The Division Between Feminists and Animal Advocates

How Animals and Women will Benefit from Intersectionality

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), one of the most well known animal liberation organizations, is usually not well liked by most people, especially feminists. PETA’s use of sexualized females and innuendos tends to be problematic, if not down right sexist. A recent PETA scandal was over their ad which used Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” remark as a way to market cat adoption. This ad was attacked by many feminists for marketing cat adoption at the cost of victims of sexual abuse. When PETA received criticism over their marketing strategy, they replied, “PETA takes both issues seriously but the sensationalism of this election has rendered many other important issues invisible” on their twitter page. PETA did not take feminist criticisms of their ad seriously and claimed that their cause was worthy enough to appropriate the experiences of sexually abused women so that their cause would have a trendy slogan. Overall, this ad sent the message that PETA did not understand the gravity of Trump’s comments about sexually assaulting women. PETA also distinctly separated feminist issues from animal rights issues.

A problem within animal advocacy is that many groups solely focus on the issue of animal exploitation and overlook all other systems of oppression. These groups usually lack a complex understanding of how gender, capitalism, and race also have factors in how animals are looked upon and treated in our society apart from just speciesism. Gender is especially evident in how animals are treated since most animals killed in the meat industry are female. Female cows are repeatedly raped their entire lives so that they can produce calves which allow them to lactate. Chickens are put in conditions that make them unnaturally produce more eggs and this causes havoc on their bodies. Animals are seen as objects for consumption, sexually assaulted, and the victims of violence, much like how women are.

Connecting the violence against animals and the violence against women can be classified as an intersectional approach. Kimberle Crenshaw was the first to formally coin the term intersectionality which is a way of assessing the way systems of oppression intertwine with each other the multiply the experience of oppressions. Crenshaw uses black women as an example of how intersectionality is important for feminists and anti-racial movements because of their multiple facets of oppression from being women and also being black. Black women are discriminated against in ways white women are not, and black women are discriminated against in way black men are not. This position black women are in is multiply oppressed and intersectionality allows for an analysis on this position. Intersectionality is a way for black women not have to be put into and either/or position with feminism and anti-racism.

I think Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality is undervalued in animal advocacy and animal oppression is also ignored by many feminists. For both of these groups to succeed in achieving justice for beings around the globe, they need to understand the connections between their struggles. Animal activists tend to slight the idea that patriarchal norms are upholding the legitimacy of meat eating, even though meat is seen as a manly act, predominately affects female animals, and most animals are slaughtered by men. Feminists also need to acknowledge the oppression that animals face due to their species as well their sex. Animals have a position in the world that discriminates them not only on their species but sexual abilities and this leaves much room for discussion on our role in their lives.

Understanding how our capitalist, patriarchal, and speciesist society interacts with different beings and places them in society would help one anothers causes. If PETA were to honestly critique their use of women and language in their ads, more feminists would be likely to connect with and discuss the issues behind animal cruelty. Feminists would also benefit from critically discussing the way animals too are objectified, suffer from sexual and physical assault, and face a world dominated by the patriarchy. One issue causes need to understand how critical it is to expand with an intersectional framework and without so, their work is insufficient for everyone.