Last Sunday, Washington Post readers might have been surprised to find a rerun of the popular Pearls Before Swine comic strip in the print edition of the paper. The paper decided to pull the strip over the use of one word: “midget.”
In the strip, Rat and Goat discuss terms that were once acceptable, such as “stewardess” (now “flight attendant”), “secretary” (now “administrative assistant”), and “maid” (aka “housekeeper”). Editors took exception to the word “midget” (“little person”). From Comic Riffs:
Post comics producer Donna Peremes flagged the strip and discussed it with Deputy Style Editor Eva Rodriguez. “We thought that ‘midget’ just wasn’t the same as ‘secretary.’ … Sort of apples and oranges,” Peremes explains to Comic Riffs. ” ‘Midget’ just carried a lot more of a charge — seemed more of a slur — than ‘stewardess’ or ‘secretary.’ ”
The strip itself comments on seemingly arbitrary censorship of certain words, and artist Stephan Pastis commented on the irony of the Post’s decision:
“The oddity is that the strip is about these word decisions and how they’re enforced like gospel,” Pastis tells Comic Riffs on Monday. “And here, they got enforced on the strip that was trying to have that very discussion.”
The strip does not appear to have been censored by any other print newspaper, and adding to the irony is the fact that the Post ran the strip uncensored in their online edition. It was a pretty smartless decision on the part of the Post’s editors to “protect” the readers of the print edition by censoring the strip.