What an eagle can teach us about equality
In another life, I would have been a wildlife biologist. Good thing life took me in another direction because I found out recently I knew nothing about eagles. As a budding biologist, if you don’t know bald eagles you may as well become a doorman. An impeccably stylish, consummate professional doorman, like the one waiting to greet you at Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver, but a doorman nonetheless. In fact, you might as well pick any other career other than wildlife nerd. If you don’t know eagles, you don’t know (bird) sh*t.
Not only do I have a degree in Wildlife Biology, but I’m also a bird lover. I especially appreciate birds of prey. You can imagine my surprise when I was reminded recently that adult bald eagles all look the same regardless of gender. Sure, they might be different sizes, but that bald head and white tail don’t tell you diddly squat about whether you’re looking at a boy or a girl; I had forgotten that fact. Oh, the shame. Needless to say, the conversation was a humbling experience. I may go back to teaching yoga.
An eagle adorns the American crest, symbolizes freedom, and acts as Stephen’s Colbert‘s sidekick. Subliminally, the message has been that those stoic, white-headed pescatarians of the sky are male. We’ve been lied to all along. There’s almost as much chance that bald eagle you’re looking is female; a sheagle if you will. This got me to thinking:
Eagles could act as the perfect metaphor for equality and acceptance.
My university professors would warn us of the dangers of anthropomorphizing animals. It’s dangerous to assume animals think as we do. No, that cougar sizing you up doesn’t want to be your date. But what if we could anthropomorphize our way to a better understanding of one another?
For decades, Disney and now Pixar have used beasts of all sorts to depict a multitude of personalities. The BBC and David Attendourough help us better relate to our natural world by turning creatures into furry representations of ourselves. (I can attest to this after studying a multitude of their docs for animal behaviour classes.) I think the time is right to use wildlife as representations of sexual and gender identity.
We can start by using the eagle. It doesn’t matter what type of eagle we’re looking at, what matters is that it’s there to look at. The eagle is perfect as is and so are we.
My metaphor is weak, I’ll admit, especially since it attempts to capture something as complex, meaningful, and deeply personal as gender identity.
It’s time we see an animated feature with characters who’s gender identities aren’t biased by heterosexism. I vote it stars an eagle.
Photo credit: Rory Tucker