AustLit logo
Issue Details: First known date: 2019... 2019 Mary Leunig - The Activist Art of Blood and Guts
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'This article examines maternal representation in the Drawings of artist Mary Leunig, positioning her work as a form of activism. Images offer collective and unspoken knowledge, and have a vast capacity to infiltrate perceptions. Recognising the power of the visual to convey narratives that challenge the established culturally dominant ideologies, I argue that Leunig visually reveals the damaging gaps between mothering, and motherhood as institution. For over three decades, her published drawings have confronted normative and accepted representations of mothering and motherhood. Her drawings represent her personal experience as a mother and also the influence of motherhood as an institution upon her experience of mothering. Leunig's drawings and their stories identify the lack of a matrifocal society, one within which, as Miriam Johnson put it in Strong Mothers, Weak Wives, mothering could be "a role that is culturally elaborated and valued." I identify themes that relate to Leunig's maternal experiences, and also the arguments of scholars critical of the domestic status quo who question mothering's traditional representations, in which women are asexual, natural caregivers. Leunig's drawings vividly show her preoccupation with the high price paid by mothers for domestic accountability, bearing responsibility for the work of care and, significantly, the emotional price also of the maternal relationship. Her drawings visualise mothers as both martyrs and the surviving heroes of a war-amidst chaotic domesticity and a family life in a deep separation from the world outside. Leunig has a difficult story and visualises difficult stories, exposing herself and baring all-her art epitomises the term "blood and guts," signifying vigour, violence or fierceness. Her visceral style may alienate some audiences but, I suggest, perceived transgression is both necessary to and emblematic of feminist history, and it also demonstrates her activism. Leunig's five books challenge an embedded view of mothering, exhibiting publicly the essential outrage that, in the feminist movement, has been instrumental to social revolution and transformational change.' (Publication abstract) 

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Hecate vol. 45 no. 1/2 Carole Ferrier (editor), Jena Woodhouse (editor), 2019 21220789 2019 periodical issue

    'The house husbands or SNAGS, a new phenomenon, did not see this as a permanent role and most, sooner or later, tired of a lack of life in the public sphere; despite a brief fashion for the male population's public job being private Home Duties, many men longed to re-enter the usual world; one in which important or sometimes stimulating things went on. The Australian Institute of Family Studies (in the government Department of Social Services) has regularly researched attitudes to gender roles within households in relation to things such as divided domestic work and has found, in its surveys, considerable support for shared housework. Other factors are in play in many countries, especially the incidence of child marriage (650 million girls) and of Female Genital Mutilation (imposed upon 200 million girls), the latter increasingly administered by actual health services rather than the stereotypical old, female relative with a razor blade and a sewing basket. The witches and midwives of centuries ago were one thing (documented, for example, in Barbara Ehrenreich's 1973 Witches, Midwives and Nurses) but more recently, in COVID-19 times, women are much in demand in their jobs/professions as health workers, and have been given enthusiastic encouragement to lead their working life in close contact with often viralent infections, as "essential workers"-a category that seems to have benefits for the bourgeoisie who belong to it, but not many for nurses working long and demanding shifts, wearing often-uncomfortable Personal Protective Equipment, in hospitals and infection-testing clinics.' (Carole Ferrier, Editorial introduction) 

    pg. 77-100, 309
Last amended 5 Mar 2021 06:55:47
77-100, 309 Mary Leunig - The Activist Art of Blood and Gutssmall AustLit logo Hecate