Archive for the The Rake's Progress Category

Is it over yet?

Posted in Bloody brilliant observations, Cartoon stuff, Jitterati, Lovely pictures, The Rake's Progress on March 29, 2010 by brunswick

It’s been a bloody long day.

Some surprises on the Salient letter page – mine is the only one about The First-Year’s Progress: A Response, and apparently the last word. They won’t print any more on the subject. This is usually the response they reserve for those tedious unresolvable religious debates which spring up every year. My letter also has “[Abridged]” underneath it, which is always the sign of a dreadful piece of writing which goes on and on and never gets to the point and… where was I?

Oh yes – I can’t really complain, because they restored my punctuation (which, ironically, means it received more sub-editing attention than the original Response article) and I assume they’ll continue to print my cartoon as long as it doesn’t contain any obvious triggers.* So what did they abridge? Here’s my original letter, with the abridged section in bold.

Dear Salient,

I really, really didn’t want to have to write this letter. I preferred to let my critic’s arguments speak for themselves, but after Fiona’s article last week, it’s time to defend myself.

The initial complaint against The First-Year’s Progress was made by a vindictive ex-flatmate of mine who posted it on four websites describing it as a “gang-rape” cartoon. Things quickly snowballed, and I found myself in the unenviable position of having to defend my work against misinterpretation and over-analysis by critics of an unusually dogmatic and inflexible nature.

Fiona’s assumptions in her article are just that – assumptions. Her interpretation is subjective, and light-years away from anything I actually intended. The implication that this cartoon seeks to trivialise sexual assault, ridicule its victims, and discourage them from reporting crimes is appalling and defamatory.

I am mortified by the thought that a rape victim could be re-traumatised by reading that single panel, and would urge them to seek professional counselling if they are not already doing so. The contact numbers for services available to victims of sexual violence should’ve been published a month ago, when the response was first commissioned.

I realise everyone is sick to death of this debate. I’m not seeking to prolong it, I’m just tired of the personal abuse. I’m attending the NZ Comics Festival this weekend, and anyone who wishes to talk to me face-to-face about these issues is more than welcome.

So, what now?

The above letter is my final statement on this fucking stupid affair. You can continue to follow the childish insults, insane arguments and barefaced lies in the comments section of the online version of the Response article… but why on earth would you want to? It was humming tonight, and it might be busy for a few more days. Eventually they’ll turn the comments box off, and that’ll be that.

Life is too short. Of course, you need to have a life to realise that.

* How about something about Islam next? Kidding!

On and on and on…

Posted in Deep Thought, Jitterati, The Rake's Progress on March 29, 2010 by brunswick

For the past month I’ve been dreading Mondays, which is the only thing I share with Garfield apart from our basic colour.

I’m in a neutral mood right now. I haven’t seen the Salient letter page yet. My letter, the only response I’m going to make in print, is going to be there. I lost some punctuation in transferring it from Word to e-mail. Hopefully I don’t sound like too much of a moron.

I’m going into town to drop off the Jitterati book (New! Improved! Edited slightly!) at the printers, and detour through Vic to pick up a copy. People with long memories and too much time on their hands are clogging up the “comments” section on Salient’s website with nonsensical posts under the names of my old cartoon characters.

Life is strange. Wish me luck.

In which some things may have changed

Posted in Lovely pictures, The Rake's Progress on March 27, 2010 by brunswick

I found an interesting Salient editorial from 2004:
Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Offensive

Note how criticism of a controversial cartoon is dealt with, efficiently and with wit. Note how the readers are assumed to be intelligent grownups. How many critical letters did it take for this editorial to be written?


See, their critical faculties work after all.

Posted in The Rake's Progress on March 25, 2010 by brunswick

I’ve been following the comments on The First Year’s Progress: A Response with some interest, as you might imagine. There’s been something of an explosion in the past 24 hours, finally there’s comments from intelligent people with minds of their own and no particular agenda who are brave enough to evaluate the evidence of their own eyes and articulate different opinions.

Which is nice.

Is this closure? Finally? Or the start of another round?

Posted in A Good Whinge, Lovely pictures, The Rake's Progress on March 22, 2010 by brunswick

Exactly a month after that benighted cartoon was published, Salient have printed the next episode (see above) and a response article which highlights the services available to victims of sexual violence in Wellington. That is the good news.

The First Year’s Progress: A Response

I find myself reading this carefully-phrased article, and feeling absolutely nothing. Obviously there’s a part of me that wants to respond to the bits I don’t agree with, but who cares what I have to say? I’ve kept out of the argument on the letters page. Is this going to lead to more letters? Will people have forgotten about it after the Easter break?

