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Robert Ariail’s #MeToo Cartoon Draws Anger

A recent editorial cartoon by Robert Ariail has provoked letters of scorn to the Champaign News-Gazette. Among the number of letters received the paper showcased a few of them:

I was sickened by your cartoon “Teen Angst in the Era of #MeToo.” It expressed concern for teenage boys. These poor men, poor boys, are now afraid to even kiss a girl, for fear these vindictive and hyper-emotional women will accuse them of abuse many years later.

and

Apparently, the cartoonist sees no difference in a young woman’s mind between wanting to kiss someone (or more likely — waiting to be kissed? What year is this?) and wanting to be sexually assaulted.

and

The young woman could just as easily be thinking, “I would like a kiss, but if I look interested, will he take that as a yes to everything?”

 

 

The same day Ariail’s cartoon was published in The News-Gazette a local on-line magazine, Smile Politely, reprimanded the the cartoonist and the newspaper:

Today, The News-Gazette published this editorial cartoon by Robert Ariail. It’s disgusting. I thought about explaining what makes this so wrong, but, quite frankly, I’m tired of explaining things to people who don’t get it.

The following day Smile Politely reported that

Yesterday we posted about the utterly tasteless cartoon the News-Gazette chose to publish. It received a lot of backlash throughout the community, and now a group of Democratic candidates have pulled out of an upcoming Candidate Forum hosted in part by the News-Gazette. Here’s the statement from the Champaign County Democrats…

The statement from the Champaign County Democrats contains phrases expressing their distaste:

…inappropriate, offensive and sexist cartoon…

…cartoon advocates for sexual assault while dismissing rape victims…

…a mockery of the #MeToo movement…

 

Today News-Gazette publisher John Reed took to the opinion pages:

[A cartoon’s] purpose today remains the same as it was at their inception two-and-a-half centuries ago — to provoke thought and encourage dialogue. As opinion pieces, they occasionally raise the ire of readers.

Tuesday’s cartoon, entitled “Teen Angst in the Era of #MeToo,” certainly did the latter. We’ve heard from a number of you who have expressed your displeasure with our decision to publish it…

Did we display an unintentional lack of sensitivity toward the topic of consent when we made that decision? Yes. Did we fail to recognize that there might be alternative interpretations? You bet…

The newspaper’s letters page was consumed by the controversy:

Today — on this page — we’re publishing the first batch of letters to the editor on the topic. You’ll also find a letter from the syndicated cartoonist offering his thoughts both on the cartoon itself and some of the negative reactions it generated.

 

Robert responded to The News-Gazette readers:

I want to assure you the meanings being ascribed to the cartoon are not what I had intended…

I assume you ran the cartoon because you interpreted it as I had intended: a commentary on modern life and the chilling effects surrounding the #MeToo movement and more specifically, the Kavanaugh hearings.

I really meant nothing more, and some of the interpretations are reading, I think, way too much into it. But if people are interpreting it this way, then I have failed in communicating my idea. But that is it. Contrary to some of the comments I’ve received, I am not a rapist nor a misogynist.

Robert’s full response here.

 

Elsewhere in the nation in another newspaper:

Just hours after even more sexual assault allegations have come out against court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, this paper chooses to run an editorial page cartoon that seems to equate high school dating with sexual assault.

 

 

Community Comments

#1 Lee-Gwen Booth
October/3/2018
@ 7:07 am

Robert said: ‘I assume you ran the cartoon because you interpreted it as I had intended: a commentary on modern life and the chilling effects surrounding the #MeToo movement and more specifically, the Kavanaugh hearings.’
That’s certainly how I interpreted the original but the thing is, it’s just plain wrong. By suggesting that his cartoon in anyway illustrates the real lesson of these events, Robert has shown that he has not understood, at all, what is happening.
There is a revised cartoon doing the rounds in which the speech bubbles are cleared and new dialogue is inserted:
Him: Hey, may I kiss you?
Her: Yep!
This revised cartoon makes the actual situation, and the lesson that should be taken from what is happening, quite clear.
Don’t assume, don’t force, don’t take what you are not given.
Ask! Obtain not just consent but enthusiastic consent. With that, you are unlikely to find yourself in the sort of trouble Kavanaugh is facing today.

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