Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boobs and Ethnicity - How Not To Be Offensive

The other day I was starting an illustration for a project I got hired to do.  As I as doing it, I realized the context was appropriate to include some ethnic diversity.  Okay, let's stop with the politically correct beating around the bush.  I felt I needed to add some blacks and Hispanic/Mexicans to properly represent the subject matter.

Look, I'm a white male.  Admittedly, not on purpose, but I tend to draw white males unless there is a specific reason not to.  As with most cartoons the characters are representations of people.  And the short hand of cartooning is to use easily recognizable clues to represent whatever you are are drawing.   So therefore cartoonist obviously use stereo types, but doing so could run afoul of individual sensitivities, and I'm not by nature a mean person who wants to hurt anyone.  I'm really a sensitive guy even though I lean to the side of, "stop being such a cry baby and get some thicker skin".

So, what is my issue?  Well first it was what is the most appropriate way to illustrate a black person in a black and white drawing. Do I focus on the hair and not color the skin?  Do I address the hair and skin color, but than how do I shade them?  Is it appropriate then to put dark white boy like hair with dark face to illustrate a Mexican?  And an Asian, straight white boy hair colored black, some shading of the skin and narrow eyes?  They are all obvious stereo typing clues that should be easily identifiable, but since I'm just a white boy do I not see what could obviously be misinterpreted as offensive?

As all this ethnic diversity crap is bouncing around in my head, on Linked In one of the groups I follow a member post a question about: "why do women cartoonist/illustrator gravitate more towards books/magazine illustration work rather than comic strip/editorial/greeting cards."  This was the poster's observation.   All the other members of the group were able to point out individuals that didn't fit the premise of the question and of course that would be the case.  As is often said generalities don't apply to everyone.

This got me to thinking of a few women cartoonist that did or do strip and panel cartoons and it quickly dawned on me all the women characters don't have boobs.
by Cathy Guisewite
Roz Chast
Elly from For Better or For Worse,
by Lynn Johnson

Or at least not any boobs that most real life women wouldn't of been contemplating an implant.  So my simple conclusion is that women cartoonist don't like to draw boobs, and hence in order to avoid drawing boobs, they gravitate towards children's books and magazine illustrating where the need to draw boobs regularly isn't as likely.

Again me as a white male I guess I tend to exaggerate the boobs to make sure there is some identifiable difference between the boys and girls.  Otherwise my girls might wind up looking like a a bunch of butch dikes. (Which there is nothing wrong with that if I needed a butch dike to illustrate my subject).

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