Cross-posted at Jezebel.
Oh how I love a good example of our tendency to gender cats and dogs. See, for example, my cat person/dog person rant and our post about an adoption campaign arguing that it can be manly to own a cat.
Josh Pearson sent in another colorful example from The Blue Buffalo Trading Co., a company that makes pet foods. The company subtly genders dogs and cats with blue and pink, respectively:
More, the language on the site sexes the animals themselves. They consistently refer to cats as “she” and “her” and dogs as “he” and “him.” For example, the text reads:
I hope everyone recognizes this as bizarre. Dogs and cats come in both hes and shes (that how there are more cats and dogs every year). And notice that we tend to stereotype dogs as more like the stereotypical woman (dependent, passive, and happily subordinated) and cats like stereotypical men (independent, self-serving hunters), even as we masculinize dogs and feminize cats. So there is some serious contradiction going on here. We gender everythingthough, so why not dogs and cats!Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Vince Prygoski — April 22, 2011
and the dog's name is "Blue" and the cat's name is "Floyd." As in "Pink Floyd," perhaps?????
Julie — April 22, 2011
I work at PetSmart. All of the cat grooming tools are pink. The dog grooming tools are black or blue. It's entirely ridiculous.
Lizrd — April 22, 2011
I think the feminization of cats comes from women's characterization in relation to religion. During and after the Renaissance, cats were reviled as agents of the devil, coinciding conveniently with the highly feminized witch trials that existed in Europe and early America. (See Defenestration of Cats) Cats became a characterization of "bad" character traits in women: mischievous, disloyal, prone to stray, and with a tendency towards sin. (see: Eve) Dog's loyalty, in contrast, was seen as masculine because it was connected to a perceived masculine strength in character and a loyalty and strength to a deity, namely the christian god. Dogs and Men are inherently good. Cats and women are inherently bad.
Women association with cats today is likely residue of ancient western hatred and mistrust for cats, and, of course, "ill-behaving" women.
Don — April 22, 2011
I'm a man who has two cats that I love and my wife hates. Thanks for making us feel like freaks!
Kit M. — April 22, 2011
"And notice that we tend to stereotype dogs as more like the stereotypical woman (dependent, passive, and happily subordinated) and cats like stereotypical men (independent, self-serving hunters), even as we masculinize dogs and feminize cats. So there is some serious contradiction going on here."
I know what you're saying, but actually, when you put it that way, it doesn't seem that contradictory. What self-respecting man would put up with an autocratic pet? Certainly it's more manly to pair up with an obedient, feminine animal.
Zula — April 22, 2011
Plus, putting "BLUE for cats" in bright pink text just looks odd.
Meg — April 22, 2011
Anyone else think that "pink" looks more like purple?
Carlos — April 22, 2011
And it has happened for year. I remember as a child, assuming that all dogs were male and all cats were female. Interesting.
v — April 22, 2011
Um, but cats and dogs are male and female. So when speaking in the singular you must choose her or she. We no longer refer to animals as if they are non-sentient 'it' objects.
CincoGatos — April 22, 2011
I feed my cats Blue Buffalo - it really is a good food. Never even thought about the packaging because the bags we buy are blue. The hairball formula for cats comes in an all blue bag. Each formula/flavor has its own color actually.
I don't think its pink above, it looks purple which is a color of royalty and lets face it, cats can be high maintenace like kings and queens! HA! :)
But I would agree that there is a huge stereotype that guys shouldn't be cat lovers. That is so ridiculous!!
Magnetic Crow — April 22, 2011
Indeed. We have two cats in the house, both male, but they consistently get referred to as "she" by visitors. Even when I correct them, they tend to continue calling my cat a she, because he's orange and white with blue eyes and a small physique, which I guess looks feminine next to my roomie's giant black cat. Not that it really matters (they're neutered and all, and being referred to as female is *not* an insult) but it's bemusing.
Also, my roommate and husband are both male but love cats.
Even ridiculous, demonstrably false stereotypes cling deep.
Re: what to call them, a number of cat manuals I read before adopting switched it up every now and again. Some chapters it was 'he', some 'she'.
Zipper — April 22, 2011
It seems I've been immune from the seemingly common experience of seeing cats as feminine and dogs as masculine. But I am a veterinary student, so I do extensively interact with many dogs and cats and have never been interested in generalizing them. Anyone who works a lot with animals have the same experience?
Syd — April 22, 2011
I've noticed this, and also a more disturbing trend involving animals and gender: I see people sometimes automatically refer to kittens and puppies as "she," but adult dogs and cats as "he."
I also see it based on the look of the animal (pit bulls are boys because they're mean and scary, pomeranians are girls because they're small and fluffy, golden retrievers can be either because they're big but pretty-looking). And for less familiar animals (dogs and cats are often personalized). Reptiles, I almost always see them referred to as boys (scaly, slimy, green), while birds and some smaller mammals are "girls" (fluffy and docile, or colorful and singing). Rodents and snakes tend to be 'it's though.
Thomas — April 22, 2011
I remember as a little boy I really wanted the stuffed animal cats that were marketed to girls (they were called pound purries) instead of the stuffed animal dogs that all of my friends (boys) had (called pound puppies).
When I was young I was very much a cat person and I had to overcome a lot of apprehension about wanting a "girl's toy."
On a related note, I was young enough that the story of the velveteen rabbit made a big impression on me. What I really wanted was a real cat, but my parents didn't want one. So I got a stuffed animal cat and tried to love it enough so that it would become real like in the velveteen rabbit story. When the stuffed animal stayed stuffed I thought that had failed to love it enough and felt pretty bad about it actually. It was around the same time that I thought I was praying without enough faith because my prayers were not coming true. These two phenomena are linked for me.
maestra — April 22, 2011
I have a pit bull puppy (female) and have had lots of people tell me she looks and sounds manly or like a boy. Um, she's a DOG. She barks. What, is she supposed to have lipstick? Would that make her look like a girl dog? It's bizarre.
Liriana — April 25, 2011
In German the fact that dogs have a generic masculine "der Hund" whereas cats are grammatically female "die Katze" makes it even more complicated. I have a male cat, but everybody refers to him as a she because cats are grammatically female, even if their (biological) sex (in German there's only one word for sex and gender "Geschlecht") is in fact male. When I tell people he is actually not a she and to use the male pronoun, quite often I'm being told that "she's" "only" an animal, that doesn't need a specific pronoun and that the generic feminine for cats would be enough. So an animal is not considered to be an individual in terms of having his or her own gender pronoun.
This even though there would be a possibility to distinguish between male and female cats and dogs, since there's a term to explicitly mark a cat as male "der Kater", whereas "die Katze" is also the term for an individual female cat.
Sheena Leversedge Wood — April 1, 2013
in the UK we have a company that does dog and cat treats. the cats are called "good girl" and the dogs are called "good boy"
and that's always baffled me, even from a small child.