Another Fact Abscess Feminist Ruins A Family Outing Enlightens A Grateful Grandpa
My offspring, K and Belle, successfully fledged several years ago. When they were young (ages 1-5), their respective daycare/preschool teachers knew that, rain or shine, they wouldn’t be in class on Wednesdays, as that was our zoo/museum outing day. Nine out of ten times, we’d go to the Oregon Zoo.
Those zoo trips were before the massive, community bond-supported revamping, updating, and expansion of the zoo and its animal habitats. There weren’t many visitors then – particularly on windy/rainy days, which were our favorites, because it often seemed if we had the zoo all to ourselves.  Several of the zookeepers got to recognize us, and we them. The staff were impressed and amused by K’s and Belle’s flourishing interest in animals and wildlife conservation and liked that we always greeted the keepers by name and asked (or tried to ask) interesting questions about the animals.
That the zookeepers took the time to speak with us (often quite extensively, and when it was obvious they had *real* work to do) is one of several factors moiself credits for both K and Belle going on to be in the Zoo Teens program while in high school and then majoring in the Biological Sciences in college.
I’d also like to think that I “modeled” or that K and Belle inherited (nature? nurture?) that interest from me. Moiself was quite the animal nerd growing up, particularly in grade school. My parents recognized and encouraged that interest, and for years I always received at least one nature-themed/animal facts book for my birthday and Christmas presents. Thus, informed and armed, I was able to spoil the fun of many a prepubescent boy – who was trying to be naughty by teasing his female classmates about this AMAZING animal he’d come across – by explaining that a titmouse was in fact *not* a well-endowed rodent, but a petite North American songbird.
As always, I digress.
One of my interests at the zoo was not only watching my kids watch the animals, but watching the other zoo visitors. In that older version of the zoo, near the Penguin House, there was a habitat wherein dwelt a solitary, enormous, beautiful, Alaskan Brown bear named Marcia (Marsha? Or Martha? Don’t know the spelling; her name was not on the information card on the habitat; we’d learned about her from the zookeepers  ).
On days when there were many other zoo visitors and we stopped by Marcia’s habitat, inevitably – I mean, without fail – other adults would “mis-identify” the bear. Always the male visitors (and also quite a few of the females) would remark, to themselves or to the kids who were with them, something along the lines of,
“Wow, get a load of that bear, he’s so big! Look at his paws…”
I would then take the opportunity to say, “Actually, her name is Marcia.” My comment/correction would oftentimes lead to brief but interesting, personal-connection type conversations about the zoo and the animals, and sometimes my kids and I would learn something new, from a visitor who had talked with a zookeeper at another exhibit and had an interesting animal fact/behavior tidbit to share. If the person seemed receptive, I would sneak in a factoid about how a zookeeper told me that the majority of the zoo’s resident animals were female…and how another zookeeper, and more than one biologist I’d met, told me that the majority of the world’s biomass is female but that an individual animal’s gender is usually misidentified by non-biologists when they use a pronoun other than “it” to refer to the animal. For example, if you espy a wild animal when you’re out and about – say, a garter snake when you’re hiking the Wildwood trail in Forest Park – it is most likely a “she snake,” even though you or your hiking companion(s) will probably call it, or think of it as, a “he.”
With two exceptions moiself can recall, these interactions at Marcia’s habitat were always positive (which is why I kept engaging in them). In exception #2, an older dude got his grandpa tighty-whities in a knot when I spoke up after he’d pointed out the bear to (what I assumed were) his two grandkids, as well as to moiself and my two kids, and exclaimed, “Look at that HUGE bear – can you guess how strong he is?”
“She sure is something – she’s one of our favorite animals at the zoo!” I cheerfully chirped. “And, actually, her name is Marcia.”
The man’s face slowly but surely morphed into Grumpy Old Man, get-offa-my-lawn! territory, as his granddaughter waved to the bear and called out, “Marcia – she’s Marcia! Hi, Marcia!”
“Why does that matter?” he said to me.
“What do you mean?” I asked, not knowing if the “matter” he was wondering about was the bear’s name or its sex.
