Men, Women, and Bunnies

Jul 10, 2011 by

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While the man, calling from Virginia, wrote down the instructions for feeding his sick bunny, he commented, “This ‘fathering’ is tough.”

Yes, it’s tough for anybody to be in charge of the welfare of small beings, but maybe we (women) don’t give enough credit to the men who are making the effort.

Few images are as heartwarming to me as that of a burly man gently stroking a rabbit, or a loving couple doting on their bunny “child,” or a young family in which the boys, as well as the girls, are being taught the importance of caring for other needy creatures.

I was searching for these special treasures for the new edition of the House Rabbit Handbook, when my daughter, Tania, came in with a delightful proofsheet. Not only had she captured on film a beautiful young couple, Melinda Bascone and Richard Dow, with their wonderful rabbit, Taylor, but she had also caught the warmth of their relationship–that special magic that we hope will turn up in every adoptive rabbit home.

It was Richard who pointed out the necessity of overcoming traditional male attitudes to make his human-rabbit relationship work (which took him about six months). Since this is our goal as rabbit fosterers–to find homes where each rabbit will be loved by every family member, male and female alike, we need to think of how certain “traditional male attitudes” are overcome. Is it solely the responsibility of men to change themselves, or should women make some changes, too?

We take pride in our sensitivity, but maybe we’re not sensitive enough to the insecurity men may feel with this new role. Do we limit them to the lifting of feed and litter and the building of runs, or do we encourage them to get involved in rabbit care? Of course, they want everything written down. Think about it. Our grandmothers taught us a pinch of this and a handful of that and a lot of common sense. Men are relative newcomers to household common sense. They’re not as comfortable with guesswork, and they want exact quantities.

If we want to enlist the support of men in our rabbit advocacy, we shouldn’t turn them off with gooey talk about cute bunnies. Let the bunnies be admired for their integrity, charm, fortitude, or spirit.

We may exclude men inadvertently in small ways. For instance, when you sent for your HRJ subscription, did you include your male housemate? We often see two names on the check but only one subscriber (it doesn’t cost any more, and we’re happy to squeeze both names onto a mailing label).

The media is notorious for perpetuating the all-female image. Of all the House Rabbit Society publicity last Easter, only one newspaper, the Enid News in Oklahoma, bothered to include both Steve and Merry Lee Nafus in their bunny article. In syndicated newspaper coverage, I was the one photographed and quoted (and misquoted). Anybody who has met my husband knows he has as much to say about rabbits as I do, but he was relegated to the less responsible role of chopping carrots.

Maybe male rabbit owners are a little less vocal and more camera shy than females, but if they’re not seen and heard no one will know that they even exist. The all-female image is not serving the best interests of our rabbits. If men think it’s “unmanly” to like bunnies, half of our potential rabbit adopters are eliminated (and thousands of worthy rabbits won’t find homes).

What can enlightened House Rabbit Society men do? Help other men who are not as evolved as you. They have not yet overcome their fear of ridicule (it takes a self-confident man to wax enthusiasm over a fuzzy little animal). Show them that it’s fun. Sure, it does take more sensitivity to enjoy a rabbit, but just as you have been able to learn this subtle language, so can they.

Your obvious participation is needed–like taking bunny to the veterinarian or out for a walk. Show up at rabbit-care classes sponsored by your local humane society. These needn’t be filled with women only.

We are convinced that there are many enlightened men out there. Please stand up and be counted–and may your numbers increase while the numbers of unwanted rabbits decrease.

Marinell Harriman

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