Interview with Kathryn Madison, Author of "Woman’s Sigh, Wolf’s Song"
Q – The women in your book have careers that are not traditional female careers, and they face serious physical, as well as emotional, challenges. Do you believe that women still suffer from sexual discrimination?
A – Yes, I believe women still suffer discrimination, but at a subtle level due to the labels we inherit by being born female – daughter, wife, mother. While it is now acceptable for a woman to be intellectually brilliant, a woman who chooses to live in the woods and be wildlife biologist, instead of an in-town mom, is an anomaly in this society. In spite of Title Nine, women are not raised to embrace physical strength, or to test themselves against physical challenges. Rarely does a woman grace the cover of Outside magazine. It has happened, but not often. First, women had to prove themselves mentally – in the boardroom, the operating room, the statehouse. Proving themselves physically capable is the last hurdle of sexual discrimination.
Q – You draw interesting parallels between the human experience and wolf experience. Woman and wolf struggle to survive at several levels. Do these parallels actually exist?
A - This is an enlightened time, and we have access to unprecedented science on the behavior and biology of the wolf. In many ways the wolf pack closely mirrors the human family, each member contributing unique characteristics and skills to the group. A wolf pack is a complex social structure, all members related by blood, usually multiple generations of the same family. Only the alpha pair – mom and dad – breed, even though all the females in the pack go into heat, and all the males know it. The whole pack feeds the cubs, even though they may only be nieces and nephews, or younger bothers and sisters. So, each year, when Alaska’s aerial hunts annihilate wolves indiscriminately from planes and helicopters, that unique canine clan is broken, no less than a human family by the death of a parent or a child.
Q - Wolves were restored to Yellowstone ten years ago, why is this book relevant now?
A – Yellowstone is perfect wolf habitat, and in the decade since they returned, they have been quite successful in repopulating it, as well as rebalancing an ecosystem that was out of control. They have been so prolific, in fact, that this year the federal government will move to de-list the wolf from endangered to threatened, under the Endangered Species Act. This has triggered responses from the states surrounding Yellowstone. Wyoming’s state wildlife agency will allow wolves to be killed like skunks and jackrabbits, Idaho has said they will remove wolves "by any means necessary", and Montana has stated that they will institute "shoot on sight" rulings. So, in ten years we have come full circle – returning to the paranoia of fear, and the ignorance of the last century.
Q – What is it about wolves that so polarizes humans – either for them or against them?
A – Mankind has long recognized wolves as intelligent at some level. And from the first landing of whites in North America, we have seen them as competitors, first for food itself, then for real estate for our housing tracts and golf courses. And we fear they will kill us, in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary. Today we live in an era of greed and fear. What we want, we take. And what we fear, we kill. Those two driving forces leave no room for the wolf – in either the spiritual world or the physical one.
Cover by Buster Blue of Blue
Copyright© 2005 Kathryn Madison. All Rights Reserved.