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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 07/16/2009

The Sotomayor Hearings: Is This Cartoon Offensive?

By Michael Cavna

'BILL BRAMHALL' (courtesy of New York Daily News)

Over at the excellent "The Daily Cartoonist" blog, Alan Gardner spotlights the controversy surrounding a New York Daily News editorial cartoon.

The New York State chapter of the National Organization for Women has denounced Bill Bramhall's cartoon in which Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is surrounded by attempts to gag her, cork her mouth and give her the hook. The cartoon satirizes the length of Gillibrand's introductory remarks at the Sonia Sotomayor hearings.

NOW-NYS reportedly says that Bramhall's "inappropriate and sexist cartoon" depicts Gillibrand "as a loud mouth in need of gagging. It looks like the Daily News has a new target for their misogynistic garbage. So what is the message, 'Sit down and shut up girls'?"

The group's statement goes on to say: "Bramhall's phallic symbols send a clear message that women are good for only one thing. And the disrespectful cartoon certainly touches on concerns feminists have had for centuries. What contributes to violence against women is the general attitude about women in general."

Responding to that, the Times Union of Albany says that "New York NOW President Marcia Pappas does some Freudian sleuthing."

So the next step, of course, is to put this to cartoon-savvy Comic Riffs readers. Do you find this cartoon offensive? You're invited to vote here.

By Michael Cavna  | July 16, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  The E-Mailbag, The Political Cartoon  
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I think when you draw a group of men (note that all of her assailants are wearing suits) trying to gag a woman against her will, yes, you open yourself up to charges of sexism.

NOW did itself no favors, though, by including the "phallic symbol" reference, because everyone's going to snicker.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 16, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Had it been a man, no comment would have been made about the cartoon. Gillibrand has a history of rambling on. I have read that she has had to have her remarks curtailed at least twice because of their inapproprate length. If you are in that position and cannot be concise, you are fair game. NOW has the same problem as Gillibrand -- they don't know when to sit down and shut up. If we (women) want to be equal, we need to be able to to take our lumps when we deserve it and not whine about misogyny whether its actually present or not.

Posted by: indolentcin1 | July 16, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

The cartoon deserves a place in the Sexists’ Hall of Fame.

For more than 200 years, the 11,648 men who have served in the US Congress have held the floor. Senator Gillibrand, one of only 255 women who have served in our country’s history, might have assumed she would have the same ten minutes her colleagues were given to speak. Senator Leahy interrupted her, rudely and arrogantly asserting his “privilege”. So the Daily News ridicules her?!!?

Senator Gillibrand is New York’s senator. She was speaking as a well-informed advocate for another New York woman in an historic moment for New York and the country. You’d think that a New York paper would stick up for them both. But, unfortunately, the cartoon reveals another historic truth: women in politics - from the suffragists to our 21st century leaders - are routinely stereotyped in ways meant to demean them and deny them power.

This cartoon is one of the worst examples

Posted by: nora13 | July 16, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Um - I'm a woman. Some of my business attire (not all of it mind you, but some of it) involves dark jackets with white cuffs shot out beyond the ends of the arms. It's stylized perhaps, but the contrast is there.

Are we perhaps assuming too much about the clothing on the arms? Why is it automatic that it's men shoving corks into Senator Gillibrand's mouth? I'm a woman and I've have loved for her to figuratively "put a cork in it" or "put a sock in it".

And you know what? If she was Senator Christopher Gillibrand, I would have thought the same thing. Some politicians are simply long-winded. Sure, they have an important job, but I think if they spent less time listening to themselves and just got on with their jobs of listening to their constituents and other Senators, we'd all be better off.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | July 16, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

c'mon--all the hands are men's. The cartoon is legitimate about Gillibrand as longwinded, but dumb (at best) to have chosen only conventional men's wrists and hands doing the corking and stuffing.

Posted by: geny1 | July 16, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

That's the worst drawing of Sen John Kerry I've ever seen.

Dig through the archives and I bet you'll find similar cartoon comments on Kerry, (Bill) Clinton, Jesse Jackson Sr, or any number of other politicians who will never use ten words when a thousand will do.

Not every joke with a woman target is a slam at women. This one is a slam at the political style. I think some people try too hard to be insulted. Even PETA put the fly incident in perspective.

Posted by: filfeit | July 16, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

If women want equal rights then they should also receive equal criticism. If you make an idiot of yourself, prepare to be flamed. Your gender, race, nationality, religion, orientation doesn't matter, if you act stupid be prepared to be called out.

Posted by: NobodyInParticular1 | July 16, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I thought NOW's statement was pathetic, but nora13 cleared that hurdle in good form.

Posted by: JkR- | July 16, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

This is the classic case of looking for offense when none was intended.

Posted by: kcghost | July 16, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

It's usually a bad sign when the cartoon has to be explained, as this one did. In context, the cartoon is not funny and on the edge of being sexist. Without context, I find it offensive.

Posted by: AndrewfromNH | July 16, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"Had it been a man, no comment would have been made about the cartoon."

That's just the point--where are the cartoons about the long-winded male Senators that we have had to listen to for years? Leahy's incredibly condescending tone and body language spoke volumes: "that's enough little lady." Others spoke for 10 minutes; Al Franken for 9. Gillibrand was one of Judge Sotomayor's earliest advocates, encouraging Obama to nominate her. If anyone had a right to a full introduction, she did. The cartoon imagery is very familiar to those of us who have had to endure messages that women should be seen and not heard. Women comprise 51% of the population, and have 17% representation in the Congress. It's amusing that there is this silly post-op--same as after last year's primaries--about whether things are "sexist" or not. The majority--surprise, surprise!--doesn't recognize the obvious. That's why sexism is still systematic in this culture and around the world. YOU DON'T SEE IT, but it is toxic.

Posted by: franf1 | July 16, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

The cartoon is not sexist. Move on.

Posted by: chibbs2000 | July 16, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Gillibrand -- who, like everybody else, did not bring a timer along -- spoke for a mere SEVENTY SECONDS longer than her allotted time -- which was HALF the amount of time allowed to EVERY OTHER SPEAKER -- and yet there are intellectually-challenged people posting here(including self described "feminists") who call her "long winded." Shame on the Daily News, and shame on Pat Leahy.

Posted by: prettierthanyou | July 16, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

If the cartoonist wished to make a comment about long winded senators bloviating he had many to choose from. He chose instead to feature a woman because "we all know how much women like to talk". Much like the NY Post, choosing to feature a chimpanzee in a cartoon for a cheap laugh, the NY Daily News also ham-handedly went for the cheap laugh and exposed it's true colors.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | July 16, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Most female Congresscritters wear suits all the time. And the sock-bearing arm in the lwoer right corner looks decidedly feminine to me. Bombast is bombast, regardless of gender.

Posted by: pltrgyst | July 16, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

She may not have had as much time as other senators, but don't get confused by that statistic. Other senators were using their time for opening statements. Gillebrand (who is not on Justice, which is also an important point) was only there to introduce Judge Sotomayor. She had as much time as Schumer did during that part of the hearing. She was only there for that purpose. Please compare apples to apples.

Posted by: justin_m | July 17, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

"inappropriate and sexist"? "mysoginistic garbage"? "phallic symbols"? Geeeeez....

Anybody who wonders why feminists get slammed for being humorless and shrill need look no further than NOW-NYS's statement.

Posted by: drewdane | July 17, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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