animals

Mindy J. and Andrea F. sent in a really interesting project by artist Nathan Vincent.  Vincent recreates masculine items and ideas with feminine crafts in order to upset the gender binary.  He explains:

My work explores gender permissions and the challenges that arise from straying from the prescribed norms. It questions the qualities of gender by considering what constitutes masculine and feminine. It critiques stereotypical gender mediums by creating “masculine objects” using “feminine processes” such as crochet, sewing, and applique.

For example:


More examples of his work at his site.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The image above, of a bird rescued from the gulf and cleaned of oil, may ease the ache in our hearts, but research suggests that euthanizing the birds would be more humane.

Environmental biologist and expert on oil clean-up, Silvia Gaus, explained that:

Catching and cleaning oil-soaked birds oftentimes leads to fatal amounts of stress for the animals… Furthermore, forcing the birds to ingest coal solutions — or Pepto Bismol, as animal-rescue workers are doing along the Gulf Coast — in an attempt to prevent the poisonous effects of the oil is ineffective… The birds will eventually perish anyway from kidney and liver damage (paraphrased at Speigel).

Further, birds who are relocated are often so disoriented that they die anyway, not able to re-establish survival routines in their new environment.

Gaus claims that 99% of the rescued and cleaned birds will die, usually within about seven days, and it will be a more painful death that takes longer than if they’d just been left alone.  As a consequence, many recommend quick and painless euthanization.  A National Geographic article complicates the story, reporting that survival rates depend on characteristics of the spill, but still reports that scientists largely have little hope that many birds rescued from the Gulf will survive.  A better strategy for saving birds, they say, is trying to keep them out of the oil in the first place.

If cleaning birds is unlikely to save them, and euthanizing them ultimately more humane, why are we cleaning birds?

The obvious answer is that it is good for BP’s public relations.  We feel better when we see the shiny oil-free feathers; those images make us feel like there is hope for the animals caught in the spill.  It makes it look as if BP is really doing something good.  In this case, why would BP care if the de-oiling worked?  They benefit whether the birds die (a slower, more painful) death or not.  It costs about $700 to clean an oiled pelican, but that may be money well spent.

There may be an even more nefarious reason.  There are fines and penalties for killing wildlife that can be levied against corporations.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, for example, specifies that corporations can be fined up to $500,000 if responsible for the death of a brown pelican.  Perhaps if the bird dies after release, without direct evidence that its death was caused by oil ingestion (without an expensive autopsy), then BP will not be vulnerable to those fines.  Further, the total number of dead birds attributed to their spill be lower; those numbers, instead, will be in the column marked “saved.”

UPDATE: Jay Holcomb at the International Bird Rescue Research Center disagrees with Gaus and other pessimistic scientists.  (Thanks to Paul for the link.)  It may also be that techniques for cleaning the birds have improved over time.  So the 1% number is probably wrong, or at least needs to be qualified.  Still, I think BP’s interests still apply, but it’s overstating it to say that de-oiling is bad for birds.  Thanks to everyone in the comments who added contrasting information!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Dmitriy T.M. and Andrew L. sent a link to a collection of post-World War I men’s magazine covers. They are a window into a time when being a man was clearly a very distinct achievement, but much less related to consumption than it is today.

Today’s men’s magazines emphasize control over oneself and the conquest of women, as do these vintage magazines, but instead of tests of strength, cunning, and fighting ability, they emphasize conquest through consumption. The message is to consume the right exercise, the right products (usually hygiene or tech-related), the right advice on picking up women and, well, the right women. In contrast, these old magazines pit man against nature or other men; consumption has not yet colonized the idea of masculinity.

View a selection of the covers at The Art of Manliness.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A 6-year-old I know brought home a reading assignment from kindergarten. It’s called The New Nest, by Sandra Iversen, with illustrations by Peter Paul Bajer. An innocent tale of Mama Bird and Papa Bird working together to build a nest from 20 twigs, straw and wool. At the end, Mama Bird is sitting on her eggs wearing pearls. Papa Bird is in a white collar and blue tie.

