Caring about Nonhuman Animals is “for girls.” Women are socialized to be empathetic to other animals, while men are socialized to have instrumental, non-caring relationships with other animals.
For women and men, gender is something that is performed. Eating animals or not eating them is part of that performance. Not only do women eat less flesh than men, they also underreport their actual consumption. This is because femininity requires that women consume less flesh, and women feel pressured to conform to that feminine ideal.
The gender binary aggravates this, pushing women to care about animals (and not eat them) and pushing men to not care about animals (and eat a lot of them). This binary stretches and distorts the behavior of men and women. Performing gender according to this exaggerated binary helps to reinforce the perceived natural differences between women and men. This not only erases the existence of nonconforming persons, but it also supports patriarchal dominance.
What does this mean for activists? First, women are clearly the “low hanging fruit” in terms of outreach, as they are more receptive to anti-speciesist campaigning because of their gendered socialization. It also means that men will be a tougher audience as they must overcome both human and male supremacist ideologies on their path to veganism. According to the research, simply making mention of a PETA video was enough to induce the guilt and denial response from women, but men had no such reaction.
Thank you to Carol J. Adams for bringing attention to this story.
Ms. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with Colorado State 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 the 2016 Exemplary Diversity Scholar 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 (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).