The artist sister of cartoonist Michael Leunig has described his recent work that showed a baby falling out of a pram while its mother was distracted by her phone, as “feminist baiting”.
Mary Leunig said she believed her brother’s cartoon was “attention-grabbing” and designed to make women angry.
“He does that sort of stuff, doesn’t he? A bit of feminist baiting and a bit of, I don’t know, making women angry,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“I think he kind of enjoys that, in a way.
“I don’t usually respond to Michael’s work – a lot of it is excellent. But that particular cartoon, I felt he really was baiting.”
In response the controversy, Ms Leunig recreated a cartoon she had previously drawn of herself shooting her brother in the bottom.
In the updated version, posted to her Facebook page on Wednesday, Ms Leunig added a mother pushing a baby in a pram looking at the pair as she walked by.
Ms Leunig said she created the original cartoon after she had “a falling out” with her brother.
Cartoon ‘picking on mothers’
She said she felt her brother’s recent cartoon was “having a go at women”.
“That’s mean, I think, when you’re picking on mothers, knowing how difficult it is to raise kids,” she said.
“I do know mothers. I was talking to a mother of two little kids yesterday and I know how hard they work and I know they have careers as well and I understand that, and I don’t think he does.”
Michael Leunig declined to be interviewed on the controversy around his cartoon but told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Mornings program that experience had taught him “not to trust the ABC”.
“The ruthless power imbalance experienced by many interviewees on the ABC can be deeply disturbing and degrading,” he said.
After the cartoon was published in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper on October 23, Mr Leunig was accused of unfairly judging mothers by suggesting some love their phones and Instagram more than their children.
Feminist author Clementine Ford said Leunig’s cartoon amounted to “condescending judgment”.
“I bet you never spent hours walking babies around in a pram, feeling isolated and alone and terrified,” she wrote in a tweet, which has been retweeted more than 440 times and attracted more than 3800 likes.
But others argued that mothers and parents becoming distracted by their phones in 2019 was a legitimate target for a cartoon.
“Leunig is just making a point,” former Liberal minister and Age columnist Amanda Vanstone tweeted.
“I think it’s OK. Not fantastic, but OK.”