animals

Meems, who blogs at The Inbetweenie, recently received an email from Barnes & Noble with suggested books for Mother’s Day gifts. She was distressed to notice that the most prominently-placed book, listed under the “top reads for every mom” category, was a diet book:

Yes, a diet book is an appropriate gift for every mother.

Meems says she can’t imagine giving her mother a dieting book for Mother’s Day. I have had the misfortune to witness this type of gift-giving, since my mom gained a significant amount of weight when she was pregnant with my two sisters and never lost it. She didn’t like the way she looked and was often trying out various diets or exercise routines. And every so often someone would give her a weight-loss-related gift for her birthday or Christmas. I presume they thought they were being nice — she’s always on diets and wants to lose weight, why not give her something to help? But she found it incredibly embarrassing, since it reinforced that other people agreed that her weight was unacceptable and meant her weight often became the subject of open discussion among everyone there. It also meant if she tried whatever it was and didn’t lose a lot of weight, she had the normal feelings of failure plus the fear that the person who gave her the gift would be disappointed in her.

Weight-loss related items are, generally, problematic gift ideas. They put the recipient into the position of having to acknowledge in front of anyone watching them open the gift that their weight is considered unacceptable, and that the person giving the gift agrees with that. Even if a person wants to lose weight and is actively trying to do so, they may not wish to have their weight brought up unexpectedly and opened up for public discussion.

If you are stumped on what to get your mother for Mother’s Day (assuming you get anything at all), if my own upbringing is any guide I can tell you with absolute certainty that moms love receiving a pet goat for Mother’s Day.*

* Soc Images does not actually advocate giving live animals as surprise gifts.

Gwen says that y’all are gonna think I’m going too far, but I can’t resist posting this. More, readers often think we post things because they make us mad grrrr, but we usually post stuff just because we think it’s interesting or illustrative. This is a case of the latter.

Jordan G. sent me this clip of a young bobcat captured on a balcony near his house in Irvine (LA Times). They released it into the wild, but not before a news crew came by and filmed the intrepid hunters with their catch. Enter my amusement: I just love how two of them at some point feel the need to place their foot on the cage, like in a victory pose. This is recognizably masculine body language, a dominance gesture, and kind of silly. Maybe you’ll think I’m silly too, but there it is:

Also posing with your kill: Taming Nature (a personal favorite).

And, in body language, Whoopi sitssitting like a man, and gendered anatomy.

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.

Katrin sent us another in the long line of fashion shoots that exoticize the cultures and residents of non-Western countries. The article, titled “Indian Summer,” appeared in the British version of Vogue in September 2007, along with the tagline, “Eclectic, colourful, crazy…The modern gipsy’s style is every bit as exotic as her travels.” So the model is being presented as “exotic” herself (she’s a “gipsy,” after all), but her exoticism is proven by her travels to places that are themselves marked as exotic and extremely different from the UK.

It includes several elements common to these types of photo shoots, including a model who is clearly differentiated from the local population not just in terms of fashion, but by skin tone, as well as the use of locals as props surrounding or in the background of the blond model.

While a video Vogue posted about the photo shoot clearly shows cars, motorcycles, and paved roads, the photos tend to erase signs of modernity, focusing instead on items that present India as somehow stuck in pre-modern times, such as images with animals:

Also see Lisa’s post on the Anthropologie catalog set in India.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

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 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.

Jordan G. sent in a link to work by photographer Mark Laita.   Laita, after long working in advertising, decided that he was tired of producing images that were “nice”:

I felt the need to produce something that was raw and real, as life truly is, not just what we aspire to. The more shocking to our sense of what’s “right,” the better.

He decided to do so through contrast.   In his new photo series, he tries to get us to think by provocatively pairing portraits. They tell us stories about social class, consumption, social sacrifice, and standards of beauty.

Via BoingBoing and Turnstyle.

