Ecofeminism on the Wing: Perspectives on Human-Animal Relations

By Gaard, Greta | Women & Environments International Magazine, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Ecofeminism on the Wing: Perspectives on Human-Animal Relations

Gaard, Greta, Women & Environments International Magazine

Frame Tale: Bella

Her gold-wire cage sat on the counter of the video store adjoining the pizzeria. Attached to the front of the cage, a sign read, "My name is Bella, which means `beautiful' in Italian!" Inside the cage, a small yellow-and-green canary stood alone on a plastic perch, pressing her forehead against a hanging mirror. A bell dangled from the top of the cage, a stick nest was affixed to one side, and below, two plastic dishes were attached to the bars, one with seeds, the other with a thin film of dirty water. There was no part of nature anywhere in the store: no sunlight reached the bird's cage, no fresh air, no tree branches or flowers, no breeze. Intensely drawn to comfort the little bird, I approached the cage and began talking to her, hoping that she would respond. For a long time, Bella remained immobile, her head pressed against the mirror. Then she turned, and her face held misery.

When the owner dashed over from the pizzeria to ring up my video, I asked him about Bella, and why she didn't have a companion of her own species. (It seemed confrontational to point out that she shouldn't be caged there in the first place.) He too had noticed Bella's loneliness. Evidently the man's wife was in charge of the bird, and long ago she had told him it would cost too much to have another parakeet.

All week I agonized about Bella. When I returned to rent a video the following weekend, I brought gifts: a cuttlebone for Bella's beak, and a covered bird bath that could be attached to the cage's open door, allowing her to bathe in a water dish separate from her water bowl. Already I had contacted the local animal rights organizations and found they would picket the store if I organized the event; I had contacted Seattle's animal protection agency and requested a site visit. For the moment, I just wanted to make Bella more comfortable. For the long term, I hoped to take her from the video store and place her in a better home. But to do anything for Bella, I first needed to approach her owners.

That weekend the wife co-owner was working, and she seemed delighted with my interest in Bella. She put her hand in the cage and Bella immediately hopped on it. The woman told me about her cockatiels at home, about the scorpions and snakes she had bought for her son, and through her stories let me know that she considered herself an authority on pets. She had brought Bella to the store last Thanksgiving, and as she explained it, parakeets "don't pay as much attention to humans" if they have a companion of their own species.

The woman accepted my gifts of the cuttlebone and birdbath, and charged me the usual price for my video. When I returned the video the next day, I saw the birdbath filled with fresh water, hooked against the open cage door, and Bella inside, busily chewing on the cuttlebone.

Why Do I Care? Ecofeminists Look at Oppression

While some people care about the suffering of animals, feminists who politicize their care for animals see a specific linkage between sexism and speciesism, between the oppression of women and the oppression of animals. Speciesism is defined as the oppression of one species by another, first defined by Peter Singer as "a prejudice or attitude of bias toward the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of the other species." 1 Feminists and ecofeminists alike have noted the ways that animal pejoratives are used to dehumanize women, pointing to the linguistic (and thus conceptual) linkage of women and animals in such derogatory terms for women as "sow," "bitch," "pussy," "chick," "cow," "beaver," "old bat," and "bird-brain." Linguistic association with animals has also been a method of demeaning Jews and people of color, as Nazi propaganda equated Jews with "vermin," and Blacks have been called "coons" or "jungle bunnies." Some ecofeminists have investigated the ways that nonhuman animals function as an exploited underclass of workers whose "jobs" end up costing them their lives, and thereby uncovered the connection between speciesism and classism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Ecofeminism on the Wing: Perspectives on Human-Animal Relations


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?