Friday, June 27, 2008

Reading Spaces

Last year, the college of my kind of studies had a retreat at a local men's club. Yeah, supposedly they have women members, but the name is still [Something]men's Club.

Something about having the college meeting at a men's club rankled. Partly it was the whole "let's discuss diversity issues" that didn't even acknowledge we were at a men's club? There aren't many alternatives, none that are as cheap, anyway, in the area. The thing is, men had the resources to organize clubs with a fair bit of land, big buildings and meeting areas, and women met in the church basement or something. And so we have men's clubs with big meeting areas, and women's clubs, I guess not so much. I've never seen a building labeled "women's club" that I recall. (Okay, the Three Arts Club?)

This being a midwestern men's club, it had loads of dead animals on the walls, mostly trophy deer heads with antlers. But there was also a deer rear. And that struck me as odd. So, you know, I looked. No testicles so far as I could see.

Of course, some male animals don't have really obvious testicles, especially not in breeding season. Maybe deer are like that? I have to admit, I've never tried to take a close look at that end of a deer.

I sort of understand the point of displaying a buck/antler trophy--the desire to say, "hey, I killed this thing, aren't I hot!" But what of a (female?) derriere?

Of course, I thought of Sir Thomas Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt":

WHOSO list to hunt ? I know where is an hind !
But as for me, alas ! I may no more,
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore;
I am of them that furthest come behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer ; but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow ; I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt
As well as I, may spend his time in vain!
And graven with diamonds in letters plain,
There is written her fair neck round about;
"Noli me tangere ; for Cæsar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame."

Hunting women is like hunting deer: both are property of a sort (at least they both were in early modern England), both involve violence, etc. I'm a lit person, and these are the sorts of connections I make. Displaying the deer rear then works as a sort of sexual conquest metaphor. It's like a sporting way of displaying a nude female on a calendar, posed suggestively holding a chainsaw. It's not like most humans are "above" looking at an animal and thinking about sexuality (most of us just don't act on those thoughts).

Other women at the retreat noticed the deer rear, too, but none that I spoke with are involved in hunting culture, and none of us really knew what to make of the thing. And so, we went on with our petty little lives.

Until yesterday, when I went to the college office to fill out some paperwork, and learned that once again, our retreat would be at the same men's club. A male deanling was there, and I mentioned that the men's club was a bit weird as a meeting space, what with all the dead animals on the walls, and what was with the deer's rear end? He said he hadn't even noticed, and gave me one of those looks that says, "Don't be all feminist and piss on our cornflakes over something I can't control?"

And there are, of course, bigger fish to fry. But a deer's butt might be blogworthy, right?

So in preparation for writing this little bit, I thought I'd try to figure out just how big a deer's testicles are (no clue, still, though googling showed me all sorts of recipes), and if there's a hunting culture point to displaying a trophy of a deer's rear end. And this is what I found: (Source on

Yep, it's a gag thing (though a real deer). Here's what the ad blurb has to say:
Looking for a little tail? FINALLY, there's a butt worth kissing! No fear, the Deer Rear is here! Now, I know I've offered plenty of unusual gifty items before, but this one is surely to be dear (er, deer) to us hunter types. It symbolizes the trophy wallhanger that got away. You know... the one your macho hunting buddy almost bagged. Be creative. Have your mounted deer trophy on one side of the wall, and line up this baby on the other side to look like a full deer. Of course, the Deer Rear makes an unforgettable conversation piece for your den, deer shack, trophy gallery or the office. Right now, my volume buy shaves big bucks bucks off! More: Real whitetail Rear is mounted by a professional taxidermist for long life. Approx. 12 x 12 x 15" h. (size will vary slightly). Weighs 2 1/2 lbs. Has wall mounting hardware. Nab yours ONLINE! Deer Rear (Source on

And here's a customer review:
This is absolutely perfect for those lonely nights when your wife is gone. Order one if your wife takes long trips and there are no good places to get hookers in your area. (Source on

Both comments start with the sexual connection; I suppose it's good to know that I'm not the only one with a dirty mind.

