Sunday, September 28, 2014

Man-splained or Man-(S)aged? Which is Worse?

It's certainly cute, the term "mansplain," made popular by writer Rebecca Solnit, and with viral speed now a meme, used by women everywhere to capture that moment when you're condescended to by a man. I get it.  There is no shortage of  men who like explaining things to women, and they are a fact of life for most of us. Often you  can see the mansplainer coming from a long way away, and dodge him. But sometimes the mansplainer  shows up  unexpectedly, like the one who interrupted me while I was discussing coyotes in a private conversation and who barged in to launch  into a long diatribe about how I obviously didn't know there were no coyotes left, they're all coy-wolf hybrids. The effect  was like being trapped  in a long, airless footnote with no exit.

To be rude or not to be rude?  I made a joke about "crypto-hybrids," and eased out,  gasping for breath. The man was still talking to himself when I moved away.




Mansplainers are notoriously  ponderous and patronizing and annoying as hell, as any woman  who's ever been mansplained knows. They are adept  at trivializing or brushing over any accomplishments you might have, or anything what you might have to say, even pointing out the flaws and errors of your ways, while instructing you in the right way, often in a chesty manly voice that booms over yours. Even with their individual styles--some bullish, some sickeningly flirtatious as they work to deflate---they are skilled at asserting themselves authoritatively on numerous topics, some of which they may know very little about, which doesn't seem to matter, because they are experts on everything.  It's  a funny thing about confidence; it  can be very convincing.



But more worrisome to me than the mansplainers, who are mostly inconvenient and irritating, and sometimes just over-the-top unwittingly ridiculous, but rarely  soul-crushing, are those  men who actually "man-(S)age" women.  That is, men who not only think they have wisdom to impart (sages), but do so by "managing" outcomes for women. And by this I refer to those who actually hold positions of power in our lives, like teachers or  employers, or legal or medical professionals , and who habitually offer professional advice based on their own limited views of what women can do, be, and are.

Reflecting on my own experiences  one day, I sat down and began to make just such a list  of "man-(S)agers."  skipped over events like the   creep  who tried to kidnap me when I was 9 while I was walking to school, or the fool  who put a gun to my head when I was 19, or the crazy adult student I had who stalked me for three days in Hawaii.  They are  psychos. Man-(S)agers aren't  psychos.

Mansplainers and men who "man-(S)age" (and a man could theoretically be both) are both generally ordinary, everyday guys, sometimes even pleasant enough people depending on context,  who either secretly believe in their own innate superiority, or are  simply  oblivious of their own privilege, or both.  It's not that women haven't gotten in my way, they have, of course, but much of it, upon closer examination, was the result of internalized self-hatred and anxiety, the sort generated by a male-centered world that gets grafted onto some women's relationships. This could take the form of  weird competition, or offering tips and guidance to other women who try to negotiate what it means to survive in  a "man's world," the kind of women who will, under the guise of helpfulness, will  offer unsolicited professional or personal advice, often  on how to  dress or how to "behave,"  or any number of possible intrusions. What a friend of mine calls "matronizing."

From the   list of "man-(S)ager" I'd jotted down, I began to recall men who had in one way or another, guided by their own particularly provincial and  retrograde perceptions of women, actually  changed the course of my life. And this was distressing. It was no longer just funny. "Man-(S)aging" isn't just another clever coinage; for me, it has larger and more serious implications.



When I  reached number 12 or so of my list,  I stopped because I was overwhelmed and depressed, but mostly embarrassed. I've never thought of myself as easily bullied, but clearly I had been,  and I'd internalized the message I maybe wasn't smart enough or good enough.  But living through it at the time, it was just another patch in the fabric of my life. So what prevented me from defending myself?  Why didn't I say, "No, you're wrong to assume that women can't do science because I just got the top  A in your fucking  class" in response to the  9th grade biology teacher who suggested I choose teaching as a profession because girls couldn't compete with boys in science, and teaching is a good profession for women, or "But I am experienced in legal terms, and  typing and writing and revising and taking dictation, you have my resume in front of you, I was an English major," to the lawyer who interviewed me for a secretarial position, never bothering to glance at the  resume I'd laid on his desk. Instead, he leaned back in his chair, studied me with amusement, and then with a little smile said,  "Well, you're very cute, and I sure like that little  outfit, but I need someone who can type."



The French concept of  "l'esprit de l'escalier" has often dominated my afterthoughts,  while mentally reviewing  after the fact the many  clever retorts I could have and should have offered as, in my imagination I shunned their male stupidity and raced to leap over them to  the top against all odds. But this  is plain silly. First, it  would never have entered my mind, because I was and still am  also governed by self-doubt and a willingness to admit I may not know what I'm doing,  and so I'm shamed to admit  that I have  allowed myself to be cowed and defeated by some very narrow-minded men who "man-aged." Additionally, "man-(S)agers" have little sense of humor about themselves, and  often don't grasp irony as it's applied to them, so calling them out is pointless. They are so invested in a particular notion of their own masculinity and intellectual prowess that they would never pause to reflect--at least not with you. You would simply be an uppity woman or an angry one. (And worse than just any angry woman, of course, is the "angry black woman."




And while mansplaining has a cumulative effect, a kind of wearing down, like being gnawed at, it doesn't have quite the same club over the head effect.

