Patrick, the Dallas Zoo's Sexist Gorilla, Has a Friend in NPR

PatrickGorilla.jpg
Patrick the gorilla
Patrick, the Dallas Zoo's recently departed lowland gorilla, was never quite a social butterfly, but he wasn't always quite so angry, either. Embittered by his best friend's death at the hands of Dallas police in 2004, he retreated further into himself, lashing out at his fellow primates -- especially the females zookeepers hoped he would mate with.

And so, when the Dallas Zoo decided to send him to a South Carolina facility after 18 years of trying to get him to shape up, the storyline was too good for the media to pass up. "'Sexist' gorilla being kicked out of Dallas Zoo," the New York Daily News announced. "Male Dallas Zoo gorilla to get therapy for sexist attitude," NBC News proclaimed.

The Dallas Zoo, apparently unfamiliar with the Internet, expressed shock and dismay at the "sensationalism and inaccuracy" of the news reports and attempted to set the record straight.

Patrick, they wrote in a Facebook post, isn't a bad gorilla. He's just misunderstood. He's not violent. He's just a "dominant silverback, and in the wild, such animals establish dominance regularly." Nor is he misogynistic or sexist. "These are human psychological behaviors and shouldn't be attributed to gorillas."

See also: Ten Reasons Dallas Zoo's Misbehaving Gorilla is Being Sent to South Carolina

That was almost two weeks ago, and there hasn't exactly been a rush by news organizations to amend the record, not least because "Patrick the Sexist Gorilla" makes a much better headline than "Primate Falls Victim to Human Tendency to Anthropomorphize Animals."

Leave it to NPR to suck the fun out of the Internet by talking to experts and reflecting thoughtfully on what was supposed to be a click-generating disposable piece of ephemera.

Here's Barbara King, comparing Patrick's "sexist" label with claims that male orangutans rape females for NPR's Cosmos & Culture blog:

I'm uneasy with using words like "sexist" and "rape" to describe situations like these. Why is that? If I'm ready to say that other animals express "grief," even "love," why balk now at using human terms?

Here's my answer: For the most part we're dealing with actions taken by men against women and these actions occur within, and are enabled by, uniquely human cultural systems of power and oppression. Patrick and his orangutan male counterparts may indeed act badly toward females, yet they aren't willfully choosing to inflict harm or violence as an expression of institutionalized male dominance.

See also: The Dallas Zoo Just Imported Zola, the Internet-Famous Dancing Gorilla, from Canada

King's experts, a philosophy professor and a women's studies professor, offer similarly nuanced expressions of discomfort.

"Once we believe that male domination is just natural, it's a very small step to believing that it's inevitable -- and, for some people, that it's divinely ordained or otherwise meant to be," Emory University philosophy professor Erin Tarver told King.

Valid concerns in a culture rife with misogyny and domestic violence, but booo-ring. The Internet is a place for perpetuating old stereotypes and coining new ones, not for an academic debate of philosophy and gender theory. Next they'll tell us that Zola, the Dallas Zoo's new gorilla, can't actually breakdance.


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18 comments
DallasZoo
DallasZoo

You caught us! We confess. It's true, Zola can't breakdance.

He is, however, quite the twerker. And does a mean merengue.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

Of course, one could argue that perhaps one of the internet's biggest issues is that much is regularly made of what "was supposed to be a click-generating disposable piece of ephemera."

Without this, where would we all be? Facebook. Twitter. All disposable pieces of ephemera.

Right?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

'  "Once we believe that male domination is just natural, it's a very small step to believing that it's inevitable--and, for some people, that it's divinely ordained or otherwise meant to be," Emory University philosophy professor Erin Tarver told King. '

OK, let me get this straight ... just because some very distant relative of ours behaves in an instinctual manner therefore all men are pigs.  OK, got it ...

ruddski
ruddski

Has it occurred to any of the experts that the ape may be gay?

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

You know, I read the last sentence of the first paragraph really wrong.  Really, really wrong.

My apologies to the female zookeepers at the Dallas Zoo for my fleeting mental image of what others had expected Patrick to do to/with them.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Whenever one of the Siamese males tries to establish alpha dominance, Big Kitty walks over and gives him a bat on the moosh.

ruddski
ruddski

Anyone here study Gender Theory?

ruddski
ruddski

Better than a bop in the bodega.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@ruddski One of my engineering pals in college had some fun with one of his required liberal arts courses. He took Women's Studies, posing as a chauvinist pig (he was actually a pretty open-minded guy.) He got in some dandy arguments, enraged a lot of humorless women, and guaranteed himself an A when he finally showed himself to be "sensitized" by the end of the semester. Then another bithead guy tried it the next semester, same prof, but was asked to leave class in the first week.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@ruddski  

What is the theory?  Mix equal parts female bits and male bits and wait for the reaction to occur .... then Kapowwieee ... Orgasm ... nature's bribe to get you to procreate ...

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@doublecheese @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

 I agree, for some reason Monty Python and the Holy Grail comes to mind ...

" [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

ruddski
ruddski

If Cruz were gay, you'd have to shower him with praise and affection, not racist mutterings. But as to the ape, maybe what he really needs is some kittens.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@ruddski Yes, I think you are right.  A box full of kittens in his cage should do him some good.  

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