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May 17 2017

Scholar Exposes Racist Media Treatment of...Squirrels

by Charlotte Allen

Save the oppressed squirrels!

Back in 2015 several Southern California eco-blogs and other media reported an interesting biological trend: the gradual displacement of the local gray squirrels by reddish-brown "Eastern" squirrels that had somehow made their way west:

Curb Los Angeles summed it up:

Of all the East Coast/West Coast battles that have played out over the last century, perhaps one of the least talked about and most adorable is the one happening right now in Los Angeles and its environs among squirrels. One type of squirrel, a native species to California and coastal Western states, has been steadily losing ground to its East Coast counterpart, a transplant that hitched a ride to the area more than 100 years ago and has since become "the most common squirrel in much of Los Angeles," says LA Observed. SoCal Wild, a wildlife blog, has the story of how the recent arrival, the Eastern fox squirrel, muscled in on the local Western gray squirrel's turf and what the repercussions have been.

As its name might suggest, the Western gray squirrel is a staunch West Coaster. Native to the coastal states (California, Oregon, Washington), they're silvery gray with white stomach fur and they like to eat tree nuts....

They are totally unlike those trash-eating Eastern fox squirrels. A "fast procreator with an appetite for everything," these trumped-up rats first arrived at the turn of the Twentieth Century with the arrivals at what would eventually become the Veteran's Affairs compound in West LA. The squirrels were considered "pets," but it wasn't long before these reddish-brown beasts were escaping, eating nuts and fruit right off the trees, and making nuisances of themselves.

When they aren't eating and mating, Eastern fox squirrels are also pushing the limits of their range, always expanding into new territory. They had a little help from humans along the way. A graduate student's 2004 study found that people were trapping Eastern squirrels and unloading them in different locations—areas where Eastern squirrels hadn't been before. "Easties followed human development and slowly made their way along SoCal lowlands, setting up shop while grays in their pathway, quietly retreated into pocket populations."

"Trash-eating"! "Trump-up rats"! "Fast procreator"!  How mean! Sounds like anti-squirrel microagression to me.

And sure enough, wherever there's a victim, there's a victimologist, in this case the postmodernism-infused Teresa Lloro-Bidart, affiliated with the California State Polytechnic Institute in Pomona, writing an April article for the academic journal Gender, Place and Culture. In case you've never heard of that journal, it's the only place where you can find articles bearing such must-read titles as "The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins" and "F---ing Geographers! The Epistemological Consequences of Neglecting the Lusty Researcher's Body."

Lloro-Bidart's lusty title is as follows:

When "Angelino" Squirrels Don't Eat Nuts: a Feminist Posthumanist Politics of Consumption Across Southern California

Wut? Well, here goes the abstract:

"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’.

Nothing like "otherness" in a squirrel!

So:

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.

I don't get where the "gendered" fits in--but how is it "speciesist" to point out that reddish-brown squirrels belong to a different species from gray squirrels?

I'm pleased that Lloro-Bidart and her fellow academics are fighing squirrel discrmination so we don't have to--but the spelling in her article's title suggests that she may be an "Eastie" herself--which may account for her solicitude for the furry-tailed rodent invaders of he Southern California squirrel-scape. Every Los Angeles-area native--that includes me--knows that the word is spelled "Angelino," not "Angelino."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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