Thursday, June 25, 2009

*New Column* Snapshot: The Elephant in the Bathroom

(originally posted 02/09 at wordpress)

This is a new column from the editor of the SheSheet, mae stephenson. Snapshot addresses the here-and-now of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy in Portland, OR where the author lives, walks, and braves public transportation. She'll share her on-the-go experiences and observations via low quality cellphone snapshots and short synopsis. Yeah, she realizes there's nothing new about critiquing advertisements and culture from a feminist perspective, but aims to remind you that the work is certainly not finished-- No, not even in Portland, Oregon.

feminism on the go
by mae stephenson


Why did this baby-changing table have anthropomorphically gendered hetero elephant parents? Because only hetero parents in sets of two have babies, of course!

A couple days ago I found this gem attached to a baby-changing table in a single-stall bathroom at a bakery/cafe in NW Portland. It's part of the brand sticker-- the item's logo. It's been there a while: I could tell by how the sticker was shredded and picked-at to the point where I could tell the brand name was to the left of the image, but I couldn't actually read it. What I could read, however, were those elephants' genders.

I apologize for the low-quality image, but in real life, the lady-elephant was clearly noted by her long, curly lashes; slightly smaller physique; and place in line behind the papa elephant. Not that only women have eye lashes, but I wasn't the only one who guessed "female" at the sight of them (I showed some other folks the image). I would wager to guess it's in our cultural consciousness.

Heteronormativity is also a part of cultural consciousness. So is dichotomous gender and the nuclear family, for that matter. So am I the only one who's weirded out that the artist went out of their way to gender these elephants in a a human-like fashion? It seems to me that the artist could have taken the opportunity to-- in the spirit of inclusivity and maybe even social justice-- leave the gender to the viewer's imagination. Or-- dare I suggest-- push the norm by giving all the elephants long curly lashes!

Maybe next time, Portland.

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