How many feminists?
The horror! The horror!
(Anthropology majors of the world unite!)
CreativeCommons licence 2.5.
Back in the 80s, "feminist jokes" were all the rage for a season or two in my circle. Usually, they would focus on feminists' alleged lack of a sense of humour. For example,
Question: "How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
Answer: "That's not funny!"
The joke was and is funny because it did and does illustrate a truth about people (usually, of course, women) for whom Feminism more or less informs every waking moment, but also because it illustrates a more universal truth. Namely, that very few of us can easily laugh at ourselves and what we consider important.
All of which is to note that the reactions to today's XKCD webcomic at its Livejournal feed is in equal measures hilarious and depressing.
Hilarious, because a blatant troll (hover over the cartoon above to see just how blatant!) gets the expected and desired reaction: Dozens of anthropology majors take offence and rise up on their hind legs to type comments saying so. Depressing, because a blatant troll ... well, same thing, really.
The first fish to rise to the bait is someone called Haribo, who says,
"How would they get to TVs without the concept of three? Someone didn't think about this joke for more than a few seconds!
"Also that alt text is pretty dickish. Fuck this comic."
The alt-text, for those who want to savour it, reads as follows: "Cue letters from anthropology majors complaining that this view of numerolinguistic development perpetuates a widespread myth. They get to write letters like that because when you're not getting a real science degree you have a lot of free time. Zing!"
Now, I am not an anthropology major, but I have dabbled and am grateful to people who have spent time studying cultures other than my own. In other words, I like anthropology, though I don't think I'm qualified to weigh in on whether or not it is a "real science".
I am, however, qualified enough to suggest that far too many people in our culture (I speak as a white, male, Canadian, for the record) certainly shares a propensity with others to make all kinds of loud and excited noises any time someone comes around and hurts our particular feelings.
To paraphrase Ani Difranco, some things just aren't worth getting one's panties all twisted up about. And a webcomic taking a deliberate and deliberately cheap shot at a particular field of academics really is one of them.