Should we wish for a world free of all animal-print clothing?

animal print 7
Does this picture make you feel anything?

This article was inspired by No Place for Sheep’s article which in turn was a reaction towards an article from The Conversation which summarised the findings from multiple psychological studies about possible sexual objectification of female adults and children wearing certain types of clothing. Got all that? If not, don’t worry. It’s a massive topic and I’m not going to deal with most of the issues; and yet I have still managed to write an article considered four times too long for ‘modern’ tastes.

cardigan
Kurt’s cardigan sold for $137,000. Would it have got more or less if it was animal-print?

I am not an animal! I am a human being!

The one thing that piqued my interest from one of the studies cited in The Conversation article (linked above) was the use of animal-print clothing to trigger possible reactions of sexualisation. Why did the researchers choose this? I’ll just focus on the print and not any perceived skin-tightness or ‘skimpiness’ or the fact that, in the study, it was a cardigan of all things.

I made a similar hat once out of corn chips

Gender is a factor here too of course as it is not typically the cultural norm in our society for men to wear animal-print; like it was/is in other more tribalistic cultures. I’ll leave that issue alone in its cage for now too.

Actually, don’t tell a soul, but I do have a pair of animal-print leggings that I wear around the house and I’m male; well mostly male; well mostly male appearance. My technically ‘cougar’ wife bought them for me as a joke knowing full well my opinion of animal-print; but comfort rules for me and they are mighty comfortable. But enough about my psychological gender fluidity…

animal print 1.jpg
Don’t hate me for this #1! Man-brain fast response says, ‘Nope, sour-puss’; Woman-brain fast response says, ‘Look how skinny her arms are! bitch!’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘Do not judge anyone based on a single photo

Open your mind to your feelings on animal-print clothing…

Compare in your mind two near-identical blouses hanging up in a clothing store: one with a neutral block colour and the other leopard-print. Do you feel differently about the two items? There is no functional difference and only a minor aesthetic difference, right?

Now, imagine the kind of person who would wear each of the tops. Remember they are the same cut. Which would a stereotypical Real Housewife prefer? Which would a CEO prefer? Which would the women in your life prefer? Which would you prefer? There probably shouldn’t be any judgements either way because what’s the difference really? Any perceived differences would likely be an indication of our genetic and cultural programming, right?

animal print 4.jpeg
Don’t hate me for this #2! Man-brain fast response says, ‘Yes, zebra-style’; Woman-brain fast response says, ‘Look at her stuck-up face and her thighs. Where does she get off?’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘Do not judge anyone based on a single photo

Oh no! I’m not an animal. I’m an animal-print bigot!

I certainly feel there are differences even though I know full well there shouldn’t be, or at least wouldn’t be, if I could somehow abandon all my not-so-useful ingrained programming. Should I be ashamed to think that animal-print is more ‘tacky’, ‘dumb’ and, eek, can I type this without censoring, ‘slutty’? I couldn’t imagine any version of me ever choosing, and being chosen by, a potential female partner who wore a lot of animal-print? This doesn’t seem right; especially when I try really hard to not let arbitrary biases rule my life. Could this just be confirmation bias based on my small sample of women who have ever even thought for a nanosecond about dating me? It’s possible, but the researchers did use an animal-print top in the psychological study, so I’m probably not alone in these feelings I’d prefer not to have at all. And as I’ve crudely demonstrated in the picture captions, triggering happens in the brain faster than our conscious minds can keep up; even when we are fully aware of our triggers.

I would certainly prefer to judge people by more than their mostly unconscious clothing decisions, so is there a way I can I go about at least partially deprogramming myself from my animal-print cringe/flee thoughts?

animal print 3
Don’t hate me for this #3! Man-brain fast response says, ‘Grrr. Dominate me’; Woman-brain fast response says, ‘The top is okay even though it’s animal-print but the green pants! You trying to attract a leprechaun?’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘Do not judge anyone based on a single photo

