Sister Species

Women, Animals and Social Justice

Sister Species book cover

Sister Species

Women, Animals and Social Justice

Available at:

ISBN : 9780252078118
Publisher: University of Illinois Press (2011)

We need to be on board with other activists, and we each need to explore our own personal areas of ignorance.

Introduction to Sister Species

Oppressions, then, are by definition linked — linked by common ideologies, by institutional forces, and by socialization that makes oppressions normative and invisible.

Introduction to Sister Species

Not only is ethnic and racial diversity represented in this book, but also tactical diversity.

Carol Adams

Sister Species presents bold and gripping—sometimes horrifying—personal narratives from fourteen activists who have personally explored links of oppression between humans and anymals, including cockfighting, factory farming, vivisection, and the bushmeat trade. This anthology helps readers to better recognize the importance of women in anymal advocacy while encouraging readers to reassess the many ways that our day-to-day lives create and further oppression.

Sister Species addresses interconnections between speciesism, sexism, racism, and homophobia, exposing the reality of interfacing oppressions by:

Most fundamentally, these soul-searching essays demonstrate why every woman should be an anymal activist and why every anymal activist should be a feminist.

There is anger and passion here.

Carol Adams about Sister Species

Lisa Kemmerer on Sister Species

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Introduction to Sister Species

“Feminists and ecofeminists must take a stand on behalf of all who are oppressed rather than seek loopholes in the hope of defending their habitual diet while continuing to ask others to make fundamental changes in their understandings and lifestyle on behalf of women.” Introduction to Sister Species

The Introduction includes four separate sections. The first provides a brief overview of the evolution of intersectional analysis. The second section focuses on a handful of key ideas that run through the essays of Sister Species: empathy, silence, trauma, and voice. The third section, true to the purpose of the book, employs empathy and voice, encouraging readers to be make informed choices that are consistent with a heightened understanding of linked oppressions—“Social justice advocacy is not simply a career—it is a lifestyle.” The fourth section provides a critical analysis of an ongoing debate over food choices at feminist and ecofeminist conferences. Before introducing the authors and essays, the introduction comments on word choice and interfacing oppressions.

Chapter 1: In the first essay, boldly personal and deeply philosophical, pattrice jones remembers how she insisted that “everything—racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, militarism, etc., etc.—was connected . . . but somehow managed to leave animals out of the equation.” ” She ponders her reluctance to recognize milk products as sexist exploitation, touching on a hot button between feminists, ecofeminists, and animal liberationists—is diet personal or political? jones connects trauma with action and suggests we speak in ways that keep truths about the suffering of others “uncomfortably conscious.”

“I’ll never know for sure why the queasy uneasiness I felt at the dairy farm slithered out of sight so easily. What I do know for sure is that this kind of shifty slippage probably helps to explain why the altruistic, animal-loving, feminist friend who sat next to me sobbing as we watched the documentary “Peaceable Kingdom” is still eating meat.” pattrice jones in Sister Species

Chapter 2: Having lost several women in her family to cancer, fighting cancer herself, Twyla François realized that male their doctors had never explained that the consumption of animal products may lead to cancer. Delving into the trenches on behalf of farmed animals, finding commonality between female humans and female farmed animals, François reclaimed her life and her health.

“For me, the most disturbing realization has been that, if you happen to be a female farmed animal, your quality of life drops to near zero.” Twyla François in Sister Species

Chapter 3: Ingrid Newkirk asks the proverbial question—What does it take to bring change? She rejects categorization at the outset (even male and female) and ponders a world without compartmentalization, . She notes that she works largely with females and for females, raising the question of essentialism: Is there some innate difference that lends females to animal advocacy? She also notes that women usually control kitchens, which she considers “fonts of power”—vegan power. Displaying the spunk and pluck that drives People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Newkirk’s essay questions, well, pretty much everything.

“My work is not all about going vegan, although it is hard to justify eating those you work for, or stealing from them. Weren’t we all taught the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’?”

Chapter 4: Reflecting on her childhood, Amie Breeze Harper turns attention the tendency of the anymal rights movement to be powered by middle-class Caucasians who remain collectively oblivious to linked oppressions, particularly the issues of racism and poverty. She reminds readers, “it’s all connected.”

“If you are white and/or ‘postracial,’ and become defensive or downright hostile when I ask you to reflect on the effects of ‘whiteness as the norm,’ racialization, and racism on your perceptions, how can you ask others to reconsider—let alone change? How can any of us be exempt from the same critical reflexivity and emotionally difficult self-analysis that we demand from speciesists?” Amie Breeze Harper in Sister Species

Chapter 5: Labeled “nothing’” in kindergarten, “Gook” in public, and “yellow” on her birth certificate, Miyun Park offers an insider’s view of “other” that prepared her to work against speciesism.

“That little piece of unwanted mail stole my ignorance. I could no longer segregate ‘food’ animals as ‘other.’ If I did, I would be guilty of the same prejudices held by those who yelled, “go back to China, you gook!” Miyun Park in Sister Species

Chapter 6: Indian American Sangamithra Iyer, describing time as a foster-mom for three chimpanzees orphaned by the bushmeat trade, reflects on trauma and demonstrates the role of personal experience and internal understanding in bringing change. She reminds readers how easy it is to overlook the many unanticipated effects of our lifestyle choices.

“Thankfully, there was at least a veterinarian, who also served as the village doctor. One of the first patients . . . was a boy, about nine years old. He had a huge lesion on his thigh, which she treated for infection. His grandmother had brought him in; both of his parents had died of HIV/AIDS. The origins of HIV/AIDS have been linked to the slaughter and consumption of wild apes, which allowed the benign simian version of the virus to jump species, mutate, and spread, producing the global pandemic we now have. Like my small smalls, the young boy in the clinic was orphaned by the bushmeat trade.” Sangamithra Iyer in Sister Species

Chapter 7: Reflecting on her father, Hope Ferdowsian also compares the effects of trauma in human beings and chimpanzees, all the while describing a new and fascinating area of noninvasive research.

