I have recently realized tremendous inconsistency within the minds of various secular feminists who bemoan even the mildest satire directed at them but happily endorse an event dubbed Draw Mohammad Day in which secular individuals are encouraged to draw cartoons of Mohammad. At one extreme, satire and drawings of Mohammad — a product of Draw Mohammad Day — may lead to violence including destruction of property, death, and severe injury. At another extreme, Muslims will simply claim drawings of Mohammad are disrespectful and offensive. Can one be consistent in both bemoaning satire of feminists while supporting satire of Mohammad?
I hosted one photoshopped satirical image of various feminists — including Ophelia Benson of the Freethought Blogs network — on my Facebook page because I found it light-hearted, humourous, and in good taste. A friend of mine, Reap Paden, had edited signs in the image to read “We <3 Justin” – what I thought was a humourous mild jab because, in part, many in the image do not love me and instead have written dozens of over-the-top blog posts about how much of a bad person I am.
Following the posting of this photoshopped satirical image, a commenter considered the image “mean-spirited” and suggested I remove the image because leaving the image up, at least in part, shows that my intention is to hurt others. Elsewhere, the image was called “harassment” (or part of a “campaign of harassment”) amidst calls for me to remove the image presumably because people claimed offense.
The moral imperative proposed — that one ought to remove a satirical image merely because one claims offense — is most unreasonable and would consign everyone to silence on any given issue because anyone can claim offense. What matters, instead, I believe, is whether one’s claiming of offense is reasonable. If the claiming of offense is unreasonable, there should be no moral imperative for one to refrain from the mildest of satire. If it is not permissible to satirize feminists because people may claim offense and be hurt, why should it be permissible to satirize Mohammad?
Some Muslims believe that drawing an image of Mohammad or offering criticism of Mohammad is an abominable act – so much so that, as it seems, riots and fatwas are the ‘proper’ response to such sacrilege. Atheists, though, fully knowing this, go ahead and draw pictures of Mohammad regardless…and these same atheists then go about saying that it is improper to, no matter how mild, satirize feminists because ‘feelings are hurt’ and people claim offense.
How is this consistent? Why is it that Mohammad is ‘fair game’ and that the feelings of Muslims do not matter while it is the case that feminists are put on a pedestal and satire of feminists, no matter how mild, is morally impermissible? Further, if I am morally wrong in posting a mild satircal photoshop of feminists, should it be the case that the feminists cease their criticism of me if I claim offense? Further, should all atheists cease criticism of religion because religious individuals may claim offense? If someone is going to propose a standard for one group of people, feminists, they should at least be consistent in applying it to all groups of people.
As always, feel free to leave comments below.