Tag Archives: animals

Casual Predation: Postscript

A week ago I published an essay on LadyBits called Casual Predation, about the ways in which women are made to feel hunted by random passersby. You can find that essay here:

View story at Medium.com

Since publishing, I have received quite a bit of feedback, both rewarding and distressing.  The best was the overwhelming response of acknowledgement from women I respect, such as Cindy Gallop, Kelly Bourdet, Nilofer Merchant, etc. Part of the reason I wrote this is that when I’ve spoken with women about the incidents I’ve experienced in the past, they always have some kind of story about being alone and freaked out because they were being hunted in some way—every single one.

The other part of why I wrote this is because I’ve noticed a major lack of understanding from guys about this very real, very common occurrence—even from the most awesome guys who I adore to pieces. And so another facet of rewarding feedback has come from guys who were finally able to have some sort of revelation through this essay about what it feels like to be a woman. One man emailed me so say: “Thank you for writing that. As I seek to reflect on making more positive contributions to the world (and at least quit being a jerk, to quote Marshall Goldsmith), I find writing like yours to be very useful.  I’m sure you catch all sorts of troll crap, and I wanted to provide a voice of thank you.”

You are welcome.

On the flip side, I’ve gotten some very bizarre feedback from a handful of guys who have read my story and been very defensive. Their line of reasoning seems to go something like: “I enjoy looking at women and having sex with them, and it’s offensive to me that you’re calling me a predator for doing this and trying to mate.” First of all, no. The whole point of the essay was to describe a very specific behavior that women notice that sets off defensive alarm bells in our bodies. While some people are certainly more sensitive than others, we can usually tell the difference between a look from someone who is a potential predator, and anything else. It isn’t hard to do if you are paying attention (provided you don’t have a condition that prevents you from detecting human emotion such as autism).

I used to have a parrot and sometimes he would bite me. Eventually, via observing his behavior prior to the bite, I learned to recognize his intent to bite me before he would lunge. He would get very attentive to the part of my body he was preparing to attack and his pupils would dilate. I learned to move just in time before he would fly into a monstrous rage, lashing his beak in every direction, and would put him in his cage to chill out.

If we can detect these warning signals in our animal companions, we can certainly detect them in other humans.

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A brief history of my bird obsession

I woke up thinking about something sad today, so I immediately thought of parrots, as my therapist has instructed me to do. I imagined I’d been admitted to the MIT Media Lab to study African Grey parrots in Irene Pepperberg’s lab where she trained Alex and the others. Then I started to think about what in the world I would ever do to get to such a place, ie: how I would translate my good parrot handling abilities into something academic that could benefit the world?

My friends joke that I am “the parrot whisperer,” but what is whispering to an animal? I think it’s simply understanding the animal, and most people don’t bother with parrots. Most people look at parrots and go into color shock. They see the colors, and they say “how beautiful,” and they feel jealousy that they can’t have colors like that—endogenous fashion. Then someone says “do you want to hold him?” and they look at the beak, which crushes down on things like walnuts or fingers with up to 700 psi of force, and they say fuck that I’m fine over here. This is because people are afraid of things they don’t understand , including other people.

When I was 5, I wanted to have a zoo full of all kinds of magnificent animals including an orca whale, which I guess was influenced by Free Willie, although I clearly missed the point. At the time I lived in an apartment building in downtown Ann Arbor, so I established that the zoo would have to go in the back parking lot. It didn’t occur to me that this might perturb the other neighbors, or that the Orca would freeze in the Michigan winter. As an only child, I was only concerned about how much fun I would have playing with all these creatures, as the stuffed animals weren’t cutting it. I drew massive architectural plans for this zoo in crayon, and pitched the idea to my mom. In her life, she’d at one time or another possessed: two siamese cats (Sasha and Tisa), two Lhasa Apso dogs (Miel and Sasuk), a large unidentifiable parrot (Caca) that she hated and purposely left outside in some South American country hoping a burglar would steal it, and a spider monkey (name unknown) that flung its feces at her and her guests. It’s anyone’s guess as to what happened to that poor creature.

So, she wasn’t having my zoo, and got me the most low-maintenance animal she could think of: a fire-belly newt.

I was ecstatic!!!! I named this small amphibian Scooter after my favorite Muppet Baby (which according to Wikipedia was “a brainy, computer-knowledgeable child”) and would play with him for hours at a time, as long as I could until his skin dried out and needed to go back in his habitat, which was a fish bowl inside a cardboard diorama I created to mimic the natural habitat of my neon wondered dreams.

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