Sex, Animal Abuse, and the Internet

Seth Victor

In Long Island, New York last Tuesday,  the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a bill, sponsored by legislator Jon Cooper, creating the nation’s first registry for people convicted of animal abuse. The online registry operates in a similar fashion to the online registration required for sex offenders under Megan’s Laws. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty will be required to submit and keep updated their name, address, and photograph to the publicly searchable database for five years following their conviction. Convicted abusers will have to pay $50 annually for the cost of the registry, and those who do not face a $1,000 fine and one year imprisonment.

Mr. Cooper is quoted stating, “We know the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence…Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.” In acknowledging the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, a relationship of which many people are not aware, Mr. Cooper illustrates how animal protection laws can serve both human and animal interests.

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“Sex, Gender and Species” Conference at Wesleyan University

David Cassuto

This interdisciplinary conference looks like it will be mighty good.

  • Wesleyan University will be hosting a conference called “Sex, Gender and Species” on February 25 and 26, 2011. The purpose of this conference is to foreground the relations between feminist and animal studies and to examine the real and theoretical problems that are central to both fields of inquiry. Conference organizers Lori Gruen and Kari Weil are seeking 1-2 page abstracts by October 1, 2010. Abstracts can be sent to lgruen@wesleyan.edu or kweil@wesleyan.edu.

`Octomom´ Nadya Suleman is the New PETA Poster Child

David Cassuto

Nadya Suleman, the (now) self-described `Octomom,´ has a sign on her lawn urging us to heed her example and “Don’t Let Your Dog or Cat Become an Octomom. Always Spay or Neuter.”   Suleman, who had octuplets 16 months ago (in addition to her 6 other children) and has been struggling to make ends meet, placed the sign on her lawn at the behest of PETA and in exchange for $5000 and a month´s supply of veggie burgers.  She maintains that she is not doing it just for the money and that she loves animals and believes that they should be spayed and neutered.   “Humans of course are much different,” she notes.   PETA claims the arrangement is a `win-win.´   

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Hypatia — Call for Papers

David Cassuto

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy has issued an intriguing call for papers, which follows below:

4. Animal Others Special Issue
Volume 27 Number 3, Summer 2012
Guest Editors: Lori Gruen and Kari Weil

We are soliciting papers for a special issue of Hypatia on Animal Others. Scholarship in “Animal Studies” has grown considerably over the last few years, yet the feminist insights that much of this work borrows from and builds on remains relatively unrecognized. This special issue of Hypatia will remedy this by showcasing the best new feminist work on nonhuman animals that will help to rethink and redefine (or undefine) categories such as animal-woman-nature-body. The issue will provide the opportunity to re-examine concerns that are central to both feminist theory and animal studies and promote avenues of thought that can move us beyond pernicious forms of othering that undergird much human and non-human suffering.  Continue reading

Mansploitation for the Animal Cause

September 24th, 2009

SeattleImage2image source: The Stranger, Sep 24 – 30, 2009, Vol. 19, No. 3

Ummm…this Seattle alt paper (think Village Voice, left-coast style) takes a page from PETA’s playbook (see here, e.g.) and then flips it, exploiting men’s bods for the animal cause.  That’s not ok, either.

The image is an interesting visual play on an affectionate name for a cat and a (sometimes-not-so-affectionate) name for a woman’s genitalia.  I imagine the guy out in front of a pet store saying, “Look at my ….”

-Bridget Crawford

cross post: Feminist Law Professors

PETA’s Use of Women

PETA takes a lot of grief from the animal advocacy community and from feminists for its use of naked or sparsely clad women in its public events.  This blogger offers a contrasting view.  For my part, though I find the controversy surrounding PETA’s methods interesting and worth having, I worry that the resulting schisms in the animal advocacy community undermine the movement.

–David Cassuto

Hoarding Babies, Hoarding Animals

Lolita Buckner Inniss (Cleveland-Marshall, Ain’t I a Feminist Legal Scholar, Too?, Visiting Prof at Pace Law School) and I have posted to SSRN our essay, Multiple Anxieties: Breaching Race, Class and Gender Norms With Assisted Reproduction.  The essay is about is about misplaced attention on women’s bodies.  Focusing on Nadya Suleman, the California woman who gave birth to octuplets in January, we explore socio-legal anxieties about gender, race, class and geography.  To theorize about the increasing availability of reproductive technology is to uncover a deep ambivalence about “choice” as it applies to women and their bodies.

The public reacted strongly and negatively to the Suleman’s story.  How could anyone have octuplets?  And how could anyone have octuplets when they already have six other children?  “She must be crazy,” the internet commentators suggested.

There is a way in which Suleman is being read as kind of “collector” or “hoarder” of children, the way some people hoard animals.  Animal hoarding is characterized (here) by The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium by the presence of these criteria:

  • More than the typical number of companion animals
  • Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness, and death
  • Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling

As I read the negative criticism of Suleman, the outcry comes not only from the fact she has “more than the typical number” of children, but also that she seems to lack an independent (i.e., non-government) source of financial support for the children’s “nutrition, sanitation, shelter” and medical care.  In interviews, Suleman presents as a calm and “beatific” presence, as if she is in some kind of denial about her ability to care for the children.

In our essay (full version here) Professor Inniss and I attempt to unpack the “multiple anxieties” that Suleman’s story has exposed.  Some of those anxieties are about race and class.  If a wealthy person has “more than the typical number” of children (or companion animals, for that matter) how likely are they to be read as a (crazy) hoarder?  Not very likely, is my guess.  With both children and companion animals, the wealthy can outsource the work to paid caretakers.  The wealthy are more likely to live in larger residences.  This in turn reducing the immediate negative impact of the presence of many children (or animals) on other occupants of the dwelling.  Plus the wealthy have permission to be “eccentric.” Middle-class and poor people who exhibit the same behaviors are “crazy.”

I do not wish to suggest that having 14 children or companion animals is normatively good or even wise.  But I do think we should be explicit about the biases that we bring to a determination of some idealized, “typical” (read: acceptable) number of children or animals.

-Bridget Crawford