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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Hi Everyone,

I have just recieved a startling comic strip that was published in the Globe and Mail on June 1, 2006. It's in Section R4 where the comic strips are (bottom right corner). I have a clipping.

It's a "Maurice and Earl" comic by Peter Plant. I could not find contact information for Peter Plant, however here is the information for the Globe and Mail. I will be writing a letter of complaint and I would ask that others do the same as well. Please forward to your networks.

Globe and Mail
444Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 2S9
Ph: 416-585-5000
Ottawa Office Ph: 613-566-3600
Fax: 416-585-5085

Letters to the Editor letters@globeandmail.com
Reader Feedback newsroom@globeandmail.com
Editor-in-Chief, Ed Greenspon egreenspon@globeandmail.com

- jocelyn formsma

Rob's comment
The concept of the moose as a Native's "sacred animal" trivializes Native religion. And the use of squaw to refer to Native women is no longer acceptable.

I asked Jocelyn to explain why she found the strip startling. Here's her response:

Hi Rob,

First of all, I consider myself to be a good sport about a lot of things. I am open minded and enjoy good humour, even when it's at my expense. However, I have great concerns with this particular comic strip and have outlined them below.

Peter Plant's comic entitled "Maurice and Earl" in my opinion is racist and sexist. As an Aboriginal woman, I am incredibly appalled, insulted, angry and disgusted at the use of the word "squaw" (I will not repeat it again in this email). I hate this word and have always hated it. It is a derogatory word that has no place in today's society and certainly should not be used as a joke, or in any other context for that matter. This word, to me and many others, represents hatred towards women, lack of respect and when used holds a meaning that no one should have to endure. This word is not acceptable to be printed in a national newspaper.

Please exuse my language, but, using this word as a joke is similar to using words like "bitch", "ho", or "cunt" as a joke. Not just if it was a women's joke either. If this was any other culture, it would not be tolerated, replace that term with any other racist term and the backlash would be eminent, it would not be tolerated by general society and immediate action would follow. Representative groups would be in an uproar, it would be a big deal, I'm sure. That is if the author had the idiocy to print it in the first place and I'm sure it wouldn't get past the editor. However, I am saddened that the editors first of all they all seem unaware of the meaning of the word whether slang or literal and secondly that a racist slur such as this would be printed in a national newspaper. My belief is that it was published because it was a Native American, First Nations, Indigenous (whichever term you wish to use) joke.

There are arguments that this is an innocent term meant to describe an Aboriginal woman, that it holds many interpretations, including the historical fact that this word has derived from an Algonquin language and in that language simply means "woman". While this may be true in part, there are also the arguments that in an Iroquian language, the word has completely different meaning and roughly translated refers to a woman's genitalia. The author's use in this comic does not hold any evidence that this term was used in a respectful manner or even with any knowledge of its origins or even of any knowledge of Aboriginal people whatsoever.

I do not blame the paper as a whole, although I do look at this matter as a gross oversight on the part of the editors and as vulgar ignorance on the part of the comic's author.

So, in a nutshell that is why I find the cartoon "startling", as you put it. And even if the term wasn't used, the cartoon still isn't funny. On your website you mention something about the reference to the Moose. That I don't mind so much, although it is annoying when non-native authors who have lived in another country (as this author has been living in England) for decades with no Indigenous population claim to know or even make up apparent traditional teachings. The moose is a sacred animal in my culture (Anishnawbe), although, I don't recall any teachings about seeing one on the eve of hunting season being good luck, however, I can't account that it is not a teaching in another Indigenous culture.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Have a good week.

- Jocelyn Formsma

Peter Plant replies

Dear Rob,

Re: Stereotype of the Month 6/1/06

May I ask you to refer Jocelyn Formsma to a website called "The Changing Perception of the Word Squaw" by Tom Jonas.

A wigwam full of thanks.

Peter Plant

PS: I don't think Ms Formsma is "a good sport" at all. I think she just likes to squawk. Gettit?

>> May I ask you to refer Jocelyn Formsma to a website called "The Changing Perception of the Word Squaw" by Tom Jonas. <<

I'll refer you to my posting Squelching the S-Word. I discuss the controversy myself and link to other articles that cover it in greater depth than Jonas's article does.

Note that Formsma goes into the definition of "squaw" only in the fourth paragraph of her explanation. She's upset because the word has become a slur even if it never meant a "female sexual part."

I'll be glad to add a link to Jonas's article on my Squaw page. But if you want me to stop posting "squaw" as a stereotype, you'll have to refute my explanation of the issue, not Formsma's.


Related links
Squelching the s-word

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