Thursday was International Women’s Day, with communications abuzz recognising equality of women, and noting contributions of women leaders in many fields. In the animal protection movement, women are certainly more visible – roughly 7 out of 10 people reading this editorial will be women. The full impact and the gender politics of a movement where women are in the majority, needs to be examined in greater detail, though unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily apply to leadership. Worldwide, women in leadership positions in NGOs continue to be a minority according to some studies. So it’s clear that while there is collective recognition of women’s rights, its complete absorption into the social fabric still has a long way to go.
In the long walk towards gender equality, it is incomplete to assume that only a particular group or section of the society is deserving of our attention. It’s not hard to identify the similarities between women rights issues and animal rights issues. Most significantly, objectification of bodies plays a huge role in both – women as mere figures to be used in fashion, advertising (and more) and animals used for their bodies in food, clothing and much more. And even language is weighted against equality – statements such as ‘Even animals are treated better than women’, or ‘Even a dog has more respect than that person’ are no different from ‘Don’t say that, it makes you sound like a girl’ or ‘This behaviour isn’t ladylike’. Common references to animals as things, and women as ‘the weaker sex’, reinforce this objectification and oppression. These cultural roots of patriarchy are deeply ingrained in our life – even the most liberated women can fall prey to patriarchal thinking – we’ve all been socialized that way.
FIAPO believes that the end of objectification and recognition of equality and the intrinsic value of women logically extends to animals too. And that intersectionality between these two movements demands that we find opportunities to synergise so we build non-violent solutions that include all. In that context, with the recent celebration of International Women’s Day, we hope that next year anyone who stands up against gender inequality would also stand for animal rights. And today, we proudly stand for women’s rights too.
Human freedom, animal rights. One struggle, one fight.