Why was there a furious outpouring of unfettered rage directed at one man in our media this week?
Did a corrupt politician break an election promise? Was a serial killer finally apprehended? Did Donald Trump arrive at Melbourne airport? (I would have welcomed him).
No. None of the above.
It was all about a cartoon.
Michael Leunig is a Melbourne cartoonist and is someone who has raised the ire of women on more than one occasion during his four decades of work.
For a long time, Leunig was a revered figure. He decided to turn away from political cartoons and attempt to create something more, for want of a better word, spiritual. His boss at The Age gave him a week or two to prove such cartoons had an audience. Prove it he did.
Here are some examples of the types of cartoons which made Leunig a household name in Melbourne and eventually Australia.
For many years I used Leunig cartoons in my classroom to provoke thought and discussion.
As time passed, Leunig became more political, particularly during the invasion of Iraq. That’s where he lost me. A poet, a guru -or simply an observer of the foibles of humankind is only worth listening to if he/she observes all people and never pulls aside the curtain of neutrality which is what makes their observations so compelling. The moment you sense a political agenda rather than a human observation, the magic spell is broken, the emperor no longer has any clothes, the illusion of the dispensing of impartial wisdom is shattered.
Despite my realization that Leunig is simply another flawed human being, his “spiritual” cartoons and observations continue to touch me to this day.
But what about the outrage? The fact of the matter is that Michael Leunig had the gall to create a cartoon depicting a mother so absorbed with her mobile phone that she doesn’t realize her baby has fallen out of the pram. As Leunig so often does, this cartoon was accompanied by a poem. Brace yourselves.
The backlash was swift and ubiquitous. Mums and women in general vented their apoplectic spleen at the absolute temerity of this old fossil. Imagine the nerve of this relic! He had a go at self -absorbed mums who obsess over status updates, selfies and likes to the detriment of their offspring. The old misogynist had shown his true colours once again.
You see, women have long memories.
The avalanche of outrage and self -justification was immense. Let’s look at some passages from one woman’s response.
‘Being a mum is hard. All of your relationships change. Everyone wants to judge your choices. Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable? Co-sleep? Attachment? Are you meeting your milestones? Are you losing the weight? Your thoughts are often ruled by anxiety and guilt, yet you can feel euphoric. You have this overwhelming love for and profound protectiveness of this tiny creature. It’s a lot to come to terms with.
And it’s not cool to be a mum. ‘Mummy’ when attached to podcasts, blogs, or business ventures carries, at best, a sort of sneering condescension, at worst, a smug irritation at voices people would prefer remained silent. It’s hard for a mum to have an opinion without being automatically dismissed as shrill or silly.’
There is so much more to this article of righteous indignation. The sense of victimhood and martyr complex drips from every paragraph.
It would be easier, perhaps, to put my baby into childcare for one day a week. Then I could get some rest, get my freelance work done. But I don’t dare to. I’m still haunted by those cartoons you did when I was a teenager. The baby in creche, all alone, staring at the ceiling, wondering why Mummy doesn’t love him (‘Call her a cruel, ignorant, selfish bitch if you like, but I will defend her’). Do you remember?
I believe the cartoon she refers to was created in 1995- nearly 25 years ago! Many women (feminists) still seethe about it.
I notice there are no daddies in this cartoon. I’m not sure where Dad is. Maybe he’s at work, maybe he’s getting a medal for changing a nappy, maybe he’s at the pub, scrolling through Instagram. Daddy’s whereabouts aren’t important, I guess. He has your blessing to pursue his career without judgement. That, after all, is his place.
Sad to see her resorting to the very stereotyping she is so violently opposed to in Leunig’s work by suggesting dads are not competent carers and have a stress/judgement free life at work and home.
This is the point where my old familiar heartbeat began to increase and the adrenalin fueled by my contact with hypocrisy or the blatant disregard or blindness of most women to the endless “judgement” and denigration of men arose. It did not abate as I read the comments section of this piece. I dare you to do the same!
Perhaps I could begin by agreeing with the statement:
“being a mum is hard.”
Being a dad is no walk in the park either. Therein lies the heart of the issue.
One rather innocuous observation in the form of a cartoon about an undeniably common behavior in many young mums has created a tsunami of defensive pushback and anger from women all over the country.
If only this moment could be used as an opportunity for men to push the pause button and say:
Wait just one second!
