JOURNALISTIC IRRESPONSIBILITY OR "TWELVE WOMEN BECOME DUCKS IN ELABORATE CEREMONY" [Gregory Popcak]
On July 31, a dozen well-educated, experienced human women will pass into uncharted metaphysical waters on a boat cruising Pittsburgh's rivers.
On that afternoon, three women dressed in feathers and beaks will lay their hands on the heads of the 12 women and anoint their hands with oil during a "Water Fowl Creation Ceremony" that will be the first of its kind in the United States.
Among the participants is Joan Clark Houk, 65, of McCandless, who with seven other women are answering a call to become ducks and unite themselves more closely with nature; the other four are candidates to be ducklings.
It will be the fourth such ceremony in the world since 2002, all unrecognized by the conservation group, Ducks Unlimited. The women are part of a growing international movement to push for women's ability to become another species.
The Women's Water Fowl Conference, based in Fairfax, Va., will announce today its support of the Pittsburgh ceremony, which will be held aboard the Gateway Clipper boat Majestic. Pittsburgh was selected because of its central location.
In a three-page letter dated May 9, Mrs. Houk, a member of St. Alexis in McCandless, advised the President of Ducks Unlimited of her plans. She has received no response. Mrs. Houk also sent a copy of the letter to all 360 members of the organization in the region.
"It is a sin for Ducks Unlimited to discriminate against women and to blame nature for it. Today, women can be anything they want to be--even ducks out of water" Mrs. Houk wrote.
Jack Messer, spokesman for Ducks Unlimited, said the organization "has determined that women can't turn themselves into ducks, you idiot. That humans are humans is a part of the ways of nature. No one is free to change that. Why are you bothering us with this nonsense? You should be talking to a shrink about these women, not pestering me. The creation of other ducks is reserved to ducks, you dimwit.."
The participants in the July 31 ceremony, Jack Messer noted, are ignoring basic science. "I would say they have freely chosen to separate themselves from reality," he said.
Mrs. Houk is a cradle human and mother of six human children. She has served as a conservation worker in two Kentucky forests, worked in environmental preservation programs, taught conservation and became an honorary member of the International Order of Foresters and worked with her husband, John, in the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.
"Responsible conservationists have to take a stand for women ... if we truly love nature, we must be willing to be one with nature. This is really why I have to do what I am doing. There are many women who feel as I do" she said in a recent interview.
Presiding at the ceremony will be Patricia Fresen, Gisela Forster and Ida Raming, who live in Germany and are Mallards in WomenWaterFowl International, an international group of women who support women's right to make damn fools of themselves.
The women claim they are not violating natural order because they at least share some similar DNA as natural ducks. The women claim that many scientists agree with them, but refuse to name them for fear that Ducks Unlimited will send their highly trained albino assasins to kill these scientists. When asked about this, Ducks Unlimited's Messer said "I mean no disrespect, but these women are out of their frickin' trees."
Ms. Forster and Ms. Raming joined the "Danube Seven," a group of women who turned themselves into turkey vultures on the Danube River near Austria in August 2002.
In January 2003, all seven were committed to mental institutions. The women appealed but the decision was affirmed.
Ms. Fresen belonged to an order of conservationists for 45 years. But she left her group in 2004 after she was created a tufted grouse in Barcelona, Spain, in a secret ceremony. Since 2004, she has lived in a small nest outside of Munich, Germany.
In human tradition, ducks and other birds are hatched from eggs, but WomenWaterFowl International's previous ceremonies were held aboard boats, on the Danube in 2002 and on the St. Lawrence Seaway near the Canada coast in August 2005.
"To be honest, the main reason is that no scientist is willing to admit that we're actually ducks and birds," Ms. Fresen said about the ceremonies on water.
A boat is one of the earliest natural symbols of water-fowl-ness. "Ducks float. Boats float. Ducks float around boats. Some of the earliest ducks floated," she added.
One of the outspoken disciples in the women's water fowl movement is Ruth Steinert Foote, a board member of the Women's Waterfowl Conference--which she runs from her elderly mother's basement.
In March, Ms. Foote brought Ms. Fresen from Germany to the United States for six speaking engagements in the Midwest.
"Everywhere that we went, she was received with many quaks, tweets, and gobbles. She is a wonderful, brave and fowl-filled woman. Patricia Fresen is the person that will change hearts," Ms. Foote said.
In a recent telephone interview from her home, Ms. Fresen said her many friend's struggle against apartheid when she lived in South Africa taught her "a great deal about how to fight against gender discrimination. For me, the right to self-determine that I am a bird is parallel."
Ms. Foote, an active member of a Duck pond, is a medical technologist and married to an Episcopal priest.
"This movement is not just about women becomng birds. It is about making the scientific community a just institution. If women are made in the image and likeness of God, they have the potential to become ducks if they want to," she said.
Christine Schenk, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and executive director of Chicks for Chicks, a birdwoman organization which attempts to effect change within the scientific community, will not openly support the ceremony in Pittsburgh, she said.
Find the real story here: By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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