Are Spiders Sexist Too?

1 Jun

(First, again, another apology for the inconsistency of the posts around here. I’m hoping it will all even out soon as I figure out a new schedule for blogging in balance with my new schedule barrista-ing. Until then, I will continue to post as often as possible. Even if they’re not super long/in-depth posts.)

Last night, as I was cooking an amazing Pad Thai, my oft-referred to boyfriend Daniel was engaged in killing a small spider he caught in the kitchen. As often happens in this situation, there was a slight comedy of errors in the finding/losing/finding again and the ultimate slaying of the beast.

Throughout this process, he griped “Where is she? I have to kill her! There she is!” And, despite the fact that he argued the same point as he always does (there are more of them), I had to remind him that it feels awfully wrong to call the bugs/insects/etc. that he so enjoys killing all female pro-nouns.

Today, I read this:

scientists used totally different language to describe female and male behavior. They described male animals as engaging in “harassment,” “manipulation,” and “coercion,” while females got more passive terms like “resistance” or “avoidance.” Even literal emasculation was somehow recast as powerful β€” a male spider whose severed genitals remain inside its mate’s body after sex was described as “manipulating” her.

The article went on to identify what’s truly important about this subject matter, that

sexism goes so deep that it even affects descriptions of spiders. . . And while arachnid gender roles may seem a little silly, it’s important to consider what this study might say about how easy it is for unconscious biases to slip into science.

I would feel more vindicated if this actually supported my situation, which of course it doesn’t, but I do think it shines a light on something that we forget to consider. It’s important to remember that when we consider philosophy/politics as a part of our daily lives, we we go out of our way to live distinctly one way or another, that these beliefs we seek to overturn have permeated all depths of our society.

Because, as the article points out, these slight differences and biases may overshadow moments of true discovery.





4 Responses to “Are Spiders Sexist Too?”

  1. AngryHamster June 1, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    well, while your conclusion makes sense, the article you are referring to lost me (in a bad way). putting serious issues in absurd situations is equivalent (if not worse) to not discussing them at all. if you wrap it in a silly topic, you will lose the audience that otherwise might listen.

    people enjoy projecting their own reasons for behavior on animals, while at the same time insisting on being different than animals (for humans are self-conscious and able to reason; add other things I cannot remember right now). so we say animals are not able of the thought processes we have, yet we accuse them of doing so.

    now i’d think that scientists who research animals rarely fall for this trap. i’d think that using words like “harassment,” “manipulation,” and “coercion,” is just for the sake of describing the particular behavior and has nothing to do with the gender of the spider. if you are a male spider of a certain spider species, your only purpose in life is to mate, then you can die. we, unfortunately, do not have a separate word to describe harassment-like behavior of a spider, so we use the one we have.

    Re Daniel referring to the spider as she – it makes sense that you would want to kill a she-spider. Perhaps, this why we refer to the ones we want to kill as “she”. They tend to be more aggressive, occasionally only females bite, or only females are poisonous, they are also capable of causing a spider infestation in your apt πŸ˜‰

    • redshana June 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

      All good points, and I especially agree with the fact that the article quoted is pretty shaky. But I think it’s interesting to consider.

      I didn’t think that this situation is a particularly bad one, per se, but as I usually say in these posts; it felt particularly important to be aware of, if you know what I mean. While I didn’t mention it, I was thinking about the history of “hysteria.” Which I might add on as an extra post today.

      Also, when it comes to Daniel, unfortunately for him, factual information isn’t always enough for him to win the argument πŸ˜› πŸ˜‰

  2. Daniel Harper June 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    First of all, I SO did not want to see that black widow picture first thing in the morning.

    Secondly, it was a flying insect of some kind, not a spider.

    Perhaps it’s unfair to refer to all insects/arachnids that I see as female, but in nearly all arthropod species females are significantly larger than males — in most, males do little in their entire lives other than mate and die. Hence, it is significantly more likely that a random insect you see is a female rather than a male.

    • redshana June 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      Sorry baby, next time, a special spoiler alert for you.

      And yes, I realize the difference in situations (but in creative non-fiction you can change these small details, right?) but I also realize that you are still a spider sexist and your crazy facts will not help you win this argument!!! πŸ˜› πŸ™‚ Love you.

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