lördag 28 maj 2011

Hans Lindström: Feminister ("Feminists")

I don't think Swedish cartoonist Hans Lindström really hates women, and maybe he doesn't even hate feminists. Maybe he's just angry at the particular variety of feminists who make unfair generalizations about men, and who don't back up their arguments with facts and logic. I can understand that; heck, I get angry at that sort of thing from time to time as well. But just as anger can be a good source of energy while a lousy choice for controlling the steering wheel, putting out a collection of cartoons that are all about your anger doesn't make for a good read. That rule applies to feministic cartoonists as well as to Lindström, and Lindström's Feminister collection fails because he can't get over his anger at feminists in general and former Minister of Gender Equality Margareta Winberg in particular.


And it's a shame, because those cartoons that aren't about that – which would be about half of them, the rest could be given the heading "Women" or somesuch, making this largely a misnamed collection – are sometimes quite good, like the woman who runs over her husbands legs with the lawn mower, severing them, and then apologizes profusely: "Just like you said yesterday when you beat me: 'I'll never do it again'!" Or two hefty, middle-aged women walking down the street, one of them with a torn-off forearm clutching her purse strap: "Today's purse-snatchers just aren't up to scratch."

But such gems are too few and to far in between. Instead, the reader gets way too much "feminists hate men", "feminists are flat-chested and ugly", and "Margareta Winberg's an idiot". Mind you, I don't necessarily disagree with the last one, but it's just not very funny – especially the third time you read it.

And that's the second problem with this collection: in several cases, Lindström just repeats a joke he's used in a cartoon a couple of pages ago. While he's perfectly entitled to disparage feminists all day long if he wants to – we do have freedom of speech, you know – this is just unprofessional, and ripping the buyer off.

So, I can't really recommend this. Though I will note that I've seen people react to Lindström's cartoons with pretty much outright hate, sometimes even people who themselves seem to have aspirations to be "provocative" but who really just seem to be sticking with rather bland assertions about how racism, sexism and oppression is bad, and how superficial mass media are bad for democracy, etc., so I will give Lindström some credit for having more personal and artistic courage than those who'll stick with what is entirely politically correct for the editors of the magazines and newspapers they cater to. Unfortunately, being angry and at least sort of gutsy doesn't make for a good cartoon collection. You need a whole bunch of actually good cartoons for that, as well.

I'll expand that to a general observation: I've seen quite a few cartoonists from the other side of the spectrum here in Sweden – let's face it, Lindström's pretty much alone on his side – and one problem that is pretty much general is that they frequently fail when they try to make political, ideological and/or sweeping generalization, and succeed when they get into the specifics of their own – or ordinary people's – everyday lives. Often, they'll resort to what is rather simplistic rhetoric (like Lindström mostly does in this book), stroking the prejudices and/or egos of their chosen audience or cause (or themselves), which makes for quite boring reading if you want something intellectually stimulating. But when they can get to the level of "this happened to me, and this is how I feel about it", that brings an intensity and authenticity to their work that'll grab me as a reader even if I don't agree with their ideological interpretation of it.

Anyway, not recommended.

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