Carolyn Steel answer this question with a long range view (and lots of fascinating information), and points out the problems in our supply chain, in this TED video:

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 am so a lover of everything dinosaur that my good friend Emily once nicknamed me “Lisaur.” She still calls me that. You can call me that, too.

Well too bad for me; or should I say, “Thank you, Everything Dinosaur, for being gracious enough to include girls in your website… by marking them as dinosaur-loving-in-a-girl-specific-way.”

The website, sent in by C.G.T. genders dinosaur-loving by having dinosaur everything and, then, a special link to “Dinosaurs for Girls.”


Because dinosaurs aren’t for girls, you see. Dinosaurs are for boys (which goes without saying), so we have to make an special space full of stuffed animals, origami, diaries, and necklaces for the girls.

But what is driving this?

We live in a world where girls are allowed to do boy things (play sports, wear pants, like cars, etc), but boys are simply not allowed to do girls things. When boys do girls things, they are considered sissies or fags or whathaveyou. Girlified things, then, can’t be sold on a gender-neutral website. And because girl things can’t be sold to boys, girl things must be segregrated, lest they contaminate the feminine-free space that we insist boys inhabit.

For an explanation of androcentrism, or the idea that boy things are good for everyone but girl things are only good for girls, see here.  And for examples of androcentrism, visit our posts here, here, and here.

UPDATE! Mike Walley at Everything Dinosaur sent us a thoughtful note in response to this post.  He explains the difficulty involved in balancing a gender-free site with the fact that parents and guardians, themselves, have gendered expectations.  It’s an important sociological point: Individuals and companies don’t make choices free of context, so they can’t just reject all gender norms without suffering consequences.

Dear Lisa,

We have watched with great interest the comments that have appeared on your blog site regarding our company Everything Dinosaur and the section of our site that refers to a specific section entitled dinosaurs for girls.  It is very encouraging to see such a lively debate, we do all we can to promote a positive role for women within the sciences and I have been fascinated to read the comments and views that have been expressed.  Rest assured, if any one of your readers wishes to contact us directly to gain further information with regards to our company mission we shall do all we can to help inform them with regards to our proactive approach to this subject.

It is interesting to note that one of your commentators picked up the relevance of the dinosaurs for girls with regards to search engines, one of the reasons for establishing this part of our website was to enable us to have a dialogue and raise the profile of gender issues within the sciences particularly the Earth sciences.  Our own research (admittedly based on a sample from the United Kingdom), identified a number of barriers that prevented parents and guardians from encouraging young girls (our target market is from 3 years of age), to take an interest in prehistoric animals. We wanted to find a way of addressing some of these issues and guided by our research programmes the concept of a specific search engine optimised area of the website came into being.

Ironically,  we are torn between acknowledging a need to recognise that dinosaurs are perfectly valid for girls and populating this particular section of our site with a wider range of items.  It is a matter of managing the expectations of many parents and guardians who find our site using search engine terms when they are looking for something specific for a girl, which in many cases can be as young as three years of age and they land specifically at this part of our site, before exploring the other sections. One of the important outcomes from our research was to ensure that other areas of our site were named in non-gender bias ways, for example, we have sections dedicated to “Young Scientist” and “Young Artist”, the objective here being to help breakdown perceptions and stereotypical barriers when considering how young children develop through creative play.

If you require further information, or indeed if you have any further queries I would be more than happy to assist you where I can.  In the meantime, please feel free to visit our web log – this is a free resource we set up many years ago with the purpose of helping to communicate information about palaeontology and other Earth Sciences.  I am sure you will find in the huge archive a number of articles related to girls and dinosaur, including a number that acknowledge the role of women in science and reflect our positive attitudes towards encouraging young girls to take a greater interest in Earth Sciences.


Mike Walley
Everything Dinosaur


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Eloriane sent in a photo shoot for V Magazine (September 2009) that is both fascinating and confounding.  I noticed two things:

First, while the women are more or less fully-clothed, the men are naked.  Really naked.  Well, about as naked as they could be.  But the effect is really eerie, with one model looking like some combination of distressed, surprised, and high in most of her shots.  It’s nothing like our previous post featuring a photo shoot with clothed women and naked men, where the women appear gleeful about the situation.  To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of it, but my instinct is that, for some reason, this is not reversing the gendered power dynamic we typically see.

Coincidentally, Elle P. sent in a Dolce & Gabbana ad to similar effect.  You can see it below as well.

Second, the photo spread is titled “Wild Things” and subtitled “Adopt a Neo-Hippie, Anything Goes Approach to Dressing with Furs, Fringe, and Everything Animal Print.”  Then the photo titles refer to American Indians (“Warrior Princess,” “Navajo Sun,” and maybe “Indigo Girl”), Asians (“Eastern Promises”), Gypsies (“Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves”), and Africans (“Tribal Council”) alongside animals (“Animal Instincts,” and “Wild Things,” of course), and Bohemians (“Boho in Paradise”; more akin to “neo-hippies”?).  So, again, we have the association of people of color with animals and human primitivity (here, here, and here)… even as no actual people of color show up in the photo shoot.

Images after the jump because WAY not safe for work:


My friend Larry, of The Daily Mirror, found some awesome old ads for Bull Durham tobacco. Here’s the original, with both a map of North America on his side and a scrotum that is partially obscured by still clearly present:

steer durham

Here’s the version that ran from 1919-1924. Notice the difference?


No more shocking reproductive organs! Also, he doesn’t have a map of North America on his side any more. As Larry says, clearly a subversive plot to try to symbolically emasculate the U.S., probably so the socialists could take over.

