Tag Archives: Gender

A Month of Vegan Research: Identity and Effectiveness

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Rachel Einwohner.  1999.  “Gender, Class, and Social Movement Outcomes:  Identity and Effectiveness in Two Animal Rights Campaigns.”  Gender and Society 13 (1):  56-76.

Animal rights organizations in the United States are predominantly female and middle class. What are the implications of the composition of these groups for animal rights activists’ abilities to achieve their goals?  In this article, the author examines the role of class and gender in the outcomes of an anti-hunting campaign and an anti-circus campaign waged by one animal rights organization in the Seattle area. The article shows that hunters make classed and gendered attributions about the activists, whereas circus patrons do not view activists in terms of these statuses and end up taking their demands more seriously. It is suggested that an “identity interaction” between the activists’ class and gender identity and that of their targets helps to explain these different reactions. The analysis also highlights the role of emotion in social movements, especially the ways in which targets perceive and react to activists’ emotional displays.

free-speech-and-hunter-harassment

Activist identity influences social movement outcome.  The Nonhuman Animal rights movement is predominantly female and middle class, and these class and gender patterns impact our campaigns.  Einwohner specifically looks at hunting and circus campaigns and finds that hunters make classed and gendered attributions about the activists. Circus goers, however, do not view activists in this stereotyped way and are more receptive to the activists’ claimsmaking.  Hunters are more likely to be from the working class and male, while circus goers are usually families from a variety of class backgrounds.

Emotion also matters, especially with large numbers of women, as women are generally stereotyped as overly emotional.  However, targets of campaigning also express emotions (frustration, anger, defensiveness, etc.) which must be considered in strategy.  Einwohner advises to pay attention to systems of race, class, and gender and how those systems influence interactions between advocates and their targets.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 18, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Manhood and the Exploitation of Animals

masculinity-and-veganism

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


brutal

Brian Luke’s 2007 book, Brutal: Manhood and the Exploitation of Animals, explores the gendered nature of our relationship to other animals. Humans, he argues, are not naturally inclined to be violent towards other animals, but men’s attempt to rival women’s life-giving capabilities has fostered this behavior. The idea is that men can increase their social status through animal sacrifice. Sacrificial institutions (such as hunting, flesh production, or vivisection), he argues, position men as the primary generators of human life. While women generate life directly and positively (childbirth and nursing), men are the counter. Men tend to generate life indirectly and negatively via death and violence.

Luke rightly points out that most exploitation is perpetuated by men (though male violence is often supported by women as well), while the liberation movement is dominated by women. However, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement tends to take a gender neutral approach, a curious mistake given these explicit gender dynamics. Luke also recognizes the general rejection of feminine approaches to Nonhuman Animal rights. Emotion is devalued and male-centric theory is favored instead to combat the negative feminine stereotype associated with Nonhuman Animal rights activism.

While Luke’s book is an indispensable companion to Carol Adams’ work, his critique of vegan outreach remains troubling. Speciesism, he explains, is a structural issue, and veganism is too individualistic. Exploitative industries not only supply the demand, but they create the demand. Luke explains that veganism is too focused on “salvaging one’s personal virtue” instead of working for institutional change. We need to explore advertising, countermovement propaganda, and cultural traditions. He suggests direct action, which would include purchasing Nonhuman Animals from exploitative situations and homing them in sanctuaries, destroying exploitative equipment, and blocking transportation services.

Of course speciesism is structural, but veganism is not inherently inconsistent with institutional change. Veganism is not simply a matter of personal purity, but rather a political statement that challenges taken-for-granted paradigms. For those working to end sexism, for instance, should they focus only on structurally-oriented direct action and not promote feminism to the public and movement participants? Would it not be integral to movement goals to insist that activists and the public abstain from rape or domestic violence?

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about gender politics and their consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 8, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Sexist Imagery Reinforces Speciesist Sentiment

animal-rights-sexism

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

Carol Glasser.  2011.  “Tied Oppressions:  An Analysis of How Sexist Imagery Reinforces Speciesist Sentiment.”  The Brock Review 12 (1):  51-68.

All oppression is rooted in the same system of domination and so embracing any form of oppression reinforces all oppressions. Unless social movements recognize oppression as rooted in the same system of domination, they will not be able to reject the foundations upon which their oppression is rooted. Dichotomous epistemology and value-hierarchies are the main characteristics of patriarchy that enforce both sexism and speciesism. I illustrate this by examining two animal rights advertisements that use sexist images. I demonstrate how sexism bolsters speciesism by reinforcing dichotomous epistemology, establishing value-hierarchies and accepting that positioning women as animals is degrading to women.