“One evening when my dad was visiting, he noted how timid and careful Charlie was with people. He presumed that Charlie must have had a hard life before he met us. He asked me if I knew who Charlie reminded him of. I said, “No.” My dad began to quietly weep, remembering the hardships his mother faced before her early death. No one felt the need to explain the common vulnerability between my grandmother and Charlie, not in common terms, and not in academic or scientific terms. We all easily recognized the similarities.” Hope Ferdowsian in Sister Species

Chapter 8: Elizabeth Jane Farians chose to work within the church, where she felt the need to perfect the art of self-effacement in order to cloak herself in conventional, model female behavior, in order to champion change.

“The theology chair was on the phone when I arrived, so I had to stand awkwardly in the hallway. I felt like a naughty schoolchild outside the principal's office. I waited for quite some time. Obviously, I was not a high priority, just a nuisance. But I was an eighty-year-old woman, a pioneer woman theologian of almost fifty years. I had to remind myself that I was on a new and unique mission - who I was or how I was treated did not matter - I was here to bring change for nonhuman animals.” - Elizabeth Jane Farians in Sister Species

Chapter 9: Speaking from inside the Ojibway community, artist Linda Fisher expresses dismay at the innumerable “leather goods, feathers, and trinkets made of animal parts—bear claws, cougar teeth, turtle shells, and whale bones” that she sees at traditional ceremonies. She questions the Native American tendency to feature hunting as culturally essential and she was on site in defense of whales when the Makah (Western Washington) attempted to renew their “ancient tradition” of whaling.

“I maneuvered the zodiac between the whale and the harpoon. In doing so, I swamped their boat with water. Luckily, the government was there to be sure all laws were upheld—okay, not the laws, but rather illegal ‘traditions.’ The U.S. Coast Guard brought their big ship alongside our tiny zodiac, and told us to come aboard. We thought about running, but our boat was no match in size or speed, so we were pulled from our boat. Why was the Coast Guard protecting the Makah’s illegal slaughter of the world’s most intelligent being?” Linda Fisher in Sister Species

Chapter 10: Latina playwright, performer, and educator Tara Sophia Bahna-James describes compassion as “inherently inclusive,” presents theater’s ability to carry people across self-erected boundaries, and defines vulnerability as power.

“The scope of the problem is unfathomable, but the individual act still has meaning. Animals need us to be courageous and curious and to accept the possibility of failure. . . to not let things we cannot do stop us from doing what we can.” Sophia Bahna-James in Sister Species

Chapter 11: Karen Davis writes “that nonhuman animals suffer in ways that no human has ever dreamed of or experienced, and that there are elements in human nature that exult in creating strange new worlds of misery.” Davis grew up in a community where anymal abuse and racial prejudice were as unnoticed—and widespread—as child abuse and sexism. She describes “intellectual awakening” and her journey from a powerless and sensitive youth, through dangerous levels of despair and collapse, to become an empowered, internationally respected activist.

“One day I came home from school and Wiffenpoof was gone. My mother said they gave him away. They bought me a windup canary in a plastic cage to take his place. It still hurts to ponder where they took Wiffenpoof. In those days, no one recognized such parental decisions as both an act of animal abuse and an act of child abuse.” Karen Davis in Sister Species

Chapter 12: lauren Ornelas describes animal liberation as not about compassion, but about justice. She writes, “animal advocates will draw more people, and become part of a more viable movement, when we explicitly connect animal, human, and environmental injustices. We are all comrades.” Consistent with her words, Ornelas launched a vegan project focusing on “animals, workers, and the environment,” designed not only to chip away at corporate animal exploitation, but also to encourage community gardens, change how field workers are treated, and shine a stark light on environmental racism. Through food, Ornelas notes, she “found a movement in which almost anyone could participate.”

“Before I got fully immersed in animal rights, I was involved in other social justice issues, such as fighting the death penalty. But I felt I didn’t have much impact. I was also involved in the grape boycott and antiapartheid issues, and this is where I realized I could actually make a difference, simply by choosing to buy other products.”

Chapter 13: Vegan animal rights attorney, Christine Garcia, considers anymals the “most abused individuals on the planet,” and notes that U.S. government forms most of her opposition in her efforts to protect these many sentient beings. Working in the field of animal law, Garcia exposes injustice in the U.S. legal system, introducing animal liberationist as “other.” Garcia notes: “Police protect the university’s legal right to test on animals, not the citizen’s right to protest animal experimentation.”

“Judges need to be reminded that even animal activists are protected by the constitution.”

Chapter 14: Allison Lance tries not to let speciesist legal systems get in her way. Lance brings to the table frustrations, a no-nonsense rejection of the insidious, pervasive male violence and control that harms and destroys anymals, and which also affects her personally. Lance’s recounts confrontations with killers, raising questions of the place of violence and illegal action among social justice activists.

“In northern California, after a successful day of sabbing, we came back to our car to find a hunter posed to slash our tires. I ran up and pushed him down, and he came up swinging a knife frighteningly near my gut—the madness of hunters. Yet I was arrested.”

If you desire to be a stronger, more confident advocate and to feel less alone, despairing, and frustrated in pursuit of justice for animals, if you care about what animals are going through and about animals themselves. . . Sister Speciesis for you.

Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns

These stories are so fascinating and important because they tell personal stories of awareness and engagement.

Carol Adams