Pouring wax from my vigil candle into cement cracks, I ponder why sidewalks are laid out in square grids, like large tile blocks. Is it psychological engineering, the way supermarkets design their stores’ floor lay outs to “steer” consumers through the aisles and subsequently maximize profit? Like the way McDonalds purposely utilizes ugly, uncomfortable plastic chairs to discourage visitors from staying too long? Sitting in public space for four hours every day allows one much time to cogitate on such matters…
Over the course of my “field research” demonstrating against animal research at Tulane, I’ve noticed women exude a far greater receptiveness to my ideas than men. Now, I would hypothesize that under our heteronormative patriarchal society, men are socialized to exhibit confidence and strength; while women are socialized to be more meek, the “done to” (or mere sidekicks) rather than the “doers”. This would thus explain why more women would take a flyer (and by extension, criticism) than men.
How to work through this dilemma? Well — going on an incredibly perceptive tip from my pal and “colleague” M—— (a longtime Vegan Outreach leafletter) — I simply applied a gender monkeywrench: When a self-assured male would wave off my attempts to hand him a flyer, I would insinuate — as politely and nonaggressively as can be — that he just might be afraid.
Observe one case study we conducted:
Me: “Hi, sir”– as you can see, I first lightly stroke the male “test subject’s” ego, before proceeding with the next question: “Would you care for a flyer?”
The male test subject replies, “No, thanks,” and proceeds confidently along on his trajectory.
Me: “There’s nothing to be afraid of; it’s just information.”
Male test subject, reconsidering, proceeds to turn around and accept a flyer.
After he entered the building, I turned to my two lady comrades on the sidewalk and performed a little victory dance! It’s, like, social science!
Granted, there are many effective sound bites one could employ, depending on whom you’re trying to communicate to. Versatility is crucial. For example, I’ve received similarly positive results when I began using the standby “I think these animals deserve better” or “I think these animals are worth fighting for” after each initial rejection. One person (a woman, not surprisingly) upon hearing such a sentiment, similarly halted in her tracks and accepted a flyer. Different strokes for different folks. Or to quote an administrator at my high school in grotesque response to my fruitless campaign to abolish dissection: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
But I like to think that, by casually suggesting the notion of fear to unresponsive men, I am “killing two birds with one stone” (figuratively speaking, of course!): challenging the social stigmas of gender norms while also fighting for animals inside laboratories! Double trouble!