And, unlike being mansplained,  getting "man-(S)aged" may reveal  a grossly sinister side, like the womanizing 30-something male gynecologist who began phoning  me after examining me in a medical  appointment when I was 16, and insisting he had to see me again--like for a date--he could do this and that for me, and I was so attractive, and .... Did I report him? No. It was a different era where  I likely wouldn't have been believed and it would be assumed I'd done something to make him so hot and crazy for me. I was horrified and  humiliated, because he had of course actually seen the most private spaces of my body, and because his interest in me had not been professional.  He had removed the veil and revealed himself to be a lecherous older man, not a medical professional I could trust. And yet he was a well-known and well-liked doctor, and if I'd accused him, it seemed easy enough for him to deny why he was calling---he could have explained it away as "medical followups" since he was, after all, the doctor--so I just avoided the phone  and to my relief the unnerving  calls eventually stopped. Still, it took  a long time to get up the nerve to see a gynecologist after that (meaning I risked my health) and when I was in my early twenties, I saw a  kind woman Nurse Practitioner at Planned Parenthood in Oakland, California, who made me feel like a thoroughly fabulous, healthy human being. In this case, it wasn't exactly what this "Man-(S)ager  was attempting to teach me about my limitations, it was what I had to learn the hard way, by parsing through my confusion, on my own about being a girl.  

Years later, even after  I had accumulated a fair amount of life experience under my belt,  I discovered I was not immune to the worst kind of Man-(S)ager, the male mentor cum opportunist. At the urging of a male professor in film school in San Francisco, a famous visiting  Hollywood screenplay writer took a keen interest in my work and told me I was extremely talented, and offered to help my career.  At first I was so grateful that he liked my writing I agreed to meet him for lunch while I was in L.A. on  business, a restaurant where, if bombed at noon, would have taken out half of the film industry.  I was so thrilled to have someone of his stature  take my writing so seriously and to believe I could have a successful career.  But  after I returned to San Francisco, there  came the phone calls, and the invites to his beach house where we could "work privately" and he could  "help you go over your screenplay," along with tantalizing promises of recommendations into the Young Director's program, which he thought I was perfect for. That's when  it hit me.  What insane woman would fly to this married man's beach house for the weekend to work on a screenplay?  What was most damaging was  the dishonesty, the overlaying of  his own sexual desires onto my professional dreams, which made  this a very skewed vision of  quid pro quo known as the "casting couch." The worst part is that   I was thrown into an awful self-doubt. Was I talented or not? Had this all been a setup? The self-doubt generated by being "man-(S)aged"  was overwhelming. I spent parts of  three days in bed sobbing after work, and never took another one of his calls.  Adding insult to injury, I realized my  professor had set me up. I couldn't confront the screenwriter, who likely would have performed shock that I'd even think such a thing, but I could confront the professor, in his cubbyhole office on campus, and I  did, calling him a "pimp," and  I remember his telling me there are many ways to get ahead, and he thought I might be interested. Yes, he really said that, and I  asked him if I were his daughter if he'd still say that, and he turned red. I was so angry and hurt that I abandoned screenwriting altogether, but the troubling part is that I'm convinced neither man thought  he'd done anything wrong.  Girls were perks.

In the greater scheme of things---global warming, wars, famine, environmental degradation---the experiences of a woman who has forged ahead through the gendered maze  and become reasonably successful in the world ("in spite of," I like to say) may seem relatively inconsequential. There are women in far worse circumstances worldwide, in huge numbers, living in unspeakable conditions under unimaginable pressures.

I am not a victim. I've traveled through Asia and Europe by myself, I've had "close calls," and  I've weaseled and talked my way out of a number of  dangerous situations. I've learned to make the often sad, but necessary, accommodations for being a woman, always calculating risk against safety, danger against adventure.  The math is never clear.

For me, though, the  most traumatizing experiences are not the  close calls, but those in which a man has stood before me and told me in one way or another, even in an underhanded way,  that I can't be treated as negligible,  little more than an object, that I can't do something I want to do because I am  incapable, or  he has shamed me into feeling  stupid or unworthy.  These men are the men who "man- (S)age" women, knowingly or unknowingly, and it's as if the clock has rolled backwards, and they've stepped out of a time machine.  These are the men that tell you that you might not be cut out for a certain line of work, who question your intellectual abilities, or  block promotions or salary raises, the men who tell you "you're not quite ready for the next step" when all indications are that you are, the men who turn to women in professional meetings and  utter some version of "You're wrong" as a way of devaluing or discounting them in front of everyone. The "man-(S)ager" is also fond of occasionally conferring on others, particularly women, his own patronizing approbation at certain moments, as if he's conceding a point  on the rare occasion you have an idea he finds worthy.  In  that rhetorical blend of hubris and paternalism, you fail to feel confirmed, because he manages to take all the credit. It's as if you've offered someone a peanut, and they grab the whole bag. 



I am waiting for the moment when I have the courage to say, "Actually, no, you're the one who's wrong. And you're wrong for two reasons. Not only do you not have the facts, but you are wrong to tell me that I'm wrong."

