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Biological rainbows, or the diversified genes associated with a certain species, are continually painted year after year in both species’ that reproduce with sex and those that reproduce asexually. In the case of humans specifically, our vocabulary as relating to the definition of men and women attempts to classify them as the cut and dry biologically sound description, using X and Y chromosomes. However, in many cases, men exist in our society without penises and women exist with them. What this means for reproduction is difficult to say, but we can see that there is a great deal of disconnect between our definition of who is a man and who is a woman and who is biologically male and biologically female. In nature, it is shocking to learn that the majority of nonhumans are not exclusively either male or female, and do not reproduce sexually. Most are hermaphroditic or asexual. The distribution of roles is also an aspect of animal society that is interchangeable in most cases, unlike the human conception that men are the breadwinners and carriers of seed while women are the caretakers and give birth to the offspring. “We’re only just realizing that the concepts of gender and sexuality we grew up with are seriously flawed.” If humans knew that we actually don’t represent the original norm, we may begin to view other humans with more acceptance and appreciation, such as in the case of hermaphrodites, homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people. Additionally, we may come to appreciate social abnormalities as well, and see that politically loaded issues like same-sex marriage are indeed not a problem. The breakdown of such social norms and constructs would provide for a happier society overall, allowing for the decomposition of stereotypes, racism, sexism, etc. Can’t we all just get along?
If we take Darwin's Theory for truth, and say that we really did evolve from animals, than this article justifies a lot of the sexual behaviors in humans that are said to be 'wrong' or unnatural today. The 'norm' for human seems to be: one female, one male; one vagina, one penis. But clearly, we are not the only beings on earth-and other species cannot be put into the same sexual categories that we try to put ourselves in. It's only starting to become acceptable nowadays to see a man taking on the role of 'mom' or a woman in the workplace without someone raising an eyebrow. The female has always been secondary to her male superior...it's in the Bible (see 'Genesis). But meanwhile, species that have been around much longer than us have males giving birth and females with penises...some aren't even specific to one gender. Some beings are mainly transexual, or aren't definable as one particular sex. Based on this knowledge, there isn't really one 'right' or 'wrong' either way you look at things. What are we really basing those gender and sexual boundaries on? It almost makes the relationships in 'Zoo' seem acceptable...almost...
Roughgarden's article gives a highly descriptive exploration of the idea of sex and what it means in the animal kingdom. She uses sex in its use of describing gender roles, intercourse, reproduction and family life. The humanistic term points to very simplistic and often stereotyped ideas when, in nature, it is far more complex. First, the idea the two human created sexes; male and female. In our world, males have penises and females ovaries. Women birth and raise the children and men provide and protect. This is way more flexible when it comes to animals. From animals that produce asexually, to sex switching, to hermaphrodite, there are many variations that are not recognized or widely acknowledged when it comes to humans. Intercourse can also be quite different from our limited view; take for example, the spotted hyenas that Roughgarden mentions. The females have genitals that can only be described as a penis, making the mating ritual much different. Another large section explains both the child-bearing variations and the methods of raising a family. It is no secret that humans hold a very stereotypical view concerning these two aspects in life. Roughgarden points out the various creature that break this mold, showing success in what would be viewed as alternative or even immoral. When it comes down to it, the article successfully explains instance upon instance of humanly unconventional ways of sex and everything that comes with it. That animals can live in nonspecific genders, reproduce in variant ways, find companionship in unexpected partners and raise new life in environments that we, as humans, do not accept. Roughgarden successfully backs up her argument that variations like these are quite beneficial to the different animals and proves that our preconceptions as humans can be illustrated as wrong.
This reading makes it evident that the gender roles and identities we have previously used to identify sexuality and gender are insufficient. As the above clip reinforces, not all animals use sex only as a means for reproduction and not all sex takes place between males and females. Even these terms used to identify gender and reproduction do not account for all animals. In other species there are individuals of both genders, individuals who can switch genders, and individuals who reproduce asexually. So how do our archaic definitions of sex and gender apply to the scientific really of gender and reproduction? Realistically they only serve to represent a few possibilities for genders and practices geared towards reproduction. Roughgarden makes a point that even the term we use to define an individual’s sex is the product of social constructions. “Gender usually refers to the way a person expresses sexual identity in a cultural context”(pg27). Overall most definitions of gender and gender roles are limiting, both socially and scientifically. Roughgarden’s article offers a good jumping off point to re-assess how we view these distinctions, providing a discussion for how we can re-define animal’s sex and sexuality.