Are you daring to suggest your gender and more specifically mothers, have been unfairly targeted and stigmatized? Are you burning with rage because you feel this “attack” is unjust and untrue? Do you feel there is a double standard at play in this criticism?
The sheer nerve it takes for any woman in this country to write about the cruel and nasty targeting of mums in a nation which eviscerates males, and dads in particular, on a daily basis is almost too much to comprehend.
The woman who wrote this response to Leunig’s cartoon is infuriated. She feels judged and she feels no matter what she does it will never be good enough in the eyes of some people. She produces a shopping list of mundane chores she has to perform each day and attempts to explain why a look at her phone is the least she should be able to do while enduring the grind of toddler raising.
No man could ever imagine what it must feel like to be judged!
On blogs she senses a sneering condescension and a smug irritation from the people she believes would prefer her to just keep quiet. Horrifying stuff.
This outburst from these put-upon women simply underlines my long-held belief that were we to carry out a social experiment for one week in this country, the nation would be on the verge of implosion.
My social experiment would be very simple.
For one week we would plaster billboards across the country with slogans screaming: Australia says no to violence against men and children. Other posters would feature graphic pictures of women beating and at times killing their children.
The girls in every school would be told they must respect all boys and demonstrate this through their words and gestures whenever they interacted with a male. There would be no such demand on boys to return this respect.
Television advertisements would run in prime time each night and focus on the nastiness and toxic bullying so often found where girls and women gather in large numbers. We would see scenes where girls are tormenting another girl who simply looks different. We would see boys and girls reduced to self-harm and even suicide due to the vicious online abuse from girls. The voice over would demand girls put an end to such behavior.
Girls would be forced to take an oath at school, vowing to stamp out any sign of toxic female behavior. They would take this oath standing, while the boys in the class remained seated.
The media would feature daily articles asking why women are so inclined to lie and manipulate others. When a mother kills her babies, male media commentators would read long, heartfelt editorials as they look directly down the camera lens demanding that every woman take responsibility for the crime and promise to have a discussion with their friends and female co-workers, making sure they understand that killing babies isn’t okay.
The issue of toxic femininity would be discussed by all male panels on television.
I could, of course, add so many more items to this week long experiment. Funding for male suicide would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars whilst funding for female suicide would be almost non-existent.
I think the point is made.
Clementine Ford entered this cartoon fray. This sick bigot, who delights in calling any man who dares to point out the horrendous iniquities they face in our society, whiny little dicked sooks.
She also claims to enjoy bathing in male tears.
This same woman screeches like a banshee over a lame cartoon.
Feminist author and commentator Clementine Ford took to Twitter to share her strong thoughts on the doodle.
Ford said Leunig’s cartoon amounted to “condescending judgement” and labelled him a “f***ing gronk”.
“I bet you never spent hours walking babies around in a pram, feeling isolated and alone and terrified. F*ck you and your condescending judgement,” she wrote alongside a snap of the offending page in the paper.
Clementine is definitely coming off as a tad whiny in that diatribe.
I wonder how the mum who penned this response to Leunig’s cartoon would cope with just one week of the relentless hatred and bigotry directed at men and boys these past fifty years. How would women and girls as a collective respond?
They would tear the joint asunder.
Women and girls would not tolerate the shit we so willingly swallow. What does this say about the relative levels of self-respect possessed by each gender? Yet it is girls who apparently require our respect simply because they are girls. It is girls whose self-esteem issues have created an endless stream of books seeking to boost girl’s confidence and self-belief.
Surely the quickest way to discover what a person thinks about themselves is to see how much crap they are willing to take from others? By that measure we are a collective basket case.
This is ultimately a reflection on us.
Women will not cop a negatively toned cartoon suggesting some of them need to pay more attention to their children without there being a volcanic meltdown. Men have copped five decades of vilification, denigration and abuse disguised as social, legal and governmental efforts to make our society a safer and happier place for the supposedly vulnerable and oppressed members of our community. Our response? Mute indifference and inaction. Apathy and disinterest. Worst of all-support for the very poisonous attitudes which are damaging boys and men.
Sadly, it is clear that while most women will not tolerate the merest hint of negativity about their gender, they are perfectly willing to see the media and government mock, humiliate and denigrate men and boys without registering the slightest twitch of empathy.
Pushback against Leunig