A quick anecdote: a few years ago, I was invited to an afternoon gathering at the home of another professor.  One of the senior male faculty  I worked with struck up a conversation at the kitchen counter where I was piling up hummus on a plate, and began to mention he was stepping down from a very prestigious administrative position at the university.  A semi-avuncular misogynist, with a mean passive-aggressive streak underneath his kindly veneer, he  said he'd been thinking of a successor for his position, someone young and bright who had strong interdisciplinary interests. As he talked, I began to believe I was hearing myself described: I was younger than he, I was reasonably bright, and I had a range of abilities and interests, from writing to law to music, etc. I also taught interdisciplinary courses and considered myself versatile. Likely, he'd also noted my attention to detail and organization in the various work I'd done.  So I found myself standing a bit taller and listening as he continued to talk. Yes, he was arrogant, illuminating all the superhuman accomplishments  he'd managed to pull off, and I suppose I played along, because I thought he was going to ask me if I was interested. Then, before I could say a word,  he  dropped the bombshell. "But of course," he mused, as if thinking aloud to himself, "it's going to be very difficult to find someone to follow in my footsteps, and I just can't think of a soul."  With that, he gave me a particularly condescending smile and turned to another to another male colleague who had walked up. I left shortly after.  It was hard to imagine this hadn't been deliberate.    I drove away utterly deflated, angry that I'd allowed myself to be sucked in.  The sad thing is that this was the second time he had done something like this,and I should have known better.

I have a lot of very clever and insightful women friends. After events like this, we  practice comebacks, and we're funny and sharp-eyed. It's the secret life of women, the "wish I'd saids," the laughter that emanates after sharing such experiences, and the offers of rueful reassurances and good humor. We circle the wagons, rally around. There are friends I can always count on for the perfect zinger, the precisely worded riposte, the barb I didn't say but wish I had. Still, the sting of all the putdowns is there. And it can last, sometimes for decades, reappearing in small, unexpected ways, like a bruise you thought had vanished.  It has, in one way or another, entered the narrative in our heads, the one that surfaces during moments of uncertainty, the cumulative effects of years of this nonsense.

I sometimes wonder, if I hadn't been discouraged, would I have become a scientist, as I'd once hoped? Or a veterinarian as I'd also hoped?  Did I eventually end up an English professor because  some man told a 14 year old girl that teaching was a better profession for women than biology, or was it actually the more natural and organic outcome of a life of reading and writing? And what  happened to my 18-year-old's  dream of becoming a lawyer when I was a freshman in college and a male statistics professor informed me with something just short of contempt  that I would never even make it through pre-law, let alone gain admission to law school, and the sad thing is, I believed him? No, of course these men can't  carry all the blame. It's not that simple. 

When  I consider the roads not taken in my life, and even the roads taken, there are always those men who stand at the crossroads, the men who "man-aged" me, men in positions of power who seemed to know better than I did what was best for me, even if I believed in my heart of hearts  they were wrong, and it would actually make me sick to my stomach that I didn't have the  language, or the guts,  to say, "You're wrong."

It's a funny thing. Even when  later years, I did go to law school just after receiving tenure and while  I was teaching full-time, it was male administrators of the "man-(S)aging" ilk who actually informed  me it was absurd for me to be r thinking I could do both things at once. He actually threatened to "report me," when I explained there was nothing to report, everyone knew.  One of my favorite quotes came  from the male chair of my department at the time, a "man-(S)ager" through and thruogh, when he looked at me in disbelief and said, "But you know,  law school is HARD."

I did have an answer that time. I looked straight at him and replied without missing beat, "It's really not that hard, at least not for me."

Even today women of all stripes are still being "man-(S)aged,"  that odd habit  of knowing better and knowing more, regardless of whether it's true, and maybe even knowing "what's best for you."  The  attacks on the right to reproductive freedom  or  the plight of women in poverty  or the rates of domestic violence that affect more women than men, or the public humiliations, say,  women politicians  face, or the downright brutalities for women in the military are the cumulative examples of gender inequality. 

Almost every woman I know has had at some point in her life some doufus man literally   block her path as she walks down a street, and tell her she can't pass until he gets a smile or, worse, a kiss.  Usually, I think of these men as the "powerless men," often homeless or drunk, or troubled in some way.  Even though I wish they wouldn't, they usually don't   frighten or upset me. You can get around them. You're headed to greater things. You don't really blame them. 

What's worrisome are the men who've made it themselves, who have some modicum of  power and privilege,  who  then figuratively stand in the way of a girl or a woman moving forward, and don't even realize it. The guy on the sidewalk does. He knows he's gotten in your face, and he knows you're not really going to smile for him or kiss him. He knows he doesn't stand a chance in hell with you, and that you're someone who's better off than he is and you're likely to flip him off.  It's a performance, and even if it's objectionable, it's far less degrading  and harmful than the pompous male colleague who announces in his patronizing, diminishing tone, to the whole department  that the brilliant female professor  who's coming up for promotion "has a nice smile," or "she has done a lot of  service." 

Women often have a hard time responding to these insults and injuries, in part, because of the way we're socialized.   How many times have I heard women say, "But I didn't want to hurt his feelings or embarrass him"?  And I am no better. Years ago, when the biology teacher told me what he did, I knew he was horrible (I even joked to a friend that he looked like an amoeba), but I didn't truly understand how wrong he was.


                                                             The amoeba

 That spring day I stayed after class to chat with the amoeba  about my future dreams,  I figured he would have  some special insights to share. He was sitting on the edge of his desk, the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. I stood before him, like a supplicant,  heart in hand.  After  all, I was a high school freshman who'd earned an A in his sophomore class, and he had complimented me throughout the semester.  But when push came to shove, and I spilled my guts, telling him  I loved science so much I thought I would major in it in college and then go on to vet school, his expression suddenly shifted, and I'll never forget the way his smile morphed into condescension, and his eyes hardened. Was it pity he felt?  The way you might treat  a child who says she plans to fly to the moon on her rocking horse?
Or was it worse, contempt?  Surely, he  thought he was doing me a favor when he discouraged me.

