'Pussy panic' and glass elevators: how gender is shaping the field of animal studies
Probyn-Rapsey, F and Watt, Y and O'Sullivan, S, 'Pussy panic' and glass elevators: how gender is shaping the field of animal studies, Australian Feminist Studies, 34, (100) pp. 198-215. ISSN 0816-4649 (2019) [Refereed Article]
The ‘pussy panic’ of our title is a phrase that belongs to Susan Fraiman. It is a diagnosis, a lament, and a warning about how Animal Studies (AS) is currently torn between rising academic respectability bestowed through the "installation of Derrida as founding father" (Fraiman, 93), and the neglect that this entails for AS’s deep roots in feminist scholarship going back decades, and across a number of disciplines (Gruen 2018). Finding that a ‘proximity to this feminized realm’ of ‘siding with animals’ can bring about a ‘pussy panic’ in male scholars, Fraiman draws a parallel between academic mainstreaming and the suppression of the ‘emotionally and politically engaged’ (93) work of earlier feminist writers such as Carol J Adams, Vicki Hearne, Donna Haraway and Harriet Ritvo. Inspired by Fraiman’s reading and her sense of a lingering pussy panic in the field of AS, we were interested to inquire whether or not the academic legitimacy the field deserves has also brought with it a privileging of men’s voices as it has developed over the years. In 2015 we conducted a large, broad-ranging international survey of AS scholars. From that larger survey, the issue of gender stood out and enabled us to investigate Fraiman’s observations further. Our data lends support to the idea that ‘pussy panic’ has indeed shaped the direction of the field so far.
animal studies, gender, animal advocacy, intersectionality, field formation, university cultures and gender