Leunig, mothers, babies and iphones

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Leunig, mothers, babies and the phone

Here I am again, defending yet another cartoonist, yet again against charges of some -ism or other. Last time, back in February, it was Ken Knight who was vilified for being a racist, having drawn a cartoon depicting Serena Williams in such a way that it raised the ire of a good number of readers, reading the sketch as a comment on her race rather than on her appalling behaviour on the tennis court, which was how I saw it..

This time it is Leunig with his sketch of a woman so absorbed in the flickering lights of her mobile phone that she lost not only the plot but also her baby.

What a horrible attack on women, on mothers, Leunig’s attackers screamed! It is undeniably an attack on mothers and women and it’s undeniably a misogynist cartoon.

Why, even Jane Caro said it! Jane Caro, for Zeus’ sake! What an appalling thing Leunig had done. Just another white male who longs for his lost gender dominance! Roll out the guillotines

And again, they hurl the same charges and denunciations at Leunig that they had hurled at Knight: He has form. He does this all the time. He is a real misogynist!

Yes, roll out the guillotines!

Imagine what hellish castigations the gentle cartoonist would be copping had he drawn a black Muslim woman wheeling the pram, or an Aboriginal woman or a woman with a huge cross dangling from her neck!

Fukuyama’s latest book is on “Identity Politics.” No matter how you look at Fukuyama, he comes out looking like a USA-peddling Nazi so I don’t take his views too seriously but the essence of his latest extrication is nearing relevance to the commentary on Leunig’s cartoon.

Fukuyama asserts that (after his “End of History”) a new social phenomenon has emerged. We have become, he says, too ready to identify with certain, few things and our political views have shrunk so much that we vote for men or women who promise only to attend to the concerns we identify with and we do not concern ourselves with what that person will do on any other issue.

If we, for example are gay, then we will vote for someone who will support the gays, without caring what other things that person supports. If we are pro abortion, then we look only for a person who will support this cause, without checking out what else is in his bag of policies or in the contents of his character (to use Martin Luther King’s description) and so on.

In short, we care only for what we identify with or feel strongly about, relinquishing our care for other issues.

Feminism, Misogyny, Patriotism, Religion, that sort of thing.

And, I do declare, the attacks on Leunig are of this “identity politics” nature.

Leunig is making a perfectly glowingly simple, concise and certainly accurate statement: Electronic devices are devious, insidious and anti-humane things. Devices such as phones can shift even the mother’s attention from her newborn and this statement is all the more profound because he has a mother wheeling that pram.

He could have had a male doing it.

Or a black woman or a black man, an Asian, an Inuit. But he didn’t.

He just used the single, most profound, best known symbol of parenthood, the most crucial symbol of nature, of nurture, the most accurate symbol of the human bond: the mother in whose womb that baby became.

This – the bond between mother and baby – is the closest possible human attachment there is; it is the most important one, the most necessary one for both, the mother and the newborn.

Leunig’s exhortation is not against the mother but against the device.

The device destroys that most essential bond, that between the mother and her baby. Yes, even that bond!

The device replaces the mental and psychological, the intellectual and the moral umbilical cord between us and our maker. The device does.

Had he had anyone else wheeling that pram, the essence of this message would have been lost. We would be saying to ourselves, “yeah, we gotta be careful when wheeling our babies around not to get distracted by the phone.”

Nowhere near the emphasis on the horrors of the phone itself. In that circumstance, you do not hear Leunig’s voice saying, “Fucking mobiles are so nasty, so narcissistic, that they can separate even the mother from her child. They make us motherless. They make us absorbed in trivialities, in mundane things to the detriment of vital things.”

Had Leunig had an old man wheeling the pram, we’d be thinking Leunig is warning us against dementia.

No, it had to be a mother.

Leunig is not attacking the mother. He is attacking the device. The device is so insidious it can destroy even the tightest bond, which is that between mother and the newborn. Mother and the newborn are the victims of that device. And since this bond is the most important bond of all, all other social bonds are up for destruction by a very simple, totally banal device.

Nearly 3,000 years ago, Homer wrote a poem in which he said (using a mother again) that devastating divisions, the most devastating wars are caused because of banal, unimportant, petty things such as pride and lust and beauty – insignificant things.

Helen of Troy had a daughter, Hermione, which she had left behind with her sister to look after when she left with her lover Paris.

Homer had Eris, the goddess of Strife, chuck a golden apple in the middle of a wedding party, with the words “to the most beautiful” inscribed upon it; and that started the war between two continents, devastating one.

This time, Eris has chucked a mobile phone amongst us and Leunig says, beware, like the golden apple, it can devastate half the planet.

Golden apples, wooden horses. Beware!

This cartoon goes to the kernel of Homer’s Iliad and it uses the instrument of his day to make the same point. A golden apple for Homer, an iPhone for Leunig.

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  1. George Theodoridis

    It was “back in last September,” of course…
    Profuse apologies. Blame it on fugitive Chronos.

  2. jaq

    Go to any park and you see the same thing. Ditto the sad incidente when a mother was on her phone having left the brake off the pram and the pram rolled into the lake drowning the baby.
    He was making an observation, a comment on our society in which it seems we are joined by the hip to our electronic devices.
    I think, if you found that cartoon profoundly insulting, its because something as resonated in you. I am a mother, I’m not perfect, but I’m also a teacher and whether we like it or not the role of nurturing falls into the hands of women/ Perhaps it just time we left our phones at home and enjoyed our babies while we can.

