This article, I’m a Duke Freshman, Here’s why I Refuse to Read Fun Home really bothered me when I read it, and I had a difficult time articulating the reasons why when I was going back and forth on why I didn’t agree with the author. Of course, I encourage you to read the article first. Nor do I claim my understanding of this freshmen’s philosophy on life is perfect, given it was reduced to an article. So I will be arguing the contents of the argument, rather than against him specifically. Probably not necessary to mention that, but o well.
It wasn’t quite hypocrisy that is the root of the issue of this article. Its also not quite Doublespeek, though the author definitely seems to have that. More, its the complete naivety with which the author does both those things as to completely misunderstand his own position, and what the lesson at the end is actually saying.
This line in particular is the most telling, “I think there is an important distinction between images and written words. If the book explored the same themes without sexual images or erotic language, I would have read it. But viewing pictures of sexual acts, regardless of the genders of the people involved, conflict with the inherent sacredness of sex.”
The author is arguing that the medium with which the ideas were presented is at fault, not the ideas themselves. He is right, that there is a huge difference between images and words. Words are much more difficult to get an idea across. But an image? It basically puts all of it right there.
And the author, by discarding the entire medium of imagery for discussing sex, completely misses the discussion many are attempting to have with readers like him. Sex needs to be presented through imagery to thrust a core idea into the social fabric: that sex isn’t this thing that needs to be hidden. If we just used words to talk about this subject, the author would probably still hold that sex is sacred (which is fine), but the idea wouldn’t have had the same impact or even been made fully as actually seeing the material.
The whole point of Fun Home, is to desexualize sex, to normalize it, to place it among the feelings and experiences people actually have. And in our culture, to help show to the reader how difficult it was, yet how exhilarating it was, to experience sexual imagery for the first time. Our culture is so anti-sex, that a teenager was unable to learn about the topic until she found books with images. She was then finally able to contextualize her own feelings, her own contact with the world, everything. But it took images and books for her to understand.
And this is where my point hits home the hardest: Maybe, just maybe, if the author of this article had read Fun Home (I did years ago in college), he would have understood what Fun Home was about. But because he didn’t read Fun Home, he has completely missed an absolutely crucial aspect of our society, our culture, and an extensive bit of philosophy. Its incredibly ironic that he says, “I don’t think I would miss anything all that important”, but does, in fact, miss something incredibly important.
Lastly, I will say that the author doesn’t seem interested in discussions about the topic; he stated that his position on the topic was settled and decided by the bible. He is, however, interested in understanding the experiences of others, and how that is what college (and probably his understanding of what society at large should be doing with one another) is all about. But as I illustrated above, he is unable to understand Allison Bechdel, who spent literally seven years crafting this graphic novel, as she felt it was the best way to express her feelings, to project her ideas on to others. But the author of this article has completely ignored the medium Bechdel chose, and so, this author is not interested in a conversation with Bechdel.
In a way, he is only interested in talking about a subject that subtly validates his pre-existing beliefs and understanding of the world. He believes the only way to talk about sex, is through a medium which is incredibly poor for talking about it. He isn’t truly interested in engaging with others about their ideas. If he did, he would have read Fun Home.
So, that is why his refusal to read Fun Home isn’t a logically sound one. Its OK for him to refuse to read it because of his beliefs, and because he has no intention of having his world view challenged (he basically started the article with this). That is fine. But the article doesn’t argue that position. Rather, it tries to argue from a moral high-ground that has no sound foundation.