The animal I want to talk about this time is a bird which has been seen as an icon for heterosexual monogamy. That was the image of the Laysan albatross until 2008. The reason for this image is that most of these birds nest with the same partner for their entire lives. Even the former first Lady Laura Bush praised their lifestyle in a speech about Oahu, an island of Hawaii, where a big colony of the birds live. Imaginable that Laura Bush was not amused when in 2008 an article of a team of scientists revealed that almost one third of the couples of albatross consist of two females, at least in this area. The reason why this has been undiscovered for such a long time is the fact that the sexes of albatrosses are very difficult to distinguish, paired with the heteronormative ideology of past scientists who did research on the albatross. Whenever two animals are seen together doing something that is linked to reproduction, it is automatically assumed that they are male and female. Considering the albatross a pair is defined by two individuals that incubate eggs and raise chicks together. The female-female pairs are able to do this because their eggs get fertilised by male individuals which are often themselves part of a pair. The fact that there are so many same-sex couples among these birds was however a bigger scandal than the infidelity of the paired males. Although one of the researchers said that they were very careful in their writing, which probably means that they tried to not make it a political pro homo article, it was on the one hand used to argue in favour of homosexuality and on the other hand attacked for being pro homo propaganda. When I read the article I thought that it actually lets the female-female pairs appear in a more unflattering light, using descriptions likefemalefemale pairing in the interim appears to make the best of a bad job[1]. Of course good and bad refers here to the reproductive success. But still negative judgemental words are used and the relationships between the birds are not euphemized at all. Nevertheless to me it seems like the scientists really tried to be neutral and to stay with biological terms. For example Lindsay Young who is cited and interviewed most often, refuses to call the female-female pairs lesbian and the male-female pairs heterosexual and insists that these terms have nothing to do with her researches. Unlikely that she manages to be totally neutral because we are all up to some point bound to our culutural ideology. This might be part of the answer to the question how we can stop imposing our cultural images on animals, which I posed in my first post. It seems not to be possible, even if a scientist does their best on being neutral, one never knows what the further usage and interpretation of results will be.

 

References

 

https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/tierwelt/article7243977/Wenn-schwule-Tiere-moralische-Werte-bedrohen.html

 

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/4/323

 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/06/02/female-albatrosses-set-up-same-sex-partnerships.html

[1] Lindsay C Young, Brenda J Zaun, Eric A VanderWerf; 2008

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