Onstage, Madonna topped her blonde waves with a knitted cat-eared beanie and bundled up in a fur-trimmed coat. “Welcome to the revolution of love. To the rebellion. To our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny, where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people,” the singer said into the microphone.
Madonna’s coat sparked sharp reactions from animal-rights activists. “We cannot claim to be part of a ‘revolution of love’ while we exist as a major cause of oppression to others … while animals are forced to live and die in confinement,” wrote animal liberation activist who runs the Instagram page account jane_doe7x.
“Animal rights is a feminist issue. There, I said it,” wrote Aph Ko, a contributor to Everyday Feminism. For Ko, the exploitation of animals’ lives and bodies parallel the feminists’ fight against the patriarchy’s general dismissal of women’s rights to their own bodies. She points out that many women, especially feminists, are very aware of the objectification rhetoric concerning the portrayal of women’s bodies in the media.
Many times, women are reduced to accessories in male-centered stories. “We also know that women are routinely raped, beaten, harassed, and murdered because we tend to be viewed as pleasurable objects for men,” wrote Ko. “Similarly, non-human animal bodies are reduced to fleshly things (literally) that can be consumed or used in painful or unethical scientific projects.”
A recent publication of a cookbook titled Fifty Shades of Chicken by F.L Fowler exemplifies the cross-section of rape culture and animal violence that exists in our society. The “comical” cookbook is a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey, written by E.L. James. Recipes are given erotic narratives, portraying “miss chicken” as the main character who finds pleasure in the chef’s preparation of her. “These narratives often present the chicken’s corpse as a willing accomplice. This is quite telling, given that she was beheaded and drained of blood days before she arrived in this man’s kitchen under saran wrap,” said Dr. Corey Lee Wrenn of Vegan Feminist Network in a review of the book.
Wrenn then breaks down the implications behind this book. Women and animals are essentially sexualized or created into objects to be dominated in order to fulfill a need for pleasurable consumption.
Ko points out that female animals raised for consumption endure a life of repeated rape and perpetual pregnancies: “As feminists, to consume raped and tortured non-human animal bodies while fighting against rape culture seems a topic worthy of investigation.”
Animal Advocacy organization Free from Harm highlights how many mothers are speaking out against the consumption of dairy for these exact injustices. In commercial units, cows have to give birth to produce milk. As a result, dairy cows are
“Unlike myself and other human mothers, cows exploited for dairy products do not get the option to decide when or if they want to pump or whether (and with whom) they want to share their milk,” said a mother who protests dairy Megan Ferreira. “Instead, the natural recipients — their calves — are taken away, forced into a motherless existence and deprived of their mother’s milk in order to serve the selfish palate pleasure of the masses.”
The treatment of animals in the home is of equal importance. According to the American Humane Society, there is a link between violence towards animals and violence towards fellow humans. In one survey, the Society published on their website that 71 percent of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets. They also shared a study that among families that were under investigation for suspected child abuse. “Researchers found that pet abuse had occurred in 88 percent of the families under supervision for physical abuse of their children,” the Society reported.
Animal rights are a feminist issue. Normalizing the objectification of animals mirrors the oppression of women. “Because feminism is partly a social movement that believes in equal rights for all, it should include the rights of animals,” said Assistant Professor of English and Reading of East Los Angeles College Lauren Figueroa.
The abuse and oppression of animals is not a separate issue. “Feminism in its foundation is a movement that works towards aiding those who are often marginalized by society,” said Figueroa. “Women’s bodies are broken up into parts and objectified for entertainment as seen in media. Likewise, animals are degraded for sport. For example there is the Running of the Bulls, Yulin Meat Festival, and even animal performances at SeaWorld. In both cases, there is exploitation that needs to be addressed.
A culture that fosters the abuse and misrepresentation of sentient beings will affect many different groups. “The patriarchy that permeates our society must be challenged so that all who are oppressed have a fair chance in life,” said Figueroa.
During moments like the 2017 Women’s March, amongst the pink-hatted masses, the large signs that read “We will not be silenced,” and the Hollywood star speakers, we must not forget to give voices to those who cannot speak. As Madonna stated on the stage at the Women’s March, “I choose love. Are you with me? Say this with me: We choose love. We choose love.” So, let’s choose love — only this time, Madonna, let’s include animals.