‘Sexual harassment’ at issue in the funnies, 1981

News of cartoonist Mort Walker’s death came not long after I happened onto a lengthy 1981 letter Walker wrote to Charlotte Observer features editor Bob Ashley defending a newly controversial character in Beetle Bailey:

“I’ve been using Miss Buxley once a week for about ten years and never got a complaint really until about three months ago when editors and women began calling me a sexist and the content of my gags ‘sexual harassment’…

“I wouldn’t want to call it a conspiracy, but there seems to be a ‘Concerted Effort’ to make me drop Miss Buxley….I’m not sure I should cave in to such a minority and deprive my mass readership of its enjoyment….”

Miss Buxley survived, although (eventually) in toned-down circumstances. As noted in the Washington Post’s obit: “In 1997, responding to criticism from feminists who objected to Halftrack’s longtime ogling of Miss Buxley, Mr. Walker had the elderly general attend sensitivity training. Gone were gags such as the one in which Halftrack approves of the three-martini lunch that enables him to see double Miss Buxleys.”