It's not only in America that political correctness and affirmative action have run amok. From Europe comes a wacky story that calls up the amusing cross-dressing and role reversals in the Hollywood movie "Tootsie."
In this case, it's not a down-on-his-luck male actor (Dustin Hoffman) pretending to be a woman to jump-start his career. It's a down-on-his-luck political cartoonist in Austria named Markus Szyszkowitz. Deciding he could turn his country's political correctness to his advantage, Szyszkowitz reinvented himself as a political cartoonist named "Rachel Gold" -- a young and attractive Jewish immigrant from Israel.
And incredibly, he became much more successful as Rachel Gold than as himself.
Posing as Gold, Szyszkowitz produced cartoons with a different style. They also had a hard-hitting liberal viewpoint, one that Szyszkowitz believes neither editors nor readers would have as readily accepted had he done them himself. He thinks this was due more to the fact that Rachel Gold was Jewish than female, owning to Austria's terrible history regarding its Jewish citizens.
Among other benefits of being Rachel Gold, Szyszkowitz became one of Austria's top cartoonist. "Rachel Gold" even took over the old job he'd lost for having offended a politician who later became Austria's chancellor.
The story of this hilarious farce is the subject of an article, "Secrets of a Woman," by American cartoonist Daryl Cagle at his website "The Cagle Post." Interestingly, it's a story that Cagle said he can relate to as an American cartoonist.
As he explains:
There are very few women editorial cartoonists, and I'm not sure why. At this time, there is only one woman who has a full time job drawing editorial cartoons for a print newspaper, out of about 75 newspaper cartooning positions in America. The disparity extends to the unsolicited submissions I get from aspiring cartoonists, who are 99.9 percent male; the same is true among the almost-all-male cartoonists around the world. Naturally, a rare woman editorial cartoonist gets special attention, just because she is a woman.When discouraged political cartoonists sit behind a beer and complain, sometimes the talk turns to the idea of pretending to draw as a woman, to take advantage of affirmative action minded editors who might prefer cartoons by a woman, and affirmative action minded award juries who might be more inclined to give awards to a female cartoonist - but I had never heard of a cartoonist actually going through with the scheme.
Until, of course, Rachel Gold.
As Cagle notes, editors eventually caught onto Szyszkowitz's subterfuge and fired him. But he landed on his feet and today continues to do political cartoons under his own name and as Rachel Gold. Most readers in Austria remain clueless as to what's going on.
Alas, Cagle doesn't say if Szyszkowitz has became a better man for having successfully pretended to be a pretty Jewish woman in the way Dustin Hoffman's character in "Tootsie" supposedly became a better man for pretending to be a woman.
One thing that's certain: Szyszkowitz has become more successful after reinventing himself as Rachel Gold.