What is Intersectionality?


Mainstream theories of social inequality frequently compartmentalize experiences, but inequality rarely works that way in real life. Instead, individuals are comprised of many different identities at once, and these identities will interact with one another in unique ways.

Furthermore, multiple systems and institutions are simultaneously at work in a given society. So, for instance, simply focusing on race as an identity and white supremacy as an institution ignores the fact that race will be experienced differently by people with different genders, ages, sexualities, abilities, and nationalities.

This schema is known as intersectionality, and it is a concept that emerges out of Black feminist thought.

In animal studies, vegan feminists employ this framework to argue that one’s life chances will be shaped, not just by one’s race, class, or gender, but also by their species. Vegan feminists also recognize the influence of an additional system….human supremacy.

For animals, we want to be thinking about how historical constructions of race, class, gender, and other identities shape how animals are thought about and how they are treated. Female-bodied animals, for example, are more likely to be exploited in the food industry given their ability to produce breastmilk, eggs, and babies. In another example, some animals that are associated with communities of color, like pit bulls, are more susceptible to punitive and often lethal breed restriction policies.

Meanwhile, for human justice theorists, it will be important to recognize how human oppression is always shaped by processes of species inequality. For instance, women and people of color have historically been animalized, and this animalization is inseparable from the oppression they face today.

Given that species, class, race, gender, and other identity categories are all historically constructed using similar mechanisms (such as animalization, objectification, sexualization, depersonalization, denaming, and so on), it is important to apply an intersectional perspective to achieve a more accurate understanding of oppression for nonhuman animals and humans alike.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with a New Jersey liberal arts college, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

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Nonhuman Consent: On Touching Other Animals


Words and illustration by Vita Sleigh

Understanding other animals as individuals includes respecting their bodily autonomy and rights. Recently, to better understand the experience of the animals I interact with, I have been trying to imagine what it’s like to do what they do, and how they experience it. For example, I watched dogs in a busy street being stroked by passers by – what are they experiencing? Pleasure? Shock and surprise? Irritation? Violation, even? Certainly, this will be different for each individual and probably at different times, too.

It can be useful to frame their rights to what happens to animals’ bodies in terms of (human) consent. This is most often talked about in terms of asking for consent before a sexual act, but it can also be prudent to ask before any physical interaction like hugging, touching the face, or otherwise entering someone else’s personal space. This grants them ultimate control over what happens to them and their body, which not only shows basic respect but is also critically important when taking into account peoples’ histories and the possibility that they have experienced trauma which might make physical contact troubling or difficult.

Although it may not be possible to verbally ask for consent before touching other animals, we are able to read them and the messages they are giving us; in this way, once we begin to look, they are indeed communicating to us what they want to happen. We can offer our hand to smell – for many animals this is the way they greet and assess others. We also recognise for example that a dog coming towards us wagging their tail and looking up at us is a sign of them choosing to interact with us. Their choosing to stay nearby, along with visible signs of pleasure (wagging tail, relaxing) while we stroke them – if they are not on a lead – is presumably a sign that they are enjoying it. So by taking clues from them, we can grant animals more freedom and choice about their bodies. Without this, we risk a one-sided interaction which is only of benefit to the human and possibly distressing for the animal.

A context in which this idea is useful could be at Animal Saves. There is a question amongst activists who attend Slaughterhouse Vigils over touching the animals. For some people, the aim of vigils is to show love to the animals in their final moments; to say sorry for what humans have done to them, and to say goodbye. Whilst this is powerful – it is true that my own attendance at vigils are rarely without deep emotion and pain – it strikes me that the goal of showing the animals love by stroking or touching them is an approach which still centres the human experience. The sight of the traumatised beings inside the trucks backing away from activists as they stick their hands inside the slats to touch them is distressing and seems counter-productive to me. The humans seek a connection with those they fighting to protect the lives of, but forget perhaps that the pigs, cows or other poor soul inside has probably only ever known violation and cruelty at the hands of humans. Though we may know that we are kind and gentle vegans, they do not know this. It does not mean necessarily that they will want to interact with us, and nor should they be obliged to. I have been reflecting on something a fellow activist succinctly pointed out – that when activists touch or stroke the animals in the trucks, they take away the only thing left to them: their personal space.

In Brian Luke’s Brutal, he discusses the erotics value hunters find in stroking the fur and touching the antlers of the deer they have killed. Luke suggests that this thrill comes from touching a wild animal who would never allow someone close enough to touch them when alive. For them, the thrill is in the violation: not only have they succeeded in killing the animal, but now they may do something against what had been their will when alive. The hunter has gained what they sought: complete control. The parallels between forced touching of (dead) wild animals, and the patriarchal culture of violent and dominating sex are evident: both are the (erotic) enjoyment of control and violation.