Our Culture Still Has a Real Problem with Judging Women on their Appearance

If I could start from scratch with a true tabula rasa of a brain, I should not feel any ill-will against one type of clothing over another. I would look for patterns of who wears different styles from a large sample of people. I would then look for correlations between the clothing style variable and other variables like intelligence, mental well-being, socio-economic status; whichever boxes that we throw people in to simplify all the thousands (maybe millions?) of humans we’re bombarded with when we only evolved to only ever see a few hundred. I can’t easily perform this study from my fortress of solitude, and sadly didn’t notice a single person wearing animal-print during today’s anxiety-filled trip to the shopping centre, so I’ll settle for Google instead, and see if I can pick up any patterns. I haven’t succeeded of course at being a full blank slate, but I’ll let you know when I work out how to fully unplug myself from our Matrix and be able to read the raw code of reality.

red dress
Don’t hate me for this #4! Man-brain fast response says, ‘Terrible dress. Even animal-print would have been better’; Woman-brain fast response says, ‘Looks like over-stretched red balloons. Who chose this to look sexy?’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘Well, she is just a computer simulation in the movie, but was played by a real person, so, as always, don’t judge anyone based on a photo or a very short movie scene.
  • ‘white blouse’ vs ‘animal print blouse’ in Google image search
    • the first few rows of images for ‘white blouse’ were of the clothes only; no model
    • all the ‘animal print blouse’ images were modelled
    • white is a pure colour in our culture and I could sense this difference when I compared the white blouses to the animal-print blouses that looked certainly less pure to me and yes, more wild. I’m not happy with these feelings but I didn’t create these associations.
  • research language associations:
    • brain-storming:
      • wild, animal, cats, cougars, kittens, pussies, Catwoman, pussy-whipped, cougar-bait, minx, cat-fighting, kitty has got some claws
      • big & small cats are most certainly used as slang for women far more often than men; is it based on stereotypes for female behaviour?
      • the rise of the term cougar as an older dominant attractive female is a sign of changing times, although the patriarchy still manipulates them to pay pink tax to look a certain way, often including totally unnecessary surgical procedures
    • trust the Urban dictionary, the bastion of teenage misogyny, to include an entry about a ‘feline scale’:
      • “based on a woman’s age, this scale classifies women (who prey on younger men for their sexual appetite) as felines”
      • thanks for reminding us, contributor Eightball Jedi, of how terrible our society can still be towards women. I’m going to take a guess that Eightball Jedi is not a ‘feline’…
  • find an article, written by someone who wears animal-print, about how to do it in a ‘classy’ way without looking like a Real Housewife:
    • this quote sum up the article and makes me shudder. It’s not much better than the Urban Dictionary: “For a night out when you’re on the prowl, try a leopard-print dress with a black leather jacket.”
      • I can’t say I’ve ever been on the prowl or been prowled by anybody. I don’t feel like I’ve exactly missed out on anything…
  • find an article looking into the psychology of animal-print clothing, written by someone who I’m guessing definitely does not wear animal-print and loves evolutionary psychology a little too much, then go even further than the article does with potentially competing theories:
    • cat-prints do appear to evoke more of a reaction that zebra-prints or giraffe-prints. Big cats aren’t typically our pets and we don’t eat them. They are fierce predators to be avoided. Could a blouse really evoke a fear response that could be misattributed as sexual arousal as the article claims? Or maybe a fight response towards a big cat requiring to be attacked or tamed because it’s impossible to outrun with our inefficient bipedal motion?
    • I agree that there could be some unconscious desire to keep a close eye on the potential threat, but I’m not so sure about wanting to wrestle with the big cat or somehow try to soothe it, if the cat ‘pounced’.
    • I’m pretty certain that I would just freeze if I saw a big cat on safari and would likely get mauled worse than one of the poor keepers at Australia Zoo, who all probably get regularly screamed at by Terri to make the shows more ‘exciting’.
    • or how about the tribesmen who go out of their way to hunt big cats, then wear them as trophies? Could wearing animal-print make it seem like there is a trophy to be taken-down and then ‘displayed’?
    • or how about yet another theory? Animal-print clothing may not mean there’s danger about, but that the person who is wearing the pelt of a powerful animal is a great warrior. They could have either taken it down themselves or it could have been given to them as a gift. Both likely would have been advantageous in a sexual mate when living in a small tribe.
skynews.img.1200.745
Would they get mauled more or less if the keepers all wore tiger-print uniforms?

