Date of Award

12-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)

Department

Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Griselda Thomas

Second Advisor

Dr. Laura Beth Daws

Abstract

Since the 1980s, pit bulls have been portrayed in a raced, classed, and gendered national discourse that has associated them with minority males of color in low-income urban areas. This discourse has led to a villianization of the breed that has resulted in restrictions on pit bulls and their owners. This project seeks to explore the raced, classed, and gendered representations of pit bulls in cultural productions and the nuanced ways in which the intersectional identities ascribed to pit bulls have impacted their status as acceptable pets in the United States.

I aim to demonstrate that through visual and literary discourses, female animal activists, advocates, and rescuers are intentionally situating pit bulls within feminine spaces to disrupt their associations with masculinity and male violence to make them more appealing and henceforth adoptable by predominantly white, middle-class suburban pet owners. I explain why the disruptions in raced, classed, and gendered representations of pit bulls are critical rescue efforts, and I advocate for animal rescuers to work symbiotically with pit bull advocates to create both proactive and reactive solutions to create a sustainable culture that increases the number of pit bull adoptions and decreases the disproportionately high number of pit bulls killed annually due to a negative representation and misjudged breed.

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