  3. Claire Davenport

    Except no, it doesn’t go to the phone. It directly says mums are so distracted by instagram that they aren’t looking after their children
    It doesn’t say “Instagram was sucking mummy in, when baby fell in to a bin” which would place the onus on “the phone” as you claim.
    It also doesn’t speak to the bond between mother and “newborn”. The baby is old enough to have cognitive thought, and that ain’t a newborn pram for a start. The guilt is squarely placed on the mother leaving a child feeling unloved and ignored because she likes her phone better.

    “Instagram was sucking mummy in, when baby fell into the bin. But what was mummy to do? With no village, no support, no one to turn to?
    New mums need their community and for us to be there
    And when we’re not, Silicon Valley will jump in and claim their share”

  4. George Theodoridis

    And you’re upset that it doesn’t say “daddy was busy…” Claire?

  5. Claire

    How in the living heck did u get that I’m upset it doesn’t say daddy????? Did u even read my comment or comprehend the point I was making?

  6. Matters Not


    the commentary on Leunig’s cartoon.

    Are you sure it’s just the one cartoon? Then please explain how so many different meanings are apparently received by so many people, even those with otherwise similar backgrounds. What is going on?

    What is the one true, correct meaning the cartoon is transmitting? Or is that the wrong question? Putting the metaphorical cart before the horse as it were. Perhaps the cartoon in itself has no particular meaning – is not capable of sending one but is just there waiting for a whole range of meaning making beings to do their thing? Like giving meaning? If so, then it might explain a lot.

    Just imagine, a world where responsibility for choices made (including meanings given) lies with each and every individual – in the final analysis.

  7. Claire

    Yes George I did. That Is why I commented specifically on the matters you raised in the article

    I repeat. At what point did I complain about the cartoon not referencing a Dad? Or is that your attempt at argument to the counter points I raise?

    You speak to me as if I am a child. You speak to me as if I said something completely different to what I actually said.

    I do not accept your gas lighting George. I do not accept your belittling of me. I do not accept that you can’t answer “at what point did I mention a Dad?”

    Answer my question, or argue my counter if you believe I am wrong

  8. jaq

    Being a teacher, sad to say, I’ve seen this new technology parent- and many single mums are not the only ones- but mostly the ones left to look after the kids.

    We have children who come to school without breakfast, children who lack manners , children who swear like troopers,children who are physically violent, children who play up because they lack attention. Whose fault is that? I was talking with a friend who works in ICU saying the same thing. I’m not offended because thats not me. However it is a large portion of the population. We have this technology which we cant seem to live without.

    Leuing is a fantastic cartoonist and as many have done before him, he is observing. We need these people , more than ever.

    I think we need to look at this and instead of taking the time to be offended- take the time to reflect.

  9. Phil Pryor

    Look around and see the essentials of Leunig’s observations, on public transport where bored slaves turning up for a shift on the corporate plantation, drench and quench their frustrated crushed selves with a bare recognition of sub standard existence. Leunig’s observations are accurate, subtle, artistic, informative and contain more wisdom than the entire bowelful of this government’s cabinet.

  10. Peter

    The reaction to the cartoon was appropriate and a perfect example of the importance of free speech in this country.

    He’s a man of power and influence with a loud platform (that he used it to tell a rubbish joke is beside the point) and he was freely criticised by average citizens of Australia.

    Why did the free speech upset Leunig so much that he couldn’t just laugh it off and get back to work? Unimportant, petty things such as pride.

  11. Kathy

    On this one, I have to ask, what was Leunig trying to convey by his cartoon? What I felt I got from it is that he accuses mothers of being neglectful, looking at their phones instead of observing their child in a stroller but I also understand he was conveying that we are all getting to distracted by our devices and it absorbs us so that we are not attending to the things that should be attended too.

    It should have been a pram, not a stroller. Babies can slide out of prams if not strapped in but babies are too little for strollers. A child is unlikely to fall out of a stroller as they are usually strapped in. I’m a mother and my children are parents and there’s no way I or my children would allow the phone to distract us from being attentive to our children. Sometimes when one thinks an idea is good, it may not be a good idea at all.

  12. corvusboreus

    Phil Pryor, m
    People focussing on their phones whilst riding public transport do not worry me one bit, that is merely impoliteness of trivial consequence.
    It is the ones who play with their phones whilst piloting motor vehicles that give me the raging shits because they are placing other people in danger with their selfish stupidity.

  13. David Bruce

    A picture is worth a 1,000 words and from the comments we are not quite there yet. If you want to take offense at this cartoon, feel free to do so. Then pause to think about it from the child’s perspective, if you can? I like Leunig’s cartoons because they are multidimensional and often look deep into our superficial society.

  14. Matters Not

    Kathy re:

    What I felt I got from it …

    Kathy, while you were getting, I was giving. And that giving of particular meaning(s) was perhaps not what Leunig intended. But that’s life.

    People construct their own reality. Part of being human. Yes sometimes that get mugged by those mis takes but they tend to persist.

  15. corvusboreus

    Ps, (general observation) when I see some moron behind the wheel who is choosing to ignore their windscreen in order to focus on their phone screen, I do not lay the main blame on their electronic device.