“Why does it matter?” he repeated, now looking full-blown irritated, as if he thought I were trying to show him up in front of his grandkids (neither of whom were paying any attention to the adults, but were standing with my kids, waving to the bear). “Does it matter if it’s a he or a she?”
Moiself donned my best, well-practiced, kill him with kindness visage, raised my voice to a perky, non-threatening octave above my usual tone, and delivered my reply with bared teeth pretending to be a smile a friendly grin:
“Well, obviously it does, or you wouldn’t object to being corrected about a simple fact.”
He muttered under his breath and herded his grandkids away from the exhibit. The little girl turned back and called out, “Marcia! Marcia! Bye, Marcia!”
* * *
Department Of Telling Grandpa Why It Matters
If Grumpy Gramps had stuck around and showed an ounce of amiable interest in the subject, I might have told him that I also would have offered a corrective comment had he misidentified the bear’s species, or its coloration or predation habits or dietary needs (“Look at that black bear/purple grizzly bear/orange sun bear – you know, in the wild, polar bears climb trees to hunt penguins ….”), or any other basic fact about it. An animal’s sex or gender  is just another one of those basic facts.
The most obvious “proof” as to how important this is, Gramps, is that when I pointed out this particular, simple, factual error, did you notice how many of your feathers got ruffled?
I have taken it upon moiself to be a “Squirt Gun Ambassador” re the natural world, hoping to incorporate the playfulness/good humor that this childhood summer toy brings to mind, when dealing with this particular issue, which is of importance TO THE ENTIRE WORLD (whether the entire world realizes it or not).
The SQUIRT gun issue to which I refer is my Sex Question Identification Reparations Therapy ® crusade, regarding peoples’ tendency to apply male pronouns to all animals they see, unless the animal is obviously female (e.g., nursing its young). I go the other direction, and use “she” instead of “it” (which I used to always do, and which I’ll get back to doing some day, when people stop defaulting to using “he”) to refer to an animal whose gender is unknown. My crusade is somewhat analogous to, and in part inspired by, actor Geena Davis’ campaign on gender inequity in entertainment media.
Media is one of the most important factors influencing our values. Women and girls are 51% of the population, but entertainment media is bereft of female characters, with a ratio of approximately 3:1 male characters to female characters since the 1940s.
(Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media )
……When her…daughter was a toddler, and (Davis) started watching movies with her, she realised how woeful the depictions of women in family movies really were.
She was particularly struck by just how few speaking characters in these films were female. She took this point to industry colleagues, but most denied it. Well-meaning and sincere, they couldn’t see a problem.
Davis pressed on – she wanted to see the numbers….she sponsored the largest study carried out on gender depictions in family-rated films and children’s television…and found that for every female speaking-character, there were 2.5 or three male characters – a figure unchanged since 1946.
Furthermore, the vast majority of those female characters were stereotypical or highly sexualised, with ambitions largely related to romance. Even crowd scenes were only made up of 17% women….
“What if we are inculcating generation after generation to believe that low representation of women is the norm?” (Davis) asked her audience.
So her institute commissioned more research: this time, a global study of gender in film in the 10 biggest film markets in the world. The findings were “bleak”: of those characters seen to be holding a job, 77.5% were male and 22.5% were female. Women in leadership and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM fields were dramatically underrepresented in film, she said, and of the 127 characters that held political office, only 12 were women.
This lack of onscreen depiction contributes to symbolic annihilation, Davis said, by which those that don’t see themselves reflected on screen believe they are unimportant. She quoted damning statistics that show the more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life.
(“How Geena Davis became a champion for women on screen,”
The Guardian, 3-5-17 )
* * *
Department Of And While I’m On The Subject…
Can we agree to get rid of those dreadful feminizing/diminishing suffixes appended to people, animals, and professions?
If you come to a party at my house, I am your host, not your hostess.
Your doctor, if she is a woman, is your doctor, not your doctress. Lions are male and female; there is no need for “lioness” as an identifier. If you name your Aunt Erva in your will as the person who will manage your estate, she should be called your executor, not your executrix.