I remember walking out of the classroom into the empty hallway deeply disappointed, but also thinking, well, maybe science  does get a lot  harder, and maybe he's right there's a reason that girls don't go into science, just as there's a reason the school gave me  for being required to take home ec and not shop class which I preferred, because girls needed to learn how to cook and sew, not fix cars. (I didn't buy it, but there was no point in pushing it either, so I made a bad pie, a potholder, and a misshapen apron.)


 I loved biology, and I loved learning anatomy, and I'd done a bang-up job on that poor dead frog soaking in formaldehyde, labeling and memorizing every one of his itsy-bitsy parts, and that teacher damn well knew it, but that's where it all stopped---at his doorstep. After that I was convinced I couldn't do "science," that the A in biology had been a fluke, and the next year when I struggled with chemistry, I decided the Amoeba had been right.  My chemistry teacher was a woman at an all girls' school, and my chemistry study partner was a fellow girl who was a brilliant chemistry student and drug addict, and we  informally tutored each other-- I helped her with English and she helped me with chemistry. I managed to bring my D up to a B, believing my mind wasn't cut out for this.  I loved the periodic table, more as a work of art, with its suggestive abbreviations, but now what I mostly remember about chemistry is the story our chemistry teacher told us one day as we washed our beakers out, about how her mother never told her sister about sex, and so on the sister's wedding night, the poor woman called her mother in hysterics, saying her husband had gone crazy. Maybe it was just bad chemistry.

Okay, so   I wouldn't become a scientist. Or a screenwriter. Or a film director. Or a legal secretary. I did become other things, even if it meant working against being "man-(S)aged" the whole way through. I had a psychoanalytic theory   professor in graduate school at San Francisco State condescendingly tell me my paper on Joyce was too "literary" and not  "psychologial enough" for which offense I received a C. He wanted to see more Freud (we all know Freud's little troubles with women").    There was a guy in the class he loved who thought Freud was the bomb, and the two of them would carry on while the women in the class sat silently. We were in the shadow of this scholar who stood grippng the podium with both hands, rocking back and forth on his heels, going on and on about Stephen Dedalus and his women and guilt and other tribulations.

                                  "Young lady, your negative Oedipus complex has made you insecure."
 
Recently  at the end of one of my classes, as I gathered my stuff, a  young woman student approached  me  and said very appreciatively, "Professor, I love the way you're a feminist. You say things in class that make me smile and feel happy. I'm really glad you do that. It's so cool."  I wasn't sure what I was doing outside of my normal rants against stupid women's magazines and my tiny references to historical gender imbalances,  but I was glad she was glad, because so many of the young women I teach nowadays think feminism is so "old school" and works against them,  that women who are raped have brought it on themselves, even as they attend Greek parties with themes like "CEO's and Hoes," where the girls show up dressed like strippers.

I quickly flashed on  the (only)  three women professors I'd had as an undergrad, one of whom was African-American, and how they'd all changed my life without even knowing it, just by  being  in front of the class, being so super smart and knowledgeable, speaking with such confidence, and holding our attention. And how important that was to me, to see women in that role.




Okay, so I still get angry.  It's a sadder, more muted  kind of anger from  the days I militantly wore my favorite tee shirt proclaiming  "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."  And different from the days I rejected white feminism because  it was too elitist and racist, but still essentially practiced my own  tenets of feminism in my life with great vigor.  It was a struggle, because  you can get in your own way if you're too committed; and today's anger is more about the  sad irony that the only way to not get trampled on  is to compromise with men who are "man-(S)agers" or "mansplainers."  Mansplainers can work your last nerve, but Man(S)agers, it turns out,  are far more insidious.  Since you can't go through life eternally suspicious (this would make you paranoid), you let your guard down and try to live open-heartedly. You let people in. You invite exchange. But then, suddenly you're assaulted by a  ManSager.

Whereas you can tell a Mansplainer to go blow, you have to work more gently around the Man(S)ager since had can make your life miserable. And, even worse, even as he places impediments in your way, even if you secretly suspect he's insufferably insecure, it's hard to directly challenge him since he affects your fate in one way or another. And then comes the grandest wallop of all when you  sometimes have to  help him  save face, even if it's at your own expense,  because in the long run it will work out better all the way around. But it doesn't mean you're not clenching your fists and wishing you could just take a swing instead and be done with it.

As an older  woman dean here at the university once told me about a decade ago,  as we discussed multiple frustrations about the way women were treated, "Sometimes we women in the Academy just have to suck it up. It's still an old boys' club.  We all know it, and  we can support one another, and you just keep doing what you're doing.  It's not fair, but in the long run you'll come out ahead."

I  wanted to tell her she was wrong, that the days of tiptoeing around certain men, just because they're men with power,  had to be gone. But they're not.  In this way she was right, even if the situation is just so wrong.  I'm not coming out ahead. Not yet.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

RAVENOUS, WILD-EYED DEER TAKE SUBURBIA BY STORM

Disassociated Press News Alert (DP) September 24, 2014

Bruce  "Buck" Whitetail, was    arrested  last night for placing "deer dance solstice party" signs on the main drag into town.


In the small college town of Blossomville, Indiana, home of  the premiere flagship school of  University of Indiana, which takes pride in  its progressive politics, populations of ravenous and wild-eyed deer are taking over. The safe, tidy community, untroubled by the usual outside influences that plague many urban  communities, like race and poverty,  is famous for its suburban lawns and gardens, carefully managed with the help of  maintenance companies like Real Green and Dr. Grass.