To a lesser extent than those who hunt animals, nonetheless there is in all of us a socialised, patriarchal desire to be in control of other animals: children like to chase pigeons, dogs are kept on leads as a sign of a well-controlled animal and a skillful animal “owner” who keeps their animals under control is respected. We all live in a culture which maintains that animals are here for us to use and control. In all interactions with other animals, we must bear in mind that our relationships with other animals exist in this context, and as a result we have to be vigilant in ensuring that our interactions with them are mutually desired, and don’t centre us as the only participant. For example, instead of thinking “I want to stroke this cat – I love animals” we could observe them, taking enjoyment instead from being around them. I value the cats I have met who enjoy being in the same room as me, seeing what I’m up to and occasionally coming closer for attention – sharing a space with other animals is an intimacy and a connection in itself. By respecting their distance, we may interact with them on their terms – the relationship formed will based on mutual trust and will no doubt be far more rewarding.


Vita is an illustrator and writer. Her deep interest in gender politics pervades her work, as well as a firm belief in the transformative power of care and compassion.

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The Sexual Exploitation of Dogs

By Julia Jagodka

Who doesn’t love puppies? They’re adorable, playful and free-spirited, yet most of these cute pups that people adopt (or buy) are products of a cruel chain of events. According to the ASPCA, female dogs are expected to be ready to mate when they are about 6 months old and are forced to mate for the profit of the owners. Too many loving puppies will be the result of forced and abusive mating. Think about it; this very closely resembles child prostitution in a nonhuman sense.

There are “farms” called puppy mills that are notorious for profiting from “breeding” dogs. These puppy mills are often overcrowded and unsanitary; all unhealthy for puppies confined in small areas and forced to breed. The ASPCA explains that puppies who are bought from puppy mills are more likely to have heart complications, as they are traumatized by the treatment they received at those puppy “farms.”

In addition to heart disease, puppy mill puppies are prone to other congenital and hereditary conditions including blood and respiratory disorders. Puppy mill puppies often arrive in “pet stores” and in their new homes with diseases or infirmities ranging from parasites to pneumonia. Because puppies are removed from their siblings and mothers at a young age, they also often suffer from fear, anxiety and behavioral problems.

The female canines are forced to breed over and over again to fuel society’s demand for purebred puppies, meaning that capitalism is running on the female dogs. Yet this isn’t only happening with dogs, but also with chickens forced to produce eggs, cows forced to produce milk, and pregnant horses forced to produce estrogen; all female bodies are exploited for the profit of our capitalist society.

Moreover, a female dog is actually called a bitch. This is more than a technical term for a female dog; it has larger social meaning. Such language is often used as an insult to demean their status. Its pejorative usage intersects with sexism and heterosexism, because it is also levied as an insult towards a woman or even non-conforming men. A man’s first instinctive response towards a woman who deceives or insults him is to call her a ‘bitch’ (Wrenn 2017). Why do people feel the need to impose these ‘societal norms’ onto dogs and other inhuman animals?

Female dogs are not the only animals who are sexually exploited. Male dogs are also used for “breeding,” of course. It is not uncommon for people to post advertisements of their “studs” online to secure them a mate to produce more purebred pups. Not unlike human men, studs are supposed to be muscular and sexually virile. If these “breeders” can’t get them to naturally reciprocate, then it gets even creepier. There are actual machines, called ‘mating stands’ that enforce this process of breeding if the canines are being uncooperative, or the female is too big for the male (Bailing Out Benji 2017).

There is also something classist and racist about the fetishization of purebreds. Dogs that are not purebred, dubbed ‘mutts’, are often tossed aside, unwanted, and put into shelters. Scruffy mutts, who deserve just as much love as any other dog, are ignored. With this in mind, intersectionality theory is also relevant to canines because of the devaluing of disability. Puppy mills can produce physical deformities and mental disabilities since there is inbreeding occurring. Some dogs are killed instantly after birth because of perceived defects (Fackler 2006). If a dog has a physical disability that reduces their chances of being ‘purchased’ or adopted, they are likely to be put into a shelter or “euthanized.”

