Trouble with squirrels in Los Angeles – a feminist, posthumanist view

I suspect than most readers missed a new study of squirrels in Los Angeles that was recently published in Gender, Place & Culture, A Journal of Feminist Geography. I was alerted to this paper by an article in American Thinker: “’Liberal studies’ professor writes that squirrels are victims of ‘racist’ media bias.” (Link) I was able to download and read the whole paper, but I now find that it is behind a paywall. You can, however, read the abstract (link).

The paper contains a smidgen of science, but it is basically a politically-correct rant about gender equality. The paper is filled with the vernacular of leftist academia and is actually quite amusing because of the academia-speak.

Paper title: When ‘Angelino’ squirrels don’t eat nuts: a feminist posthumanist politics of consumption across southern California

Author: Teresa Lloro-Bidart, liberal Studies department, california State Polytechnic university, Pomona, Pomona, Ca, USA

The Abstract:

Eastern fox squirrels (Sciurus niger), reddish-brown tree squirrels native to the eastern and southeastern United States, were introduced to and now thrive in suburban/urban California. As a result, many residents in the greater Los Angeles region are grappling with living amongst tree squirrels, particularly because the state’s native western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) is less tolerant of human beings and, as a result, has historically been absent from most sections of the greater Los Angeles area. ‘Easties,’ as they are colloquially referred to in the popular press, are willing to feed on trash and have an ‘appetite for everything.’ Given that the shift in tree squirrel demographics is a relatively recent phenomenon, this case presents a unique opportunity to question and re-theorize the ontological given of ‘otherness’ that manifests, in part, through a politics whereby animal food choices ‘[come] to stand in for both compliance and resistance to the dominant forces in [human] culture’. I, therefore, juxtapose feminist posthumanist theories and feminist food studies scholarship to demonstrate how eastern fox squirrels are subjected to gendered, racialized, and speciesist thinking in the popular news media as a result of their feeding/eating practices, their unique and unfixed spatial arrangements in the greater Los Angeles region, and the western, modernist human frame through which humans interpret these actions. I conclude by drawing out the implications of this research for the fields of animal geography and feminist geography.

Prior to reading this paper, I had not heard of “feminist geography.” Wikipedia defines it thusly:

“The geography of women focuses upon description of the effects on gender inequality. Its theoretical influences focus on welfare geography and liberal feminism. Geographically, feminist geographers emphasize on constraints of distance and spatial separation. As Seager et al. argues, gender is only the narrow-minded approach when understanding the oppression of women throughout the decades of colonial history. In such, understanding the geography of women would mean taking a critical approach in questioning the dimensions of age, class, ethnicity, orientation and other socio-economic factors.”

Wikipedia goes on the say:

Socialist feminist geography seeks to explain inequality and the relationship between capitalism and patriarchy. It uses Marxism and Socialist feminism to explain the interdependence of geography, gender relations and economic development under capitalism. Socialist feminist geography revolved around the questions of how to reduce gender inequality based on patriarchy and capitalism. It has theoretical influences on Marxism, socialist feminism.” (link)

One more example of the point of view and jargon in the paper (edited):

Feminist posthumanist performativity and intersectionality

Feminist scholars first systematically began to consider ‘the animal question’ in the late 1970s with the development of ecofeminism. Although this early work was criticized as essentialist for its treatment of the category of ‘woman’ as a white, western, heterosexual subject and because some theorists worried it celebrated the association of women with caring tasks (e.g. caring for animals or the environment) to the detriment of establishing women as political actors, ecofeminism nevertheless made important contributions to feminist theory, particularly regarding human-animal relationships. Ecofeminists were the frst to theorize animal oppression through intersectional lenses, arguing that the same social systems and structures that oppress women also oppress animals.

Such is the State of the Union today. “May you live in interesting times.”

Note: I support the idea of feminism and gender equally. I do not support jargon-laden papers such as this one, no matter what the field of study is.