Wilma Melcher, a local entrepreneur and sous-chef, says she has  watched in horror as deer began to take  over her beautifully manicured, chemically-treated lawn. "We chose this property for its beauty and for the privacy life on the edge of town would afford. Even before we built, we carefully  had the trees and weeds all bulldozed down past the roots so they wouldn't come back to bother us, and the animals took off, too,  so we could build our Dream House. But then, one by one the deer  started coming back and trying to take over, and our dream has become a nightmare." 


 "They must love all  that expanse of green, but,"  she added wistfully,   "I do, too. It  belongs to me, not them. I pay the mortgage here."




"And they're so scary," her friend and  neighbor Bud Willis chimed in. "Some days I can't even get my Prius out of the garage because there's a whole herd of them  standing there waiting for me."







Another neighbor, Alfonso Shrub,  a science  professor at UI, agrees.  "Deer are  really stupid animals. It's been scientifically  proven.  Case in point, they  don't even pay attention to the warning  yard sign I put out! I mean, hell, even my neighbor's three year old knows to stay off the grass after it's been treated."



The invasion of deer is unprecedented in this small, close-knit community of hard working  students and scholars. Some say the deer were always here, just hiding in the forested areas that once graced Blossomville.  Others say the deer are migrating from as far away as Indianapolis, drawn by a good deal when they see one.

Hitch-hiking deer were spotted on County Road 10  near  the German-speaking community just outside Pawnee, Indiana. The female was reported carrying a sign that said, "Blossomville or Bust."



But concerns are rising also about strange ghost-like deer appearing at night. A group of fraternity brothers assiduously studying for their first quantum physics  quiz  on a late Friday  night were interrupted by strange monotone  humming noises, and  managed to capture  photos of  what  have been identified as zombie deer  out back of the frat house, performing some kind of living dead ritual dance.


 Shadrach Paisley,  local Blossomville TV anchor, offered an in-depth report a week ago on the alleged zombie and mutant deer:


Reports Paisley, "Local UI scientists, like Dr. Alfonso Shrub and Dr. Prudence Wormser of the University of Indiana Outdoor Living Plant Museum, are proving that deer are cleverly mutating and adapting to deliberately confuse those who would cause them harm. This two-headed doe, spotted near downtown, was observed looking both ways before crossing the street."


Paisley went on to include evidence from local hunter, Anthony Sackrider, of an alarming trend seen in a minority of deer who are out to foil hunters by  reproducing in orange color patterns. A clever ruse, this means that hunters will now have to shoot at anything or anyone wearing orange:





Stories of vicious deer attacks abound, with citizens fearing for their very lives. One Whispering Pines neighbor, Gordon Muncke, recalled having to beat off two does and a fawn with a broom, when they ventured suspiciously close to his porch, "with murder in their eyes." 

Normally prey animals, Blossomville deer seem to be turning into predators. Folks may well remember last winter's close call when high school student, Maxwell Titlow, age 14,  (seen below) was viciously assaulted by a deer when Maxwell refused to give him his lunch money.  His father snapped this photo as paramedics sped their way.  The deer pinned Maxwell down in the snow, and it was only through his quick thinking (offering the deer a treat) that he saved his own life.   He was treated at Blossomville Hospital and released.




Two weeks ago, police received a report of marauding deer thieves in the upscale Kensington Gardens neighborhood. These specially trained invaders have learned to bite  through chains and locks to get inside homes, which they tear apart in search of vegetables. 





There have also been reports of deer attacking fishermen and fisherwomen, competing for the few resources available, and raising serious questions of "fish security." 

                           Councilwoman Simpson fighting off aggressive fish-seeking doe

What angers City Council member and fisherwoman Claudette Simpson is that she is actually licensed by the DNR to fish, and the deer are  just poaching.  "It's morally wrong," said Claudette. "Why, I've had a deer just savagely snatch a giant bass out of my hand." The deer vanished with the bass flailing in its mouth before conservation officers could arrive. No arrests were made, but the incident was documented.

Local  self-appointed deer expert and Council member, Rudiger Ruffallo, noted with grave concern  and a shocked expression that the deer are developing scary skills never seen before.



                                                Rudiger Ruffallo


"They're turning into criminals," Ruffallo  said, "with no regard for human property---and perhaps even life. They eat our plants, they show up near our homes, and they are frolicking in our streets. If we don't do something now, we're headed for a monumental disaster of catastrophic proportions, with devastated landscapes."

As proof, he  supplied this photograph of a renegade deer fleeing residents who interrupted  an attempted home invasion.

 


 Ruffallo  attributes this behavior not only to the overpopulation of deer who have the hubris to try to reproduce like humans, but to desperately yearn for luxuries like iPhones and entertainment centers. "They want the same things we want," he said,  "and they don't even have jobs."

The thief pictured  above not only  outran police officers all the way down Main Street, but left  a stack of computer equipment with hoof prints all over it behind the fence.

"This is nature out of balance," Ruffallo said, ruefully shaking his head. "Ten years ago, deer were satisfied with munching on hostas, and that was bad enough, costing homeowners hundreds of dollars for lost hostas."
But the close  contact with human beings has proven  detrimental to both species.

 "They've become a serious danger. Without opposable thumbs," Ruffallo  added, "deer simply can't work the remote controls for the flat-screens, and these items are left scattered over lawns and in the street, creating hazards to drivers."



Though the extent of the problem hasn't been confirmed yet, several neighbors report deer masquerading cleverly as neighborhood dogs. There is some thought that the dogs may be complicit, as caught in this surveillance video of Spots and Huffy clearly conspiring. 


