By Vicki Van Linden | Board Member
International Women’s Day is here again.
And again, we see that women around the world are under threat. Women are still exploited, trafficked, abused, and denied basic human rights in too many nations. Even in westernized nations like our own, women are still underpaid, subjected to violence, and under-represented in positions of power.
There has been progress, but not nearly enough. And as we see unfolding in the United States, hard-won progress can be lost, far more easily than we might have imagined.
This is what it means to be vulnerable. This is what it means to be impacted by political and economic systems that have been designed to favour groups that have been traditionally more powerful, more privileged.
Now, let’s consider the plight of the most vulnerable of beings,
Beings who can never advocate for themselves.
Can never march on Parliament.
Can never go on strike.
Can never vote.
Let’s consider too the extra burden of being a female animal who is exploited and confined in the animal agriculture industry.
All animals suffer in animal agriculture, but surely female animals suffer more. It’s hens who are confined in cages so that their eggs can be sold to humans. It’s cows who are used in the dairy industry so that the milk that should nurture their own young is sold to humans. It’s mother pigs who endure the cruel confinement of gestation and farrowing crates so that the flesh of their babies can be sold to humans.
We can widen our circle of compassion every day, including International Women’s Day, to include female animals who endure exploitation because of their reproductive abilities.
It takes nothing away from women, does not lessen our resolve to stand by our own human sisters, to include these other female beings in our advocacy and care.
Recognizing and acting to end the suffering of others draws on our compassion, enhances our activism, strengthens our commitment to promote equity, and ultimately makes the world a better place for all.
We can work for the liberation of all animals while we support the full emancipation of human persons, regardless of gender. We can commit ourselves to working toward equity for all humans as well as all non-humans. We can ‘walk and chew gum’ in our activism.
The complete liberation of all animals is considered radical by people engaged in animal-using industries.
The liberation of animals is too radical for some, and certainly not easy to achieve. But every progressive social movement has been considered too radical. Every social movement that sought to advance equity aroused anger, even revulsion, in the early stages of its development.
International Women’s Day has its roots in the socialist movement of the early twentieth century in the United States.
According to an article in National Geographic, a Russian refugee, labour organizer, and member of the Socialist Party of America named Theresa Malkiel, declared the first ‘National Women’s Day’ in 1909. European socialists later embraced the idea, and ‘International Women’s Day’ was born.
In 1917, during World War I, Russian women marked International Women’s Day by marching to oppose Russia’s participation in the war, and to protest the shortage of food. The women’s march inspired men to join, and a massive workers’ strike soon followed. This women’s march is seen by many historians as the beginning of the Russian Revolution.
Revolution. Socialism. These are radical roots indeed.
Those of us who are women owe the improved status that we do enjoy to the work of people like Theresa Malkiel. We owe our very ability to vote to the suffragettes who endured persecution so that women could participate in electoral politics. We owe our improved opportunities to women who were often reviled and treated as unnatural aberrations in the earlier stages of the Women’s Movement of the twentieth century.
These women were radical. And they were mocked and persecuted for being so.
We, too, can be radical.
We can state with bravery that we want nothing less than the complete liberation of our fellow sentient beings, the non-human animals who have inherent value as independent beings whose lives belong to themselves.
I’m inviting you to be radical with us. Let’s resolve to do all we can to drive our movement for animals forward, to work for nothing less than their complete liberation.
Let’s share a day that is dedicated to human women, and fully embrace working for our sisters, and ourselves, and also embrace our non-human fellow beings within our circle of compassion.
Through my involvement with Animal Alliance of Canada, I have seen again and again that it is financial interests that so often work against animals. Hunting generates license fees for provincial governments, and profit for commercial businesses. Animal research is used by manufacturers of products to generate wealth. Animal agriculture uses the very bodies of animals as units of profit.
Exploitation is profitable. But exploitation causes suffering.
So, let’s be radical and work toward a world where vulnerable beings, human and non-human, are no longer exploited.
Is such a compassionate world possible? I can’t say. But I do say with certainty that our world can be better. And that in itself is a radical, and worthy, idea.
The roots of International Women’s Day are more radical than you think (nationalgeographic.com) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/roots-international-womens-day-more-radical-than-think
Photo credit: Pixabay.com
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