Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Friedman, Jennifer.

Keywords

speciesism, patriarchy, role as resource, emotion work, women and animals

Abstract

As with other forms of animal rights activism, animal foster care also appears to be dominated by women. In this paper I explore the role of animal foster care in, and its implications for, a Patriarchal society based on hierarchical dualisms. I argue that through their work as animal foster care workers and adoption facilitators these women do create positions of power for themselves, but that those positions remain subordinated to, and in some ways embrace, existing structural power relations--Patriarchy. More specifically, I argue that by constructing and assuming a social role that includes a culturally accepted power differential--the human-animal dichotomy--these women challenge individual level powerlessness, yet reinforce the very structural system that oppresses them and the animals in their care.

I highlight how, by organizing around ideas about feral, abandoned, and surrendered animals as innocent and in need of human help and intervention and thus a social problem, these women simultaneously construct themselves as experts on human-animal relations, and the family. As adoption experts, these women exercise authority in deciding what constitutes a "good" match between animals and their adoptive human families. Constructing and maintaining "a" meaning of pets as family members, furthermore, enables women to maintain their traditional sphere of power--the private realm of home and family. I argue that through such constructions and practices animal foster care workers help alleviate the current "social problem" of animal homelessness,yet perpetuate hierarchical relations and the idea that animals need human help.

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