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Not all neanderthals are knuckle draggers

I have a goal each day when I sit down at my drawing table. “How can I bring a smile or, better yet, some laughter to the folks who are faithful newspaper comics readers?” I have had the goal for as long as I have been drawing my daily cartoon. With so much bad news, I think it’s a pretty worthy goal.

So imagine my surprise when I received an email from a Daily Tidings reader accusing me — and this is putting it very mildly — of promoting misogyny and domestic violence and hoping it would be the beginning of the end of my career because the Daily Tidings would no longer be publishing my work. The offending cartoon features a Neanderthal pulling his wife, in cartoon trope fashion, by the hair, and she is telling him not to forget to pick up some road rash cream on the way home.

Inappropriate? Nowadays, it probably is. But to have such a horrible accusation leveled at me — one that, for all practical purposes, lumped me with all the disgusting “Hollywood people” and other despicable individuals who have been deservedly shunned for their treatment of women recently — left me stunned.

I responded to the reader, and we traded a few emails. The reader sent me a link to a very illuminating article by Polly Evans published in the New Statesman, titled “How to spot an intellectual misogynist (and what to do with one).” I found the article informative, helpful and educational and thanked the reader for sharing it with me.

In May, I published a social commentary cartoon in which one Neanderthal is commenting to another Neanderthal about a third Neanderthal who is dragging his wife by the hair. His comment: “Yes, I know we’re all primitive knuckle draggers, but it’s guys like him that give us a bad name.” Not all knuckle draggers are abusers. No one complained to me or to any newspaper about that cartoon, as far as I know.

Again, my purpose is to give people a reason to smile. I have enjoyed a very good relationship with the Daily Tidings for many years and even did two live events several years ago that were hosted by the Daily Tidings and Southern Oregon University. The events were very well received and very well attended.

I can now understand why some readers found the cartoon objectionable. The cartoon “hints at domestic violence,” Donna Peremes, former comics editor of The Washington Post, was quoted as saying in the Nov. 19 Daily Tidings editorial. I agree. It is time to retire the hair-pulling knuckle draggers.

Mankind has evolved since the days of the Neanderthal, and humor is always evolving, too. I just hope we never lose our ability to make one another laugh.

I’m disappointed that I have been dropped by the Daily Tidings and won’t be able to share my daily dose of humor with residents of Ashland after so many years in the paper, but I hope our evolution always includes the willingness to communicate — civilly, respectfully and with humor.

Leigh Rubin is the creator of the comic “Rubes.”