A joke, a slap, a slip of the mask; let’s talk female privilege | HBR Talk 218


Recently a friend on twitter tagged me and a few other antifeminists in a retweet of a feminist-themed political cartoon that had been published in The New Yorker, a well-loved and respected establishment media publication, because you know… feminists have no power and no influence.

I’m not really enamored of feminist-themed political cartoons because frankly feminist humor just… isn’t. Worse, I can usually think of what the artist could have said that would have been funny, and somehow that just annoys the hell out of me. However, a friend did tag me, so I looked.

It’s even more annoying when there’s nothing the artist could have done to redeem the joke. 

The drawing was of a girl being read a bedtime story by her father, with the caption, “Skip to the part where the princess climbs to the top of the corporate ladder.”

Soooooooo much fail, all packed into one comic, then exacerbated by the original poster’s addition: “Yes, let’s,” with hashtags #InternationalWomensDay #EqualPayDay #equality #Feminism and #EqualRights,” indicating that the caption should be implemented in real life.

The obvious first question is why the OP thinks corporate advancement should be a “skip to the part” experience for anybody, considering the involved responsibilities. Then there is the question of why he thinks that skipping should be specific to women. If it’s something that can be skipped, why should anybody have to get there the hard way, climbing from the bottom up, struggling to maintain balance while striving to gain ground the whole time?

This brings me to the question I asked in answer to the RT. “Why would a princess need to climb when she is already above the entire system?”

In response, the OP blocked my friend and me, but not until after I’d archived the tweet.
When I went back to look at the archive in preparation for this video, I realized the OP was the cartoonist himself.

Apparently he wants women to be at the top of the corporate ladder, but he doesn’t want to listen to anything we have to say about it… especially when that discussion happens to highlight a screaming contradiction to the privileged male oppressor/oppressed female victim narrative. #FeminismSoFragile

It’s a shame, really. It means he won’t experience Princess Butthurt of Femitopia’s expedition to the top of the corporate ladder.

He’ll never hear how it starts out with an epic struggle to escape the confines of her ivory tower, a unique adventure in and of itself!

After all, her fashionably asymmetrical bob just doesn’t afford her the same kind of travel accommodations as that antifeminist pick-me, Rapunzel, so the window is of no use as an exit. 

She’s not pretty enough to be sent by her wicked queen into the woods with a huntsman to act as her executioner, or a diligent enough worker to merit a fairy godmother, nor is there a hideous beast guarding the tower so as to attract knights in shining armor to rescue her from her plight.

As a result, the poor thing has no other choice but to try and make use of the most unfeminine method of escape available. Reaching out with one trembling hand, she ends her ordeal of captivity by opening the door, and skipping merrily toward the stairs.

Ok, so maybe a feminist might not like hearing that story. After all, the princess did the impossible! Everybody knows women are supposed to wait for feminist-lobbied law and policy to open doors for us. Who would believe the story of a woman who can open doors for herself?

Still, our paladin of pictorial perfection will also miss out on the arduous journey following the princess’s darning escape.
Her first challenge: Moving forward.

After all, there’s only room for one person at the top of the corporate ladder, so she cannot take any guard or any guide. This is a one-woman expedition that begins with the simplest of rituals. She picks up her own two feet and walks. Down the long and winding steps of the tower she marches before opening yet another door to begin an even longer trek down the hillside.

Determined, she ponders her situation, then grabs the sign, and steps onto the bridge. As she had initially observed, though the slats themselves are fairly stable, each step is followed by a wider hole than the last, so that while she struggles for balance, she is also compelled to stretch her stride more and more as she progresses down the path.

Meanwhile her prizes are becoming difficult to stash. Initially she had simply put the gold and silver in her purse, but now she is encountering things that are harder to maintain. She can wear the medallions, but the trophies are a bigger challenge. She eventually resorts to cannibalizing a big swatch of the massive skirt of her princess gown to use as a loot sack. Thus encumbered, with each clanking, pinging step, Princess Butthurt acquires more rewards to cherish, making her balance that much harder to sustain, until she reaches the final gap before her last step. 

Here, faced with a farther distance than her legs can stretch, she lays down the road sign to bridge the gap. The crossing is now manageable, the gap split into two halves by wooden arrow pointing toward the grass ahead of her. “This way,” its bold letters remind her, “to Corporatopia.” Lightly stepping across, our princess is back on solid ground. Looking back toward her tower, she realizes it’s very far away, and on much higher ground than where she’s standing. Still, she’s that much closer to the challenge she started this journey to face. She has, after all, reached Corporatopia. That ladder has to be around here somewhere.

Turning away from her now distant safe space, the princess finds herself at the edge of a sharp drop into what appears to be a deep chasm filled with clouds of industrial smoke. Unable to see the bottom, she has no way to assess the risks involved in trying to traverse it. Looking around her, she sees no more bridges, no more pathways toward her ultimate goal. Disheartened, she cries out piteously, “Oh no! How am I supposed to climb to the top of the corporate ladder now?” A question, the answer to which our poor, deprived paladin of patriarchal portraiture, who has chosen to avoid this story altogether, will likely never hear.

“Whaddaya mean, Lady?” growls a man’s voice from somewhere below the edge of the cliff. “It’s down here!”

This week, HBR Talk will discuss the significance of a slap at the Oscars, and its relation to a political cartoon that both starkly highlights and catastrophically ignores the implications of female privilege in its effort to promote a crippling oppression narrative. You can find a link to the stream, running at 7:30PM EST, at honeybadgerbrigade.com.


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Hannah Wallen
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About the author

Hannah Wallen

Hannah has witnessed women's use of criminal and family courts to abuse men in five different counties, and began writing after she saw one man's ordeal drag on for seven years, continuing even when authorities had substantial evidence that the accuser was gaming the system. She is the author of Breaking the Glasses, written from an anti-feminist perspective, with a focus on men's rights and sometimes social issues. Breaking the Glasses refers to breaking down the "ism" filters through which people view the world, replacing thought in terms of political rhetoric with an exploration of the human condition and human interactions without regard to dogmatic belief systems. She has a youtube channel (also called Breaking the Glasses), and has also written for A Voice For Men and Genderratic. Hannah's work can be supported at https://www.minds.com/Oneiorosgrip

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