In searching for new cartoons for an upcoming revision, I was struck by the number of cartoons stereotyping men and making them look stupid, boorish, or incredibly selfish. One cartoon that made this especially clear was a New Yorker cartoon where 2 women are talking in the hallway of an apartment house. The one with a suitcase says: “I’m going away for the weekend. Would you mind feeding my husband?” Why do the media (and it’s not only cartoons; television commercials are the worst, I suspect) persist in making men look so grossly incompetent? I don’t find the cartoon funny (well, maybe a little, a very little), only insulting.
When I took General Semantics, Harry Weinberg—one of the greatest teachers I ever had—had us do a scrapbook of misevaluations (fact inference confusion, allness, indiscrimination, intensional orientation, static evaluation, and polarization—the kinds of distortions that I (and probably most others) discuss in the chapter on verbal messages—and which had to come from different media—so there had to be a certain number of cartoons, a certain number of news items, and so on. I would think that a similar project could be built around cultural distortions—stereotyping, ethnocentrism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, racism, insensitivity in communication between people with and without hearing, speech, physical, or visual impairments—from the various media. It would be a good exercise in cultural awareness and in media literacy.