THROUGHOUT DONALD TRUMP’S presidency, Lady Justice has often been depicted as a victim of abuse and assault.
Perhaps no illustration of her during this administration, though, has resonated as strongly as the new cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon, as published this weekend in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.
Some social media users have called his image powerful and brilliant, disturbing and necessary, with one adding: “I can barely breathe myself.”
In MacKinnon’s cartoon, blindfolded Lady Justice is shown being pinned by Republican hands, her scales of justice lying on the bed and her mouth covered. The art references how professor Christine Blasey Ford has described being sexually assaulted in 1982. In her Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on Thursday, Ford repeated her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh was the attacker who covered her mouth during an assault when both were Maryland prep-school students. Kavanaugh has denied the accusation.
“I watched Dr. Ford‘s testimony,” MacKinnon tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs, “and felt like I was being strangled the whole time by the emotions it evoked.”
MacKinnon’s cartoon had been retweeted thousands of times by Saturday afternoon.
“As a cartoonist, I deal in symbols, and Lady Justice is a powerful one,” said MacKinnon, adding that it seemed to him that the Republican members of the committee wanted “to smother justice before it had a chance to be heard.”
The artwork is among at least several Kavanaugh/Ford cartoons that have invoked Lady Justice. And next week’s striking New Yorker magazine cover, by Spanish artist Ana Juan and titled “Unheard,” depicts a woman’s face in stark black-white-and-gray tones, save for the red hand that covers her mouth.
Ford “speaks for the women who have no voice,” Juan told the New Yorker. The artist has previously contributed to the comics anthology “Resist!” as launched by New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly shortly after Trump was elected.
Since Trump’s inauguration, numerous artists have rendered Lady Justice as a victim, or potential victim, of a predatory president — including such Pulitzer-winning cartoonists as Adam Zyglis of the Buffalo News and Nick Anderson of Washington Post Writers Group.
MacKinnon’s artwork, however, is more in the metaphorical vein of a controversial cartoon by South African artist Zapiro, published 10 years ago this month in the Sunday Times of Johannesburg. The cartoon, titled “The Rape of Lady Justice,” depicts four political entities holding her down for South African leader Jacob Zuma. The cartoon prompted international coverage, Human Rights Commission complaints and a lawsuit from Zuma that was eventually dropped.
In 2013, BuzzFeed contributor Victor Navasky, former editor and publisher of the Nation, chose Zapiro’s work as one of “15 Historic Cartoons That Changed the World.”
This post has been updated.