animals

I love a newborn elephant as much as the next person, probably quite significantly more, but must we get all stupid and say that she likes pink? Must we, Zooborns? Really? Sigh.

Sent in by Chloe Angyal at Feministing. Thanks Chloe!

Pink, by the way, has only been associated with female humans for the last 60 years or so, and only in parts of the world.  See, for example, our posts on a vintage Father’s Birthday card and advice for mothers. (And, while we’re at it, this art project is pretty stunning.)  I’m pretty sure elephants, even girl ones, are indifferent.

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.

In my Sociology of Gender course I talk about how gender conformity isn’t simply a matter of socialization, but often a response to active policing by others.  Single women usually avoid having too many cats, for example, not only because they’ve been taught that too many cats sends the wrong signal, but because they may be called a “cat lady” by their friends (a joke-y slur suggesting that she is or will be a batty old spinster).  Or her best friend, with her best interests in mind, may discourage her from adopting another cat because she knows what people think of “cat ladies.”

People who find community in subcultures that are seen as “alternative” to the “mainstream” often feel like they are freed of such rules.  But these subcultures often simply have different rules that turn out to be equally restrictive and are just as rigidly policed.

A recent submission to PostSecret, a site where people anonymously tell their secrets, reminded me of this.  In it a lesbian confesses that she hates cats.  Because of the stereotype that women love cats, the “cat lady” stigma may be lifted in lesbian communities.  This lesbian, however, doesn’t feel freed by the lifting of this rule, but instead burdened by its opposite: everyone has to like cats.  So she feels compelled to lie and say that she’s allergic.

Related, see our post on a confession, from another lesbian, about suppressing the fact that she’s really quite girly.

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.

Cross-posted at Love Isn’t Enough.

The West has a long history in which Black and African people were stereotyped as more in touch with nature and more like animals than White and European people.  This elision still haunts us, and Sasha H. sent in a link to an example. To be fair, I went through several pages of Google search results and found only two instances of this particular mistake, but I thought it was worth pointing out as a cautionary tale.

Sasha’s link was to an amusement-focused website called Silly Village.  They posted a series of photographs of a little girl, named Tippi Degré, who was born to wildlife photographers in Namibia, where she grew up. The photos are of her with lots of animals and the set of photos is titled “Young Girl Life with Wild Animals.”  The thing is, though, two of the photos do not include animals, but include only her and local Africans, no animals at all.

I found this same mistake at a more serious source, one that should have editors who are more careful than this, The Telegraph.  The story, titled “The Real-Life Mowgli who Grew Up with Africa’s Wild Animals,” includes a slideshow introduced with this language:

A remarkable range of pictures in a new book show Tippi Degre — a French girl labelled the ‘real-life Mowgli’ — growing up with wild animals.

But the slideshow includes three images, again conflating African animals with African people.

If this happened rarely, it could be chocked up to a random mistake, but this conflation is actually rather ubiquitous.  We’ve posted on this many times. Here are three choice posts: animalizing women of color, Africa is wild and you can be too, and choosing girls of color for animal costumes.

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.

When someone gave us this chunky dinosaur puzzle, I did a double-take. Yes, that’s a caveman there with the dinosaurs:

The blurb on the company’s website says that, along with the puzzle, “ The accompanying board book teaches young learners about dinosaurs.” Teaches, that is, with lessons like this:

A little harmless fun, or a little creationist indoctrination? (Do sociologists even believe in “harmless fun”?)

According to the Shure company, they deliver these “common threads” in all their products: “Originality and inventiveness; Excellence in design; Attention to detail; Exceptional quality; Educational merit.” So, not just entertainment.

A quick perusal suggests the rest of their products are not creationist — just the usual toy-gendering. They do have a Noah’s Ark puzzle, but it doesn’t claim to be educational. In that Shure is just keeping up Melissa & Doug (whose puzzle is at least Genesis-correct in not naming Noah’s wife):

And anyway, the story of Noah’s Ark is actually not a bad way to talk about reproduction.

But back to dinosaurs and people. Dinosaurs are not really more problematic for creationism than any other creatures that pre-date humans. But maybe because kids love dinosaurs so much, creationists spend inordinate energy trying to place them chronologically with people. Writes one such site:

The idea of millions of years of evolution is just the evolutionists’ story about the past. No scientist was there to see the dinosaurs live through this supposed dinosaur age. In fact, there is no proof whatsoever that the world and its fossil layers are millions of years old. No scientist observed dinosaurs die. Scientists only find the bones in the here and now, and because many of them are evolutionists, they try to fit the story of the dinosaurs into their view.

