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Quick Bites

Age: 33

Family: Wife, Erin, is a math teacher

Hobbies

skydiving, back-country treking, tennis.

Most influential book

"Watership Down" by Richard Adams and Homer's "Odyssey" and "Iliad"

Would like to visit

Southeast Asia

Favorite movie

"Cube," "Pi," any of the "Star Trek" movies, "Life is Beautiful"

The son of a Baptist preacher from a farm in Elizabethton, Tenn., Mike Jaynes might not have seemed destined to be a feminist and animal activist.

But Mr. Jaynes has spent his adult life studying animal behavior, humanities and feminist theory. He has been a lecturer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for six years. This fall, Mr. Jaynes makes his first professorial foray into the Women's Studies department, teaching a course on activist ecofeminism.

Q: What is eco-feminism?

A: Ecofeminism compares the domination of women and of Earth by the patriarchy. It looks at the inherent femininity associated with the Earth, in Gaia traditions and the goddess theory. Traditionally the moon was female, the sun was male. If you look at the history of Western religion, it was (often) Pagan or Wicca. Many of these religions were matriarchal. It's like we have goddess worship roots. (Eco-feminism) tries to look how ... men and the patriarchy have dominated the Earth and women, and ... how the developed world has dominated the third world. That's another huge focus in eco-feminism, this idea of what has development done to the third world.

A: How did you get into animal advocacy?

Q: Initially, I saw a slaughterhouse video and I started thinking. I didn't see why animals were excluded from the Christian beliefs I grew up with.

All social justice movements deal with individuals who were not given the rights of the status quo. Women and minorities were included, and now animals are being included by more people. Animal advocacy isn't a fringe issue anymore. Of course there are the fringe radicals who blow stuff up, and that doesn't help anything. ...

A lot of people who get exposed to slaughterhouse videos feel terrible, but then they go to Chick-Fil-A. When someone treats someone with no regard for their person or their free will, they become a thing. It's a great question. How can a feeling human being do that?

Q: Did that lend itself to becoming involved in feminist studies?

A: I took a course in feminist literary criticism. The same way I was unaware of animal exploitation, I realized I had a lot of old-school attitudes toward women. I came into this idea that I was taking part in exploitation of women, but I'd never thought about it. I took more feminist classes, where I was the only guy. First I thought "maybe I should drop the classes, because this isn't something men take." But it turned out to be a great, interesting challenge because the women in the classes had perspectives and ideas I could never have. I was often held up to be the spokesperson for the male gender. ...

Q: Are you concerned that female students will challenge your ability to teach a course in women's studies?

A: I hope there is a lot of that going on. I'm looking forward to learning more about feminism from a class full of women. I'm not intimidated at all. I'm sure there will be some people who will have that point of view, and I hope I get a chance to try and deal with that. I enjoy being in touchy situations.

I'm interested in the male (perspective). In this era of postmodern feminism, we're still told "take care of your woman." There are two very disparate forces pushing us to be ubermasculine and in touch with our femininity.

I really believe in pushing (students) past their comfort zones, as long as it's heading toward somewhere, and I've been very supported by UTC.

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