  16. king1394

    Mothers multi-task … a lot. Therefore, Mum takes baby out for fresh air, and she herself gets some exercise. And she has a moment out of the house to use the phone. Oh, she was looking at Instagram, ie a complete waste of time.
    Probably she was on the phone to CentreLink listening to the Four Seasons go around again while someone, to whom the call was important, didn’t get back to her.
    Maybe she was having a quick catch up with a trusted friend with whom she could discuss burning questions of nappy rashes, and when to see the doctor about her worries, considering that she has no income to pay the gap … and learning that she can take baby to the doctor free.
    Perhaps she was on a Facebook group for Mums, sharing a few tips and checking a few parenting websites.
    Apparently, mothers must remain so totally obsessed with their baby’s every breath, that they should isolate themselves from the very mobile technology that allows them to leave the house in the first place.

  17. wam

    there are many examples of instants when mother’s preference is for something else than the baby.
    The ‘ring’ of the landline, the whistle of a kettle, the doorbell and now the ting of a message.The noises all command immediate attention but the baby is a short time orphan.The last is different as it demands brain and time together. When the thumbs are flying and the answers instantly appearing, there is no room for a baby.
    The trilogy is mum’s with her opium, the baby has fallen but the worst of all it realises the machine is loved and cherished.
    ps I thought you were writing bullshit before but wtf this timeI’m with you.

  18. corvusboreus

    I have read an article by Leunig explaining the intention behind his cartoon, which was to make illustrative comment on the increasing prevalence of personal disengagement and situational inattention that is being caused by ‘screen addiction’.
    As he stated: ‘our roads are becoming more deadly because of it’.
    Leunig could have chosen to depict a texting driver mowing down a similarly distracted pedestrian or cyclist (yes, you do see people texting whilst riding), but instead chose to use the example of the neglected baby because of the emotional significance attached to the mother-child bond (he plucked at heartstrings).
    Much of the derogatory comment around this cartoon seems to based on projection of meaning (mothers/women are bad) and assumption of motivation (misogyny) rather than rational examination of other possible connotations.
    In this, I tend to agree with the comment made by jaq: ‘if you found that cartoon profoundly insulting, maybe that is because something resonated in you’.

    Do YOU ever dismiss the demands of consequential reality in order to play with your iphone?

  19. George Theodoridis

    “He accuses mothers…”

    Would you have made the same observation had Leunig had a father wheeling the tram?

    Would you have said “there goes that bloody Leunig again, accusing fathers of baby neglect?”

    The message is as obvious as the nose on our faces in front of a mirror: Mother+baby = the most crucial bond humanity has and needs, It is broken by an electronic device, which is most commonly used for inane, absurd purposes.

    Had the person wheeling that pram been some other creature -or had the scenario been different, that very powerful message would also be different, far less powerful, far less poignant.

    We would nod and say, “Yeah, those morons who walk around with their head deep into their iphone!” Or, “yeah, those idiots driving while playing with their phone…”

    The laws tell us those things, anyone can tell us those things; they are things that are very obvious. But not a thoughtful artist.

  20. George Theodoridis

    …and that’s what Fukuyama means by “identity politics.”
    We are “political” only within the narrowest circumference of our identity. To which view, of course we may or may not agree.

  21. George Theodoridis

    wam, love your dusting off of Marx’s gorgeous metaphor, the “opium of the people.” Absolutely apt. The masses need their opium to desensitise them of the pain caused by the yokes that the ruling classes have placed around their necks.

  22. wam

    haha, george, marx was taking about god and the religions by men for men. Where women are subservient to men on their 12th birthday and only get a run below the nose.
    At least leunig is suggesting women have brains and ability to overcome ‘motherly love’. Maybe, now that all septic states have declared breastfeeding legal, the boy’s god will get the flick?
    Whatever, go girls get the app for a clean out of society.

  23. George Theodoridis

    Quite so, wam, every syllable of it, and the analogy of “opium” to religion is simply perfect, as it is to the iphone -the smart phone that stupefies us.

  24. Brian

    Albert Einstein: ‘I fear the day technology surpasses our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.’
    No need to ask if we are there yet.
    The reaction to Leunig’s cartoon means it hit a raw nerve. People, to the degree one devolves their attention to frivolous interactions with mobile devices, have been tricked into living in their heads. Good luck with that in the long run.
    Leunig could have chosen men or another group to replace mothers in the cartoon but the impact of his statement would have been diluted. It is good that our addiction to technology is being brought into question. If some mothers or fathers or anyone are questioning their use of mobile devices then that means there is something to question. If anyone has the balance right then no need of change. Good article btw George.

  25. George Theodoridis

    Kaye, that’s another cartoon and that’s another message at another time with another context. I note the words “to some babies…”

    I look at the work before me and judge that and that only.
    I wonder if, had I gone through every one of Leunig’s cartoons would I find one that would say the exact opposite of what you think that one says.

    Judging a) by b) is not a valid exercise. I remember the same charges were thrown at me when I was making my judgement on Knight’s cartoon.
    We can’t judge DaVinci’s “Last Supper” by pointing at his Mona Lisa.

