First and foremost, may I say that I love women. I love their complexity. I love their determination. I love their courage in the the face of adversity, repression and oppression. I have nothing but respect and admiration for women. (How could you not?) And frankly, I think it is time that women had a greater say in the leadership of our movement. They have the numbers after all!
According to Emily Gaarder, in her 2011 book “Women and the Animal Rights Movement”, women comprise 80% of the non-human animal rights movement. That is a stunning percentage and something that I have been deliberating over for some time.
So, why are there so many women activists?
Firstly, I think there is a biological calling and I have no doubt that women feel a greater affinity or compassion for animals than men.
Secondly, the animal rights movement offers women an opportunity to become “political” and active in efforts to change the world for the better.
“Carol Adams has written extensively on the sexual politics of meat, arguing that women and other animals are both sexualised and commodified to facilitate their consumption (both figuratively and literally) by those in power. One result has been the feminization of veganism and vegetarianism. And, according to Adams this has the effect of delegitimizing, devaluing, and defanging veganism as a social movement.” (Corey Wrenn, “Vegan Feminist Network”, 22/2/14.)
If this is the case- and I am not saying it is – maybe it is time to get the “fangs” back!
Corey Wrenn goes on to say: “But I argue that this process works within the vegan movement as well, with an open embracing of veganism as inherently feminized and sexualized. This works to undermine a movement (that is comprised mostly of women) and repackage it for a patriarchal society. Instead of a strong, political collective of women, we have yet another demographic of sexually available individual women who exist for male consumption.” (Vegan Feminist Network, 22/2/14.)
Patriarchy, as we all know is alive and well in the vegan movement and in society in general, but really we need a change of the guard. Hairy, chest-beating misogynists are really a thing of the past. The old attitude of “get behind your desk and type or get nude for the cause” has no place in the animal rights movement of 2014 – and is certainly no part of ethical veganism.
We need more gender equality in the leadership of the movement. And we need it quickly.
“Until the nonhuman animal rights movement cleans up its act in its treatment of vulnerable populations within its own ranks, I don't believe it's possible to make any real headway for other animals. A coherent battle against oppression cannot be fought so long as the movement's own oppressiveness goes unchallenged.” (Corey Wrenn, “Why is the Animal Rights Movement so Toxic for Women?” 17/2/14.)
The old rule about “woman should be seen and not heard”, is no longer valid. Women need to be heard.
For a start, women are, generally speaking:
Better communicators than men
Not afraid to show and share their emotions
Have that inbuilt nurturing nature (compassion)
Are more efficient organisers than men
Are more patient than men
Women are more empathetic
Women don't take no for an answer
Women are strong
I am not talking about change for the sake of change. I am talking about the NEED for change.
We can do more.
We need new ideas, new perspectives and new approaches to carry the movement forward in 2014. I say, give the 80% a bigger role. It's about time!
“Never be discouraged from being an activist because people tell you that you'll not succeed. You have already succeeded if you're out there representing truth or justice or compassion or fairness or love.” Doris Haddock.
Jim Campbell is a vegan/abolitionist of 16 years. Android fan. Music aficionado and would-be iconoclast.
April's article: “Vegan Business Plan”. Your ideas and thoughts welcome.
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