Many organizations and activists support a “sex sells” notion when promoting misogynistic tactics in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, but there is no evidence to support that objectifying women encourages people to stop objectifying other animals.

Glasser explores this irrational assumption in “Tied Oppressions,” reminding us that oppression works intersectionally.  Treating women like meat only reinforces social norms in treating other vulnerable group like meat, including Nonhuman Animals.

lizzy-jagger-naked-tuna-fishlove-jerry-hall-mick-jagger

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about sexism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 17, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Why Feminist-Vegan Now?

woman-and-veganism

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Carol Adams.  2010.  “Why Feminist-Vegan Now?”  Feminism & Psychology 20 (3):  302-317.

In this essay, I offer a reflection on the publication of The Sexual Politics of Meat, introducing several of the main theoretical insights from the book, and examining whether and how they hold true twenty years after the book’s first publication. I examine the associations among notions of virility, masculinity, and meat eating, and explain the concept of the absent referent and how it functions in the institution of eating animals. I also explore why images have proliferated that show the animalization of women or the feminization and sexualization of farmed animals, and propose that these are recuperative responses attempting to reinstate ‘manhood’ and meat eating. I propose that resistance to the decentering of the human being often is expressed through what I call ‘retrograde humanism’. To conclude, I meditate on ‘little old ladies in tennis shoes’ – what it means for women that the animal movement so often wants to disown their work, yet needs them to do that work.

I often assign this article to my students because it neatly condenses the main points of Carol Adams’ theory in a short and accessible piece.  The exploitation of other animals is highly gendered.  The feminist perspective understands all vulnerable groups that have been victimized by the white capitalist patriarchy as feminine.  What this means is that our society is structured according to “male” and “female” gender roles.  Within this binary, “male” dominates and controls and “female” is dominated and controlled.  That which is “female” is seen as a resource to men.

Not only women, but also Nonhuman Animals and the environment are feminizedin this way.  Adams argues that challenging patriarchy must go deeper than the human male/female dichotomy and also include other vulnerable groups that have been feminized.  Feminism only makes sense when it is interesctional, and this intersectional approach must include nonhumans as well as humans.Pinup drawing of a white woman straddling a polar bearskin carpet. She is in black lingerie

This image is a good example.  Notice how both the woman and the bear have been sexualized and presented as a resource.  They are both on objects on display for the male gaze and for male consumption.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about gender and the animal rights movement in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 10, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Women and the Animal Rights Movement

women-and-animal-rights

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Emily Gaarder.  2011.  Women and the Animal Rights Movement.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Rutger’s University Press.

Women comprise 80% of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, but very little research explores the experiences of this demographic.  Gaarder’s book discusses the long history of women in activism for other animals beginning with the Victorian anti-vivisection movement. Women’s pathways into activism often include support for moral shocks, childhood relationships with animals, personal experiences with violence, and activism with other social justice movements.  Feminine gender roles also prime women for Nonhuman Animal advocacy, as women have traditionally been seen as animal caretakers and women have been socialized to be more emotional, empathetic, and relational.  Gaarder reminds us that gender is a construction, not a biologically-based objective reality:  “That women dominate the animal rights movement need not be equated with the idea that women naturally feel a greater affinity or compassion for animals.  This distortion might suggest that women activists are simply following a biological calling, when in fact they make a conscious choice to become political and ethical activists (58-59).

women-and-the-animal-rights-movementThese narrow gender expectations have been problematic in women’s participation in the movement, generally allowing men more power and leadership in “front-line” activism (thought to be consistent with masculine gender roles) which garner more prestige and legitimacy.  Though most women’s activism was rooted in emotion, they also internalized the devaluation of feminine approaches and believed that intellectual arguments would be more effective in addressing the public.  That is, while emotion drew them to the cause, they mistakenly believe the same will not be true of others.

The organizational and emotional work lumped onto women can be especially overwhelming, requiring the support of family, friends, and other networks.  On the other hand, activism provided many women with increased self-esteem and self-efficacy:  “The animal rights movement offered a fulfilling way for women to effect change in the world, both personally and as part of a political community” (86).

