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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Our great lessons in how to behave can come from the most unexpected sources. This week: Pay attention to an animal in a zoo. An actor on the stage. They can teach us about our attitudes toward women.
On Monday, the Dallas Zoo announced that it was moving Patrick, a “gregarious” 430-pound Western lowland gorilla, to Columbia, S.C.’s Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens to have a little solo time till he works out his personality issues. If only all sexist, aggressive apes could be similarly dealt with. Is there room at that zoo for YouTube commenters?
As NBC news reports, Patrick gets along well with humans but has problems with his bro gorillas — and flat-out conflicts with females. Zoo officials had hoped he’d settle down and breed, but instead his dating efforts went flat when “he bit one female and sneered and nipped at others.” Lynn Kramer, the zoo’s deputy director, told the Dallas Morning News this week that Patrick was introduced to two prospective partners a few years ago, but “He figured out that he was twice their size and began exerting more dominance.” Eventually the females “became so stressed they couldn’t eat” and “began avoiding him at all costs.” They were moved to separate quarters a few months ago.
In South Carolina, Patrick will initially have a man cave all to himself, but will be able to see and smell the three other male gorillas nearby. If he can prove he can get along with them, he may eventually be able join the others as a fourth roommate. Like the Monkees.
Back in Dallas, taking Patrick’s place after his departure will be two new guys, brothers Zola and Shana. They should settle in nicely; Zola has already gained Internet fame for his fabulous breakdancing moves. So let this be a lesson, dudes who are not nice to females. You can be replaced, and by someone who knows how to execute a super-fresh spin. And while Patrick’s exile may just seem a fun bit of color from the wide world of animals, it’s also, sadly, one of the few concrete recent examples of a news story in which the abuse of females has any consequences for the perpetrator. A little more of that, please.
Meanwhile, back here in the human world, New York has a great, ferocious profile this week on Norbert Leo Butz, and the horrific crime that redefined him as an actor. In 2009, the Tony winner was in previews for “Catch Me If You Can” when his sister Teresa and her partner, Jennifer Hopper, were raped and stabbed during a home invasion. Teresa Butz was eventually able to break a window and flee into the street, where she died soon after, “pleading for people to tell her mother she loved her.” Hopper, who was able to escape, survived. The crime eventually inspired the Angel Band Project, which helps survivors of sexual violence heal through music and promotes awareness through events and concerts. Butz has, inevitably, lent his vocal talents to the project.
And in the past year, Butz has been making a conscious and vocal effort to change the conversation about violence against women, and in particular violence in his own business – entertainment. In May, he received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, and used his speech as a chance to tell students, “When watching your favorite television show, or building a queue on Netflix, or heading to the AMC multiplex, or downloading games or films or web series, or even just channel surfing at 2 am from your sofa, say no to violence against women in so-called entertainment. Change the channel at the very least.” And he announced that he no longer auditions for “material that uses the rape, mutilation, or murder of a woman for the purpose of adding suspense to a plot, to tease or titillate an audience when the narrative gets boring.” That kind of choice has repercussions. New York reports, “Under the new restriction, he’s had to reject almost every film and TV script – mostly police procedurals and serial killer dramas – he’s been offered.” Almost every single script out there involves violence against women. That sounds about right.
Butz is fortunate that as a successful theater performer, he has options that many struggling performers don’t. But he’s correct that all of us have a voice, and all of us can choose what kind of culture we want to build for ourselves. We can be one that lazily exploits real human suffering and experience for easy shocks. Or we can be a little better evolved.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)