As residents are now reporting hearing the howls of coyotes in Blossomville, representatives from the Department of Exploiting Natural Resources are suggesting that this may actually be another ploy of deer. This shot of a howling deer, according to Dr. Alfonso Shrub, adds credence to  the theory. "They are proving themselves to be great imitators of their own natural enemies."


                                                         Deer coyote-howling


Another clever tactic seems to be confirmed by this sign  that appeared out of nowhere on a wintry afternoon last year, announcing coyote activity in the Kew Gardens neighborhood where no coyote has yet been seen:
                              

UI scientists speculate the deer and their allies are cleverly trying to  divert   attention from deer to this notorious predator who rumors say are quite capable of swallowing children whole.  The sign was removed and fingerprints were taken.

 In fact, reporters at the Blossomville Tribune report continue to receive  anonymous photos of coyotes with misspelled  captions pictured below:

                                     kyoty on blosumvil lokal bus wating to eat babys

                                                        AND


                                kyoty bys fansy kar rite off the lot

News anchor Paisley observes, "The schools are bad in Indiana, but this level of poor spelling certainly indicates the work of someone unfamiliar with the English language."  A followup message confirmed his remarks: Weer deer and weer heer.


Residents complain they just don't feel safe any more, as the deer have "lost all fear" of humans, and are becoming bolder and bolder.

Imagine the shock of Audrey Herlihe when she and husband, local pediatrician  Studs Warchinski, arrived home after church one Sunday  to discover deer  having a pool party in their backyard. While most of the  adult deer guests instantly hooved it,  one young  straggler who'd had too much of the rum punch was quickly apprehended by local officers, and charged with trespass, and criminal mischief, and taken to the  animal control who were unable to reach her parents.




Blossomville mayor, Mack Murphy, has called for the formation of a special task force  to study the problem. Working closely with law enforcement and DNR officials, the Mayor's task force will be advisory in nature, but will work to get to the bottom of this deer problem. UI scientist,Dr. Shrub has  received funding to study the strange behaviors they are seeing. "Monitoring the situation is crucial," he said.  "Overpopulation, damage  to the environment ...  this is all contributing to climate change." He paused. "Oh, wait," he said, "I'm talking about deer."

Panicked citizens are not so patient and are  demanding immediate action. Some have begun arming themselves.  Assistant Professor  of  Informatics, and information specialist Lexie Zipper, says she's taking no chances.

Lexie Zipper, mother of eight, professor, and deer death squad



Rumors circulate that the area known as "the Bottoms," where many residents are living in Section 8 housing and more than likely dealing drugs, has become a hideout for criminal deer who are acting as "drug mules."  A visiting  "mule" at one of the apartments,  who declined to give his name, pointed out that he  is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, and has no relation to any of the Blossomville deer.



                                        Unidentified mule who appears to be wearing "gang colors"


 Police chief, Romeo McGilla, has assured citizens his force is doing everything they can and have been making regular sweeps through the Bottoms with their specially trained  Deer Swat Team (not to be confused with the Deer Task Force). Bottoms neighbors are complaining that they are being singled out for police raids, and explain that their cement yards are the last place deer would want to be.





 On the other side of town,  quick-thinking police work led to the discovery of this set of velvet antlers left behind after an atrocious rubbing incident by a young buck on a homeowner's arborvitae trees on Princess Diana Court.   "We'll see if he's in the CODDIS system," said Officer Nutley, referring to the special index for deer and other animals.  "If he's in there, we've got his DNA, and he's as good as in the bag."






Thanks to the fleet-footed Officer Pipkin, one of the suspected  tree-rubbing scoundrels, a juvenile, was shot after resisting arrest.


 




While some deer activists, like  feminist activist and gender studies lecturer  Virgina Ocod,  were quick to cry "excessive force" on a fawn, no less, Council member Ruffalo dismissed their  outrage as the rantings of  "Bambi lovers."  He immediately released this damning Facebook photo of Ms. Ocod  dressed as a deer:



                                            Virginia Ocod (feminist Bambi lover and suspected "furry")


 UI religion professor, Mahatma Malone, who has published  a controversial monograph on Animals of the Old Testament, expressed delight over the shooting of the fawn, saying  that made one less deer.  "The Old Testament tells it like it is, an eye for an eye or, in this case, a fawn for the foliage--there's certainly language for that in both Exodus and Leviticus."


While Blossomville considers itself a  tolerant town in the red state of Indiana, and proud of its support for alternative lifestyles and sexual orientations, there is increasing worry over public sexual acts by this libidinous horde who engage in shameless behaviors all over town.



 Just behind the  Ocean View Elementary School, and in full view of several classrooms, this shocking cervid three-way riveted students for  a good five minutes, until their distraught teachers were able to pry their little fingers from the windowsills.



UI child psychologist, Brynne Mower, was consulted immediately after the incident,  and recommended bringing in specially trained counselors to speak with the  traumatized children, to help  process the buck-on-buck-buck-on-doe action. One horrified parent, Misty Becker, who openly opposes same-sex marriage as a threat to the Constitution,  stated she isn't sure how her child can   go on living any semblance of a normal life, and has decided to home school.

 "Next thing you know," she said, "these deer  will be sexually assaulting our  children."

Another concerned parent stepped in and added, "And our  grandbabies, too."

Councilmember Ruffallo was quick to appear for a photo op, and chime in: "That is, when these beasts are  not defiling our parking meters downtown and begging for handouts  in front of the public library."

Clearly, this is a story that isn't going to go away and is likely to get bigger.

