Why Women Are Animal LoversOctober 21, 2011 No Comments
Being a supporter of grassroots animal rescue organizations, it has been hard not to notice the disproportionate number of women who are leading these organizations within my community. Research focusing on canine rescue concludes that my local, four-legged loving, lady activists are no social anomaly; indeed, it is predominantly women who are leading and staffing animal rescue organizations.
A case study done by Andrei S. Markovits and Robin Queen from the University of Michigan claims that even though women have been central to animal rights activism throughout the 19th century, women’s involvement in animal-related professions have drastically increased over the last two decades, which includes women’s involvement in veterinarian work, authoring books written about domestic animals and their care, and acting as the primary care givers to dogs within the private household. They also concluded that virtually all animal rescue organizations are run by women.
Rescue organizations differ from humane societies and animal shelters in that they are no-kill, volunteer based organizations that foster animals in the homes of volunteer’s, enforce strict adoption application processes, and provide training and rehabilitation for animals, as well as education for the greater community. The people who are involved in animal rescue organizations are noted as being nurturing, empathetic, and fiercely passionate about the work they do. In other words, their hearts are deeply into the cause.
Markovits and Queen dug further for an explanation as to why women are drawn towards tender hearted, saviour style animal rescue organizations, and the most common response of interviewees who were asked why women dominate dog rescue was a description of stereotypically feminine traits: because women are loving, sensitive, sentimental, emotional, and maternal. Other answers also reflected feminine characteristics, such as women being the “caregivers” and having superior multi-tasking skills. Another suggested theory was that women play an active role in the fight for many different kinds of social rights, and due to women being a highly victimized demographic of society, they are more apt to actively seek new structures that encourage love, nurture, and community.
Another unfortunate, although interesting connection between women and animal rescue is the correlation between domestic abuse and animal abuse. The American Humane Association reports that:
- 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims
- 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them
- Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave
- For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family
It is difficult, if not impossible to specifically decipher why women are the predominant participants of animal rescue efforts. Is the causation linked to women’s so-called inherent sensitivities and maternal instincts? Or are these gendered traits of emotional connectivity a result of our socialization? Maybe a cocktail of both? Possibly it is true that women’s active role in animal rescue is simply another angle to our wide interest in social rights.
A more profound theory is the idea that women’s empathy towards neglected and/or abused animals may not strictly stem from our so-called suped-up sensitivity skills, but due to our experiences, as well. Maybe our tendency towards this compassionate dedication is also derived from our own experiences of feeling powerless, oppressed, and for some, abused.
Hopefully research will continue to shed light on this interesting phenomenon, but whether we have explanatory theories or no explanatory theories, the fact that women are leading this initiative is pretty amazing, and definitely something to be proud of.
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