  26. Joseph Carli

    I recall the very first appearence of Leunig’s cartoons in the Age…a remarkable wry breath of fresh air into the old world of cartooning… his “every-man/woman/child” characters that have the one generic look are meant to be a reflection on the general wryness and stumblings of humanity..there are any number of pieces that one could become morose and petulant over if one was to adopt what these days seems to be “an individual’s right” to see personal insult and vilification in a broad statement..Now, where a artist may depict a character as representative of generic utopia/dystopia, the “look at me” interpretation swings so easily to reading the work as generic victimising…..
    Michael Leunig, like Patrick White or Tim Minchin is a dedicated artist with decades of proven artistic achievements…He is a superlative interpreter of the human condition and can do so with just the drawing of a wobbly line…it would be better to have those commentators more in tune with their own frustrated failings to reflect less on that artist’s capabilities and more on their own search for mediocrity.

  27. Kaye Lee

    I disagree George. If you are wondering why women have reacted the way they have then context is very important and I am not just talking about Leunig cartoons.

    I know that I am overly sensitive and sometimes too strident about how women are viewed. There is history behind that feeling.

    For you to try to defend the cartoon I linked to by saying it says “some babies” is a cop out and if you were being honest you would recognise that. Leunig has his view of what mothers should be – uneducated, non-working, religious, solely devoted to their role in life as vassals and vessels.

    I do understand your opinion about the cartoon you are discussing. Can you understand mine about how women feel in the broader context?

    The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa don’t come with nasty little poems denigrating anyone. A completely false analogy.

    Then there is Leunig’s irresponsible opposition to vaccination. Oh, and we should feel very guilty about putting our kids in childcare according to HIM too.


  28. George Theodoridis

    Kaye, I don’t understand what do you mean when you say you understand my opinion of the cartoon when you oppose it with such emotional vehemence.
    Kaye, you’re asking me to look at a much wider subject and one far too distant from what this cartoon is discussing.

    If you are asking me to drop my man head low and admit that, by and large, women had it shockingly bad because of the shameful behaviour of men, then I do so with alacrity, though I should add, I doubt very much that any of the women mum, sis, daughters, countless cousins, friends, students would complain about my behaviour towards them.

    It is true. In general (and it’s the only way we can talk about such subjects) history shows an appalling attitude and treatment of women by men.
    But this is not what Leunig is saying here, at least not to my understanding.
    I note his sister agrees with you. As do many other women.
    But I suggest that concerning his sister it’s a symptom of sibling rivalry and with the other women, in many cases, it is as Fukuyama says: identity politics: We make political comments according only to what we identify and which we must defend, no matter what else is going on, even at the risk of misreading someone’s message.

    I have not made a study of Leunig’s art. Nor is it necessary to do so if I am to describe what I see in one of his pieces. I am not writing a book on his art. Who knows what his views are about mothers and fathers and all that freudian stuff. Before me I am seeing what I saw in Homer’s Iliad very much like I am seeing a wonderful Lysistrata in Greta Thunberg. I see something trivial destroying something crucial. If anything, I suggest, Leunig gives great praise to mothers. They are vital, he says, yet technology, yes, birthed by men , if you will, is endangering this crucial thing for the survival of humanity.

    The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa don’t have little poems. Do they need to? Yet you are asking me to make a judgment on one based on another.

    I am not one to cop out so when I said I note that Leunig had used the phrase “some babies…” I did so to show that he was telling us that not all babies feel the same, that not all (of the sort of) mothers he described are nasty enough for some babies to be relieved that they are not born of them. Words like “statistically” and “less likely” and those on the title “Infantile Statistic Poem” should tell you the disposition that should put you in when looking at the cartoon and reading those words.

  29. Kaye Lee

    I added another link to my comment probably after you posted yours George (apologies – I know that is annoying) which shows Leunig’s opinion of mothers who put their children in childcare. As an educator, I know how utterly ridiculous his archaic views are. Evidence shows how beneficial early education is yet Leunig portrays it as a mother abandoning her child.

    The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa don’t express opinions/judgement. Leunig’s work does.

    I also find it interesting that you think technology is “birthed by men”. That may disclose more about your attitude than anything else you have said.

    “Not all babies feel the same”??? Wow you are really going to great lengths to defend the indefensible.

    I am sure you are very good to the women in your life George and rightly take humbrage at any suggestion that you are not. Kinda like mothers getting offended when they are told by an old man that they are inadequate if they put their children in preschool.

    To say we should not look at Leunig’s previous work to give context is like saying ignore the last 50 times he hit you, this one was just a glancing blow.

  30. leefe

    “Fukuyama asserts that (after his “End of History”) a new social phenomenon has emerged. We have become, he says, too ready to identify with certain, few things and our political views have shrunk so much that we vote for men or women who promise only to attend to the concerns we identify with and we do not concern ourselves with what that person will do on any other issue.

    If we, for example are gay, then we will vote for someone who will support the gays, without caring what other things that person supports. If we are pro abortion, then we look only for a person who will support this cause, without checking out what else is in his bag of policies or in the contents of his character (to use Martin Luther King’s description) and so on.”

    That’s not how it works and is also bloody insulting.

    First, those of us who engage in “identity politics” are more than capable of looking beyond our own little bubble at the entirety of a person or party’s platform and policy. Unlike those who, for instance, vote based on a fear campaign around a policy to remove an unviable tax perk that doesn’t even apply to them.

    Second, “identity politics” is more about choosing who not to vote for.
    I don’t vote for those who do not support gay rights, trans rights, the right to abortion, or appropriate and immediate action to deal with anthropogenic climate change, amongst other things. But neither one nor all of those are sufficient to attract my vote if there are other parts of policy with which I particularly disagree.

