The writer and the cartoonist

Helen writes at the Cast Iron Balcony. She’s a blogger, she’s a grinner, she’s a mother, she’s a sinner. She plays her music in the sun.

Last year, some cartoons which appeared with two of Miranda Devine‘s articles caught my attention. One article (they’re both in the SMH, as always) is about feminists – they all hated Sarah Palin ‘cos they’re nasty. The other is about cougars. You know- women of a certain age who are desperate to partner.

In the Sarah Palin vs. feminism article, Devine asserts – and I hope you’re not eating breakfast while you read this – “in her brief starring role on the global stage [Palin] has been a powerful psychic enema, flushing out the poison at the heart of establishment feminism for all to see.” Now newcomers to Devine World will be saying “But, Sarah Bernhardt and Kathy Lette are not exactly spokespersons for feminism. And US feminists defended Palin against sexist commentary while a lot of male commentators wallowed it it”. Well, Devine is Strawfeminists R Us, so let’s not waste too much time on her under-researched opinions.

Caricature of an angry feminist jumping gleefully on a picture of Sarah Palin

What intrigued me was the cartoon; it’s so over the top. Well, the “feminist” depicted isn’t the Full Stereotype, judging by the heels and dress, although the hair looks as if it’s long and grey – an absolute no-no for Western women- but the depiction of the “feminist” is so, for want of a better word, hectic. Mad, tongue lolling, muscles like a skinned rabbit; Over-coloured, gesticulating wildly, jumping up and down on the face of the hapless Palin.

Hmm. Now for the other article, about cougars in the city of Sydney trying to find love. Miranda begins with the well-worn old starting point that women aren’t partnered these days because they’re too damn fussy, then points to one of those risible “statistical surveys” that our MSM love so much, suggesting that these fusspots should simply move to different suburbs to beat the odds. But! that doesn’t mean they should be, god forbid, calculating, like her old School Chum from Ascham, who persists in having preferences (Devine refers to this as having a “shopping list”). Never mind that the demographer Bernard Salt, refers to men as “product”.

Picture of a giant, terrifying woman's head catching a helpless little man with her teeth
Here, the cartoon shows a woman who’s just doing femininity in an ordinary way: a nicer haircut, pearls, drop earrings, lipstick, manicure… but the image is, if anything, more terrifying than the picture of the “feminist”. The woman’s huge, over-life size teeth are actually chomping onto the tiny man. The poor, tiny, powerless man! This woman will eat you alive.

Because, remember, in the eyes of the lecturing Miranda, you’re damned if you’re feminist and damned if you’re not. (If women were so powerful and terrifying, why should they have to move house to find a partner?) The image says something else – men, some men, fear strong women. Really fear them.

I googled the cartoonist, and discovered he has a blog. Does he hate women? Far from it, if his blog is anything to go by. You can easily find other caricatures he’s drawn which don’t show the subject as fearsome or terrible. So, what gives?

Do cartoonists tailor their artwork to the piece of writing it’s going to be published with, or does the writer exhort the artist to make an image nicer, naster, scarier to fit what they’re saying? I can’t work out why these images are so horrible; they don’t really jive with the artist’s whole body of work.

As I said, no particular reason for this post except that I realised how little I know about the mechanics of articles-with-cartoons and whether, or how, the writer and the cartoonist communicate to put across the message. I’d be interested to hear from any cartoonists if there are any reading!
Crossposted at the Balcony

Categories: Culture, gender & feminism, media, Sociology

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5 replies

  1. In my experience, if you’re a columnist, the cartoonist gets to read your piece and illustrate as they choose. I’ve never ‘previewed’ a cartoon or illustration for any of my columns, and what appeared in the newspaper was as much news to me as it was to any of the paper’s regular readers. There was no contact at any point between writer and illustrator.
    If a piece gets bumped up into editorial, then sometimes the poor cartoonist doesn’t even get to read it — I remember once having to outline my ideas to a cartoonist down the telephone and he simply went away to do the drawing. In that case, however, the time frames are much more compressed.
    The only time I’ve been able to ‘preview’ a graphic as a writer is when (a) it was the cover art for a novel and (b) it was to appear on the cover of the publication in question (in the latter case, a magazine). I’m not sure I had any power of veto, however — fortunately I liked both!
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  2. I think you missed one of the “fine points” of the first illustration. The woman’s breasts are off to the sides, and her legs are spread. She’s shown in a position essentially like what you’d see of a woman lying on her back about to be sexually penetrated.
    Also, of course, there’s nothing funnier than angry women whose bodies jiggle around. Except maybe women marching, boobs and butt “out of control.” Because that shows their “real nature” as emotionally out of control whenever they have feelings of any kind.

  3. I have no idea about how columnists and cartoonists normally work together. I have noticed that Savage Love has cartoons from different artist for each publication in which the column is distributed, so I’m thinking the cartoon is determined by the publication and not the columnist.
    But anyway, I just found another Devine column accompanied by an hysterically monstrous cartoon and thought it was pertinent.

  4. The classic demonising of feminists in cartoons, except where are the hairy armpits and legs, and the boiler suit? Have we been made over? Even the feminist hag has been raunchified?

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