Humans are sexualizing and objectifying these animals. Why do humans feel the need to control dogs in such ways? People like the feeling of superiority. People (particularly men) begin to believe they are superior to them, which gives them a justification to exploit them for their profit (Luke 2007, p. 6). Breeding contributes to the homelessness of future puppies. Present day shelters have now been turned into ‘landfills’, with canines often kept in lonely cages, and, for the majority who enter shelters, these dogs will likely be killed. People are treating these canines like puppets and controlling their lives and destinies.

Although humans and dogs are very different biologically, we are more similar than we think. Human females endure sexual objectification at work by male co-workers, or even in restaurants by strangers. Female dogs, meanwhile, are sexually objectified by their “breeders.” This sexual objectification extends to males as well. In “breeding facilities,” males are consistently judged based on masculine gender norms relating to sexual performance. Both male and female dogs are extorted for the “breeders’” profit.

All species should be able to live in unison, and humans should not take advantage of nonhuman animals. The exploitation of canines should be socially rejected. If people continue to protest these puppy mills, hopefully they will go out of business and cease operation. Without puppy mills in play, more potential dog purchasers will resort to adoption. Rather than purchasing dogs like objects, adopting a best friend should be the first action. Puppy mills should be completely disbanded considering that the industry inherently exploits female dogs through forced “breeding” and objectifies these animals by making them commodities.

 

Works Cited

Fackler, Martin. 2006. “Japan, Home of the Cute and Inbred Dog.” The New York Times, 27 Dec. 2006.

Luke, Brian. 2007. Brutal: Manhood and the Exploitation of Animals. University of Illinois Press.

ASPCA. N.d. Puppy Mills.

Bailing Out Benji. 2017. “The Sexual Perversion Behind Breeding.” Bailing Out Benji, April 20.

Wrenn, Corey. 2017. Module 11: Intersections with Other Animals.


Julia Jagodka is currently a first year student at Monmouth University that is majoring in Biology. After college, she hopes to pursue a career in dentistry. She grew up in Avenel, NJ. Jagodka loves animals, and even helps in nursing feral kittens and finding them new, loving homes. In her free time, she loves to draw and paint. Jagodka is the oldest of her two siblings and that is why she hopes to be a good role model for them while they grow up. Julia speaks fluent Polish, as both of her parents immigrated from Poland about 19 years ago. She had also attended Polish School every Saturday for the last 10 years in order to perfect her Polish. Overall, she is a very enjoyable an engaging person to be around.

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Pointlessly Gendering Cats and Dogs


My partner and I were shopping for a Christmas present for his dog one December (dogs love gifts, too!), and while sifting through the pet section of Aldi (a grocery chain), we noticed something strange. The holiday gift packs for dogs were tagged as male, while the cat packs were coded female.

According to Armitage Pet Care (“The largest independent manufacturer and distributor of branded pet accessories and treats in the UK”), kitty treats are for “good girls” and doggy treats are for “good boys.” The design colors and animal caricatures used in the packaging appear to be neutral, but the labels are unnecessarily gendered.

Upon further investigation, I found that this gendering process extends beyond Santa’s workshop: “Good Boy” applies to Armitage’s entire line of canine treats, and “Good Girl” refers to its line of feline treats. What is more, this gender assignment is presumed to be implicit. The company website does not bother to clarify which product line refers to which species; it is simply taken for granted that visitors will know that dogs are “good boys” and cats are “good girls” (see below).

Sociologists have noted that humans transfer their gender role expectations onto nonhumans. Dogs tend to be masculinized; cats tend to be feminized. Regardless of the animal’s actual sex, they will be socialized in accordance with the gender of their guardian.

My brother’s pit bull is female, for example, but she plays rough and rowdy. This is because my brother, male-identified, has socialized her as an extension of his own gender expression. Gender is not genetic or instinctual: it is taught and learned. Her behavior cannot be attributed to her breed, as other pit bulls can be very quiet and gentle.

When the sex of an animal aligns with the gender of their guardian as well as the guardian’s gender role projections, this effect amplifies. Consider, for instance, that many men are hesitant to have their male companion animals spayed for fear of emasculating them (a serious problem given the high death rates in kill shelters for discarded and homeless animals). Gender may be socially constructed, but its consequences are real indeed.

Sociologist Lisa Wade regularly deconstructs “unnecessarily” or “pointlessly” gendered cultural artifacts on Sociological Images and its corresponding Pinterest page to demonstrate how powerfully gender shapes the social imagination. To be clear, gendering products is not truly “pointless.” This behavior has a very intentional social purpose: to maintain and reproduce difference (which, in turn, maintains and reproduces social inequality). Nonhuman bodies are often politicized in the process, acting as representations of human stratification.