Councilman Ruffallo says he and his fellow Council members stand ready to take action to protect the citizens, their homes, their lawns, and their sensibilities.

The entire nation will be watching to see how Blossomville responds.  




Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bucking the Odds: The Head Shot, the Lead Bullet, and the High-Cost Contract to Kill Deer in Bloomington, Indiana



Frida Kahlo "The Wounded Deer"


 In the "progressive" town of Bloomington, Indiana, the City Council passed an ordinance, despite the Mayor's veto,  and then the Parks Board  signed a contract for a company of sharp shooters to come kill deer at our local nature preserve.

Let's stop with the euphemisms of "a tool for deer management" and "reducing the population." Let's stop calling it a "harvest" or a "cull." 

Hard as it may be, please LOOK, READ,  and WITNESS.


This is what killing a deer looks like:



The  other night at Science Cafe, Dr. Angie Shelton, the plant biology  author of the study done at IURTP on which public policy to kill deer has been based,  assured us  that the sharp shooters  the City has contracted to kill  up to 100 deer at Griffy  don't miss (never?) because they use "head shots," and that they've called their tactics "very humane."






Dr. Shelton  also dismissed citizens' concerns raised about their using lead bullets, despite the fact that California has already banned them, and other states are looking into doing the same for environmental reasons. http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/lead-free/ 


LET'S TALK  MORE ABOUT THAT CLAIM OF ACCURACY:

Quote from a hunter: "A deer's brain is under the size of a tennis ball .. so as long as you can guarantee that you can hit a swinging tennis ball on a string every time .. knock  on wood..."

 So much for head-shot accuracy.




Another caveat about head and neck shots  from an experienced  hunter writing on Whitetail Heaven:


"HEAD & NECK SHOTS
 So, where on an animal should we try to place our bullet to ensure a one-shot, clean kill? There's no denying the surest fatal shot is to the brain or spinal column. Either will put an animal down almost instantly, and result in very little ruined meat. Under most circumstances, however, this is not a shot I would recommend. For starters, the brain is a relatively small target, and even a narrow miss can result in a broken jaw, lost eye or other similar wound that condemns an animal to a most unpleasant, slow death. I once shot an antelope sporting a fresh bullet wound through the bridge of its nose. Whether the hunter who first hit it was aiming for the brain, I can't say for sure, but the buck was clearly laboring, almost choking on blood, and would have suffered considerably had I not come across it.

Neck shots are equally uncertain, as the spinal cord must be severed to ensure instant death. Miss by even a little bit, and you've probably got an animal with a muscular wound from which it will likely recover, but not without considerable agony. In the worst-case scenario, you may sever the trachea-the animal will likely escape, but suffer a lingering demise. When neck shots don't connect directly with the spinal column, an animal will often drop to the ground almost immediately but quickly recover and run off. If you shoot an animal in the neck whether by design or by accident-it's therefore important to keep a close eye on it until you've confirmed it's down for keeps.

Head and neck shots do have their place in the right circumstances, but they should only be taken at close range by capable shooters who know their quarry's anatomy. They're also acceptable in the rare event of an emergency, when a dangerous animal needs to be brought down in a hurry. "



And this from a hunter's blog in Field and Stream on  why head shots on deer are "contemptible":

"The most damning testimony against headshots is readily available. Anecdotal evidence is everywhere, and a quick Internet search will produce all manner of gory photos of deer without jaws or those otherwise disfigured by errant headshots. The lung shot, on the other hand, provides the same lethality and conservation of meat, while affording a much greater margin of error. Even a heart shot, slightly off, will strike the lungs". (http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/whitetail-365/2013/08/guest-shoot-me-down-headshots-deer-are-contemptible)

All these photos are from the sites of proud hunters. This one, titled "Deer Face Blown Off," was taken by a  proud father whose little son took the shot, and  who gloats that you can see the bullet hanging off the jaw:







Oh, and by the way, the $31,000 the City claims the sharp shooting of deer in Griffy Lake Nature Preserve will cost, may not be the whole story.  Solon, OH, ended up spending  about $160,000 their first year of killing deer---with added costs of security, meat processing, etc.

Indiana University, on whose property Dr. Shelton's studies were done (a property abutting the IU Golf Course, which everyone knows is "deer salad bar"), is not allowing hunting on their land, nor are they helping to foot the bill. Bad publicity? 

Here's how you process a deer:  http://shilohtv.com/?p=3842  BE FOREWARNED: A dozen graphic images, but very telling. This is image number one:

 



    STOP THE DEER KILL AT GRIFFY LAKE NATURE PRESERVE.  





Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't Shoot the Messenger:

(This post is prompted by a lengthy discussion I had last night with two super smart, visionary friends who are architects, one of them specializing in natural landscaping--my thanks to them).




 Listen up:

Bloomington doesn't have a "deer problem."

Bloomington has a "people problem."  It has an over-development problem. It has an urban sprawl problem. It has social and class problems. 

But the deer are easier to blame. Their presence annoys some  privileged homeowners (and homeowning is a privileged position) who maintain ecologically-damaging  but ever so pristeen chemically-treated expanses of lawn, their ornamental gardens free of weeds through the use of broad-spectrum pesticides like RoundUp (thanks to Monsanto) and other versions of glyphosphates.  They're frankly pissed off because they pay a lot of money to landscapers and to garden centers to get their expensive ornamental plants, with no one telling them  that, Like us, deer love wide open spaces full of things to eat.  These folks might as well put up "DINE HERE" signs. (I garden without any toxins for myself and the wildlife,  and there's more than enough to go around.)

