Premier Wynne was recently asked if she ever experienced sexism in her years in office. She smiled and said “Sexism? Never.” And when asked if sexism was the force behind the number of women premiers leaving office at this time, she said she hoped it wasn’t the case, but that we should always be watchful…if we see women in our spheres who aren’t getting the work, we should always question it. I’m paraphrasing but you get the point. And it’s a very good point. Be watchful. And speak out.
As a result of that silence, I (and my children) have been struggling for most of our lives.
The reason I didn’t do a Kelly years ago wasn’t because I didn’t think of it, but because I didn’t want to hurt any feelings. I didn’t expect anyone to care about mine.
And as a result of the silences, I (and my children) have been struggling for most of our lives.
Years ago, instead of doing a Kelly, I I did a victim. Instead of putting the cartoons on the couch (what, exactly, do you think your big, erect nose represents? And what about that floppy nose?), I put myself on the couch and wrote “Why are there no women cartoonists.”*
Female reaction: It must be me.
*animation on my website www.cindersmcleod.com
I wish I had done, years ago, what Kelly in the Onion does now: Expose the traditional big nose cartoon for what it is (just a style) and expose all the other reasons why I never bought into that style. The centre of these cartoons is always the honest, male, citizen and usually, right of centre.
No woman’s perspective here.
I feel uncomfortable criticizing the old fashioned, overworked, big nose, labelled, editorial cartoons, because my intention isn’t to hurt. And with newspapers collapsing and taking their editorial cartoonists down with them, that’s just salt in the wound. But how has being kind and keeping my opinions to myself helped me?
I can’t think of one of my editorial cartoonist friends in Britain or Canada who stood up for me. Well, maybe one. Or two. In quiet ways. But none asked the editors or the publishers “Why don’t we have a woman cartoonist on staff? Why have we never had a woman cartoonist on staff? Why are 98.5% of all American editorial cartoonists men, and what is our brand doing to try to address that inequality?”
This is a cartoon I drew about how our freedom of speech is being threatened in cyberspace. The client had another type of political cartoon in mind. That’s okay. It’s what he’s familiar with. But it was time for me to come out of my woman cartoonist closet. I explained:
I believe a stronger cartoon is a simpler one (as opposed to the old fashioned, overworked, overthought, big nose, labelled, editorial cartoons) and it is my experience as an art director that once on the page, in partnership with the text, underworked illustrations work better, and in fact, can be more powerful, than overworked illustrations. People have a more sophisticated visual literacy now than they once had and like a good speech, the fewer words (distractions), the better.
The other thing I’ve found in my years working in newspapers, is that if someone stops at an image and asks “Oh - what’s that about?” they are more likely to read the piece, than they would if the image was entirely self-evident. The enjoyment/reward comes from working out the meaning of the image for themselves. It’s an interactive process.
For example - the cloud image. The reader’s question may be, if they don’t get it right away, “Why is the lightning bolt coming from the cloud?” They read the piece and the lightning bolt suddenly makes sense. Their minds are gifted with a simple, intelligent image that represents government’s attack on freedom of speech: the lightning bolt and the cloud.
And if the symbol is strong and intelligent, it stays in the viewer’s mind, which is crucial when we’re putting out pressing political ideas and something else I’ve discovered from drawing and studying political cartoons for most of my life.
There. I said it.
We’re told not to surround ourselves with people who make us feel bad about ourselves. But sometimes it’s really tough getting out of that place. We think we have no choice. We do, but sometimes it takes something or someone outside of ourselves to realize that we do have a choice, someone to help us take those first steps out of a bad place, to help us feel good about ourselves.
So there I was, in a bleak place in my life, where I had lost touch with my creativity. I was at the mercy of people who would see it dead. Then along came tumblr. It gave me a place to reconnect with my creative past. I didn’t need to wait to be asked. I didn’t need anyone to like me or my work. I just needed to made that first post. Tumblr gave me the stage on which to dance when others had closed the curtain on my creativity.
That was three years ago. Life is better now. Thank you, tumblr.