As a writer and high school English teacher, it comes as no surprise that I love irony. And this year’s Women’s History Month has not disappointed.
Imagine… after 245 years we finally elected a female Vice President of a country created under the auspices of all “men” being created equal by a man who owned other men and women. Well, if that isn’t a reason to celebrate extra this March… But heaven forbid we try to enjoy the pride and pageantry of the one month out of an entire year where we acknowledge and bask in women’s amazing contributions to our world without men inserting themselves into it as seamlessly as they do a mansplanation at the office and stealing our thunder.
And by men, of course, I’m specifically referring to a sexually harassing cartoon skunk and another gross and ubiquitous character, the angry white male shooter who, this time around, decided to gun down six women in an Atlanta massage parlor because he couldn’t control his deviant sexual urges. How fucking biblical!
But first, let’s unpack the Pepe Le Pew scandal. Many years before the modern so-called “cancel culture” tried to hold accountable this horny, innocent little skunk for grabbing and kissing a cat that had zero interest in him, comedian Dave Chappelle, known for all kinds of offensive, pejorative jokes, observed when he watched the cartoon with his young nephew, that Pepe was actually a “fucking rapist.” The rest of Chappelle’s joke suggested that the cartoon was teaching his nephew that “sometimes you just gotta take the pussy.” By our standards today, Pepe goes at it at about the second-degree sexual assault level. And, as expected, every anti-progressive has crawled out from under their rocks to express their outrage that poor Mr. Le Pew is the latest misunderstood male under attack.
Rather than decrying libs as getting too crazy going after cartoon characters, what we should be doing is using this as a teachable moment. It’s a perfect opportunity to reinforce the idea to young boys and girls that, despite what the cartoon character is doing….or the future Supreme Court justice at his frat house kegger for that matter, you can’t just take what you want from another person, whether it’s a kiss or her pussy, without their consent. And to compare this “innocent” cartoon to Cardi B’s recent hyper-sexual, anti-family performance at the Grammys is completely off target given that however raunchy her performance was, it was consensual. In fact, that response is so typically, predictably misogynistic in that it links a woman’s sexuality and self-expression to what’s usually considered the next obvious step: she gets raped for it.
Ah, the perfect segue into the next misogynistic sexual deviant to ruin this year’s Women’s History Month for us, the disturbed twenty-one-year-old with a freshly purchased gun. This chap decided to murder six Asian women in a massage parlor this week because of his alleged sex addiction, targeting that place and those women as a “temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” Even if these killings weren’t racially motivated, as the assailant claims, we should all be just as outraged if they were motivated by the victims’ genders.
Not surprising this occurred in the bible-thumping south. After all, doesn’t the “good book” suggest that women are wanton, lustful creatures who’ll drive a man to sin and sexual deviance as quick and easy as they can make him a sandwich afterward? Ugh. Nothing disgusts me more than that time-honored tradition of blaming women for men’s aggression, violence, and warped, unchecked privilege.
When is it going to change? Certainly not any time soon as long as we still have so many people who downplay, defend, and dismiss seemingly innocent images of non-consensual sex in our culture in the name of nostalgia and tradition. Ah, the good old “skunks will be skunks” shake-off of the victimization of females, whether they’re real-life women or cartoon cats. Using the phrase “cancel culture” every time we’re faced with another uncomfortable part of our collective cultural past is just a convenient way to avoid facing one of the many inconvenient truths in our history.
We should never erase or destroy or “cancel” anything in our history, and that is not what holding people and institutions accountable for their actions is all about. But we should be able to talk about things and change them when they no longer serve the ideals involved in making our world a better place.
As a great woman in American history, Maya Angelou, once said: “When we know better, we do better.” In 2021, we do know better. We should at least try to start doing better in honor of all the great women, mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends who had to carry those burdens silently before we all got woke.
Happy Women’s History Month!