“Antipredator instinct”

“Autistic children don’t like anything that looks out of place−a thread hanging on piece of furniture, a wrinkled rug, books that are crooked on the bookshelf…Could this be an old antipredator instinct that has surfaced? In the wild, a broken branch on a tree or disturbed earth is a possible sign of predator activity in the vicinity.” (Grandin 171)

 

I find this quote to be so striking, so compelling, I re-read it a couple of times to process. There are so many thoughts that run through my head I feel as if though I’m oozing with things to say about this. First, I feel that Grandin is brilliant for making this connection because it makes so much sense, and apparently she is right about something if she is a very successful engineer/visualizer that creates many plants (one third) for farm animals. I think that testifies to the truth behind her theories. She is someone who lives with this disability, not an outsider, which enables her to live it and breath it 24/7.

Going back to the quote above I feel that it is so interesting how she is comparing people with autism to prey and how they see minor details with such precision because they are far more instinctive than “normal” people. Something out of place doesn’t bug me, and I really wont ponder why it is out of place when it comes to these things, but through the quote I can visualize that small branch that is broken and how a lion has passed through there just moments ago. These details determine whether these animals live or not, so they are literally essential to them. Likewise, although not as extreme, people with autism feel like prey, they are introverts who notice these small things due to a fear they have, as Grandin explains. I feel that she is trying to make us realize how in people with autism, instincts are heightened causing them to be almost superhuman with a characteristic that can be known as “antipredator instinct.” This reminds me a bit of Sonora Taylor in the way that she relates herself to the animals and finds commonalities that make animals and us more similar. Grandin brings forth this whole discourse of instinct and how sensitive people with autism can be, which I find extraordinarily interesting and compelling, I love the way in which she has made it her career. She finds these little things us “normal” people don’t realize or see and makes the environment for the farm animals better by eliminating many discomforts we ignore. In the spirit of not making this so long, I feel like Grandin does a great job in paralleling the two, and showing how people with autism have antipredator instincts that make them very alert and aware of their surroundings just like farm animals, which can save their life.  

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Humane meat argument

I absolutely loved and enjoyed reading Sunaura Taylor’s, “Beasts of Burden” because it made me conceptualize disabilities in relation to animals. Through her writing and art she conveys a powerful message about the rights of animals and how similar they are to us as humans, sometimes having the same disability. However, I would like to focus on the argument of whether or not she is for humane meat or the destruction of breeding. I feel very confused on what she has meant to say. To me, I thought she said that killing animals is inevitable but that they should be killed humanly, not slaughtered. But, yesterday in class I was talking to a classmate and she disagreed stating that her point was, we need to stop breeding animals and let them die off. So now, I find myself confused as to what her ultimate message or argument was on humane meat.

“True, there are billions of farm animals on the earth every year, but their individual lives are filled with suffering and frustration from the day of their birth till the day of their slaughter.” (Taylor 208) I feel like she is advocating for their rights to be happy and live “normal” lives. I don’t know if she is saying that we should let them live their lives, without killing them, and let them die off. Or is she advocating for a humane way of letting them live until we kill them, and when they are killed, it is a painless process to them animals. She talks extensively about how many animals are killed off or thrown away because they are excess and not needed. She also shows this in her painting, Culled Male Chicks in a Dumpster, where these male animals are discarded because they cannot be used. I understand that Taylor wants the suffering aspect to end but what is her ultimate argument?

I really have enjoyed reading her piece because of how she relates it to herself and how she has made animal rights part of her life and her self. I find her work very intriguing because she brings forth something I have never thought about of considered. Seeing her made the piece come to life and her achievements all the more great. 

“Neutral Signifier”

“Ostensibly free of any (human) linguistic, ethnic, racial, class, or gender traits, the indigenous species is put into symbolic circulation as a neutral signifier incapable, it would seem, of communicating political bias against any individual or any constituency in Canada.” (Shukin 4)

From early in the reading, this quote stood out to me. I flagged it and decided to go back to it and dissect it more. I found her analysis to be something very intriguing and something I think about and struggle with very often. It is the notion that animals are neutral, that they don’t have a bias, which I find to be very complex. We don’t view animals in any other light except for on occasions, gender. By demonstrating this animal as a symbol of a nation, humans reinforce their mobility and fluidity to show that it is neither racism, nor classist, nor sexist, which to me is not a fair observation. Animals feel, they see, they think, and although I am aware that they do not fall under a certain racial category, some might disagree, I find it very disheartening that humans are quick to assume they represent what we want them to. This goes back to a larger idea discussed later in the reading about how animals are viewed and what categorizes an animal, humans have been quick to take a voice for them and classify them as neutral beings. 

