:: I woke up this morning to the most bizarre news story. I mean, truly bizarre.

The CNN headline read like this: “Lioness kills the father of her 3 cubs at Indianapolis Zoo.”

It went on this way: After hearing a lot of noise in the lion pen, zoo personnel “saw a female lion, Zuri [great name!], in a physical confrontation with their adult male lion, Nyack.”

Although they tried to separate the lions (how, exactly, does one do that?) “Zuri held Nyack by the neck until he stopped moving.”

The zoo did a necropsy of Nyack (that’s an autopsy, but for animals), and “found that the 10-year-old male died of suffocation from injuries to the neck.”

(At the point, I’m wondering why this headline popped up on my phone at all, and not, say, literally anything else.)

The story goes on. “The two lions were housed together at the Indianapolis Zoo for eight years and produced three cubs. … According to staff logs, there were no previous examples of aggression between Zuri and Nyack. … The Indianapolis Zoo said it will investigate the incident.”


I talked to a friend of mine to see if I was the only one wondering why the wonders of the natural world are being couched like a murder? Why is CNN anthropomorphizing a lioness turning on a lion in captivity?

Look at that headline. “Father” of her cubs? These aren’t people. He’s not a father. Male lions are terrible “fathers.” Male lions kick their own male cubs from their prides, after which the juvenile male lions often die alone. Don’t use a human word to talk about animals. That’s lazy and stupid.

It’s also misleading. I was waiting for the the next lines of the story to be something cliché, like this: “And the man lion had no prior record of domestic abuse.”

Or, “Neighbors are all scratching their heads. ‘They seemed like such a happy lion couple.’”

Come on, CNN. This is really bad reporting about animals.





The point is, the article anthropomorphized two animals doing animal stuff to make it more appealing to a human readership. And that would be the end of the stupidity of the article. Except it isn’t.

As I was discussing the article with my friend and thinking more about it, I realized a few things about why this article is even worse than a terrible portrayal of the the natural world and man’s meddling in it.

The article also reinforces our social misunderstanding about (human) domestic violence.

When I was in law school, I did research comparing the duration of sentences of women who murdered their boyfriends/husbands versus men who murdered their girlfriends/wives.

First of all, women don’t commit nearly as many murders as men. And they’re not nearly as likely to be murdered. But when they are murdered, they’re far more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner. Research here, and lots of other places.

Y’all. I don’t even have to tell you what those sentencing numbers look like. You know I don’t. Men get 2-6 years for killing an intimate partner. Women get 15. On average. That’s because intimate partner violence when the man is the abuser is normalized, accepted. When a woman strikes back? It’s unnatural. It disturbs the order of things. The woman must be made an example of.

Power must be re-balanced. The fist of the law must come down.

And if we’re talking about lions, then it seems unnatural that a lioness would rip out the lion’s throat. Or at least that such a thing is newsworthy. After all, according to the zoo, for eight years there was no conflict between them.

“They seemed like such a happy lion couple.”


Me: If the dude lion had ripped out HER throat it wouldn’t have made a headline, because dude lions amirite?



My friend: LOL

But, it’s not really funny, is it.


(c) 2019

Read more in the Gold-medal IPPY-award-winning book Even If You’re Broken: Essays on Sexual Assault and #MeToo. Buying my books helps support the writing that I do for free or for very little pay.

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