It’s curious to use men’s and women’s accessories (tie, necklace) to identify the gender of the couple, when the species itself provides a reasonable degree of sexual dimorphism.

That’s seems comparable to the dimorphism found in humans.

Using both gendered clothes and bodies is not necessary, but together they are a powerful teaching tool for children, forming a lesson on the concordance of gender and sex differences: matching the different bodies with the appropriately different clothes.

This book is actually featured in a write-up on teaching reading from the journal The Reading Teacher.

I don’t know what the intentions of the article writers were, but there is nothing in there about teaching about sexual dimorphism, or gender norms and practices.

Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Modern Western cultures are argued to be individualistic. That is, most of us in these countries are presumed to prioritize our own or our immediate family’s goals, as opposed to more widely communal ones, and be motivated to support policies and initiatives that help ourselves, as opposed to others or, even, everyone.

I thought this ad for a frogs exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium, sent in by fds, nicely illustrated this logic. Why should we care about the fact that frogs are going extinct? We should care because their absence will negatively affect our bubble bathing experience.

Compare this ad to an unusual one from the University of Minnesota that suggests that you get a flu shot for the benefit of everyone.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I can imagine a world in which gender difference did not translate into gender inequality… a world in which feminized tasks — nurturing others, creating beautiful and comfortable homes, cooking delicious, nutritious meals, and adorning oneself for the pleasure of oneself and others — were actually valued and, importantly, both respected and compensated in ways that reflected that value.

But alas. We don’t live in a world in which gender difference co-exists with gender equality. We live in a world in which boys go to the moon; and girls are princesses…

…at least, according to these “cookie pans” sent in by both Ash and Karen A.:

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I’ve got a special treat for you today: an interview with artist Nathan Meltz about his pieces on industrial food production. Nathan has shown his art in group shows around the country.  He received a Master’s degree in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently a graduate student at SUNY-Albany, where he will be graduating this spring with his MFA.  He lives in upstate New York with his wife, Abby Kinchy, and their infant son Aldo. His artistic and musical exploits can be followed at The House of Tomorrow.

I went to grad school with Abby, so that’s how I knew about Nathan’s work. As a sociologist who specialized in food issues and rural communities, I immediately loved these pieces and thought many of our readers would too, so I convinced Nathan to let me post an interview and some of my favorites. (And be forgiving of my amateurish interview questions. I am not a Creative Type, and my general reaction to art I like is “You made a pretty!”)

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Animal Farm
ANIMALFARMBLUE

What drew you to the issue of food?

I have to give a lot of credit to Abby, who is a sociologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and has done a lot of research on controversies surrounding genetically-modified corn and canola. [She’s currently working on a book about conflicts over genetically modified crops in Canada and Mexico.–Gwen].  A lot of the themes in my art developed from kitchen-table discussions we had while in grad school in Madison.  What was technology doing to agriculture? And then, from my end, what would it look like?

How did you come up with the idea of representing food products as machines?

I wanted a visual metaphor that would reveal tech taking over plants and animals.  Unfortunately, our most current tech can be hard to visualize.  A series of ones and zeros?  Some sort of digital technology?  I decided to combine elements of Dada collage with early modernist German machine aesthetic [Oh, yes, the early modernist German machine aesthetic! Of course!–Gwen]  to create my own visual vocabulary. One that, while not exactly 21st century, would act as a symbol of science and technology for the viewer/audience.

What does your Animal Farm series convey about our modern food system?

Waiting for My Mechanical BullCOWs

Enviropig
enviropig_paper

In my machine world, animals are put on assembly lines, cramped together in feed lots, and, in the case of the chickens in The Chicken Coup animation, reside in an agricultural system designed by sadists.  They all look the same because there is no diversity on the factory farm.

