Wayne Pacelle, former president of the HSUS
February 25, 2018
Our society is only first beginning to come to grips with the plague of sexual harassment with which women have had to contend forever; men using their positions of authority to victimize their female counterparts. Unless one finds themselves inside the paradigm of being a lone voice standing against an old-boy network, it is difficult to understand the immense pressure that is brought to bear down on one to remain silent. If any one of Bill Cosby’s victims had come forward at a different point in time, indeed, a scant few did, they would have been discredited, marginalized, and cast aside for having the audacity to accuse America’s Dad of misdoings; for daring to challenge his carefully-cultivated public persona, no matter how fraudulent. “What a crazy bitch” is the general refrain for neutralizing such annoyances, while simultaneously using the legal system to financially rape the victim for uttering her truth. The law is the weapon of the oppressor and regularly used by abusers with resources to further batter their victims.
With the recent #metoo movement, we’re seeing a general social acknowledgment that the objectification of women is prevalent. And maybe we’re seeing a cultural shift where the highly-connected oppressor is cast aside, rather than the oppressed. Indeed, it appears that the entertainment industry has ostracized Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, and a seemingly-endless stream of sexist transgressors. But within our own movement, the Animal Liberation community, politics still trumps justice. Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, recently stepped down amid allegations of sexual harassment. But as the HSUS is symptomatic of the welfarism that paralyzes our movement, so is his resignation only symptomatic of the patriarchy and its plague that remains.
Our community is perhaps the only social justice movement that alleges to stand against oppression of all beings — human and nonhuman — irrespective of species, gender, sexual orientation, race, ability, or any other arbitrary characteristic that defines us. And we give this egalitarian ideal great lip service in books, lectures and any theoretical pursuit. But we’ve yet to see any real commitment to these ideas translate into practice. The Animal Liberation patriarchy still stands united against any victimized woman even though women comprise the great majority of activists; an old-boy political network not unlike the one that boasts the faces of Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan.
We’ve heard about our women (and transgendered men) being raped, physically battered, sexually exploited, or abused in any variety of manners because they have dared to stand up to a high-profile man in this movement. The response, over and over again, is to label the victim a crazy bitch and to sit back and watch, maybe join in, while s/he is lynched. I’ve experienced it first hand. But I’m not alone. We can all agree that our work for the animals is far too important to involve ourselves in he-said/she-said drama. But when we see the proof in black eyes, broken ribs, or court records, when our female activists land in hospitals and land in jail for their supreme transgression of damaging a patriarch’s reputation — standing up to a powerful man — then we’ve moved way beyond drama. We are in the arena of a full-scale assault of our female activists, damaging their work and, indeed, perpetuating the agenda of industrial abusers — those we all give great lip service to defeating.
When we remain silent in the face of oppression, we are only empowering the oppressor. The day is far behind us where men in our movement are allowed the luxury of pretending that their neutrality is somehow for the benefit of the animals. Indeed, allowing our women to fall victim to any man and then to the convergence of the patriarchal network — to choose reputations over justice, to choose silence over justice — is done at the expense of the animals. Choosing politics, choosing silence, choosing neutrality, choosing friendships, or choosing to protect reputations undeserved in refusing to protect our women is a demonstration of the antithesis of that for which we allege to stand: anti-oppression. It is pure hypocrisy; the lifeblood of politicians.
Is it any wonder women continue to endure abuse at the hands of men in this movement? It’s because we know that we’d better have the wherewithal to see it through ourselves. In a community of alleged warriors, few have the courage to fight for us. Silence and neutrality are tacit approval of evil. It will be a glorious day when the powerful men in this movement decide to give something other than lip service to the ideas of liberation for all beings; to actually step up on the platform we’ve afforded them and declare that they will defend our women; that they demand justice for all of us. But that day seems far off indeed.
We would never be silent when an animal is being victimized. We would never remain neutral if an animal was being harmed. How, then, do some feel it’s acceptable to stand as pillars of silence — withholding both comfort and support from the victimized — in the face of an all-out siege on them and their rights; some on the front lines. If we are willing to let our women stand alone when they do nothing more than defend themselves against abusers — if we allow them to fall because their unwillingness to acquiesce to the powers that be is irritating to the elites — then we have betrayed them and every animal for whom they fight.
The same ferocity with which our women defend nonhuman animals is the same ferocity that will allow each of us to walk through movement politics, misogyny, and character attacks and get to the other side. We must embrace and support one another. We must protect and defend each other’s ability to fight for Animal Liberation. Because the men who have the luxury of watching from pedestals have chosen politics and friendship over conviction and justice. They’ve chosen silence. They’ve chosen oppression.