See the problem with evolutionary psychology? It’s good stuff on the big-picture general level, but get down in the dirt with all the animals, and there’s no way to work out which of the above theories is a dominant lion and which are subordinate lionesses. And I haven’t even included anything about the worship of female cat deities in ancient Egypt. None of this dredging up of our past makes me feel good about humanity, but it’s difficult to completely dismiss all of this as some people try to do. Science has continued to forge ahead and break our delusions of how much control we have over our behaviour. I do hold out hope that there’s still a little free will in there somewhere; because I need to believe that we are all more than just genetic and cultural slaves.

animal print 5.jpg
Don’t hate me for this #5! Man-brain fast response says, ‘Absolutely no way in leather pants’; Woman-brain fast response says, ‘How many animals had to die for her to look like a total ‘skank’?’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘Do not judge anyone based on a single photo

How cougars and kitties attract bad boys? Yuck!

To take evolutionary psychology probably way too far, assuming against my hope that some of us really are slaves to our programming, which style of clothing would be more animalistic to them? White or animal-print? Animal-print surely, right? And what do animals do? Do they write blogs, debate about racist cartoons and try their best to ignore the hideously corrupt and drug-addled Olympics? Nope, they fight, they f*ck and they feed. Think of the classic bad boy, going out on a date, eating, sneering at and punching someone who looked at his female companion wearing tiger-print pants, then taking her home to do the most important thing for continuation of our species: wrestle her to the ground and have his way with her half-tiger/half-lady body. This might sound ghastly to me, but can we say this type of behaviour never happens?

So could that mean that some women, if they want to attract a bad boy, wear animal-print clothing when they are ‘on the prowl’, as the classy animal-print fashion blogger put it?

  • he’ll get a bit of an adrenaline response because he thinks the human female is a predator about to pounce, so he’ll work extra hard to tame her?
  • or he’ll go on the hunt after her as a trophy, then tell embarrassingly embellished stories to all his friends of how his mark fought him off at first until she was purring in his arms, or whatever BS?
  • or he’ll unconsciously see that she is a powerful warrior who slayed a big cat and is now wearing its pelt; and a woman who is skilled at ‘cat-fighting’ is highly valued?
  • or her previous male-partner did the slaying, which must make her a real catch because she managed to keep the pelt and ditch him?

All of this sounds so alien to me it’s laughable, but there is a little bit of science to back some of it up. Back to the original research that prompted this article: can any of this be used to partly explain why the researchers used animal-print clothing in the study to trigger possible thoughts of sexualisation? I do feel that there’s something here, but it’s mostly conjecture, so will await some tribal boffins to dedicate their entire academic careers to the study of the evolutionary psychology of animal-print clothing. Maybe the clothing industry would fund it if they thought it could lead to more profits and eventually to every man, woman, child, and non-gender-binary on the planet owning a closet-full of animal-print clothes. I pray that day never comes…

animal print 10
Don’t hate me for this #6! Man-brain fast response says, ‘In prison, I would happily be one of his bitches’; Woman-brain fast response says ‘I popped him in my spank-bank years ago’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘Do not judge anyone based on a single photo

Deprogramming ourselves for the sake of equality?

So where does all this leave us? Due to our evolutionary and cultural programming that is probably stronger in some people than others, animal-print clothing worn by women is considered to be more ‘sexual’ than single block-colour clothing. Colours and patterns do evoke all sorts of feelings within us, both emotional and sometimes sexual too. There’s nothing special about the clothes or the patterns, it’s our brains ascribing pre-programmed traits to people wearing particular pieces of cloth. All that we can do, it seems, is try to compensate for this in our day-to-day lives and explain to others that clothes do not maketh the woman or man or child or non-gender-binary. If we take a little extra time, we should be able to at least try to overcome our initial reactions upon seeing someone wearing clothes we don’t like or clothes that we like too much.

But that doesn’t mean our initial reactions are always wrong; just that they aren’t a reliable indicator; and further investigation is required. So the neurotic Tinder-swiping is likely complete rubbish at finding a suitable date. Even speed-dating would most likely eliminate people who could be compatible. A lot of kind, quietly spoken people don’t do well with first impressions and a lot of destructive narcissists do extremely well because of their superficial charm. So don’t judge a man by his animal-print leggings, okay?

