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Humans Caged like Animals in Zoos Nationwide!!! Promoting the Study of Humans as Animals

Amophrast's picture

You would never see a title this sensationalized in the news these days. Not unless you had maybe experienced the performance art work of Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Peña in "Undiscovered Amerindians." These two artists toured museums and pretended to be two indigenous people brought back to be showcased as a previously undiscovered tribe of people:

Some visitors were outraged and discontinued their memberships to the museums. Some people ate it right up, animalizing the couple in the cage. When revealed as performance artists, it was a provocative way to get people to acknowledge the animalizing of indigenous peoples.

On the flipside, anthromorphizing animals does not lead to great results either. It just as dangerous to anthromorphize humans as it is to animalize humans.

To some extent, we can only really make observations about the world around us by looking at ourselves, so this makes it okay, right? It may carry some of our bias (note that bias is a uniquely human quality), but it's a place to start. No harm really came out of us imposing our view on the universe, right?

"The Earth goes around the SUN? Oh, crap. I'll have to apologize to Galileo"

But it's not really a bad thing, it was just kind of funny and inconvenient!

Galileo was sentenced to house arrest essentially for providing the world with a heliocentric theory of the universe that differed from the world views at the time, particularly the views of the church.

I'm sure it was super funny for him.

Science should strive for impartial observation. If it did, would people actually know the surprisingly unknown diversities of sex and gender in nature? Would they know it from an academic or scientific standpoint rather than from sensational magazine and newspaper headlines?

It is bad science to ignore the outliers. Come on, I learned this in high school.

If science was impartial, animals would not be anthromorphized. Science would draw on studies and examples from nature rather than assumptions and stereotypes of the human world. There are no doubt scientists who are doing this already, but they do not seem to have as much reach as those who are doing it conversely.

No matter how much of an animal rights activist you are, please remember: animals are not humans. Humans are not animals.

Why is it important for me to draw this line as absolutely inflexible?

Consent is More Important than Appearance

Men are socially excused from rape if a woman appears to be sexually presenting herself. ("Look at the way she's dressed! She's asking for it!")

A cleavage bearing top and/or short skirt is not equivalent to a red babboon ass. That woman is not asking to be raped.

CONSENT. It's a thing. Tell your friends.

Woman are constantly berated and punished for dressing in ways that show skin, that express sexuality, or express confidence or a positive body image. Think about it: if a woman walked naked down a street, does that make it okay to rape her?

Why do I even ask? I'm sure there are a LOT of people out there who would answer "yes." According to, in a survey carried out in February 2010 for the Scottish Government, 17% of people in Scotland said a woman is partly, mostly or totally to blame for being raped if she was wearing revealing clothing. 

Similarly, rape is portrayed as a natural biological occurance because it occurs among animals. This is discussed further in jmorgant's thread: Is Rape Biological?

People Who Identify as Asexual are Isolated

Most things that are considered alive have sex (presumably to reproduce). But not everything does. By anthromorphizing nature and the study of animals and other living organisms, we create a gap between the sexual and nonsexual world, contributing to the isolation of asexuals, particarly in the US.

Sex is presented to be a common denominator among all lifeforms--therefore, if you're not having sex, you're unnatural. Not all humans engage in sex, whether it's because of personal choice, religious reasons, or lack of sexual attraction to others. If you are a virgin, it is assumed that some day, you are going to have sex.

Youtube user swankivy makes asexuality awareness videos. In one series, she lists the top ten reasons people give her for her asexuality.

"You're not asexual...."

10. You hate men

9.You can't get a man

8.You have a hormone problem

7. You're overly involved in your own busy life

6. You just never had ME in your bed

5. You're afraid of getting into a relationship

4. You were sexually abused

3. You're a lesbian

2. You haven't met the right guy

1. You just got out of a bad relationship

Swankivy also receives frequent inflammatory comments on her videos, including many that express the poster's desire to see her get raped or to kill herself.


As you can see, a single problem spreads out into a web of further problems, and this is only with two examples.

Human bias when observing biology or the misinterpretation of science leads to social problems.

But the point is...what can you do?

Call people out on their bullshit.

Call scientists out on their bullshit.

Call out people who misrepresent science or statistics.


Because a one-sided dialogue is just as dangerous as bad science.





Kaye's picture

provoking responses to provocation

Thank you, Amophrast, for your multimedia exploration of how animalizing humans and anthromorphizing animals can provide "scientific" fodder for those who want to advance particular social agendas.  The youtube videos you embedded highlight creative ways for responding to how indigenous peoples are viewed as animals, to how women are seen as "asking for" rape by the way they dress, and to how sexuality is used "as a measure of who's human." I agree that we need to call people out, to hold them responsible/accountable for what they say and do, and to challenge them to think through and acknowlege their assumptions and biases. 

I'd like to follow up on some of your points:

"If science was impartial, animals would not be anthromorphized."  I consider science to be impartial in some important ways--it is evidenced-based and willing to reject hypotheses based on that evidence.  It asks for results to be replicable and it requires peer-review.  However, science is a cultural practice of knowledge production and will inevitably have biases and assumptions about what to study, how to study it, and how to interpret it.  I do wish that more people (scientists and non-scientists) would engage in dialogue about science.  I particularly like Faye Flam's "Planet of the Apes" columns about evolution in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  And, I am reminded of Barad's critique of the ELSI (ethical, legal and social implications) program for the Human Genome Project as being "too little, too late."

"CONSENT. It's a thing."  I worry about categorizing consent (and other relational processes) as a thing.  Labeling it as a material "thing" obscures the power relations that create consent.  I think it might be more productive to think of consent not as thing we can have, but a relationship that we negotiate.  (Or, perhaps, in Barad's terminology, consent as a phenomenon?)

"Most things that are considered alive have sex (presumably to reproduce)."  Although reproduction is necessary for a species to survive, not every member of a species needs to (or does) reproduce.  An individual is not synonymous with a species, and if each member of any species did reproduce, planet earth would not be able support such population growth.  How might we help people better understand species as a biological and evolutionary construct that thrives on diversity? 

Looking forward to continuing this conversation!