Still with me, Grumpy Gramps? Since you asked it’s important, to know the animal’s correct gender because girls need to know that what is female is present, in the world, everywhere. Girls often grow up into women who lack the confidence to move through the world as easily and powerfully as men do, because they don’t think that the world belongs to them. Unintentionally and sometimes deliberately, girls get presented with skewed perceptions of their “place” – even of simply how many of them there are  – in the world. In the images and examples girls *and* boys are shown, the default for everything is male, especially if the thing in question is perceived as being big and powerful.
It’s important because a person will want to care for the world and that which is in the world, to seek education and take action – from studying to be a geologist to learning to do their own basic auto maintenance and repairs – if they think these things are truly and equally theirs. If it belongs to you, then you feel a sense of responsibility for it. Despite the progress made in the past few decades, girls (and boys) still look at the world, at the images and descriptions presented to them, and see it as primarily belonging to, and inhabited and ruled by, boys and men.
* * *
Department Of Remember That Which Will Eventually Kill Those Of Us Who Survive The Rest Of This Ca-Ca?
Global warming/climate change – the human-induced warming of the planet – has been getting our attention span short shrift these days, what with the pandemic, poor policing of POC and other parts of the panoply of poop parading past. 
After my pitch for gender label inclusivity, I’ve not much energy left for another harangue.
I’ll leave y’all with this analogy on the subject. At many a dinner party discussion, I’ve listened while friends have lamented the conundrum of how and why otherwise rational-seeming people can ignore the evidence of climate change and/or that some “aware” people tacitly admit that the evidence is real, but find ways to avoid thinking about it and/or don’t want to act on this evidence because they view any such actions as impeding their current lifestyle, or that they believe that individuals cannot make any significant changes to the problem.
I’ve had to bite my tongue when well-meaning people whom I admire and even love have sincerely claimed not to understand such willful ignorance…because they do the same thing, with regards to the same issue. They are all willing and enthusiastic participators in the environment-razing, carnivore fodder industry.
They all eat (factory-farm grown and processed) meat.
I’ve decided to be silent no more. I will try my Girl Scout Best  to *not* be of those self-righteous scolds, but the next time someone starts with the, “How can those people ignore the evidence ?!?!?” wail I will gently point out that their lament is not only rhetorical, but disingenuous. They know, or *should* know, exactly why “those people” want to ignore the evidence of climate change because they themselves use the same rationale for ignoring the evidence on meat consumption:
* because they don’t want to alter their current way of life;
* because they don’t want to make the necessary changes, which they view as making sacrifices and being inconvenienced;
* because they just don’t want to be bothered.
Some of the most thoughtful people I know find ways not to give the problems of animal agriculture any thought, just as I find ways to avoid thinking about climate change and income inequality….
Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming….
We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly. This is not a refutable perspective, but a banal truism….cows produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas. If cows were a country, they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.
According to the research director of Project Drawdown — a nonprofit organization dedicated to modeling solutions to address climate change — eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.”
Americans overwhelmingly accept the science of climate change. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats say that the United States should have remained in the Paris climate accord. We don’t need new information, and we don’t need new values. We only need to walk through the open door.
( “The End of Meat Is Here: If you care about the working poor,
about racial justice, and about climate change,
you have to stop eating animals,” Jonathan Safran Foer,
NY Times 5-21-20 )
* * *
Pun For The Day
* * *
May you carefully consider which evidence you are choosing to ignore;
May you remember that I’m a writer, not a writress;
May you enjoy an adolescent’s misunderstanding of “titmouse;”
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 I remember at least two occasions where we saw no other human beings, with the exception of the zookeepers and other zoo employees.
 And two keepers told me two different names for that bear: “Martha” and “Marcia.”
 Despite all the cute cartoons you may have seen, polar bears and penguins never interact. Polar bears are northern pole denizens while penguin species all live south of the equator. And neither of them climb trees.
 I realize these are loaded terms, used interchangeably and not always in the same manner, by humans.
 The world human population male/female ratio consistently hovers around 50-50, but you wouldn’t know that if your only statistic in this matter came from your consumption of popular media, where the male characters consistently and overwhelmingly outnumber the female.
 I counted at least eight Ps there.
 Well, in my case, Girl-Scout-drop-out best….