Of course, once you get to know people, and realise that they have no competency in their jobs and are therefore blocking someone with much more talent, constructive criticism is warranted. Take my arch-nemesis-nematode Sonia Kruger. Forget the book metaphor; she is pure nothingness of a scale not seen since before the Big Bang. It’s time for one of the Australian free-to-air networks to go, and Channel 9 did have Big Brother last, hosted by nothingness, so…

Lesbians-are-fat
Don’t hate me for this #7! Man-brain fast response says, ‘Pretty sure I’m not her type’; Woman-brain fast response says, ‘Good on her for being loud and proud!’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘Do not judge anyone based on a single photo

Try this one on for size…

to help you to admit to yourself some of your prejudices, rather than just pretending you’re not flawed like the rest of us. Find them, then try your best to engage your slow-thinking and compensate for them.

You can even try to exaggerate your brain’s quick response / slow response switching, in a safe way, by judging people on the TV that you’ve never seen before. I haven’t done a study to see if all people can do this, but I suspect that most people can pretty easily:

  1. Find a TV show with a diverse crowd of people who are strangers to you who get to interact with the talent. In Australia, QandA will work, even though there’s rarely any talent…
    • I looked for a contestants on one of the people’s forums for Australia’s recent federal election, where all of them only won warm, smarmy condescension from, well, you know who…
  2. Wait for someone you have a visceral reaction to purely based on their appearance including of course their clothing.
    • I found my trigger-person, who, on my snap judgment was an over-weight same-sex attracted female, though my brain didn’t use that terminology initially. Yes, it’s ironic that I don’t look too different to this person myself.
  3. For ten seconds, yell at the screen the most hideous things you can think of, that the most disgusting bully might yell at the person.
    • I won’t write what I yelled at the screen, but it wasn’t nice, it wasn’t clever, and it wasn’t funny. But it did come out of my brain and I’d really prefer to not think like this all the time like others in my family seem to.
    • If you’d like some inspiration if you’re having trouble, try some old Little Britain clips, like the one with Marjorie and Rosie O’Donnell.
    • If you want some misogyny ideas, look no further than Donald Trump, who has more patriarchal put-downs that the number of Miss Universe contestants he’s sniffed, up and down, just to check they really are perfect 10s.
    • Another Little Britain clip shows you how to be really mean and stereotype other people you might have an undesirable knee-jerk response to.
  4. For the rest of the time that the person is speaking, try to forget completely what stereotype they look like, and just listen to them and look closely for non-verbal communication as well. How confident do they look? What is their attitude towards the people they are talking to? What do you think they are feeling? If you haven’t already worked out that this is empathy training, then even more reason to actually give it a go.
    • My experience was cruel bullying jokes for a short time when I was watching the contestant on the people’s forum, but that soon turned into welling-up a bit when I could clearly see how hard a life this person had endured. (15min into video) It was readily apparent that this person struggled just to live through no fault of her own. The point here is not to feel pity for anyone, but to see everyone as equal human beings and give them a chance; even the ones you don’t think you’ll like; even the ones wearing the most eye-bleeding fashion you’ve ever seen.

If you can jump straight to step 4 with all people you meet, who clearly aren’t a physical threat to you, and try to engage in civil discussion with everyone regardless of their looks, until it’s clear that civility isn’t possible, at which point polite retreat could be the best strategy, then you are more enlightened than me. You can then teach me some more strategies on how to dispense with my lingering prejudice against people who wear a lot of animal-print!

animal print 8
Don’t hate me for this #8! Man-brain fast response says, ‘I’m not his type, but still worth a shot’; Woman-brain fast response says, ‘He’s mine! F-off Isla Fisher’; Human-brain slow response says, ‘I’m totally up for it too!’

All can benefit from following The Founder of Positive Absurdism & The Emergence Starts Now Grand Delusional Consciousness Immortality Project, Dave Chaffey Hippie on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, TumblrPinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. Or just pop on some leopard-print pants and go and have some fun; as long as you promise to stay away from me because I scare very easily.


 

 

3 thoughts on “Should we wish for a world free of all animal-print clothing?

    1. As long as you can accept all shapes and sizes and men too with their bits out in public! Clothes are over-rated in summer except for UV protection. I think I read somewhere that the naturalism movement is dying in Australia. Are we just too enamoured by the false facades we put on with our clothes to signify class, profession, gender, sports team allegiance, and at times, sexual availability? Decoration is fine but completely covering ourselves up and even masking our faces not so much. Too much make-up is the Western version of the niqab (burqa)?

      Like

Troll me under a bridge, you sexy oaf.

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