In many cases, the aggravation of these differences is agential because it also serves to increase consumption. A heterosexual, cis-gender couple can’t just share body wash, for instance. He has to have the forest-scented, icy blast, utilitarian soap in the black bottle labeled “For men;” she has to have the pastel mango passion meadow sparkle soap in the flowery bottle.

The difference enforced by gender is disproportionate in impact as well. Female consumers must fork up extra cash for the pink tax, as women’s products cost more than equivalent products for men. As sociologists understand the economic sphere to be the origin of social structure (and inequality), gender becomes another means for the market to encroach into the private sphere.

Now dogs and cats are being roped into the profit-oriented gender machine as well.

My cats do not care either way if they are a good “boy” or “girl” as long as yummy things are in the packet. My partner’s dog definitely doesn’t care if he is a good “doggy” or a good “kitty” either, and would gladly chomp down on anything and everything in the “Good Girl Christmas Cat Stocking.”

Sorry Armitage, but we’re not buying it. We settled on a chew toy.

 

References

Adams, C. and J. Donovan. 1995. Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ramirez, M. 2006. “‘My Dog’s Just Like Me’: Dog Ownership as a Gender Display.” Symbolic Interaction 29 (3): 373-391.

 

This essay first appeared on Human-Animal Studies Images, a production of the Animals & Society Institute on January 15, 2015. 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with a New Jersey liberal arts college, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

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In a Sexist World, a Horse’s Company is an Escape

horses-running

Many people go through a traumatic experience at least once in their life and they may also go through times where things get very hard. We are told that this is life and that life is supposed to be hard, but is it really supposed to be this difficult? Being a woman in a male dominated business is very difficult and often very stressful for me even though I am still in school. I choose a major and a career path that is heavily dominated by men, but women are slowly breaking down the barrier.

There have been many times where I feel like I’m being talked down to at work or I’m being talked to only because of my relationship with someone who is big at this company. There have been times where my boss and other co-workers have given me an extremely easy assignment because I am a woman but on the contrary, they have also given me nearly impossible assignments to make me feel like I can’t complete it. There are days where I feel like I should give up on my career choice to be an accountant and to pick something that is more welcoming to woman, but the only thing that stops me from changing my life is the company of my horses.

When people typically have a bad day at work they go home and relax on the couch; or they can go pay a therapist to listen to them talk about their day. When I have a bad day, I go to the horse farm to destress with the company of my horses. There is something about a horse that is relaxing to a person and can make their bad day turn into something positive by just being around a horse. I often get called the “crazy” horse girl by my friends, but anyone who has ever been around a horse before knows exactly what I am talking about.

horse-running
Some people would argue that the reason for having animals, such as horses is to use them for a specific purpose such as providing labor or transportation. Another thought is that we as humans exploit animals for our gain and we do so by using force (Luke 1996). While these things are sadly true, this is not the relationship that I have with my two horses. My horses get to enjoy being outside with other horses eating grass all day. They occasionally get brushed and then I give them their cookies, which they happen to love. My horses are not pets to me, they are my family and I need them in my life. I have a mutual relationship with my horses as they trust that I won’t let them get hurt and I trust that they won’t hurt me.

The relationship between a horse and a person is a powerful one that can help a person who has been struggling with personal difficulties. I have had my fair share of personal difficulties in my 21 years of life. I have never had anything extremely traumatic happen in my life but I have had things that have messed with my head before happen to me. Although I have lived a very good childhood, a few things recently hurt me and the only way I could cope with the issues that I was facing was by going to see my horses. Even if I could stop by for a couple of minutes to give them some treats I would because their presence helped to calm me down.

The recent issue that has been bothering me is that after 21 years of what I thought was a happy marriage, my parents announced to my siblings and I that they were in the process of getting a divorce (right before the holidays). I felt that my whole childhood and my life was a complete lie because they said that they have been having issues for years. I wouldn’t talk to anyone, not my mom, my dad, or even my two siblings. I would get angry and get loud, but then I would immediately start crying afterwards because the only life I knew was crashing down out a nowhere.

I never thought that I would be a result of divorced parents, even though the United States is #3 in divorce rates. To be honest, none of the divorce risk factors have affected my parents as they were in their late twenties when they got married, so they didn’t get married young, and neither one of them have divorced parents. They also knew each other for a while before they got married. Divorce seems to affect women more than the men because the women are typically older women, who are housewives or have been housewives for many years and are reentering the labor force after a long absence. Although divorce has become more common and more acceptable over the years in the United States, it is still shocking to me that this is happening.

