Wednesday, May 25, 2005


On conservative turf

Originally uploaded by Alison Bechdel.
Imagine my surprise when I saw David Horowitz’s name in my in-box the other night. He’s the once-radical-now-conservative force behind Students for Academic Freedom—an organization that is more or less to academic freedom what Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative is to reducing mercury emissions.

David was asking for permission to reprint a recent episode of my comic strip on the SAF website. It’s the one where the conservative student Cynthia is tabling for SAF, and Ginger, her professor, engages her in a little Socratic dialogue about the merits of teaching “theories” like creationism and holocaust denial. That episode was inspired by an excellent article called The New PC: Crybaby Conservatives in The Nation.

SAF is worried that the sizeable majority of college professors who are left-leaning democrats are indoctrinating their students by exposing them only to liberal ideas and not to conservative ones. Horowitz is also behind something called the ”academic bill of rights” which Republicans are introducing in various state legislatures. Here’s an informative piece on the Democracy Now! Site about how that effort is going down in Florida.

Anyhow, I told David Horowitz that absolutely, he could reprint my comic strip. And here it is on the SAF site. (Not sure how long they’ll keep it up—this is their home page, and they have a regular slot for a cartoon.)

I suppose that out of context like this, the strip could be read in such a way that Ginger appears to be the bad guy—for mocking Cynthia’s intellectual heroine, Ayn Rand. But I think that’s a small risk to run in the face of this opportunity for my comics to engage in a little Socratic dialogue of their own with Students for Academic Freedom. What do you think?

Here’s the strip in its own, cozy progressive context, should you care to peruse it.

Anyway, SAF is paying me a hundred bucks. I’m accepting suggestions on who to donate it to—preferably an organization that really is working to protect freedom of expression and promote intellectual honesty.

Congratulations Alison!
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Hopefully the small piece will make the students curious to come read more of your work!

As for a charitable organization, Media Matters is doing some great work on discrediting the so-called "liberal bias" -

Keep up the great work!
I love it!

What about donating the money to something like Amnesty International's OUTfront program? Or to the National Center for Lesbian Rights?
I think it's neat that someone at SAF apparently reads DTWOF! And money is always a useful thing. :)

This reminds me - my libertarian hubby complained about you dissing Ayn Rand...

He: Ayn Rand is one of my heroes!
Me: As a writer of literature or for political ideas?
He: Well, no, I wouldn't really call it literature. But it's important.
Me: And Ginger is a professor of...?
He: English. Right.
Me: Pity Alison doesn't have a PoliSci prof in the cast...THAT could be interesting.
Maybe my cousin David isn't as conservative as we all thought.
I'm amazed that you're amazed.
I heard Horowitz is thinking of starting his own strip: Wingnuts To Watch Out For. And thus, giving to Media Matters would be a Good Thing.
SAF could surround your work with all the tendentious anecdotes they wanted to, if they kept on presenting it in a respectfully large, uncluttered format. (Can I point out the link? )
If only they'd avoided that grow/shrink effect from panel to panel, it would be perfect.

As for the strip itself: I'm still not sure about Ginger being "threatened" by creationism, Holocaust denial, and Ayn Rand. Such things might *challenge* her -- in a small way, like a child's wheedling, or a flat tire -- but surely she's up for it. Are you threatened by David Horowitz? Hah!

As for the money: "promot[ing] intellectual honesty" is like promoting self-esteem -- well-intentioned but doomed. Your work already leads by example. Spend the money on yourself -- try the luxury-priced organic garlic-stuffed olives at your co-op or something.

-- David in Cambridge
try the luxury-priced organic garlic-stuffed olives at your co-op or something.

Oh man, my favorite: garlic/jalapeno-stuffed olives. Great on their own or in a Bloody Mary. Mmm...
I'm officiating a CU this weekend. Swiss TV will be there filming it because Switzerland will be voting June 5 whether to permit CU's for same-sex couples. The TV station has warned me they "have to show the other side", so there will be an interview with a rep from Take it to the People included. Why isn't "the other side" an argument for a complete package of federal rights and benefits as marriage provides? How is it that hate speech directed at gays is considered a legitimate "other side"? Holocaust denial, creationism, Take it to the People... arghhh.
Wow, what a great tale.

Since you asked...

On a somewhat local level you might consider supporting the John Swan
Endowment of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Vermont Library

VLA actively supports intellectual freedom in Vermont and nationwide in many ways. The John Swan Lecture Series was begun in 1992 as a tribute to John
Swan, who was library directory at Bennington College and a strong advocate for intellectual freedom.

This years lecture is coming up soon...
Laurie Lane-Zucker, President of the Triad Institute will give a talk titled "A New Vision of Citizenship For a Fast-Globalizing and
Ecologically Challenged World." The lecture will be held in the main
reading room of the Brooks Memorial Library, 224 Main St. Brattleboro,
Vermont, on Thursday, June 9, 2005, at 7:00 PM.

Of course, there's a lot to be said in favor of gourmet olives, yum.
LEM1955, way to go.

Here in Oregon, the State Legislature is considering SB1000, a comprehensive Civil Unions bill that would also include antidiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, and trans people. Our opponents are trying to derail it with a half-baked "reciprocal benefits" bill. I'm planning to travel to Salem with Basic Rights Oregon to show support for "the real deal".

Sooner or later, the anti-family people are going to have to face the reality that they've been trying to avoid: lesbian and gay couples are in relationships that deserve as much respect as married heteros. When they figure out that it doesn't take anything away from straight people to recognize that ... well, we will really be getting somewhere.
I think the description "working to protect freedom of expression and promote intellectual honesty" describes DTWOF pretty darn well. Keep at least half the money for yourself-- for a conference registration, next December's heating bill... or gourmet olives.

Ginger's comment about quadrupling professors' salaries is right on. Universities increasingly rely on low-paid adjunct faculty (I was one for two years) who have little job stability and few benefits.

No wonder left-leaning, passionate thinkers end up in front of the classroom.

Either throw a party, or replace your bird feeder with a bear-proof one.
Hehe... maybe that panel does seem very different ut of context, but it's one of the funniest Cynthia moments. Maybe I should start doing that, charting down all my grievances in a log...
In any case, congrats on being posted there. The only suggestion I can think of for the money is the good ol' local independant bookstore.
Congratulations Alison!

This might be a little "inside baseball," but have you considered giving the proceeds to the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund?
Maybe someone really will quadruple our salaries now.
There's also the Point Foundation, an LGBT scholarship organization for our kids who couldn't afford college in any other way. Another nice idea might be Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. That organization just popped up on my radar, and barring the idea that it's a vile name-gathering stunt by the government, it looks like a rather nice group.

I just reread that last sentance. Really, I'm not that paranoid. Really.
How about GLADD?
A couple of suggestions:

1. The American Civil Liberties Union, specifically the branch in Indianapolis that is challenging a divorce ruling forcing two pagan parents to expose their child only to "mainstream religions."

2. A lifetime subscription to Vanity Fair, for breaking the Deep Throat story (and for being one of the very, very few mainstream media outlets that's been on top of the voting scandals from the beginning).


4. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. God knows they need it right now.
Okay, I know it's self-serving, but perhaps you could donate part of the hundred bucks to "off our backs." It's the paper's 35th anniversary. Heavens knows they've been promoting feminist freedom of speech since before it was common right up to these par'lous post-radical feminist days.

Farar Elliott
You could also donate the $100 to the American Association of University Professors - - that does a ton of work on academic freedom. A good group doing great work for those of us slogging away in academia. But my vote would be for ACLU which casts a broader net.
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