Animal Studies Bibliography

Donovan, Josephine and Carol J. Adams. 1995. Introduction. In Adams and Donovan (Eds.), Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations (pp. 1-8). Durham , NC : Duke University Press.

One reason for having a feminist theory about animals is that historically, women have been denied social status by linking them (and men of color) with animals, which were considered to lack the rationality required for citizenship and moral status. Feminist theory offers three responses to this connection with animals. First, liberal feminists like de Beauvoir and Wollstonecraft emphasized that women were like men and unlike animals--that women possessed the same faculties of reason that men did and should therefore be included in all aspects of society. Second, some feminists propose that oppression of any group, including animals, is of concern to feminism because all oppressions are connected. Such thinkers argue that feminists should not seek rights only for themselves (as in the liberal feminist model) but should be concerned with helping everyone being oppressed. In particular, scholars like Ruether and French argue that control over animals and nature is based on the same Western ideology that control of women is based on: the mind-body division that causes the Western rejection of connections to nature. Spelman (1982) calls the equating of women, children, animals, and the natural with one another and with the despised body somatophobia , arguing that this concept is where we can find the linking of oppressions (2). This approach of including animals and all oppressed groups in feminist theory, a radical cultural feminism (3), is the approach of this anthology. Third, many feminist reject the idea of a place for animals in feminist theory. Some of these thinkers ignore the issue, but this is not actual neutrality and is therefore not an acceptable position. Other feminists in this group argue against including animals, particularly by arguing that such focuses take attention away from important human issues like wife battering or breast cancer. There are important biases underlying these arguments. They assume a dualistic perspective that animal and human needs conflict and rely on a hierarchy in which humans are more valuable than animals (the same hierarchy historically used to keep women out of the picture). Of course, we can fight both women's and animal's oppression at the same time. It is also true that stopping animal exploitation will help human life in many ways (e.g. better health from not eating meat, fairer food distribution, less damage to the environment, etc.), but this is an anthropocentric reason to fight animal abuse. We should go further: rather than fighting for animal rights that benefit women or humans, we should fight for them for the sake of animals and the planet. The connections between anthropocentrism, sexism, and speciesism are great and should be investigated. A fourth possible feminist response to the historical linking of animals and women is for women to extend their historical practice of care to include care for animals. There is already evidence of this possibility in the predominance of women activists in the animal rights movement (estimated at 70-80%). One of the major facilitators of animal exploitation is the denial of animals' subjectivity, considering them dead objects. For feminists to ignore and participate in this denial of life, the same denial that facilitates many types of atrocities, would be wrong.

There are several areas that need further research and theorizing. First, most attention has been paid to wild animals, which are considered masculine and therefore have higher cultural status than do domestic and farm animals, which are feminized. Study of the treatment of domestic animals, particularly factory farming, is needed. Second, more investigation is needed of the masculinizing of nature and the wilderness. For example, nature documentaries often turn into a nearly pornographic parade of carnivorous violence (6), an image which misrepresents animal behavior, most of which involves cooperation and plant-eating. This tendency may be a way of portraying nature as a threat against which women need (male) protection. Third, we need more discussion of the connections between race, nationality, ethnicity, class, and species. Historical and anthropological work to examine possible connections between animal domestication and female subordination and to learn about women's animal activism and vegetarianism are necessary.


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