The Sociological Significance of Pigeons
This paper will show how negative attitudes towards pigeons can be used as a lens through which to explore our negative societal feelings towards categorical transgression, as well as gender role nonconformity. Pigeons occupy a unique and significant space in our social world. As a bird it is expected to conform to pre-existing categorizations, some of which include: Residing in a natural habitat removed from our own, chirping daintily, presenting themselves infrequently for viewing through binoculars, existing in small numbers, and as our colloquialism illustrates, “eating like a bird”. So how does our relationship to a species of birds change when they exist in our urban environment, flapping about rambunctiously in large numbers, defecating all over our cherished public spaces, and eating large amounts of fast-food trash? The “Act Like a Man”(ALAM) box will be used to show how our relationships with socially constructed animal roles and expectations parallel non-animal roles and expectations reinforced by traditional gender roles. Pigeons are forced into an “Act Like a Bird” box as I have briefly described above, and when they begin to exist outside of that box they are met with hostility on all fronts. Through social and historical perspectives and careful examination of relevant literature on prejudice in the fields of Gender and Human Animal Studies, I will show how one can make use of the pigeon as a metaphor through which to gain greater insight into our societal attitudes towards categorical transgression, and more specifically gender role deviation.