    That aside, Leunig has form, which is a big part of why this particular piece has attracted so much objection. One carton does not a misogynist make. But an extended history of denigrating independent women does.

    Oh, and Knight’s cartoon was racist, not least because it whitewashed Osaka, turning her into a skinny little white blonde, while taking his depiction of Williams to the opposite extreme when they are actually much closer in both build and skin tone.

  31. George Theodoridis

    leefe, I didn’t say I agree with Fukuyama, nor should I also say that he says everyone behaves like that. He just sees a trend. No idea at all if it’s true. But most importantly, he says that this phenomenon applies to the States. I think the man is a twerp but he is renowned for his social/political commentary and for his three books on his other observation that we are living at the End of History! Communism has been defeated by what he calls “liberal democracy” and “free market capitalism” and so, that’s that! No more “cold wars.” America won! Absurd crap of course but he did make that observation about “identity politics,” which I wanted to refer to. It IS evident in many places and we DO need to make sure we don’t apply it.
    As for Knight. Fine!

    Kaye, we could go on arguing about this, misunderstanding each other with our every response. I’d rather not. I have said what I wanted to say about Leunig’s cartoon. This one and no other. I don’t know the man and I’m not about to put him either on a pedestal or a court room dock.

  32. Kaye Lee

    Me either George. Just trying to share some insight as to why people may have reacted the way they did. As I said, I understand your commentary on this one cartoon but context might shed some light about why people are perturbed.

  33. guest

    It is interesting to see how the opinions vary in this thread.

    George Theodoridis has told us what Leunig’s cartoon is about. He says: “Leunig is making a perfectly glowingly simple, concise and certainly accurate statement.”

    The meaning is, says George: “Electronic devices are devious, insidious and anti-humane things.” And immediately I am wondering if Leunig is some kind of Luddite, intent on ridding us of electronic devices. Imagine the consequences of such an opinion.

    George goes further. “He has just used the single, most profound, best known symbol of parenthood …the mother.” It is here that there is the crack where the light gets in. Fathers?

    So it goes beyond the bond of motherhood and child. “…all other bonds are up for destruction by a very simple, totally banal device.” All other bonds? Up for destruction?

    George goes further. As a translator of ancient Greek he sees links with Homer’s ‘Iliad’, with golden apples and Trojan Horses, which few people would have thought of. But it is a learning point. I wonder if Leunig saw it.

    jaq @Nov 3, 6.38pm saw the joining of hips to our electronic devices. Women have the role of nurturing, she says. They should leave the phones at home.
    Later she tells us that, as a teacher, she knows these “new technology parents”, “mostly the ones left to look after the kids”. We should not be offended, but reflect. And what we should reflect on is the bad treatment of kids and their resultant bad behaviour because of the adult addiction to electronic devices – and also the addiction of the children themselves? So it is not just cell phones at fault.

    Claire Davenport @6.55pm objects. She says new mothers need the community to be there and phones are a means of communication.

    To which George asks is she is sorry because the cartoon does not say ‘daddy was busy’? Which leads to an argument about who is or is not reading the other’s writing. And where is daddy?

    Matters Not @7.40 says there are so many different opinions from so many different people.

    Which goes to the point George made about Fukuyama’s idea of ‘identity politics’ by which we all form opinions and vote according to our own individual identities, ideas and concerns. Such an idea tends to disparage this kind of ‘tribalisation’ or ‘multiculturalism’ arising from immigration in particular. Right wing pundits tend to want everyone to be the same in their culture and thinking. We see it in politics in Oz today. Leefe @12.50 rejects the Fukuyama explanation, saying it is insulting.

    King1394 @12.37 points out that people on the phone are not always on Instagram, which is a good point, because there are other possibilities. Our use of phones is not always banal or insidious or destructive. Have you ever found yourself needing a phone but not having one at hand?

    Peter @8.48 asks “Why did free speech upset Leunig so much?”

    Corvusboreus @6.25 tells us that Leunig explains why he is upset: “…it is about the prevalence of personal disengagement and situational inattention that is caused by ‘screen addiction’ “.

    This is beautifully illustrated by Mark Delmege @9.38 with his link to the painting “Breakfast” by Rockwell. The offending distraction is by a newspaper read by the husband to the exclusion of the wife.

    But I think it is wrong to blame the electronic device itself, when it is people who use it, and not just women. Which is where the problem here arises. Any one would think males have no part in this. It is a problem for cartoons to try to put across a point of view in one illustration, whereas a longer explanation might have been more clear. George has gone some way towards the explanation, but there are those who would question his single point of view.

    We have seen that problem with other cartoonists, such as Ken Knight and Bill Leak.

    An interesting discussion. Sorry for my lack of brevity. I know, you can read the thread for yourselves.

  34. Kaye Lee

    I saw one criticism of the cartoon that said “Leunig’s generation’s parents would routinely leave their kids in the car while they went into a pub for a few beers before driving home drunk.”


