Clinton’s politics are rotten to the core but that is no license for misogyny

There is a caricature of Hillary Clinton circulating on FB called “Hillary has big “hands” by artist Anthony Freda. It portrays her lasciviously & naked as a macho man & is a take-off of one done about Trump called “Trump has small hands.”

Despite the progressive critique probably intended by the caricaturist, it is profoundly misogynist & offensive. Regrettably, it is done in the satiric genre of Charlie Hebdo–which is hateful & takes inappropriate license–in this case, not with Clinton’s politics but with her gender.

That shouldn’t have to be spelled out. But to be clear, power politics have to do with capitalism, not gender–not even if you drag in epithets against the patriarchy. After Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Hillary Clinton, & so many other treacherous political women, how can anyone regard corrupt power as just machismo & male? In a subtle way, the caricature disempowers women more than it skewers Clinton.

Wielding social hatred in the form of caricature is not a new phenomenon & didn’t just emerge with Charlie Hebdo. There is probably no more democratic art form than political cartooning which emerged in the 17th century after the democratic revolutions that overthrew feudalism & brought in capitalist nation-states. Cartooning signals the shift in power relations between church, monarchies, & plebeians by the ability to lampoon power. The obsequious posture of serfs is replaced with defiance & ridicule.

But because colonialism was a political feature of those states, racist caricature has always been part of cartooning–particularly in depictions of the Irish, Jews, Blacks, Arabs. George Cruikshank, the great English cartoonist of the 19th century, originated the simian comparison with the Irish.

Thomas Nast, in the 19th century, considered the pioneer of US cartooning, also portrayed the Irish as simian. Nast was an ardent supporter of the Civil War & Black Reconstruction but his depictions of Blacks are outrageously simian. Although he championed Chinese immigration at a time when they were under attack, his caricatures of them are racist & he attributed the violence to Irish immigrants.

The simian portrayal of Blacks has long been used to incite violence & social hatred & plagues caricature to this day–including of Obama & elite athletes. Degrading portrayals of women are no less pernicious.

Caricaturing is not the same as writing a book. It’s a visceral art & shouldn’t require long political tracts of explanation. Granted that racism & misogyny make satire more difficult because whites & men cannot take the easy way out in lampooning. If you can’t tell the distinction between political critique & social hatred, that’s a problem. It should be considered a creative challenge by satirists & caricaturists, not an impediment of their free speech.