#MeToo – A Bovine Perspective

BullEver heard a gentle metallic tapping on your window and turned around to find one of these looking at you? Well neither had I until last Friday!

In fairness I had seen the drama start to unfold shortly before. A young heifer escaped from the field below our house, much to the annoyance of her attendant bull. It was the noise he was making that drew me into the garden just in time to witness one ton of beef flesh barging through the electric fence in pursuit of his errant girlfriend, closely followed by his other four handmaidens. At which point, I hare-tailed it back into the house to call the Police.

In the ensuing hour while the Police and GSPCA tracked down the farmer, the five cows and bull cavorted around our garden, ate whatever they could find, pockmarked the lawn, sent flower pots flying and definitely would have come inside the house had they been invited! Watching partly with delight at the excitement and also horror at the mayhem, it gave me the chance to see bovine patriarchy in action – from the safety of the dining room window naturally!

The young female heifer was definitely leading the escape and at quite a gallop, it was she who found her way out of the field, into the neighbouring fields, through our garden and made a break for it along the road. Each time she struck out on her own, the bull followed her and brought her back into the herd. Dominant at the top of the gender pyramid, all he need do to maintain his lucky place in the world, is keep his girls together and get them pregnant! The straying heifer subserviently followed him back each time but almost immediately made another escape attempt.

After an hour, the farmer arrived rounded up the small herd and corralled them back into their field. Only this time, with the astonished farmer watching, the heifer hurdled the 3000 volt electric fence, in his words “like a bleedin’ ‘orse!” As it turned out, he’d split the herd that morning, his theory on her athleticism being motivated by one of the other heifers suckling on the escapee for comfort leading her to believe she’d lost her calf. So the escape behaviour was driven by an instinctive desire to find her missing offspring! The impulse so strong, they eventually had to park a trailer across the escape route to stop any further attempts, leading to a night of mournful crying.

No doubt anyone familiar with farm animals would know all about this type of behaviour, but to me it was a revelation, which got me thinking about the parallels with the human patriarchy.

What I had witnessed was the bull’s animal instinct to dominate and procreate and the overwhelming strength of the maternal instinct to nurture. From the TV news, I imagine many men in cultures as diverse as America, Russia and the Middle East would still support this view as the natural order for us too!

Which brings me on to Harvey Weinstein – Weinstein is 65 years old and was brought up in 1950’s America, before the women’s movement and at a time in history when women were seen as a possession of their husbands and few had roles outside of the home. The behaviour he is accused of was rife during the decades he entered the workplace. In truth I imagine there are hardly any women who worked during those times who cannot #MeToo on some level!

Historical rape and sexual assault can never be viewed as acceptable behaviour; it left those women with the deep emotional scars they carry today. I applaud them for coming forward to both heal their own wounds but mostly to out Weinstein’s more recent behaviour, because to me it’s the recent behaviour which is the most important factor. The fact that as the decades rolled on and the world changed, Weinstein didn’t stop, hadn’t learned, hadn’t taken heed of changing attitudes to women, he still believed it was his right to act out his bullish instinct.

As humans we are evolving ever faster, but for all our technological advances we are still driven at a deep unconscious level, not just by primitive animal instinct but also through the influences of our early socialisation by care givers, educators and culture ….

But what truly separates us from the cows in the field is our capacity as humans to become conscious of our instinctual drivers. However to do so we have to click off the auto-pilot long enough to observe, reflect on our instinctual impulses and review the appropriateness of acting on them. Only then can we hope to rise to our true potential as human beings and operate in a fair and equal world.

Alas we’ve still got a long way to go on this one. So for those who would argue the Patriarchy as the natural order for humans too, my retort would be – it’s time to leave Patriarchy where it belongs in the animal kingdom. As humans we have the potential for a different future, a partnership model where all people are treated with respect as equals, that way in future all our sons and daughters will be able to #NotMe.