Cartoons for change
This lesson asks how humorous language can be used to change the way we look at women in society. Specifically, we will look at the cartoons of Liza Donnelly, who draws for the New Yorker, and listen to her talk about the effects that cartoons can have. We will deconstruct several cartoons in order to examine different kinds of humor, such as pun, irony, sarcasm and rhetorical questions.
Deconstructing political cartoons
Political cartoons consist of one frame and usually comment on a debatable issue. Cartoonists construct meaning through artistic style, choice of words, placement of images and use of humor. Below you see a cartoon by Liza Donnely. Fill in a table like the one you see below, as you analyze her cartoons.
|People: What kinds of people are in the image? What are they doing, literally?|
|Objects: What physical items are included in the image? What do these stand for or symbolize?|
|Debatable issue: What is the contentious or controversial issue that the cartoon comments on?|
|Artist's technique: To what degree is the artist's style abstract, iconic or realistic? Is there use of caricatures, exaggerated features, symbols?|
|Humor technique: Ironic, parody, satire, understatement, pun, black humor, juxtaposition, analogy, allusion?|
|Artist's purpose: What is the artist's biased perspective on the issue? What is his/her call to action?|
|Agree / disagree: What side of the debate are you or other people on?|
"I can't decide what I'm going to be when I grow up - a good girl or a slut."
As you watch the video, look for answers to the following questions:
What is the traditional image of women that Liza Donnelly wants to challenge? How does she show us this tradition? How does she challenge this traditional image in her cartoons?
Pause the video on one cartoon that you especially find funny and explain why it makes you laugh. Refer to the elements of the table above in your analysis of the cartoons.
Not all of Liza Donnelly's cartoons are humorous. Many are autobiographical. How might these cartoons inspire the audience at TEDwomen?
Drawing upon humor for change
Liz Donnely on TED.com
More to deconstruct
Deconstructing political cartoons is like anything else. Practice makes perfect. The more you work with these texts, the more you perceptive you become. Here are six more cartoons that comment on gender issues. You can deconstruct them according to the model presented above.
6 cartoons on gender issues as MS PowerPoint.
Your dad's a feminist!
Cemetery of women
Magazines which are degrading to women
Women should stay at home and raise their chilren
Written task 1 - You could write a letter to Liza Donnelly to either commend or criticize her on her efforts to create awareness for gender issues through cartoons. In your letter you can refer to both her TED talk and the cartoons she presents.
Further oral activity - Using the five cartoons above, you can hold a presentation in which you explain how cartoons and humor can be used to promote gender equality. You will want to discuss how gender stereotypes are challenged, and which types of humor are used.