An interesting, and to us surprising, side issue has arisen in those discussions over Martin Rowson's illustration for Norman's article.
On Pharyngula and in two places on Richard Dawkins' site (here and here), some have accused the cartoon of bein offensive, and not just generally offensive to Dawkins and Hitchens – "This cartoon is aggressive and mean. I reserve fat jokes for people I truly despise." (Dr Benway, richarddawkins.net) – several readers have interpreted the depiction of Dawkins as homophobic. One poster kindly listed the reasons why he is offended:
"It is clearly trying to illustrate a link between the 'out' campaign for atheists and the campaign for gay rights (a valid link), by making Dawkins look like a figure of fun - a grinning limp-wristed effeminate. It is offensive on so many levels. It says 'look - Dawkins is funny because he is like a gay man'. In other words, gayness is something to laugh at. It is not offensive because it attacks Dawkins and Hitchens - that kind of cartooning has a long and distinguished history. It is offensive because of the way it does it." (Steve99, richarddawkins.net)Ok, though he could of course have noted that the link to the campaign for gay rights is not something we invented, but an inevitable result of calling a campaign "Out". Richard Dawkins himself recognises this in this article.
Encouragingly, several participants in the discussion have leapt to the cartoon's defence, most notably one "Cartomancer". In one post he identifies himself as gay, and here's a selection of what he had to say:"I thought the cartoon wasn't all that bad really. Grossly and exaggeratedly parodic perhaps, but then again that's what cartoons, and indeed satire in general, are for. I do not believe that Dawkins is being presented as a gay stereotype, rather his characteristic exuberance and sense of wonder are being exaggerated ... I see it as mildly affectionate even - portraying him as a daft, batty old uncle figure, a harmless, sandal-wearing innocent enthralled by the wonders of nature in a very child-like fashion. I would not see that as a terrific disservice to the man. It certainly makes a change from the shrill, ranting demagogue of popular myth." (Cartomancer, richarddawkins.net)
What do you think? Is the cartoon offensive, or even homophobic? Let us know by leaving your comments on this post and voting in our poll at the top right of this page.