Gender Inequity in the Animal Welfare Movement

Jen here. I recently had the pleasure of meeting (through the Internet) a fascinating scholar by the name of Corey Wrenn. She wrote a paper entitled, “The Role of Professionalism Regarding Female Exploitation in the Nonhuman Animal Rights Movement,” published in The Journal of Gender Studies.

Ms. Wrenn makes one point that it not new- that some animal rights groups get their point across by exploiting women, specifically PETA, LUSH, Fish Love, and Animal Liberation Victoria (ALV).

But she makes a larger point that is the elephant in the room: Even though WOMEN make up the majority of those who support animal welfare, it is MEN who are in the leadership positions.

Does this sell our cause, or does it demean women and diminish our voice?

Indeed, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the US, the Humane Association, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the World Wildlife Fund, and many other groups are led by men and their top leadership is overwhelmingly male.

But it’s not men that are caring for animals. It’s not men who are lobbying for animals. It’s not men targeted with those emotion-laden commercials begging for money. It’s all about us then, baby.

So why are men running the show in this female-dominated arena? Why are we allowing them to market to us in a way that is demeaning? And does this gender inequity play into our inability to make meaningful changes in the animal welfare arena?

Recently I wrote a blog post where I said I wanted to work in the field of animal welfare. Many posted comments suggesting that I cut back on blogging and show my interest by volunteering for a rescue. Really? I scoop litter boxes every day. Why do I have to prove my worthiness to work in this field by scooping litter boxes for someone else? For free? Do you think Wayne Pacelle, when interviewing to lead the Humane Society, was asked how many litter boxes HE scooped to earn his stripes?

Personally, I’m thinking it’s time for a real change in the path this movement is taking. We need to phase out the Good Old Boy leadership. We need to stop the exploitation of women. Let’s change the face of this movement from the Crazy Cat Lady and clueless co-ed, who each need men to guide them, to that of the Old Crone, the elder who holds the wisdom of the ages.

Painting of an elderly woman wrapped in red.The Wise Crone respects Mother Earth and all of her creations

What do you think? Is Animal Welfare rife with sexism? Do you feel women are respected in the movement, or are we used as funders and cheap labor to promote a male agenda? What do YOU think should be the face of the movement?


By Jenny Threet

You can follow her on Twitter and on her blog, Rumpy Dog.

This post was originally published on  Rumpy Dog on July 8, 2013.