I’m so very tired of this issue, and yet, unlike other commentators, I can’t step away. I can’t just pop up and say something defamatory, wrong, unsubstantiated, malicious, bitchy, illogical or insane, and then vanish. This has my name on it. I don’t have anything, except for my name. People are making assumptions about me, my character, my “vindictive intentions”. I can’t say anything in my defence which the people who have issues with this cartoon will actually believe, so why bother?

So, dear reader, what would you do?

EDIT: I’ve just read it again, very carefully, trying to unravel the meaning of the more circumlocutory sentences. How could this take a month to write, and yet be so poorly proofread? The implication that I am trying to trivialise sexual assault, re-traumatise victims, and discourage them from reporting the crime, is outrageous.

This might nearly be over

Posted in A Good Whinge, The Rake's Progress on March 8, 2010 by brunswick

A much more moderate collection of views in this week’s Salient letters. The only one that really made me wince was the one by ‘Henry’, suggesting that the length of the First-Year’s dress is responsible for the unwanted male attention she’s receiving. I’m assuming this letter was meant to deliberately annoy people, and I only hope no one is dumb enough to respond. There was a very thoughtful letter from BCW pointing out that raising awareness may not be a bad thing. I really could have done with more considered feedback like that.

So, what’s next? Salient’s response article on why sexual assault is not to be condoned hasn’t yet appeared, crucially missing the dangerous partying season at the start of the academic year, when it would’ve done the most good. The woman who I presume will be the article’s author has been kind enough to respond (in the comments) to my cruel fisking of some of the more opaque paragraphs of her letter in last week’s issue.

Gallingly, one of my less reasonable critics (the one who charged me with not engaging with criticism of my cartoon, then deflected the inquiry of a perfectly reasonable commenter by accusing her of being a “straw woman”) was called up by the editor of Magneto for misrepresenting a controversial article he wrote last year, and after doing her research properly (and being threatened with legal action) is now singing Magneto’s praises.

My friends are sick of hearing about this. Salient is sick of dealing with it. Facebook User Operations have lost their temper and are starting to say some decidedly non-Facebook things in their correspondence with me. The VUWSA Women’s Group is sick of it, and apparently starting to feel a little embarrassed as well.

Is it nearly over?

Rough sketch for ‘The Lawyer’s Progress’

Posted in Lovely pictures, The Rake's Progress on March 7, 2010 by brunswick

This won’t appear in Salient for a few weeks, if at all, but I thought I should give critics sufficient time to rev up their outrage engines by pointing out that not only is the protagonist of The Lawyer’s Progress a woman, but a Pacific Island woman.

Please. Please. Please. Get a life.

Posted in The Rake's Progress, Utter Trivia on March 4, 2010 by brunswick

Those of you with a low tolerance for rampant fuckwittery may wish to skip this post.

Copyright violation notice
(from me to Facebook on 25th February)

To: The Facebook Team
Subject: Copyright Notification Complaint: #92351305

Location on fb network: (VUWSA Women’s Group photo page)
Description of copyrighted work:The First-Year’s Progress’ by Grant Buist, a cartoon published by the Wellington student newspaper ‘Salient’.
How copyright infringed: This cartoon has been uploaded to Facebook from my website without permission, and is being used to make unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations against me.

(from uploader to Facebook)

Material removed: Thoroughly attributed copy of cartoon already published on website by the author. I did not make any attempt to say this was my own work, and actually specifically discussed it’s authorship by the artist. This person is usually very keen for his work to be discussed in other blogs and websites, as he is a shameless self-promoter.
Location on fb: It was posted to a university women’s group page, for information of the members of that group.
Why Mistake: Because it was germaine to the in debate which it was located. It is also the artists common practice to have his work referenced very widely by other bloggers/writers.

Notification of counter-notification
(from Facebook to me on March 4th)

Hi Grant,

We received the following counter-notification relating to content that we removed at your request. Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § section 512(g)(2) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), we will replace or cease disabling access to the removed material in 10 business days unless you file an action seeking to restrain the user from further infringing your rights.

You may provide us with notice of any such action by sending us a copy via reply email or sending it to our designated agent at: (Facebook’s office address)

(from me to Facebook on March 4th)

Dear Facebook Team,

Thank you for alerting me of this counter-notification. I apologise for this waste of your time. I have absolutely no idea how I would go about filing an action restraining this particular user from infringing my rights, but I’d love to know.

Please note that according to your own terms of use, when a user uploads an image to your site, they have to certify that they “have the right to distribute these photos”. This user does not have to right to distribute this image. Attribution is irrelevant, as is the issue of my shamelessness.