I do wonder what was going on during that particular time period that would make marketers at Bull Durham believe that a less anatomically correct version was necessary. Any thoughts (other than it being a subversive plot)?

More recently we saw men’s nipples airbrushed out of a Wrestle Mania billboard. On the other hand, testicles were added to a statue of Civil War General John H. Morgan sitting in his favorite horse, Bess…who, as you might have surmised, wasn’t a male horse and did not have testicles. But, you know, testicles made her look more appropriate for a military figure to ride.

I saw this footage of flatworm reproduction years ago on PBS and I was so excited when Robin H. sent it in!

Flatworms are hermaphroditic.  All flatworms can inseminate and be inseminated.  These flatworms also have two penises each. Flatworms are sexual.  That is, they reproduce sexually by finding a partner with which to trade genetic material.  (Asexual creatures do not trade genetic material, they reproduce by making copies of themselves.)

A flatworm reveals its two penises (in white):


What is interesting about this clip sociologically (in case you’re not already intrigued enough) is how the narrator describes what the flatworms are doing.

Let’s first suppose that it makes little sense to attribute human emotions and motivations to flatworms.  Let’s also suppose that narrations of animal behavior are often going to tell us a lot about how we think and only a little, if anything, about what’s going on with the  social lives of invertebrates.

As you watch the clip below, notice that they explain the behavior not descriptively, but metaphorically.  Flatworm mating behavior is like war and wars have winners and losers:


So the narrator explains that flatworm “sex is more like war than love.”  Worms are “swordsmen” who are “penis fencing.” (Mix metaphors much?)  They carry “double daggers” (penises).  And “the first one to make a successful jab, delivers its sperm.”

Notice how the narrator genders the hermaphroditic flatworms.  Because they have penises they are “swordsmen.”  Apparently their equally functional capacity to be inseminated is eclipsed by their dangerous daggers!

And notice, too, how they describe the flatworm who becomes inseminated as the “loser.”  The “losing flatworm,” the narrator explains, “bears the burden of motherhood, committing valuable resources to having offspring.”


Sperm on the “loser”:


Now it may be true that being the “mother” involves the use of resources. [Note: And this is a nod to the evolutionary logic involved.]  But even so, we would never call the females of non-hermaphroditic sexual species “losers” would we?  I mean, they both get to pass on their genetic material, and doesn’t that make them both winners from an evolutionary perspective?

No doubt it seems reasonable to call the functional female of the pair a loser in a sexist world in which childbearing is defined as a disability (according to the Americans with Disabilities Act) and childraising is defined as non-productive (it garners no wages or benefits and cannot be put on a resume).  Gosh, being non-hermaphroditic, human females are losers by default.  They don’t even get to play the game.

So sexism is one way to explain the wildly offensive characterization of the inseminated flatworm as a “loser.”  But it also may just be that, in choosing a war/sports metaphor to describe flatworm behavior, they inevitably had to characterize one or the other as a loser.  This is a great example of the folly of metaphor.  Metaphors can be used to make something unfamiliar make sense by comparing it to something familiar, but it also runs the risk of forcing the thing being explained to mirror the thing you use to explain it with.

It’s simply sloppy.  And, all too often, it results in projecting ugly realities with which we are all too familiar onto those things we don’t really understand.

For another example of the projection of socially constructed human relations onto the body, see our post on sperm, eggs, and fertilization.

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 graphic below is interesting to me in light of the discourse about greenhouse gas emissions.  We often hear about emissions from cars and sometimes about emissions from industry.  I was surprised, then, to see that electricity and heat was such a large contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.  And I feel like land use change and agriculture hardly get discussed at all.


Graphic borrowed from ChartPorn, which also has an interactive graphic that breaks down emissions by country (via Simoleon Sense).


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sociologists who study social movements note that the tactics available to activists are shaped by the activism that has proceeded them. We call this a “repertoire of contention,” or a set of tools available to any activist that most people in a society would recognize as “protest.” In most industrialized countries today, this repertoire includes things such as sit-ins, boycotts, strikes, and marches.

Repertoires of contention are shared and they pass from one social movement to another.   The sit-in, for example, was invented by civil rights U.S. labor activists, but all types of activists use sit-ins today (perhaps most memorably by the civil rights movement). Sidney Tarrow calls this kind of tactic “modular.” It can be borrowed from one kind of activism and applied to many different causes.  Similarly, protest tactics can in one country can be borrowed and applied in another, so long as the conditions for activism are similar.

I was reminded of this theory of modular protest tactics when fds and Mordicai K. sent us this link to photographs from a protest by the Alliance for Animal Rights in Russia. Like the protests PETA in the U.S. and Animals Awake in the Netherlands, this Russian protest personifies animals as (mostly) women and then displays them brutally murdered.  I think the trio (Russia, the Netherlands, and the U.S.), together, is an interesting example of the way that a social movement tactic can travel transnationally.

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.

Clayton W. alerted us to this September’s issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Paul Goude decided to photograph Naomi Campbell as if she were in Africa with animals.  Clayton writes that it “…very nearly turns her into some sort of animal.”  Below are some images from the photo shoot, courtesy of Womanist Musings (via Feministing):


On this cover of Vibe, Lil’ Kim is posed animalistically and, it is asserted, she is “ready to roar”:

NEW! Naomi Campbell, is also put in leopard print in this photo in the December 2008 issue of Russian Vogue (found here):


ALSO NEW! Iman with a cheetah, and with a cheetah print scarf on her head, as photographed by Peter Beard, 1985 (found here):


ALSO ALSO NEW! These two pictures of Grace Jones (from here) involve animalization (explicitly in the second case). These images may not be safe for work, so I’ve put them after the jump, along with another example: