November 22nd, 2005

I have an admissions to make: My male Nintendog wears purple ribbons. The kind with the shiny little pearls. He wears them all the time. And he loves it.

Sure, the platinum collar would give him more pull on the street. (You know, the street, where we take those adorable puppy walks. I mean, you have to be careful; that Fido gets frisky.) And it’s true that his tiny puppy brother, Yorky, wears the pirate hat like a genuine badass. But no, for Pupcake it’s ribbons.

Why? Who knows. Because at first it was the only type of accessory I’d come across, and then when I tried to switch him back into something more reasonable he ended up just looking like Mitzi in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert after he tries to go all butch.

Pupcake doesn’t really seem to mind though. Then again, he doesn’t even fuss in the giant rainbow wig. He doesn’t know his masculinity is being threatened. And his puppy friends, they don’t give a damn. No one’s telling him to cut the camp.

My fellow trainers, on the other hand, keep looking at me funny. True, they’re pre-programmed – plus I can’t see their faces – but I think they’re dropping me hints that I’m setting a bad example. Whenever I pick up a new pink ribbon, someone gently suggests it’s best for girl puppies. And that Pedro is always giving me some bullshit about “well-intentioned advice.”

By which point, even Pupcake (who, let’s face it, was never the brightest pick of the litter) is rightfully wondering: I’m just a dog; what the heck? And if that comes out as barking, it’s only because he’s confused.

As human beings who perform certain roles within society, we uphold certain gender expectations for both conduct and dress. Supposedly, heterosexual men do not wear purple bows, because bows are for girls. Not that that set of rules in and of itself isn’t inherently unsettling, but when we impose our own gender logic on animals, things get much more befuddling. Purple bows on a dog don’t make him gay; it makes him, in some way, female.

Among themselves, animals are unaware of the supposed significance of the objects we assign to them. They don’t judge each other by the color of their collars, or the flamboyancy of the ridiculous costumes we dress them up in on Halloween. They’ve got a deeper, less-superficial sense of sex, or perhaps they simply have none. Both options seem to what we humans are constantly grappling with.

With all that said, it still seems impossible to shake gender perceptions, however silly, when dealing with animals. I might be rooting for doggy social upheaval in my DS, and pointing out the absurdity of projecting human expectations on to puppies, but the fact remains: at least part of the fun, rather than being in leading around an androgynous, liberated dog, is the thought that I’m leading around a puppy in drag.

Note: Even vegetarians get off for Thanksgiving. Content, commentary, and general silliness will recommence on Monday. Have a great holiday!

Tags: Blog

5 Responses to “My Puppy Wears Purple Bows: Gender Expectations and Animals”

  1. Tim Hettler Says:

    When it comes to videogames, bows relating sexuality are pretty engrained into our minds. I mean, how else would we distinguish Mr. Pac Man from the Mrs.?

  2. Bonnie Says:

    True, true. I think that’s a matter of simplification. In the gaming world, especially the old-school gaming world where representation was based on sprites, identities often have to be compacted (stereotyped, in a way) so as to become ultimately efficient and instantly recognizable. Pac Man: yellow circle with mouth and eyes. Mrs. Pac Man: yellow circle with mouth, eyes, and bow.

  3. MD² Says:

    Reminds me of one thing I really enjoyed a couple of years ago, when a certain new type of shoes appeared on the market. In Paris, they instantly became a mandatory accessory for the fashion conscious bimbo (the same way nude shoulders were all the rage this year; good for me). But in northern France it became a heterosexual clubber male marker.
    The whole situation generated obvious clashes, as northern clubers coming to Paris where almost universaly labeled gay on first sight (Parisian women had far less problem going north, which is probably the most telling detail). Actually, no. On first sight, they were labeled “what-the-hell?!”, then, not knowing what to do of it, people jumped from female accessory + male = probabbly gay… or, god forbid, provincial.

    The codes of a given society via its clothing is always fascinating. Its strange to think how much it determine our comportments, and (the two being obviously linked) how little people are generally willing to question them, doing whatever it takes to maintain status-quo (Aaaaah, Joan of Arc).

  4. MD² Says:

    Selfish little me has forgotten something important.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

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