  35. Kaye Lee


    The one thing mothering definitely teaches you is how to multitask 🙂

  36. Joseph Carli

    Fellow commentators…we must look to the variety of different approaches as a cultural exercise…Let me explain..:

    George, being Greek is of that culture that “makes reasons for”…and creates “rules of logic”…hence the variety of reasonable (to him) assertions, explanations and reasons for the cartoon and Leunig’s depiction of the problem….An example of those rules is when I was working for a Greek builder, I had to rush off the job to another and I left my ladder behind…coming back a few days later, the Greek builder took me around to the back of the house to where he had placed my ladder..”for safe keeping” ….but he then chuckled and confessed that he claimed the rule in Greece was that if a tradesman leaves a tool on the job, you note it and wait for a couple of days..if he has not returned for it, you move it around the back out of sight…if then he fails to come and claim it after two weeks, it is “rightfully” yours….and , of course there is the Zorba one about the “one sin God will not forgive . . .”

    On the other hand myself, coming from the Italian cultural perspective…”make excuses for”…and we see here, myself giving a historical perspective and the “artist road/right to interpretation” etc etc..as the excuse for the cartoon and leunig’s approach to the social problem….and like the passed up appointment or missed date..there are any number of reasons and excuses one grasps onto when needed….of course, once the excuses run dry, we will compensate by making you an offer you can’t refuse!

    And then we have the English..like Kaye Lee…The English culture sees its role in social complexity as “The Judge” ..the English ” make judgements upon”…and as we see numerous times in Kaye Lee’s posts and others, there are examples of past “infringements”.. “assaults and incursions” …”deliberate obfuscation” and definate “incriminations” that have been offended against those innocent citizens of a certain gender that we cannot comment upon because the case is still “before the courts” and proceeding…and as anyone who is an observer of cultural behaviours, the English mind is never certain it is in the right until the whole world is against them!

    Let us…as Mark Twain wrote…draw the curtain of charity down on these past events and get on with our lives…or I WILL make you an offer you cannot refuse!

  37. Kaye Lee

    What on earth makes you think I am of English heritage? Wrong again Joe. Your habit of telling me who I am and what I think and what I actually mean is really annoying. You are invariably wrong.

  38. Joseph Carli

    Must use a different bait next time…

  39. Kaye Lee

    Or you could just pull your arrogant head in…there’s a thought.

    By all means, comment on what I say. Back off from telling ME about myself.

  40. George Theodoridis

    My final extrications on this: Look what I’ve got by focussing on the cartoon. Look what those who focussed on the man got.
    And: Focusing on what’s in front of you tends to yield a more accurate observation than trying to focus on what’s not.
    I always try to focus on what’s in front of me. Aristotle 101. (He was wrong about the universe being geocentric for exactly that reason. He shut up after that but the christians loved the theory and they still believe it, even though Galileo put a telescope in front of them and asked them to focus properly)

  41. Kaye Lee

    George, it’s not “focusing on the man”. It’s focusing on what the man has said over a long period combined with what women have endured for millennia.

  42. Joseph Carli

    THERE!..you see it?…one (who shall remain nameless) makes judgement, I make an excuse and George makes reasons and rules….toldja!

  43. Roswell

    Give it a rest, Joseph. Please give it a rest.

    Nobody but you is interested in your petty little wars. They are beyond disruptive.

  44. George Theodoridis

    Kaye… whereas I’m focusing only on this cartoon. That’s all. This cartoon!

  45. George Theodoridis

    I did not want to take a historical perspective. Just looked at the message from this cartoon.

  46. Kaye Lee

    I do understand that George and have tried to tell you I agree with what you have said whilst trying to explain why others may have reacted differently.

  47. Joseph Carli

    Considering the next three responses, Rossi’…I think you may have “spoken too soon”….and perhaps to the wrong person..

  48. corvusboreus

    Although I can see the validity in comparing the morning gazette with the iPhone held in front of the face, I still reckon that in terms of situational distraction the pull of printed paper is relatively mild compared to the attention seeking flashes and whistles emitted by modern portable personal electronic media devices.

    As an aside, screen addiction comes, in part, from the semi-hypnotic effect produced by the tendency of light-rods in the eye to focus upon emissions of radiant light (we all so love to watch the flicker of a fire at night).
    I reckon an opposite design theory is being employed in the design and manufacture of modern cars.

    The thesis of the grey car (warning, contains traces of conspiracy theory)
    People near roads with eyes that work will have noticed that over last decade and a bit the default paintjob on new cars has switched from white through a misty silver to the current darkish greys.
    The line from car dealerships is that ‘people reckon grey cars hold their value better’ (which, if it is true, is probably because those people believed something that they were told by a car salesman standing in front of a yard full of grey vehicles.
    The line from spray a inters is that the new variants of reactive-metallic grey paint are’ a Phuqqen bitch to retro-match’.
    The line that springs from mindful observation is that a colour against shade is easier to spot than a shade against another shade.
    The line from googling info on the operation of human optics says that whilst movement and light stimulate the visual rods, variations in colour also stimulate the cones around the fovea centralis, further stimulating visual focus.
    The line from summaries of road accident statistics is that the issue of vehicle visibility is often a contributing factor in vehicular collisions, particularly those occurring in environments of poor optical conditions (eg mist, rain, dusk).
    The line from economics is that vehicular accidents create a need for repair and replacement at a cost that is borne by the consumer and their insurer to the profit of the vehicular manufacturer (and their agencies).
    The line from corvus is ‘why are people buying cars in shades of bitumen and drizzle?’

