guys rock.

  2. justmekaren (formerly Karen S) Says:

    How is this any more “hypersimplified” than the Gendercator movie, which substitutes a trans-radical christian alliance (I won’t say conservative christian, a true conservative may not be so activist)

    Looking at both this cartoon and Gendercator, I see overt hypersimpliflication. As a transwoman, this is what we are are allowed to see when some individuals block out our voices.

    We’re accusing of blocking out the voices of others, or at best hypersimplifying, (ie, Frameline, Boston Dyke March v. Bitch – two cancellations I oppose, yet in the recent past transwomen been accused of invasion, accused of having purposeful destructive motives (I think we all know which blog that would be.) Some very ugly, very hypersimpliflied things have been thrown at us. Why is this any different?

    As a note about what conservative christians and radical feminists do in common for others, we may find transpeople doing far more when our security in it is assured. If we are willing to look closely we might even see them doing things now.

    That very last panel within a panel asks a question “Does this mean we cannot be friends?” should add, “and still be ourselves?” Do motives have to be exactly mutual to be understood? Or for that matter, immediately understood? That’s hypersimplification, in a nutshell.

    Maybe the next installment of Amp’s cartooning could add someone to the discussion…and it would open up things in the cartoonosphere, a little bit.

  3. lyssa Says:

    It is certainly not true that most “radical feminists” are transphobic.

    I’ll believe this when a group of transwomen conduct a survey and analysis.

    In the meantime, I’ll laugh at the cartoon because it reveals a theme that runs through both groups: transphobia.

    The cartoon is oversimplified? Show me some radfems who are demonstrably NOT transphobic, then

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Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

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