I bike and walk a lot around town,  and a day doesn't go by that I don't see some homeowner  in the "fancier" neighborhoods attacking a patch of unwanted plants with a container of RoundUp or other posison. Goddess forbid you should have a dandelion (though the some of the same folks might well  head to the Farmers' Market on Saturdays with their special "market basket" to buy the very same dandelion greens from organic farmers).


Leaving the hardware store the other day I almost bumped into a man carrying a birdhouse in one hand and a 5-gallon jug of RoundUp in the other. Did he not put the two things together?


WELCOME, BIRDS



Bloomington is a town in which the university dominates. There are at least two Bloomingtons, a version of similar town-gown splits in other university towns.   Like many towns, the affluent and the poor live in very different worlds, and while there are grumblings about homeless panhandling and so on, most of those in the "professional category" (however one defines that) can move about "untainted" by the signs of poverty and desperate, from the organic co-op to the upscale restaurants for meals that cost a month's worth of groceries for many poor.

The City has slowly been transforming  downtown into luxury condos and apartments for wealthier students who apparently wouldn't dare show up to college without all the  "amenities" (gyms, cable,  pools). Rents can go for a couple grand a month, and many of them drive brand-new SUV's  (Something is wrong with that picture: I'm a professor with a  mortgage of  $594 a month, and a 10-year old car).

More and more construction of  ugly high-rises and the emergence of even more brew pubs and bars  where students can get drunk,  pushes the rest of us out of downtown. Welcome, students,  to Smallwood Plaza,  with its own fitness center, etc.:


Welcome, students,  to  Renaissance Luxury Apartments under construction.




In  addition to adding to  the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots (the haves can afford these places, the have-nots can't), Bloomington's rapid and seemingly unchecked development  has  devastating effects on our environment, as well as the character of this community.  It's the same old story seen in big cities San Francisco, New York, and so on---old-timers are being pushed out, areas are getting "gentrified" (code word for better-off white people with Architectural Digest on their coffeetables, granite countertops, and vaulted ceiling updates), that eliminate old mom and pop stores, which are replaced by expensive coffee shops and restaurants popping  up like mushrooms.

Additionally, as student rentals of what were once single-family homes  overwhelm many old neighborhoods, more and more  faculty and "professionals" choose to live "out"  in developments, some of which cater to the McMansion set, but all of which generally now necessitate the use of cars to get anywhere--and where again,  "chemically-treated lawns" and ornamental gardens, often maintained by lawn service companies  employing leaf blowers and huge riding mowers  (the gas fumes alone are enough to choke the town) are almost de rigeur.

This is NOT the "New Urbanism," as it was initially conceived, which was in its early years intended to create architecturally-and socio-economically- mixed neighborhoods that were walkable, sustainable, and inclusive.  But, in fact, what we have  here is not only reckless development that caters to well-off students and professionals with six-figure incomes, but contributes to endless sprawl  with a major impact on our environment.  All of this continues to fragment and disrupt forest and wild areas,  and is  also elitist and classist. This is the "the new segregation."

Bloomington claims to be progressive, it claims to value "diversity" (what a horrid word), it claims to be a "green city," but it's far from it.

Herbicides are used to control not only parks, but forest areas, including Griffy Lake "Nature Preserve," for which the City has recently signed a contract with White Buffalo Sharp Shooters to come kill the deer by sharp shooting them. More poison like triclopyr (also used on campus by IU biologists in places like Dunn Woods) and more killing. 

Labeling the deer as "the problem" and diverting our attention from thinking about the larger horrors of over-development and loss of habitat and all the environmental damage is maybe what makes human beings so dangerous. 

The B-Line  and Clear Creek Trails, which I often walk and enjoy, are  increasingly  surrounded by more ugly developments, as greenery and trees vanish. No plan was made for wildlife corridors or for preserving a sufficient amount of   green space. Herbicide and "overmanagement" are de rigeur.  Commercialism seems to be the name of the game.   "Nature" is almost archaic.

But the fact is, we need to stop ignoring what the land and the animals are telling us.  STOP BEFORE YOU DO YOURSELVES IN.

Here are a few examples from Bloomington:

This used to be a wildlife preserve on the Sarkes Tarzian estate in Bloomington until developers like  the ironically named "Deer Park Management" bought it and took away all the habitat and set deer loose in the City. Notice their logo is a deer.  But the  real deer are gone, and now living their lives in neighborhoods (they are welcome in mine).


The  displaced deer initially fled to another brushy, wooded area across the street and lived there until more developers came in and created Renwick, and a "faux-urban village," which is more like a bad suburb where a mix of upper-middle-class and wealthy reside.

They call this their Renwick  "village center." It consists of a high-priced workout center, a coffee shop, a women's clothing store, a hair salon, and a store selling expensive workout clothing, etc.   Poor people do not live here. One rarely sees strollers, hikers, joggers, or bikers. 



This is not progress, this is devolution.  This is also not "new urbanism" as it was initially conceived, but a blight of quickly dated housing.  It doesn't have a real center or foster a strong sense of community. This is selective isolation from  the real Bloomington, and the residents still have to drive their cars and trucks to get anywhere  they would actually want to be (it's not really walkable unless you're heading across a very busy intersection to chain stores like Kroger's).

And so the City spends 4 years doing studies on deer and planning for their kill.

Bloomington needs a truly progressive voice---but it might already be too late.

For now, I'm listening to what the deer are saying:  I'm not your problem.