  49. corvusboreus

    Oh shit, I just realised that by offering implication for inference that grey cars were being peddled in order to propagate profitable road carnage, I might be inadvertently encouraging the secondary boycott of colourless vehicles.
    AIMN, please delete my previous comment. ( 😉 )

  50. corvusboreus

    Oh double shit, AIMN admin thought I was being serious and deleted my comment.
    Reminder to self: stop doing irony in print.

  51. Kaye Lee


    Update….find it!

  52. corvusboreus

    Kaye say huh to who?

    If ‘huh?’ was to me, I threw in a comment earlier that veered into the idea that grey cars were a form of designed obsolescence (including corroboration from accident based economics and optical science). Then I jestingly asked that the comment be removed (homeland economic security amendment reference) and it obligingly was, and then suddenly it doubly obligingly wasn’t.
    Such goes the life of a smartarse

  53. Brozza

    Spot on George.
    Very difficult to spot the difference between Leunigs cartoon and that referenced by Mark Delmege. – for all intents and purposes, the same cartoon.
    Can’t wait to see $1000 on-the-spot fines and minimum 3 demerit points given to drivers using mobiles.

  54. Kaye Lee


    I guess what I am trying to say is that mothers feel guilt about everything – and in this case the exception doesn’t make the rule.

    We feel guilty if we have a miscarriage, We feel guilty if our child is born with a medical condition. We feel guilty if we can’t breastfeed. We feel guilty if our baby gets nappy rash. We feel guilty if we have to go back to work. We feel guilty if we don’t work. We feel guilty every time our child gets sick. We feel guilty if they struggle at school. We feel guilty if they have trouble making friends. We feel guilty if we can’t give them things other children have. We even feel guilty when their fathers neglect them.

    It pushes buttons when cartoons suggest that we couldn’t give a shit about our kids.

    I truly do understand what you are saying about mobile phone addiction.


    I looked, found, and restored. Cancel my huh.

  55. Matters Not


    mothers feel guilt about everything

    Really? Everything? If true, would the root cause for this distressing condition be found in biology, society, culture, psychology, sociobiology, … or any combination of same? Or is it the case, this claim is an extrapolation from A particular to the general? And can’t (and shouldn’t) be universalised?

    My wife wants to know. Currently, she’s fretting – seeing herself as somewhat of a deviant. Guilt feelings and all that. (Just jokin … )

  56. Lambchop Simnel

    Like the cartoon and am sick of zombies perambulating about in a trance like state about the place mesmerised by their toys.

    I thought Kathy’s comment that the thing is some how an “attack on mothers” rather than a acidic comment on consumerist culture absolutely unbelievable and think that sort of remark is what’s failing the thread.

    Thus on a very rare occasion I must therefore also disagree with Kaye Lee about over-sensiviity and question the frame of mind of those complaining. over the cartoon.

    Here is some thing irrelevant instead:


    Watch the clip for a real understanding if it is not too trivial- then you can wonder, some of you, just how weird the view of some other people must be as to what’s important.

  57. corvusboreus

    Ps, thank you to the crew at AIMN for providing me with an amusing circular diversion, for tolerantly providing a place for us to indulge in our squabbling and waffling, and, most importantly, for occasionally facilitating the exchange of a few new know-trues.

  58. RomeoCharlie29

    After reading all of the above comments, agreeing with some, not others I would just like to offer the view that this cartoon —- and that’s what it is so a discussion of pusher v pram, and security thereof is irrelevant — follows in an equally long line of Leunig’s observations about the distraction of electronic implements. Who can forget one of his earliest, and most poignant offerings, of a person watching a sunset on television while that same sunset is occurring outside his window? Mysoginist? I don’t know but his drawings have given me more pleasure than pain over the decades.

  59. Padty

    RC29, true, I looked at the cartoon without reading the word bubble. I understood the story without words. Pram pusher (mother, father, older brother or sister or hired help) was in a trance playing with an addictive device pushed by Silicon Valley.
    If the average person understood the technocrat’s agenda there would be a sea-change in attitude to tech for tech sake.
    After reading some reactionary posts I went back to read the word bubble.
    My initial take on the cartoon is what I will take away, others can do otherwise.

    Technocrats are leading us down a blind alley with the intention to make the next generation both stupid and sick.
    Why would any thinking person support an industry that is doing their children harm?

    Yesterday I read somewhere that the technocrats (LoopLearn) are trailing facial recognition systems in schools. Guess where all those images will end up. Teaching is hard enough, they now have to contend with the idea their students are being spied upon and a database of images created for some nefarious social control purpose 10-20 years in the future.

    Teachers today operate in one of the most polluted environments on the planet due to industrial scale Wifi radiation. Students are being irradiated day in day out at EMF power levels unheard of even 5 years ago. Now they are being cultured to accept intrusive surveillance in their lives. Then there is the question of how powerful is the Lidar technology being used to scan the faces of the children and is the UV component of the laser doing damage to young eyes.

    Perhaps teachers could ask Govt to publish specs for this technology on their website.


  60. George Theodoridis

    And of course, the commentary would be incomplete without Lucy’s comment. Lucy, the daughter who could well have been the neglected baby!


  61. George Theodoridis

    I was actually hoping that some other cartoonist would redraw Leunig’s and add an iphone in the baby’s hand. Oh well!

  62. Lambchop Simnel

    I think that is what Leunig was trying to say, before people wilfully misinterpreted his message.

  63. Kaye Lee

    Cartoons are an art form (to a degree) that will evoke different meanings to different people. The whole way through this discussion I have agreed with both Leunig and George in that the cartoon pointed to a newish problem in our society with our fixation on electronic devices.