Up against this kind of propaganda, it is tempting to bring the hammer down on “harmless fun” featuring humans and dinosaurs playing together. That would mean no B.C. comic, no Flinstones, and no Barney either. That is basically the argument of James Wilson, a University of Sussex lecturer, who has a talk on the subject here on Youtube.

In any case, we may be so used to seeing toys or other products like this — with humans and dinosaurs side-by-side — that we forget to ask whether they’re teaching kids a lesson, one that is at odds with science.

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By the way, for non-biologists, like me, who like evolution and want some ammunition to defend it, I recommend Richard Dawkins’ recent book The Greatest Show on Earth. Some do find it a little dogmatic, and in the grand scheme I prefer Stephen Jay Gould, but it’s good for this purpose. Because rather than block access to dinosaur cartoons, I would rather arm myself – and the surrounding children – with the tools they need to handle them with confidence.

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.

I argued earlier that Avatar was not a story about a heroic people, the Na’vi, but a white savior.  I summarized:

Sully is not only a superior human being, he is also a superior Na’vi. After being briefly ostracized for his participation in the land grab, he tames the most violent creature in the sky, thereby proving himself to be the highest quality warrior imaginable per the Na’vi mythology.  He gives them hope, works out their strategy, and is their most-valuable-weapon in the war. In the end, with all Na’vi contenders for leadership conveniently dead, he assumes the role of chief… and gets the-most-valuable-girl for good measure. Throngs of Na’vi bow to him.

Avatar was heralded as a break-through movie for its technological achievements, but its theme is tired.  With the aim of pointing to how Avatar simply regurgitated a strong history of white, Western self-congratulation, Craig Saddlemire and Ryan Conrad re-mixed the movie with other similar movies, including Blind Side, Dancing with Wolves, Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, Out of Africa, Stargate, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

They go through several features of these narratives: awe at the “native” landanimalspeople, the decision that they are helpless and doomed without White, Western intervention, the designation of a White savior who devotes him or herself to their rescue, native self-subordination, and more.  It’s pretty powerful. Thanks to Lizzy Furth for sending the video along!

See also: Formula for a successful American movie.

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.

In the 1940s and ’50s dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, a synthetic pesticide better known as DDT, was used to kill bugs that spread malaria and typhus in several parts of the world.  DDT was argued to be toxic to humans and the environment in the famous environmental opus, Silent Spring.  It was banned by the U.S. government in 1972.

Before all that, though, it was sprayed in American neighborhoods to suppress insect populations. The new movie Tree of Life has a great scene re-enacting the way that children would frolick in the spray as the DDT trucks went by. Here are two screen shots from the trailer:

Searching around, I also found some vintage footage (the person who uploaded the clip doesn’t specify the documentary):

The scene reminded me of an old post we’d written, below, featuring advertisements for the pesticide, one with the ironic slogan “DDT is good for Me-e-e!”

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DDT was a pesticide marketed to housewives (and many others). We later discovered it to be an environmental toxin. Below are three of the advertisements (via Mindfully and KnowDrama and noticed thanks to John L.):

DDT-laced wallpaper, from Copyranter:

(text for this final ad after the jump)

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Suicide Food is a blog featuring “depiction[s] of animals that act as though they wish to be consumed.'”  The blog authors argue that the images say:
“Hey! Come on! Eating meat is without any ethical ramifications! See, Mr. Greenjeans? The animals aren’t complaining! So what’s your problem?”
The assertion is that these images trivialize meat eating.  The cartoon characters — endorsing their own status as food, sometimes even enjoying eating themselves — make eating meat fun and funny, instead of a serious moral decision.   In doing so, they contribute to a lax attitude towards eating meat.  What do you think?

 

A mural from a restaurant in West Roxbury, Mass.:

 

An image from a restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon, in Montreal:

 

A French poster that reads:  “You’ll eat with pleasure, and… without fatigue: the good sausages of the BOUNTEOUS PIG!

 

Pekingeend Duck, the Netherlands:

 

Logo for The Drinking Pig Company:

 

Logo for Dixie Meat Rub:

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.

Stephen W. sent in this clip of an Iowa news story about interspecies mothering. Always cute, of course. But the narration towards the end contributes to the social construction of mothers as born-to-nurture-and-nurture-only.

The narrator asks: “Why would an animal show such grace?”  And the answer is “obvious.”  He continues:

For most mothers, it’s just what they do. An instinct so deeply wired into them, that often all they know is to love and care for life.

So “most” mothers “just” mother.  They do so instinctively.  “All they know” is mothering.  In fact, hang onto your kiddies people because they might just mother your kids too!

Interesting how this narrative leaves invisible all of the female animals that kill and eat other animals, including other animals’ babies.

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.