This user has already posted a link to this image to three other websites, and is using it to defame my character. You have already had to remove libellous personal comments from this user on the VUWSA Women’s Group page, in violation of Section 3.6 of your Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

If this user is allowed to post this image again, she will use it to further an ugly personal vendetta against me which has now spilled into a public arena, detracting from the positive work the VUWSA Women’s Group does with her embarrassing lies and accusations.  I would appeal to you to stop enabling the actions of a disturbed person who desperately needs professional treatment.


Overall, that could’ve been worse.

Posted in Bloody brilliant observations, Cartoon stuff, The Rake's Progress on March 1, 2010 by brunswick

I’m not going to fisk the Salient letters because life is too short*. Let’s just say that I totally agreed with their criticism of me and my cartoon, except for the bits that specifically mention me or my cartoon.

I’m relishing the irony of unintentionally producing a cartoon so controversial that the next episode has to be bumped for space reasons because of the letters of complaint.

Three of the letters** show signs of reason, and they’re entitled to their opinions, even if I think some of their basic assumptions regarding my intentions are wrong, as I’ve previously detailed.

I should mention, with regards to the one supportive letter, that the cartoon doesn’t represent “alcohol induced promiscuity”. I mentioned alcohol a few days ago because alcohol is a factor in most assault incidents, but there’s no alcohol shown in the cartoon, nor promiscuity, so that was accidentally complicating the issue, which is obviously something we don’t need here.

My response to the letter which accuses me of “a deliberate attempt to belittle and scare young students, and to create a subliminal awareness that rape is all around us, that women are responsible, and that hordes of young men are hardly to be held accountable for the effect a short dress may have on them”… and that’s one hell of an interpretation… is to refer the interested reader to a selection of my previous blog posts which help put this particular individual’s complaint into context.


Working Conditions June 8th 2009
The Final Straw (June 23rd 2009)
A brief dip into normality (June 29th 2009)
Cute happy smiley thoughts of positive goodness (July 7th 2009)
Good news & bad news & WTF? (July 9th 2009)
Tick… Tick… (July 24th 2009)
Hera Hjardottir at the Fringe Bar (July 25th 2009)
Ding! Dong! etc. (July 26th 2009)
Another day, another threatening letter (August 11th 2009
*Oh, okay, just one paragraph. Excuse my indulgence:

The depiction of the woman in the cartoon as completely powerless and scared, having to block the door is highly suggestive that sexual assault is ok in the context of orientation week.

What? It does? How, exactly?

Further, it suggests that the victim is responsible for fighting off the rapist or sexual harasser.

Um… because Batman was busy? I think this means she shouldn’t be responsible for fighting off her attacker, because she shouldn’t be being attacked in the first place. I don’t think this reasoning would work in a real-life situation.

**Including the supportive letter. There was supposed to be a second one, but it vanished.

The dust settles until Monday

Posted in Deep Thought, The Rake's Progress on February 25, 2010 by brunswick

I thought everything would be different a day later. The cartoon is still bluntly described on several blogs as a “gang rape cartoon” with no qualification, but the lecturing on Victim Feminism 101 seems to have settled down. Defamatory personal comments made about me on Facebook have been removed for violating their “Statement of Rights & Responsibilities”, which is nice.

The Women’s Group is being congratulated for raising the issue of sexual assault. Unfortunately their article in Salient won’t be published until March 8th, well after the initial rush of dangerous student parties are over. I would hope it doesn’t mention the cartoon, but if it’s a response article that’ll be inevitable. I’m also not looking forward to the letter page on Monday. I want to defend myself, but at the same time Salient is already exhausted by this week’s damage control, and someone unconnected to the office has candidly referred to it as “wasting time”, which made me feel good about myself. The Hipster’s Progress won’t appear next week for lack of space, which is a shame, because it’ll look as though I’ve been censored.

Something that concerns me is that future episodes of The Rake’s Progress are going to come under an unusual amount of scrutiny by people looking for things to complain about. The Rake’s Progress is set in Wellington, in the real world, where unpleasant things happen to people. The audience for this cartoon is relatively sheltered. Half of the Rakes are female. How can I show their rise and fall without causing offence?

For example, I’m writing The Lawyer’s Progress now. This is based on the experiences of many women I know who work in law. Although most law graduates are women, their office environments are often remarkably sexist. Most women lawyers put up with this, because it’s the only way to continue their career. Can I show this without it being interpreted as condoning sexism?

I don’t want to sound precious here*, but I’m not going to censor myself. I’m going to continue producing content which I judge to be acceptable to an intelligent and reasonable audience. I’ll probably produce extra episodes, so if Salient doesn’t want to run something they have an alternative. I’m not going to pander to the sensibilities of extremists. That’s no way to live.

*Okay, okay, that ship sailed a long time ago…