I'm a regular reader of Ann Telnaes' political cartoons, which appear weekly at Women's eNews and semi-regularly on Slate. Not surprisingly given these venues, Telnaes is a traditionally feminist cartoonist, and tends to focus on women's issues (though not exclusively, as a quick perusal of her archive reveals). I generally like Telnaes' work. Her style is very appealing, her "gags" are generally effective, and I tend to agree with what she has to say. Although she does tend to use the cynical, coffee-and-briefcase-toting, pear-shaped businesswoman more often than she might need to.
It isn't often that a political cartoon makes one laugh out loud, which is why this offering, which I saw yesterday, left quite an impression on me:
Startling in its juvenile simplicity, this cartoon boldly equates Bush's appointment of a contraception opponent as the family planning chief at the Department of Health and Human Services with Bush mooning a woman. There he is, right there, showing his ass to a pear-shaped businesswoman, with a grumpy Dick Cheney driving the car.
I spent the better part of yesterday giggling to myself about this before I realized what a shoddy piece of political cartooning it really is. Yes, Bush's appointment of this guy shows disrespect for people who have the wacky idea that contraception is an important part of family planning (many of whom are women). But the presidential ass gag is completely devoid of context. Where's the connection between contraception/DHHS and the President's ass? There isn't one. Telnaes chose a generic sign of disrespect to comment on an objectionable action by the President. But the whole thing seems very hastily conceived (and perhaps hastily executed -- note the grammatical error on the newspaper).
I pondered this all night until this morning when I saw this on Slate:
It's a whole nother Ann Telnaes cartoon, dated one day later than the Bush's ass cartoon. But it's the exact same cartoon. Only this time, the disrespectful gesture involves condoms, a form of contraception, rendering the gag relevant and contextual. So what's the deal here? Did Telnaes send the ass cartoon off to print, realize she could do better, and then fire off another version for other publications? Is the ass cartoon an earlier version that was never meant to go out? Is the President's ass too risque for Slate?
I don't know the answers to these questions. All I do know is that the first cartoon still makes me giggle.