What Michael Leunig’s Comic and Op-Ed Teach Us About Casual Misogyny

The only thing worse than his cartoon judging mothers is the non-apology he wrote today.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba from Pexels
Image courtesy of abc.net.au

If there’s anything that makes me angrier than ‘that’ sexist cartoon did, it’s the opinion piece-cum-supercillious self-defence, with generous helpings of even more criticism of mothers published in Fairfax press today.

Just Stirring The Possum

Now, if you’re offended by Leunig’s cartoon, it’s important you understand this outdated expression. It’s like saying ‘stirring the pot’, ‘just shit-stirring’, and is the first line of defense when (usually) a man says something which causes people (usually women) pain.

Parenting Tips From Afar

One of the other things Leunig wants us to know in his opinion piece is some solid gold parenting tips. Are you ready for this?

Leunig’s controversial drawing is of a mother on the phone while pushing a forward-facing stroller. I gotta tell you mate, in that stroller arrangement, there’s no beloved eye contact, phone or no phone.

Leunig is following the path well-trodden by many, many men, of blaming mummy for their failings. The research he references in his article, as Jillian Hall commented in a Facebook group I’m in, places mothers front and centre as primary carers and the person who’s done it all wrong when “mysterious fate” happens. It was the lack of eye contact. It was because she was overbearing. It was because she cared too much or too little — down, Oedipus, down! Shouldn’t you be stabbing your eyes out about now? (oops, spoilers).

The Othered Half

As a feminist, I often think ‘role reversal’ scenarios have limited use in pointing out to men what it’s like to experience the world as someone born with lady bits. They just don’t compute. However, when they unfold naturally, they are super fun. He says, of the “hate” he’s received: “Once it becomes collective, the malice becomes its own monster. Then it starts to hurt.”

Once it becomes collective, the malice becomes its own monster. Then it starts to hurt.” Ya think? Welcome to the other 52%.

After SMH published the cartoon, some people pointed out the hour or less mothers (statistically it’s mothers) are glimpsed checking their phones (gasp!) while with their children didn’t reflect the other hours and hours of contact, play, teaching, cleaning, feeding, taking to playgroup, appointments, outings, and night waking/feeding that is part of their day 24/7, usually whether they’re in paid work or not. And that’s not even counting house work, women doing 5–14 hours per week compared to an average 5 hours per week for men.

Sexism and Misogyny Are Largely Benevolent

The truth is, Leunig can quote (gendered) research which confirms women’s rightful roles as mother, primary carer and general psychological whipping-boy, look down his nose at all of us dissenters, call criticism hatred, and insult our intelligence too. But, the truth is, this is just one of his sexist cartoons. He’s got form, can’t understand where he’s gone wrong — and the worst part is, he’s unapologetic. When being told by a nation he has hurt them, his response is to say, in a nutshell: ‘No I didn’t.’

Image by Paula Kuka via comon_wild

Freelance Writer|Emerging Author|Shrews Untamed Podcast

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store