    The fact that it provoked different issues for different people is understandable and should be a plus, not a take sides thing. Should Leunig, or anyone else, dictate what feelings/emotions/memories the cartoon/poem evoke in the reader? Can we listen to each other and try to understand rather than try to prove each other wrong?

    There are some things that some of us are sensitive about. Perhaps understanding context might be more beneficial than dismissal. A bit like the date of Australia Day maybe?

  64. Joseph Carli


  65. Lambchop Simnel

    Ha! Wot George said.

    Kaye Lee, I was always close out when others starting about “we and us”, because usually “we and us applies to the other person as insensitive rather than any confession of error within ourselves.

    In this case, when you say “we” should listen I presume you include the anti Leunig lot not just the other naughties.

  66. Matters Not

    Re Cartoons evoking different emotions leading to a range of ‘meaning making’. Seems like it’s not confined to that medium alone. Try the Mona Lisa as perhaps a more significant example. You know – smile, smirk, frown or just plain wind?

    Yet there’s those who claim to know the truth.

  67. Kaye Lee

    “I was always close out when others starting about “we and us””

    Hmmmm…..not sure how to take that.

    I said “Can we listen to each other and try to understand rather than try to prove each other wrong?”

    How else was I supposed to phrase that? Errrr…. I understand your point, can you hear mine?

    You say “we and us applies to the other person as insensitive rather than any confession of error within ourselves”

    Gee I seem to recall saying “I know that I am overly sensitive and sometimes too strident about how women are viewed.”

    Anyway, I don’t think there is any point in me trying to explain any further. I have said MY piece – apologies for using we and us in asking if we could listen to each other.

  68. corvusboreus

    Nice that we all able to talk so freely about our feelings.

    RE ‘multitasking’, multiple studies have shown that although ‘concurrent activities’ are possible and sometimes necessary, the spread of mental and physical focus means that quality drops and errors increase when people try to juggle more and more objects.
    Most people are capable of ‘multitasking’, it’s just that they probably shouldn’t if any of the tasks are risky, tricky or result crucial.

    Ps, I still reckon that automobile manufacturers are pushing grey cars in order to profit from an increase in vehicular collisions, but would also acknowledge that many/most people are unconcerned or uninterested in matters of basic road safety.

  69. Egalitarian

    I’d just like to know if the baby is OK and safely back with it’s mother? Surely that’s the most important thing at this stage.

  70. corvusboreus

    Update on the status of the baby
    On instagram, mum says bub was doing fine last time she looked.
    On Facebook it has been claimed that Obama and Hillary have sold the child to the daesh.
    On Twitter, there appears to be a tribal flame war occurring, with accusations of sexism and anti-babyism abounding.

    Poor cartoon bub, one moment a neglected object on a concrete path, the next a chew-toy in an ideological tug-o-war.

  71. Egalitarian

    Thanks Corvo Yes there is a whole comedy routine in this one. How long since she looked?

  72. corvusboreus

    Thank you padty (5/11 11:45am) for a very informative contribution,
    The physical effects of screen irradiation are one of the oft overlooked repercussions of screen addiction, and especially in people constantly exposed to i-tech from early childhood (others include eyesight deterioration, posture problems and RSI, not to mention the aforementioned increase in danger through loss of situational awareness).
    The privacy issues (facial recognition being but one) are also often ignored, as is the fact that most of the IT giants have repeatedly demonstrated complete bad faith in their custodianship of our personal data (dear facebook, can you keep a secret?).

  73. Lambchop Simnel

    Forgive you, Kaye Lee?

    Why, how could I anything but adore you. You should accept my attempts at assistance as manifestations of humble gratitude, my mansplaining you have deconstructed so artfully.

  74. Lambchop Simnel

    Obviously, the underlying issue unpacking here is the rub, again, between situational and identity politics, how one also feeds into the other and matters of procession, not just a binary…Yes, I get the idea that a woman might see the toon as reinforcing the notion that it is the women who are the bunnies because I actually take Kaye Lee as actually a somewhat substantial commentor.

    I only noticed this from the Grauniad a few moments ago.


    You see, I almost fell over at the idea that someone within the upper echelons of the ALP finally emerged from a seeming mass long speci-al hibernation to finally get some of idea of what to me is a matter of cart and horse in proper linkage. Of course, as Kaye Lee points out, these conjectures are only ever just that at best, although it does give me revised hope for Leunig as more a compassionate and rational individual (by association) than someone misanthropic, misogynist and child hating, if Bowen is capable of revising a viewpoint.

  75. George Theodoridis

    Message from bub to mum:
    “Thanks for dropping me off at the bank, mum. I’ve withdrawn all your money and deposited it to Dropped Off Babies Fund.”
    Oh, can I have choc flavoured tonight please?
    Ta muchly.”

    JUST KIDDING! I made it all up!

  76. STAND UP

    Some years ago I took my then 5 year old daughter to the Melb Zoo. Wandering beside us was a family and a double story pusher with child beneath the upper baby level, holding an I-Pad, large enough to dwarf that 2 year old who’s attention was on a screen with some game running. Here we were at the Zoo surrounded by nature as living mythology which included the aroma therapy. I guess the Child was mirroring the mothers/fathers 24/7 focus of attention, and gaining nurturance from the I-Pad.

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