Humans have a tendency of deeming things taboo as a form of control over other's actions. We create these expectations and nonsense societal rules that confine people and expect them to conform. We define what's normal but don't know ourselves. Of course I use "we" broadly in a sense of the looming pressure many people feel about/against showing even their closest friends and loved one's who they are and what they desire. I find it absurd that western civilization exalts the words of ancient philosphers who used to have sex with eachother and prostitutes while philosophizing the meaning of life and judgment; and yet we are so critical of those who follow that path. It is so easy for animals to do what they desire without reprocussion. This article and the video posted above reminds me of the homosexual penguins at the central park zoo and how much of a big deal was made over their display of affection. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2009/06/gay-penguin-dads-in-german-zoo-hatch-chick.html
Roughgarden talks about “woman” and “man” as social categories that have very little to do with the biological reality of male and female. Once I read about how gender was perceived during the Elizabethan era. I found it fascinating that during that time period the concept that gender roles were learned qualities was publicly known and accepted. Little boys and girls alike wore dresses until they were about ten and at that time the boys were “breetched,” this involved beginning to dress like a man and assume the masculine role in society. One predominating concept was that clothing, not physiology, was the determining factor of gender. This caused a tremendous amount of controversy in the theater particularly because men were playing women and therefore, in the public sphere, they were actually becoming women. In a publicly hetero-centric society this posed a threat to the sexual inclination of the other men on stage or in the audience. Just like everything known to societies and culture, gender roles are a social construct having little to do with the natural inclinations, or instinct of our species. Another thought that crossed my mind was Nietzsche’s critique of how the Judeo-Christian religions basically attempt to repress everyone by calling the certain natural strengths “evil” and weaknesses or the resistance of these strengths “good.” Both Nietzsche’s critique and the religious guidelines regarding piety are examples of how the human culture of conduct within society has little to do with what may or may not be instinct (if that is right word) and everything to do with human intellect. I see these two things, instinct and intellect, as entirely oppositional forces. Animals may serve as a pure example of instinctual conduct, and instinctual conduct clearly transcends activities based on basic survival alone. Also, since animals do not conduct their lives based exclusively on function and survival, the theory that they are essentially automatons seems to stand no grounds.
Roughgarden’s “Animal Rainbow” offers a provocative, empirical argument against Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection by closely examining diversity in gender and sexuality among various natural environments. She introduces the “animal rainbow” which describes the spectrum of genetic difference and variability within a given species. Biological diversity challenges our human tendency to classify in binary terms and view science as purely objective. Roughgarden considers the similarities and differences in reproduction, social relationships and sexuality between mammals, amphibians and plants. Homosexuality, hermaphroditism, monogamy, gender roles, casual sex and even multiple gendered families are found among all species. Interestingly, some of the few differences she observed between humans and other species were: parental role reversal and sex role reversal, found primarily among pipefish and seahorses.. and the inability for some species, specifically the anglerfish male to live independently from a female (44-45). Biologists define “sex-role reversal” as more parental investment or care coming more from the male than from the female (45). Even though Roughgarden takes issue with this definition, is it interesting to note this occurs among seahorses because it is biologically possible. Mammals on the other hand, cannot display “sex-role reversal” because embryonic development is internal; the female carries the embryo and provides necessary nutrients (48). Roughgarden’s claim against homosexuality as an evolutionary “error” is more than credible in my opinion and highlights important scientific information that has unfortunately been avoided. She defines homosexuality as a potential social-inclusionary trait, (a trait that enables an animal to be socially included through reproduction) because of its ability to increase fertility and survival (156). Roughgarden also discusses the “genital geometry” of the clitoris, which is the located away from the vagina, and not “activated” through penile insertion (157). I guess no one really knows the answer to this... does it go against an “evolutionary” or “natural” purpose? I’m not sure if Roughgarden is placing emphasis on what is “natural” or “unnatural” or whether either of them are of particular importance. She mentions copulation as a means to maintain the bond between male and female (112) but then asserts the function of homosexuality is to “send a friendly message” (155). Is she making an argument against social or natural claims?
