Are pets a feminist issue?

So ladies, after years of advocating better maternity leave policies,  I am taking up a new cause – pet bereavement policies.

My dog died last Monday and showing up for work all week was so hard. I did it, but there’s a difference between showing and “showing up.”

For many of us, pets are family. They are with us everyday, more than many of the people in our lives. They are loyal and loving and they give us the privilege of caring for them as babies and as old, tired creatures — and every day in between.

But so many humans just don’t understand other humans’ ability to love an animal. To those people I offer up this example. When a human I cared about  died and I was grieving, my dog came and sat with me – silent, patient, concerned.   She did not say to me, “I”m not much of a human person but I suppose it could be sad.”

And yet when my dog died, several humans told me they weren’t really dog people  but…. And then they expected business as usual. Who would you prefer by your side while mourning a loss?

At first, I was mostly joking about pet bereavement policies. But then I started doing some research. And maybe animals are a feminist issue. Researchers have found a link between animal abuse and domestic violence. And, then there are the studies on household chores. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Time Use Survey 2009, on an average  day, 85 percent of women and 66.6 percent of men do some sort of household activity. Last time I checked, pets require daily care. So who’s walking Fido?

Ladies what do you think? Should we add our furry friends to the agenda?

9 comments for “Are pets a feminist issue?

  1. Linda
    December 13, 2010 at 6:49 am


    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. My dogs are my best friends. Hugs to you.


  2. Jeannine
    December 13, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Liz –

    I believe it’s more of an overall humanist issue. My first husband was absolutely bereft when our first dog unexpectedly died, while I was saddened but not incapacitated by grief. He was lucky to have a compassionate employer who allowed him to use vacation time.

    I think the availability of a day or two of pet bereavement leave would be good for American society as a whole – not just women.

    • December 13, 2010 at 7:09 am

      I agree Jeannine. I don’t really believe this is a gendered issue.

      What if companie offered bereavement time that employees could use almost like flex-time? Instead of the corporation determining that people need X number of days for the death of an immediate family member, they just offered X number of days. The employees could take the time to mourn for those who mattered to them.

  3. Eileen
    December 13, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I don’t know who is walking Fido but I know that I am the one walking Lucy the Devil Dog! So yes pet care is a feminist issue…

    Grieving is a universal issue and unfortunately we live in a culture that expects you to get over it in x number of days whether you are grieving for a pet or a parent, sister or spouse so yes, let’s add bereavement flex time to the agenda !

    Liz, Yesterday was the ninth anniversary for Chrysa and I’m sure that she is taking very good care of Prada.

    love e

    • December 13, 2010 at 7:48 pm

      Sent you an email. Thanks for the comment.

  4. December 13, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Liz. Losing a pet is so hard, they are a member of the family.

    While pets may not precisely be a gendered issue, there is a correlation between animal rights and feminism. As you point out, a link exists between animal cruelty and domestic violence (and homicide). Carol J. Adams wrote the fascinating book “The Sexual Politics of Meat” in which she discusses the link between feminist theory and vegetarianism. While animals and people are of course different, the justifications used to oppress both women and animals throughout history sound eerily similar.

    • December 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm

      Thank you. I’ll check out the book.

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