However, the gendered nature of our movement can be very dangerous.  Because women are devalued in activist spaces as they are in general society, we are not surprised to find a high level of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and battering within Nonhuman Animal rights groups in addition to “sexist, racist, and homophobic reactions from people outside the movement” (105).  The tendency to exploit gender stereotypes about women’s sexuality in many tactics (like PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than” campaigns) is also detrimental to the well being of women and the advancement of women’s rights.  Gaarder chastises the lack of accountability in activist spaces:  “A movement culture that excessively and uncritically embraces ‘movement unity’ fails to challenge overt or unconscious acts of male dominance and white privilege” (115).

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about gender and animal rights activism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 13, 2013.

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Unnecessarily Gendered Vegan Food

50_50__5clam“Organic Girl Good Clean Greens,” because only women eat organic?

Perhaps because it challenges a controlling and hierarchical relationship with the environment, organic consumption and food products are often feminized. Men dominate the environment, force it to comply, and destroy threats to this control. Women harmonize with nature instead. Men need their meat, and are willing to hurt others to get it. Women, however, just eat salads, not unlike the vulnerable herbivores men desire for their dinner.

The emphasis on vulnerability is reinforced by referring to female consumers as “girls.” Infantalizing women with “girl” rhetoric is a common practice, one that disempowers women and reaffirms male dominance. Grown men are infrequently referred to as “boys,” with the important exception of African American men, who have historically been called “boys” by whites seeking to reinforce Black men’s relative powerlessness in a racial hierarchy.

Feminizing food has the potential to reinforce inequality. The process links plant-based eating with marginalized social groups, and stereotypes women as weak. Ironically, while consuming animal flesh is a privileged act as it rests on human supremacy and control over other animals, eating green is privileged as well, despite its bad rap. Plant-based foods promote health and longevity, but they are sometimes difficult to obtain given poor food accessibility in many parts of society. Eating “clean” and “green,” as this product champions, should be accessible to anyone, regardless of gender.

Why does food gendering happen? As with any product for sale, considerable resources are invested in its marketing. Nothing happens by accident in this process. Advertisers are aware that gendering products can increase the number of products a household must purchase (this item is for her, that item is for him), and the amount paid (products advertised for her tend to be marked up in price). Food and gender is “the perfect mix” for profit-minded corporations.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the intersections of veganism and gender  in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on March 8, 2013.

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What Are You Doing to Help Animals Right NOW?

Sad looking dog

In this essay, I will deconstruct what people really mean when they pull on what Michele Kaplan calls, “The Urgency.” The urgency of Nonhuman Animal suffering (“RIGHT NOW!”) is exploited as a diversion tactic: no time to think, animals are suffering!  It is a trope that is frequently invoked to silence criticism and maintain the status quo, frequently in response to the following:

  • Critiques of sexism and misogyny in Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy
  • Critiques of racism, normalized whiteness, and white supremacy in Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy
  • Critiques of counterproductive agriculture reforms that protect speciesism
  • Critiques of “happy meat,” “veg*nism,” or other reductionist campaigns

While it may not be their intention, activists drawing on the urgency trope are exploiting the torture and death of Nonhuman Animals to maintain privilege and inequality.  Women, for instance, are frequently shamed for taking issue with rape culture as it is aggravated and perpetuated by misgoynist activism in the Nonhuman Animal rights community.  How dare they distract us when other animals are suffering RIGHT NOW?

When women, in particular, are shamed for voicing their opinions on sexism in advocacy, this trope also pulls on sexist stereotypes that women should put the needs of others first, ignoring their own oppression. Shaming women for caring about themselves has historically been an effective means of countering women’s empowerment and maintaining a status quo of oppression.

For activists who invoke urgency, I suggest that, if they truly do care about other animals suffering right now, it would be advisable to stop slamming marginalized people. A violent movement is not a healthy one. Instead, pay attention to what marginalized persons are communicating, and make an active effort to learn something from it. Doing so makes the movement stronger. I say this because this movement will never succeed so long as women are being discriminated against, people of color are being excluded,  and speciesist reforms remain the preferred tactic of Nonhuman Animal “rights” organizations.

The “Animals are Suffering Right NOW” trope is intended to quell criticism.  It is generally an uncritical diversion from engaging in discourse, preventing activists from examining how they might actually be participating in the oppression they seek to destroy. Before defaulting to the “common” sense of “The Urgency,” activists should consider that, as Kaplan suggests, ” …just because it feels good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are reaching beyond the choir.” Worse, if problematic tactics get protected as common sense, they could actually be abetting violence.

 


A version of this essay first appeared on The Academic Activist Vegan on August 2, 2013.

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