The objectification of pets goes hand in hand with the objectification of women and upholding of the Patriarchy. This is why I have always taught our son that pets are not toys; they are friends. These lessons can be subtle but they run so deep. I needed a reminder to not objectify my pet today. Maybe you do, too?
The Patriarchy is a way of thinking about and organizing our society. It isn’t as simple as, “Men are in power, women want equality.” It’s a set of rules we’ve all been following without even knowing it. Patriarchy is a set of rules, based on traditionally masculine principles like action, strength, clarity, and swiftness. These principles aren’t bad things in and of themselves, but in the ‘big picture’ of society they need to be balanced with more feminine principles, such as slowness, softness, receiving, and kindness. The Patriarchy is a mindset of unchecked growth, of exerting control over “the other” (whether that be women, pets or immigrants). It’s using force to get what we want (by rape, war, yelling, or just plain stubbornness.) These masculine principles have been running unbalanced by the feminine for a long time now. This has brought about a mass extinction of the Earth’s animals and the possible destruction of our own human race due to the catastrophes of climate change.
But, what does the Patriarchy have to do with how we treat our pets?
Just as I tell my son that pets are friends and not toys, I had to remind myself today that our pets are friends, not status symbols. Pets are friends, not objects to control and exert our will over. Our choice of dog breed is often about getting a decoration for our life, not about finding a friend to share our days with. Every time people pay to have their dog expertly groomed according to that breed’s standards, they are feeding their own ego. “I must be well-to-do if my dog is so well-groomed.”
Of course, it’s important to keep their coats clean and trim in order to keep our friends comfortable and to prevent disease, but we need to look at our motivation. Are you sharing pictures of your freshly trimmed dog on Facebook wearing his little kerchief because the dog cares what your friends think? Are you dressing your dog up for Halloween because it makes the dog happy? Of course not. Dogs are friends, not status symbols.
And so, women are friends, not status symbols.
We aren’t servants or assistants to help you live your happiest life. And how you treat your pets goes hand-in-hand with how we, as a society, treat our women. How I treat my dog, Chula, is a reflection of how I will allow myself to be treated as a woman. And how we treat the animal and human friends in our lives is how we are raising our children to treat the pets, women, and ecosystems of their time. It’s all connected.
I pondered all this today while I quietly, calmly, and slowly trimmed off our dog’s winter coat with scissors. One snip at a time. She loves getting a haircut! It must feel like a full-body massage to have me snip around her coat for hours. Soo..much…petting.
Here’s where I forgot my own advice and found myself thinking of my puppy-friend as a status symbol.
I was feeling guilty about being too cheap to take her to a groomer. I do a pretty good job with the scissors, but she definitely comes out of it looking like her mom gave her a haircut at home. But, so what? I cut out all the mats. I cleared all the areas that need to be kept clear. And I did it in the quietest, most luxurious way a friend could ask for. No loud clippers that buzz and snag. No strangers or other dogs. Just a spa day with Mommy on the couch.
I don’t think everyone ought to start trimming their own dog’s hair with scissors instead of taking them to the groomer. We’re busy, we don’t have time to clip dog hair. We want someone who knows what they’re doing to do it. Totally fine! But, think about your motivation. Pay attention to your thoughts. Have you ever judged someone else because their dog was scruffy? Keeping your pet clean and healthy is important, but messy can be clean. You can be perfectly clean, healthy and happy and still look like someone came at your fur with a weed-whacker like my Chula. She doesn’t care…and neither do I.
Dismantle the Patriarchy. Treat your pets like friends, not like objects. Teach your children to do the same.
Photo credit: By Rasulovs @ iStock by Getty Images