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the ducks

29 Jul

Back in library school, Maureen and I talked about the patriarchy, the archives, and programming languages all the time. “Start writing again” has been on my to-do list since forever, and today Maureen implored me to write about my famed ducks, and that was precisely the jump-start I needed. She graciously let me cross-post my snarky writings on her blog.

Last September, I came into possession of some ceramic ducks. This was generally received as a good thing, because who doesn’t like ceramic ducks? They’re arguably less grotesque than lawn gnomes, plus: ducks! I even tweeted about it, like, “Ceramic ducks are guarding the house. I feel safer already.” I have to say that I have changed my mind about that: I am uneasy that these ducks are in front of my house.

So here they are.

You know, at first glance, they look harmless. That duck on the right almost looks like it’s giving you the hey-yeah-we’re-cool eyebrow raise. You know, when you also tilt your head back and lift your chin, like you’re channeling the Fonz or something. Almost.

Okay, imagine you’re me, happily going about your life, with the ducks guarding the house, and one day, your neighbor comes up and says, “Hey, I guess that duck,” (for the record, your neighbor was talking to the duck you thought was kind of channeling the Fonz) “is the girl duck.” And then you’re like, “Oh. my. god. You’re right.” See, formerly-Fonz has eyelashes painted on, while the other duck does not. And the thing is, I sort of implicitly know that this type of embellishment signals “female” while no embellishment “defaults” to male [1][2].


(Note the “girly” eyelashes.)

So now I’m suddenly fascinated by the relationship between these ducks. Look at the “boy” duck. He’s standing tall, with his chest out, facing directly forward.

And the “girl” duck has this wickedly slouched posture, it doesn’t look “cool” anymore. It sort of looks painful. Like, ow.

Also, look at the height difference between these two, and they’re about the same size, so this height difference is nearly completely accounted for by their respective postures. The “boy” duck looks in control, assertive. The “girl” duck doesn’t look cool anymore; she looks meek, shy, demure. I showed the ducks to my mom, and she noticed that the “boy” duck has his mouth (beak?) open while the “girl” duck doesn’t: “It’s like, the boy duck has a voice, while the girl duck has to stay quiet.” It’s a big deal, too. I mean, we’ve internalized gender norms so much that they’re even playing out in ceramic duck figurines. And it was subtle: it stayed under my radar until my neighbor commented on it, but now it’s all I see when I look at those ducks. Gender norms! In my own front yard! Performed by cute ceramic ducks! Is nowhere safe?

Okay, now for the fun part. I figure, if I am going to have gender norm ducks in front of my house, I might as well make fun of them. These ducks will now have signage. Snarky signage. I enthusiastically welcome ideas for captions. Here are some of my thoughts (with thanks to Maureen):


Please do not feed the heteronormative ducks.
Ducks are queerer than they appear.
Dr. and Mr. Quackles.

My neighbors will love this, right!

[1] Marked Women, Unmarked Men
[2] Stick Figures And Stick Figures Who Parent

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