To call animals neutral is to basically deny them their agency, is to think of them as nothing. I feel that it is pertinent for us to realize that they are not neutral, but in order to really comprehend that, one must see them as more than objects. I found Shukin’s piece to be both stimulating and challenging. She left me with many questions and things that remain vague. I feel that throughout her piece I got lost because of all the discourse around these problematic topics. However, I feel that this quote is a gateway to a bigger problem, one that isn’t necessarily cleared up. Some people continue viewing animals as a species without feelings or souls, while others feel that they are living just like us and should not be objectified. Shukin makes me wonder how animal capital ties to this and if it is part of the movement to male people realize that animals are more than neutral objects, they are a live species with feelings and capabilities to be bias. The questions still remain. 

Women in film

I found Barbara Creed’s, “Baby Bitches from Hell: Monstrous Little Women in Film” to be somewhat interesting. I hate that I cannot find a specific word to fit what I feel but interesting comes really close. Creed made me realize how women are portrayed in many of the most iconic films of all time. Needless to say, it isn’t necessarily a good representation that they have. Although I like the emphasis on women, I feel that film has evolved into a mans industry where women are used as props rather than actual humans. Furthermore, Creed ties innocence to women which further emphasizes their femininity and frailness, the fact that they are “malleable” says a lot about film and its perspective.

“Still not fully developed or formed, the girl child is malleable, capable  of representing destructive archaic impulses as well as innocence and the potential for good.” (Creed 128) The fact that women are viewed this way isn’t necessarily new. However, it makes me realize that it is the reason why society acts and functions the way it does. From an early age we are exposed to these films and become susceptible to their way of thinking which inherently becomes our own. Creed brings up very interesting and thought provoking points which tend to be overlooked as “normal.” “If the monstrous child of horror, tends to be more often female, it is because the culture constructs her image as more susceptible to corruption.” (Creed 131) Women are seen as the weak sex, they are more “susceptible to corruption” and portrayed as such in films which I find very discouraging and annoying. As a proud woman I have come to be annoyed by misrepresentations in films which later become inputed in society. Many people believe that a film is a representation of life and the messages brought upon these films translate to life, making the female weak and “malleable” in both settings.

The Media is a bias source

“The news media played a large role in the dissemination of these public health claims…a primary filter that selects what claims from public health to cover and how to cover them.” (D’Arcangelis 431)

I find this statement to be both true and troubling because it really highlights the media’s power and how they can take something so significant like SARS and point a finger to who caused it. Citizens rely on the media as a source of news and coverage to important events happening all around the world. I find it ridiculous how much power we have invested in the media without ever really asking whether or not they are right. As D’Arcangelis points in “Chinese Chickens, Ducks, Pigs, and Humans, and the Technoscientific Discourses of Global U.S. Empire”, they get to bring out stories and choose “how to cover them.” The American people were quick to put the blame on the Chinese for SARS; however, this wasn’t constituted on its own. It’s through the media the American people were given a bias view of SARS and led to believe that the Chinese were the perpetrators.

D’Arcangelis points out the notion of the “other”, making them foreign and unknown giving the media the upper hand to display these people as the reason, the cause, and the problem; without a just and full understanding of them. The media uses the notion of the “other” to portray this different culture as a “toxic brew” without informing its viewers of the probable causes of differences in tradition or the way they do things. This brings me to cultural appropriation and checking one’s own privilege; realizing that people do things differently from us and that doesn’t make those things wrong it simply makes them different. I agree with D’Arcangelis’ view on how the media perpetrates a lot of this “othering” and racism by portraying these people as unhygienic instead of finding a different way to show the news in a more neutral and informative way. They tend to make generalizations based on western custom and contribute to the discrimination of people from other places, passing on their racist and classist views to all that watch them.

The aestheticism of animals

I never really thought about animals in terms of beauty and intersectionality. I say intersectionality as a word meaning different categories such as race, class, gender, ability, and other forms of identity interacting to as one to create oppression and discrimination. It came to me in lecture on Thursday. We began to discuss the way animals look and how they evoke different emotions to humans, who inevitably, decide most of their fates. Although it is difficult to see, I have come to realize that like humans, animals are on a hierarchy consisting of things we ourselves are critiqued on. How an animal looks determines how we react to it. The colors of the animal’s skin or their “race” may cause us to be more lenient to some rather than to others. Darker colors are associated with evil and negativity, while lighter colors provide something beautiful or interesting to look at. Gender is something that we also categorize animals into and many times, subconsciously, associate with human qualities. Class is something animals can be categorized into as well; the food chain provides a rough outline of what we consider to be class. Animals with prestige are big and bountiful, they are the lions and tigers, creatures we admire. The bottom consists of the “unwanted” the flies and insects most people kill or screech at the sight. Ability can be measured with animals as well; those who can and can’t walk are seen differently, just like humans. Most importantly, for this purpose, going back to the lecture is the aestheticism of animals. We as a society know what beauty looks like and it is no different for animals, we find them beautiful when they are pleasant to look at, when they evoke a warm feeling, when we wish to have them as pets. I find this topic very interesting because it seems as though our understanding of humans and the way we categorize ourselves has been passed down to animals and our view of them. My interpretation comes from things I see and personal experience, I hope that through the course of this semester we are able to explore this topic more and provide a sounder basis to my observation.