“Before you leave, let your dog relieve himself outside.”
“Try not to feed your dog or give him water for at least four hours after you get home.”
“You’ve just arrived home with a fluffy German Shepherd Dog puppy, and he’s already carrying around your expensive shoes.”
“Begin training with your puppy as soon as you bring him home.”
“Once your pup’s in your home, you take over the responsibility for his socialization.”
The above quotes are from a German Shepherd training magazine and PetSmart’s Doggie Day Camp pamphlet. Notice a trend?
If you missed it, the sentences are all referring to dogs as male. Yes, there are parts of the magazine in which “her” is substituted for “him,” for example, but by and large it’s a male-dominated publication.
As someone who has been in journalism for 15 years, I understand there are always limitations when writing, chief among them often being space. Using “him” or “his” is much shorter than repeating “his or her” every single time, and it’s also a little more tedious for the reader to read “his or her” than it is just to read “his.” I’m sure any sort of bias was unintentional on the part of those who wrote these materials, but nonetheless, the male description was used and not the female. Would it be so bad to use “her” or “hers?”
Ever since I got married a few years ago and now that we have a female dog that we have raised on our own, these sorts of minor slights against females have caught more of my attention. As I raise her and shape her life, I think of Katniss in many ways as a human girl who is sensitive, outspoken, strong, beautiful and smart. I know, I know, she’s a dog: She sheds hair as much as fish drink water, barks, goes to the bathroom in the back yard and walks on a leash. I get it.
But if she were a little girl, as curious as Katniss is, what would I tell her if she asked me about the aforementioned publications’ seeming favor toward male dogs? To expand the conversation, as a fan of Batman and his fellow comic book creations—I’m assuming Katniss would be like me and take an interest in Batman (Batgirl?), too—how would I explain why there are dozens of hugely successful superhero films featuring men that have been released lately but none starring a woman?* How would I explain that if she searched for images of Wonder Woman or most other female superheroes on the Internet, the results would mostly depict those women as pinups** or even in submissive roles instead of showing them to be equally capable as their male counterparts? I’m not sure I would have an answer, or at least a short one. Then there’s the whole gender pay gap thing.
As I raise her and shape her life,
I think of Katniss in many ways as a human girl.
I don’t have children or know much about them, but I think it is important from a young age (in this scenario Katniss is age 6 in human years) to teach our boys to respect girls and show our girls that they are every bit as capable as boys. Should Katniss morph into a little girl and ask me these questions, I also would remind her of how strong, empathetic and intelligent her mother is—that mommy is a real-life superhero for all of the good she has done—and Katniss can be, too. I guess that would be my answer to Katniss’ questions.
For a 6-year-old, Katniss sure is a deep thinker.
*OK, OK—I know that the upcoming Superman/Batman movie includes Wonder Woman and supposedly Batgirl, and that film is supposed to create a Wonder Woman spinoff. I’ll believe it when I see it. Also, a Black Widow solo movie would be cool. And there’s supposedly a Supergirl TV show coming. Hopefully these new ventures will be given a chance.
**An artist should feel free do depict a character however he or she (see what I did there?) chooses, but there’s more to these characters than being eye candy, too.