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 enjoy opportunities to link back to my dog person/cat person rant.  In it, I point out how pet ownership can be gendered.  In this case, owning a dog is masculine and owning a cat is feminine. Anna sent in an image demonstrating just this, noting that the dog products at her vet are blue and the cat products pink:

More, and importantly, because we also tend to value men and masculinity over women and femininity, it is somehow “cool” to own a dog, especially a big dog.  This is true for both men and women.  But it isn’t really cool to own a cat.  We accept it in women because cats enhance her femininity (for better or worse), but when men do it.  Well, as I say in my previous post on the topic, “we think men with cats are a little femmy or, at minimum, sweeter than most… even, maybe, gay.”

This was not lost on the folks at Much Love Animal Rescue.  Visiting the site, Squee noticed that they had a page aimed at men that attempted to convince them that owning a cat could be manly indeed. Their commercials feature extra-super-manly-men with grease ‘n stuff talking about punching things and loving their cat. This is nice in that it challenges the social construction that owning cats is feminine, but notice that it leaves intact the idea that men-should-be-men and avoid all things feminine.

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 last few hundred years, dark-skinned peoples have been likened to apes in an effort to dehumanize them and justify their oppression and exploitation.  This is familiar to most Americans as something that is done peculiarly to Black people (as examples, see  herehere, and here).  The history of U.S. discrimination against the Irish, however, offers an interesting comparative data point.  The Irish, too, have been compared to apes, suggesting that this comparison is a generalizable tactic of oppression, not one inspired by the color of the skin of Africans.

Irish woman, “Bridget McBruiser,” contrasted with Florence Nightengale:

(source)

A similar contrasting of the English woman (left) and the Irish woman (right):

(source)

Cartoon facing off “the British Lion” and “the Irish monkey”:

(source)

An Irishman, looking decidedly simian, in the left of this cartoon:

(source)

The Irish and the Black are compared as equally problematic to the North and the South respectively.  Notice how both are drawn to look less human:

(source)

A depiction of an Irish riot (1867):

(source)

An Irishman, depicted as drunk, sits atop a powderkeg threatening to destroy the U.S.:

(source)

Two similar cartoons from the same source:

About this cartoon, Michael O’Malley at George Mason University writes:

In this cartoon, captioned “A King of -Shanty,” the comparison becomes explicit. The “Ashantee” were a well known African tribe; “shanty” was the Irish word for a shack or poor man’s house. The cartoon mocks Irish poverty, caricatures irish people as ape like and primitive, and suggests they are little different from Africans, who the cartoonists seems to see the same way. This cartroon irishman has, again, the outhrust mouth, sloping forehead, and flat wide nose of the standard Irish caricature.

(source)

So, there you have it.  Being compared to apes is tactic of oppression totally unrelated to skin color — that is, it has nothing to do with Black people and everything to do with the effort to exert control and power.

For more on anti-Irish discrimination, see our post on Gingerism.  And see our earlier post on anti-Irish caricaturein which we touched on this before.

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.

Alys sent in a photograph of the packaging at her local McDonald’s. It included pictures, not of Chicken Clubs and Big Macs, but of the raw ingredients that these foods are (theoretically) made of… with the notable exception of realistic images of animals. The materials, Alys writes, were…

…adorned with pictures of healthy whole foods, such as a tomato or a head of lettuce. That in itself is interesting — they are clearly attempting to cash in on the whole-foods-are-good-for-you mentality despite the fact that there is hardly anything more processed than fast food — but what I found particularly fascinating was the animals, or rather the lack thereof. My chicken club sandwich package featured not a live chicken, but two little origami chickens. Similarly, the bag the food came in had a tin chicken knick-knack thing. My husband’s hamburger package was even more ambiguous. It’s a little hard to read in the picture, but “two all beef patties” is represented not with a cow, or a picture of the patties, or even an origami cow, but with a spatula. Clearly MacDonalds realizes that while Americans want to be reminded that the ketchup on their sandwich originally came from a tomato — and that means it’s healthy! — they do not want to look into eyes of the live animal that sacrificed its life to provide the main focus of the meal.

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.