Episode 30: Jean Halley on girls and horses

Horse Crazy cover
Jean Halley

Jean Halley, professor of Sociology at the College of Staten Island, writes about the lives of animals, both human and nonhuman. It was the latter that initially drew me to her work. In her 2012 book, The Parallel Lives of Women and Cows: Meat Markets, she blends memoir with social theory in revealing the commonalities between violence and trauma in the lives of girls and women and the lives and deaths of cows via the U.S. beef industry. In her latest book, Horse Crazy: Girls and the Lives of Horses (to be released in July), she continues the autoethnographic practice of weaving her own horsey life story with sociological, philosophical, feminist, psychoanalytic and Foucauldian threads in illustrating the numerous benefits afforded girls and their horse companions.  For one, as Jean writes, “Horsey girl experience disrupts the normative white female-gendered binary of self-assertion versus care.” Moreover, as she writes, “I propose that horsey girls, in their challenge to gender norms, open up their world for their becoming in a way that moves toward the possibility of freedom.” Despite Jean’s admitted penchant for dark topics, this book affirms her optimism, and she describes Horse Crazy as largely a book about love.  

Reading Horse Crazy got me thinking about my own girlhood and the place of horses in it, much of which I had forgotten. After we stopped recording, I confessed to Jean a special connection I’ve developed with the carriage horses that I see every morning on West 58th Street as I head to work at John Jay and they head to their jobs in Central Park. I had been thinking of it as a little crazy, but now I see I might just be a little horse crazy. And Jean understood immediately.

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