Sexism

“Watch who they beat and who they eat” — Marge Piercy

The connections between the exploitation of women and the exploitation of animals are well established in fact and theory. Across history and geography, patriarchy has been correlated with the practice of keeping livestock. Traditionally, women and animals were grouped together, along with children, as the property of the male head of the household. This is why we speak of “animal husbandry.” Terms referring to femininity have been used to justify the exploitation of animals while terms referring to animals have been used to justify the exploitation of women.

Today, dairy cows are forcibly inseminated on what farmers call “rape racks” while women are encouraged to think of themselves as “fat cows.” Both cows and hens are imprisoned so that their specifically female bodies can be robbed of their milk and eggs. At the same time, girls and women around the world are held captive in brothels so that their specifically female bodies can be violated. Domestic violence often includes abuse of companion animals, and slaughterhouse workers are especially likely to abuse their partners and children.

In a process sanctuary cofounder pattrice jones calls “the social construction of gender by means of animals,” stereotyped ideas about masculinity and femininity are projected onto animals and then read as evidence that oppressive sex roles are natural. This can be seen most clearly in the case of fighting roosters, who are tricked and traumatized into unnaturally aggressive behavior and then cited as evidence that male aggression is natural.

Because sexism and speciesism are so interconnected, one cannot be solved without reference to the other. Women and girls will never be fully free until animals are also free. Similarly, animal liberation necessarily entails liberation of girls and women. Both feminists and animal liberation activists must recognize and act upon this insight, incorporating awareness of the intersections between speciesism and sexism into their work.

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