My escape from the things that were happening in my life was my horses and just being around them helped. They are both complete opposites in personality and in appearance. Marshall is a big bay, with a gorgeous glistening coat, whereas Yankee is of a shorter and stockier build, who is grey (white) with flea-bitten spots, which look like brown freckles all over his body. Yankee will stand over me if I’m sitting in the grass crying as to almost be the therapist that listens to my problems, but obviously cannot give any input. Marshall is the horse that gets my mind off things because he is goofy and will head butt me if I’m trying to hug him to try to cheer me up.

horse-and-woman

Some people don’t believe that animals know when something is wrong, but I can say that my horses know when something isn’t right; it’s like animals have a sixth sense. If you ever need to get your mind off things or need a break from reality, see if you could go to a local barn to just be around the horses. There are even non-profit programs geared towards helping disabled people and veterans with PTSD. So, if a therapist isn’t in the cards, go pet a horse, I promise it will make you feel much happier.

References:
Brian Luke. 2007. Brutal: Manhood and the Exploitation of Animals. UI Press.
 


rebeccaRebecca Hila is currently a junior at Monmouth University. She is majoring in Business with a concentration in Accounting and a minor in Criminal Justice. She has been an avid animal and horse lover since she was a little girl. Although she spends a lot of time indoors due to her choice of study, she loves spending as must time outside as she can especially in the spring and fall.

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Dove “Real Beauty” is a Real Nightmare for Animals

Dove Real Beauty Veganism
Palm oil is produced by extremely exploited, practically enslaved humans in developing countries. Production is also extremely destructive to the environment, and orangutan populations, in particular, have been hit hard.  Many Nonhuman Animal rights activists have stopped consuming palm oil and have urged vegan companies to switch out the offending ingredient.

Recently feminists have joined the dialogue as well with parallel campaigns against palm oil. Unfortunately, their claimsmaking tends to overlook the intersectional nature of this social problem as their efforts tend to focus on nonvegan products. Without vegan praxis, feminism undermines itself.

orangutan-orphan-palm-oil

Organizations such as Fem2pt0, for instance, have targeted Dove (a product of Unilever) insisting that the soap brand to go “slavery-free” and drop the problematically-sourced palm oil.  Yet, even with the most ethically produced palm oil, forced labor remains fundamental to Dove products.

Most name brand soaps available in major supermarkets rely on the oppression of vulnerable Nonhuman Animals. Unless the soap is specifically marked vegan or vegetable-sourced, chances are very good that the soap is composed of slaughterhouse renderings. That is, one of the main ingredients in Dove is the body tissues of Nonhuman Animals. These “ingredients” never gave consent, never received compensation, and ultimately lost their lives in the exchange. This violence should be identified within the feminist critique of Unilever and similar corporations, but, unfortunately, it is not.

Consider also that Unilever, like many name brand cosmetic companies, is a company that tests on Nonhuman Animals.  Unilever claims to be moving away from vivisection, but it continues to test nonetheless.  Nonhuman Animals are tortured with abrasions and blinding with the chemicals and detergents found in nonvegan soaps.  Many companies hold trials in which animals are force-fed ingredients until at least half of the sample population dies to determine toxicity.  Dove soap is always sourced from oppression, torture, and death, palm oil or no. These products are made of the bodies of the nonconsenting, from the products of the nonconsenting, and are tested on the bodies of the nonconsenting.

Dove has a weak record in demonstrating its concern for the suffering of others. Remember the feminist Facebook protest of May 2013?  Because Facebook was unresponsive to the rampant misogyny and violence against women and girls promoted throughout the platform, feminists began to pressure its advertisers instead.  Many companies quickly pulled out, but Dove stubbornly remained with Facebook.  Neither has Dove been popular with feminists with its shallow representation of women’s self-acceptance in the “real beauty” advertisements. Everyone is beautiful to Dove, but not quite beautiful enough to forgo its beauty products.

Dove ad featuring seven women in their underwear happy and posing

Ethical consumption is, in other words, far from simplistic and many angles must be examined. For those feminists who are concerned about the suffering of others who are commodified in the products we consume, it is necessary to consider veganism.

Step one? Go vegan and dump Dove; switch to vegan brands.  Affordable vegetable glycerin soaps are available in most supermarkets, and countless vegan companies offer amazing upscale soaps and body washes as well. Just steer clear of LUSH, it has a history of exploiting women and perpetuating rape culture.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with Monmouth University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

whyveganism.com