Author Archives: Jenny

About Jenny

fat vegan • northerner • intersectional feminist • mental health advocate • anthrozoology postgrad

The Personal, The Emotional, The Sexual

“How could primatology not be a territory of feminist struggle? Western women’s place is indeed in the jungle. Whether other women and men occupy that material/mythic space when they watch monkeys and apes is a function of other histories and other stories.” (Haraway, 1984)

I am currently close to completion of the second-to-last taught module of my master’s programme: Family Hominidae and Other Primates. I was distracted at the outset of this module by my lack of primatological knowledge…. What is the primate family tree? What are the old and new world monkeys? Must I really tackle Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species? One symptom of my CFS/ME-induced cognitive issues is a preoccupation with details. But I’m happy to say I moved on fairly swiftly as we progressed through the weekly topics, and didn’t dwell for too long on my inability to retain hundreds of latin taxonomical terms…


macaque. image from pixabay.

We will complete two assignments for this module: an academic poster critiquing a study, and a longer essay on the topic of our choice. Now, an abundance of choice is something that throws up barriers to me every time too; I know that I tend to prevaricate terribly and often change my mind multiple times when it comes to the subject matter. But I also know that choosing an essay question too soon might preclude a topic covered later on in the schedule that absolutely has me gripped. Blessedly, the issue was avoided entirely as I found one question nagging at me throughout the first few weeks of the course: what is the importance of the contribution of women scientists to the field of primatology? Unusually, the most well-known of all primatologists are women (Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey) and many women, whilst not so ‘famous’, continue to contribute to the field: more so than in many other sciences. Continue reading


Informal blog post 2: structure and planning

This post constitutes the second in my informal blog series on the Puppy Rooms research, which I’ll use to help pull together the 3,000-word formal reflexive journal due mid-December.

I’ve decided to roughly split the work into five separate sections, each of around 600 words, and have planned out the content of the five journal posts:

  • One – What and why?
  • Two – Exploring existing literature.
  • Three – Reflexivity and bias.
  • Four – Questionnaire responses and first thoughts.
  • Five – Beginning to analyse responses and looking ahead to the final, 4,000-word report.

I’ve been using an excellent piece of mind mapping software called MindNode to plan out my full project and flesh out the areas I’ll work on, as well as their order, and it gives me the opportunity to visualise progress and highlight where I need to do more work.

Puppy rooms 1 mind map

Continue reading

Puppy rooms and student well-being

“The animal-assisted therapy (AAT) industry rests on the idea that animals (especially dogs) confer a touch of magic for people with impaired health or well-being. But…that the animals themselves have any such effect is not clear.” John Bradshaw [source]

Back in 2015, I was working at a large Higher Education Institution in Greater Manchester. I was a School’s student support officer, and it was one of many roles I’d held before (and have held since) in the HE sector.

I was also a volunteer ‘home checker’ for the local RSPCA branch at the time, and a fellow branch volunteer also worked at the same HEI. One day she contacted me to let me know that the students’ union was planning to hold a ‘puppy rooms’ event the following day.

At the time, we sprung into action, leaving numerous comments on the event Facebook page in an effort to persuade the organisers to re-think it.  Continue reading

Balancing work and study with CFS/M.E.

source: pixabay

When I began my Master’s degree in September 2014, I never imagined how much my life would change between then and now. I managed, more or less, to complete half of the programme’s taught credits in the first year, but then stumbled through two abortive attempts at beginning my second year, and am only just returning to study now.

In late September 2016 I was diagnosed with CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). After what seemed an endless barrage of blood tests and other various proddings/pokings, I was formally diagnosed and I began to learn about how to live with the condition.  Continue reading

Returning to Study: On time out, mental health and support systems


source: pixabay

Goodness, long time no type. In typical overloaded-student style, existing and new health problems overtook me during the summer of 2015, and ultimately I ended up interrupting my programme for an academic year.

While I’ve been out of the loop for rather a while, I suppose I’m in a good position to talk about the great support I’ve received from University of Exeter, both from the academic programme team, and from the central support services.  Continue reading

Reinventing Taxidermy – Revaluing Nature?

Holy moly, this MA business is intense. Once upon a time I thought I’d be merrily blogging away with each new weekly topic, getting all reflexive at frequent intervals, charting my academic progress with the sort of enthusiasm for education that only brand new stationery can truly embody. But I forgot that I work full time, and I have a dog, and a life, and it’s HARD! My last major assignment was a 5k word behemoth that near defeated me. I am in almost complete denial about the 20k word dissertation that I’ll be expected to give birth to next year….. But for now, I am soothing myself with a mere 2k word essay, an exhibition review, as part of the ‘Animal Mirror‘ module, concerning the representation of animals and animality. I chose to look at the Manchester Museum, which is literally across the road from my place of work (The University of Manchester) and which has always held a special place in my heart, as my long-time preferred museum-destination in Manchester.  Continue reading

On Man-eaters and struggling for books


This assignment has been an unexpected challenge. A sizeable chunk of reading in early December hadn’t solidifed any particular approach or argument in my mind. I had quite some bother getting hold of some key texts, which I can normally borrow from the University of Manchester library (my local) but none were available.

The subject librarian at the University of Exeter was tremendously helpful, and let me know that I could borrow books by post, which I had no idea was possible. Just after Christmas, Natural Enemies and Waiting for Wolves in Japan turned up, and both have helped me clarify my thoughts and ideas on the subject area.  Continue reading