We have spent much of the semester discussing the human tendency to anthropomorphize when observing non-humans in an attempt to make sense of strange (and irrational) behavior. Roughgarden appears to follow von Uexkull in asserting individual non-humans as subjects. Each species of animals has its own unique “rationality.” Roughgarden expresses certain beliefs that imply animals are logically thinking (at least in accordance to their own version of “logic,” that is, in accordance to their own cognitive abilities and the processes that operate them). Some of his claims—that, in a society, animals may “remember” those that are greedy and deceitful or generous and sharing—even imply that species of animals may possess a type of ethics. The diversity of possible cognitive processes implied by the extreme variation of “species advancement”/sexual behavior confirms the subjective approach to the study of the non-human. Given this, I have further reflected upon “Zoo,” and determined that our assessment of bestiality as animal abuse is invalid. Describing a horse as “innocent” and “unable to give consent,” just like a child, is yet another example of anthropomorphism. Someone in class gave the example that the nature of the stallion is to constantly seek sex. Any being, human included, can fulfill this natural drive. I would argue that a stallion having sex with a human is a more natural event than neutering such an animal.
In Evolution's Rainbow, it would seem we are faced once again with the human anthropomorphizing of other animals. In this case, with precepts and functions of animal sexuality. I feel that Roughgarden is trying to break way from the biological significance of ordering sexuality with - and I think quite brilliantly - with a new model of social structuring of both gender and sex. This model works quite well in refuting Darwin's original conception of sexual selection: that which is based on the notion that reproductive purpose is the only sexual characteristic that maintains a genealogical line. If, in this, we admit that current structures of animal knowledge - and how that knowledge is maintained and reproduced (pardon the pun) - are wrong based on anthropomorphized assumptions and behavioral 'empiricism', then I ask: what is the alternative? How do we find a way to understand the social structures of sexuality and gender roles in other animals based on 'hard' science? To that end, is there any merit in taking universal concepts in sociology such as 'field', 'habitus', 'value', and 'reproduction of order', and transposing them onto other animals. It would seem to be the ultimate in anthropomorphizing, yet, would make a fair starting point for restructuring our own knowledge of animals' functions. I particularly liked Molly's quote: "Biological diversity challenges our human tendency to classify in binary terms and view science as purely objective." and in reflecting on this I wonder if there is a way to understand biological diversity of other animals in terms of a diversity of social structures in other animals. How is it that the same species of animal, say a crow, may be both migratory and stationary - as we know some crows migrate and some do not. This is but one example but highlights the need to reorganize how we perceive and classify animals, as we have only recently accredited other animals with species specific methods of socialization and social structure. I feel Roughgarden's attempt at providing means to reorganize gender and sexuality in other animals is moving in the right direction: how animals social interact intra-species, as anthropomorphizing will always be synonymous with inter-species preconceptions.
Reading Roughgarden really turned a lot of previous discussion on its head for me. I was very entwined in the idea of anthropormorphism, what it means, why we do it and whether or not we should. It's not that this reading made me come to any entirely concrete conclusions in regard to those questions, but it definitely made me realize that there is a vast number of ways animals differ from humans (especially sexually,) and which in turn prevent us from being able to relate to them. Honestly, before this reading, I thought I had a general idea of how nature worked, and that, though it may have its occasinal quirks like male seahorses giving birth, for the most part it was pretty straightforward. Not only did this reading make me realize how untrue that was, but it also made me see how little of the animal kingdom I actually have and get to see in my daily life. Zoos and nature channels (from what I've seen) rarely do it justice in terms of displaying nature's variety and complexities. I think I was conscious of how diverse it was, but I never really understood exactly how little I knew until now. In a way it makes me think that animals are largely unrelatable to humans, but then when I consider certain tendencies, like when male squirrels more or less show off while mating, and how birds tend to act like couples, I waiver. Because of how little I now know I know about nature, my mind is constantly changing from leaning on one side of the fence to the other when it comes to how much human beings can be compared to animals. When I heard about the two male penguins in the zoo who raised a child together, I thought that was such a rare instance of nature being as progressive as humans. Now that I've seen so many kinds of animals change gender or mate and nest with members of their own sex, I'm starting to think that humans are very far behind in terms of sexual and relational development.