What do Gloria Steinem and a cow have in common?
No, this isn’t in poor taste. The answer might not be immediately obvious, but it is there.
The rise in awareness and celebration of both feminism and veganism has reached fever pitch within the past several years. With more celebrities coming out as either or both, along with an increase in media coverage about both movements, the conversations around veganism and feminism have evolved, grown, and become impossible to ignore in the mainstream.
I was 28-years-old, vegan for over half of my life, and working at an animal rights organization for almost a year when it occurred to me how deeply entwined my veganism is with my feminism. Few have talked about the connection, but the two movements are intricately linked.
Both movements are about liberation and empowerment. Veganism and what is actually intersectional feminism both seek to literally and metaphorically unshackle living, breathing, and feeling beings who were born into socially-sanctioned roles without their consent; however, veganism goes the extra step in promoting that feminist principle through the dismantling of normalized speciesist attitudes and the promotion of equalization for all living beings.
Human women’s bodies are routinely objectified by forces that are structured to appear bigger than us—divinely-inspired, even—their experiences deemed inferior, quieter, softer. While the fight rages on in the feminist spheres to denormalize those oppressive institutions, animal rights activists seek the same denormalization of the objectification of vulnerable animal bodies in the spheres of experimentation, entertainment, and food. Just as women have been deemed as “less-than,” humans have deemed animals as “less than,” and animals are thus subjected to consumption and other uses that are identified as natural.
Mother cows are repeatedly raped, artificially inseminated, and kept pregnant as often as possible in order to keep the milk flowing for various dairy products that are peddled to humans as necessary to optimal health. Marine mammals torn apart from their families, their larger-than-their-human-captors-bodies put on display for human manipulation and entertainment. Dogs are put in violent situations in pursuit of capitalist reward. Sheep are punched, kicked, and mutilated for their hair. What can you call these human-sanctioned behaviors other than normalized abuse? Animals do not exist for us, just as women do not exist for men.
Next time you look at a cow, an orca, a dog, a goat, please remember this: that animal is a “who,” not a “what,” and inherently deserving of the same freedoms that are sought for all humans through the intersectionalist feminist movement. Veganism and animal rights extend beyond the dietary and into the universal, linking all of us as cohabiters. Oppression is oppression, and the tyranny over human women and other animal species has been figured into the reigning human rhetoric as acceptable, natural behavior. We should all be fighting against the gaslighting that occurs in our patriarchal culture, telling us that we’re all equal when the vast majority of us—including non-human animals—are systematically oppressed for financial and egotistical gain. Look into your feminism, look into your veganism, and nurture the fact that they are– just as we are– stronger together.
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Photo: Milada Vigerova via Unsplash