It doesn't make me a whole lot happier about having a day long meeting staring at a fake deer ass in a men's club. But I'm willing to bet the good old boys at the club really think it's funny in that good old boy way. And good old boys rule the roost here and everywhere.


  1. I can see why you are a bit weirded out by the deer ass hanging on the wall.

    I really don't understand hunters, and in my state we only seem to mount the heads -- of course, my state thinks your state is a bit odd :)... but, it is a good source for fireworks!

    I had an old boyfriend from your state. His dad had all kinds of weird stuffed animals in the basement -- including a pair of baby fawns under glass -- which served as a coffee table.

    Clearly, I could never have married that boyfriend -- our children would have been traumatized by every trip to grandpa's basement... and, having me as their mother, they would have said all kinds of inappropriate and embarrassing things about animal rights :).

  2. The fact that he "hadn't even noticed" is a bit sexist in itself.

    Also, my neck he hadn't noticed. Liar.

  3. I don't think you need to make a big point about it, but maybe you could ask whoever is planning the retreat to use the Wyatt at some point -- connect it to your surroundings? Who can complain about Wyatt, right? It might make it the last time you use the men's club!

    I mean, a church basement would be a better place for a retreat than a hunting club.

  4. I know, I'm a rabble-rouser, but I think I'd make a big point about it. That's just . . . gross. And I don't mean just the deer-butt on the wall. As you point out, having to conduct a meeting about diversity issues in a space that was dedicated to celebrating male exclusivity and which contains trophies of deer genitalia (as a "joke" or otherwise) has got to set a new record on the irony-meter. I mean, really, I assume that you'd be discussing such things as anti-harassment policies, which often involve the stipulation that making people work in environments that are needlessly uncomfortable and offensive to them on the basis of their identities is a form of, you know, harassment.

    If the deanling and his fellows hadn't noticed, it can only be through willful ignorance or the normalization of blatant sexism. Doesn't exactly bode well for their actual ability to deal with diversity issues.

  5. Y'know, sometimes I think it's ok to piss on the cornflakes.

    You DO notice gender issues more than the average Joe. But that's a good thing. (And I'm still using your deconstruction of "Shake Rattle and Roll" in my classroom, thank you!) Because if we don't notice the sexism, who will?

    That said, it sounds like you pick your battles wisely.

  6. Inside, Hunters seem to keep full arsenals in the basement around here, more than dead stuffed critters.

    Delagar, Hmmm, I really think some well-meaning folks just aren't really attuned. I know I miss stuff that my friends pick up on at times, and only notice when they wake me up a bit.

    Susan, LOL, I can't imagine our deanlings caring about Wyatt or the discomfort, especially not when they're worried about bad budgets and stuff.

    Ancrene, I live in the midwest; we consider it a major win if some folks even recognize that other races than their own exist. We aren't up to big policy things.

    Terminal, Thanks :) I don't think this is a useful battle, partly because I don't want to end up meeting at a religious institution, and that's one of the other alternatives around. I'd prefer a men's club to an organization that says I'm going to hell.

  7. at my former job, we used to do working retreats at a conference room at a national recreation area, or at a hotel conference room.

    there have to be more choices besides men's club and church basement. maybe you and others bothered with the place can suggest a few alternatives?

  8. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Or at least hang a jacket up on the thing. Ick, ick, ick!! Sorry, Bardiac...

  9. I know that "pissed all over my cornflakes look"! I get it all the time. Especially when I (once or twice a year) open my mouth at a faculty meeting.

    I think you should insist that everyone wear funny hats with antlers on them, sing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious three times and smoke cigars, just like in a real men's club.

  10. So the hind has a hind?

    (I'm sorry. I am too tired to think coherently or avoid dreadful puns.)

  11. berkeley women's city club, designed by julia morgan:

  12. I was born and raised in the South, so I'm painfully aware of what it's like to deal with Old Boy networks. Unfortunately, they're not exactly defunct in Big City, either.

    I wish you luck with whatever approach you decide to take in dealing with this.

  13. It's like the story of my life.