    The Chicken Coup, pt. 1

    The Chicken Coup, pt. 2

Many people have at least some knowledge of slaughterhouses and the treatment of animals, so the Animal Farm series is probably fairly accessible. But O Canola! is, I think, more complex and harder to understand if you’ve never thought much about bioengineering before, or why the song “O Canada” would be particularly meaningful in the context of discussing canola and bioengineering.

O Canola!
Ocanola

O Canola! was a project long in the making, very much piggybacking on the research Abby was doing at the time. I try to tell the story of Canada’s GMO [genetically modified organism] canola contamination* in a visual form. The clever riffing on the Canadian National Anthem (which Abby thought of) is meant to reflect the nationalist tensions inherent in the controversy, where a hybrid plant created by the Canadian government during WWII to produce a mechanical lubricant at the local level would years later be threatened by GMOs produced by agribusiness.

What about Food for Fuel?

Food for Fuel
3

Food for Fuel came after news reports kept coming in about food shortages around the world, particularly in Mexico, because so much edible food was being turned into fuel for vehicles.  The message on this one is pretty straightforward.

Food for Fuel, along with Animal Farm, definitely reflects my interest in Agitprop.  At the time I made these, I was sharing a studio with printmaker/activist Josh MacPhee, a member of the Just Seeds print collective, which promotes socially activist printmaking.  A lot of the work he was doing really influenced me, and I think these two prints reflect my desire to have a clear social message.

How have people reacted to the series? Do you get a sense that people react more forcefully, or emotionally, to the ones about animals than the ones about crops?

Reaction has been positive, or at least the reaction I hear about.  A lot of the prints have traveled around in various shows.  I think the animation The Chicken Coup has maybe received a little more attention than the prints among the art audience.  Static prints on paper have a hard time competing with moving images with sound, music, etc.  And I don’t think people care any less about the crop-based works than the animal ones.  I find people who are really into food/agriculture issues care just as forcefully about what is happening to corn as they do cows.

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* GMO contamination occurs when genetically modified seeds migrate to fields that were not intentionally planted with them, an increasingly common occurrence. Aside from the problems this can cause farmers who want to sell their products as specifically not GMO, and concerns about the ecological effects that could occur if modified genes spread into other varieties (or even related wild species), it also puts farmers at legal risk. GMO crops such as marketed under the Roundup Ready label and engineered to be immune to the effects of Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup, are patented. Farmers are not allowed to plant them without buying a license (including saving seeds from their own crop to plant the following year, a traditional practice of many farmers to eliminate the cost of buying seeds each year; so-called “terminator” varieties are even engineered to produce only sterile seeds, thus ensuring farmers must buy fertile seeds from the manufacturer annually). Monsanto has sued farmers for patent infringement in cases where a field was contaminated with Monsanto’s GMO seeds when they blew in from a neighboring field. Conversely, a group of Canadian organic farmers sued Monsanto on the grounds that genetic contamination had made it impossible for them to sell their products as organic.

If you’re interested in the topic, you might try to get a copy of Abby’s new article, “Anti-Genetic Engineering Activism and Scientized Politics in the Case of ‘Contaminated’ Mexican Maize,” Agriculture and Human Values.


Binyavanga Wainaina does an excellent job, in this 3-minute video, describing ways that “Africa” tends to be written about in the West. See how many of the tropes you recognize:

To paraphrase Jose, at Thick Culture, it’s important to be engaged with the world, but our engagement shouldn’t be entirely on our terms. And, especially, not terms in which the Western world gets to construct itself as the savior of the less fortunate (e.g., Avatar).

Such ideas make it seem as if underdeveloped parts of the world are somehow inherently deficient (culturally or otherwise). When, in fact, insofar as underdeveloped parts of Africa or other continents need saving, it is partly (largely?) because of (1) a history of colonialism that stole their resources and disrupted their societies and (2) the current global economic system that continues to put them at a devastating disadvantage.

See also: The Single Story of “Africa”

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.