Don’t Duck Doonesbury

Leaving town for a week proved joyful. Traveling helps unbind the fetters of work and chores, forcing you outside the normal constraints of daily living.

My honey and I spent a week in Istanbul and Antalya, visiting the bustling bazaars and combing through the Roman ruins.

We avoided television, newspapers and magazines, attending instead to the call to prayer broadcasts and the hum of traffic in the Istanbul streets. We bathed our eyes and ears in moment-to-moment encounters rather than pay attention to media and politics.

On arriving home I discovered a hornet’s nest buzzing in the media community—which I’d ignored for a full week.

Seems Gary Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury was on the chopping block at my beloved daily newspaper, The Oregonian. The newspaper decided to skip the current strip in favor of a retreaded strip, offering readers a chance to view the censored cartoon on a website rather than on the inked pages.

Why the flap?

The strip tackles abortion and politics, beginning Monday, 12 March, with a scenario featuring a woman who is waiting for a sonogram, now required in Texas prior to receiving an abortion.

The clinic worker tells the woman to complete a form and that “A middle-aged, male state legislator will be with you in a minute.”

The next day’s strip shows the legislator confronting the woman and making some rude remarks. “Do your parents know you’re a slut?” he asks.

The Oregonian decided to pull the strip Monday, noting that some members of the staff “thought that author Garry Trudeau went over the line of good taste and humor with strips that were too graphic–in language and images–for the comics page.”

I saw no graphic images in Monday or Tuesday’s strips. As for language, “slut” was the term used by Rush Limbaugh last week when describing a woman who has recently testified before Congress in favor of having insurance cover birth control.

Most likely Trudeau is riffing on the term that has emerged as part of the social discourse on the current controversy.

You need not look far in the daily press to find material that will offend someone, but the role of the newspaper is to offer information, insight, and, yes, humor, even when judged as offensive.

Pity The Oregonian ducked in this case rather than meet the issue head on.

You can weigh in on the decision by linking to the website
And you can stay in touch with the comic at


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in censorship, ethics, framing, science, science communication and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Don’t Duck Doonesbury

  1. Pingback: Doonesbury on State Rape « polentical

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