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.


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.