Our Guest Hoyden author is regular commentor Su.
In April Lauredhel blogged the NSW RSPCA Community Service Announcement that contained scenes of a man beating and kicking a woman, overdubbed with audio of a yelping dog. The justification for the ad was an established link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. But seriously, dehumanising women and leveraging their trauma to sell your animal cruelty message? – that is some twisted thinking, sister.
So I took my vorpal email account in hand to alert the NSW RSPCA of my concerns and here are the initial paragraphs of their reply:
Thank you very much for voicing your concern.
Below is some information regarding the commercials launched by RSPCA NSW:
These Community Service Announcements (CSA) are designed to make the general public aware of issues that RSPCA faces on a day to day basis and reinforce the links between animal cruelty and other forms of abuse. They also show that the RSPCA’s daily interaction with people can and does bring about positive changes for the animals.
One particular television commercial / CSA that may cause concern shows a woman being assaulted. Instead of the woman’s cries, we hear the yelps and cries of a small dog. The aim of this is to draw attention to the very real links between domestic violence and animal abuse. In no way is it intended to belittle the trauma experienced by human victims of domestic violence. RSPCA NSW accepts the fact that the CSA is controversial but believes it is vital in today’s increasingly violent society These links are well documented and researched.
I’ve got to tell you, I am not reassured.
This letter has so many Fuck You!’s packed into the interstices that it is hard to draw much solace from that one little “no way…intended”.
And here’s the thing: their stated intentions are confused and contradictory. On the one hand they “bring about positive changes for animals” through “interaction with people”. Animals are the priority. On the other they wish to “to draw attention to these links and the need to stop animal abuse before it escalates into human abuse”. Humans are the priority. And yet they can produce a video which is many shades of wrong and justify it with yet another contradiction:
The aim of this is to draw attention to the very real links between domestic violence and animal abuse. In no way is it intended to belittle the trauma experienced by human victims of domestic violence.
When you remove a woman’s voice and replace it with a dog’s howl, when you graphically portray violence without any thought to the consequences to real victims of violence then you belittle the trauma, my friend, and your ‘intentions’ mean diddly squat.
But the final paragraphs contain the real kicker.
Dr Frank Ascione, widely regarded as the world’s foremost expert on the links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence has done numerous studies at Woman’s Shelters all over the world. He found that:
- 71% reported their abuser had threatened to harm or had actually harmed or killed the family pet(s).
- 30% of children exposed to violence were themselves abusive toward animals.
- of women 18% delayed seeking shelter for themselves and their children, for fear of their companion animal being harmed.
“On Saturday of last week I made my first kill. The victim was a loved one, my dear dog Sparkle. I will never forget the howl she made. It sounded almost human. We laughed and hit her a bit more.”
From the diary of Luke Woodham, 16, charged in the stabbing death of his mother and the shooting deaths of two students and the wounding of seven others in Peal , Mississippi.
Kind Regards, etc
Here the experience of an animal is set apart in a bolded and italicised paragraph while the experiences of women are consigned to the body of the text. Here the experience of an animal, one who has a name, a personality and an experience of pain is bracketed by nameless women whose experiences are depersonalised and abstracted into percentile figures and the language of a court reporter. A dog is killed but a woman is the victim of a “stabbing death”.
A dog is humanised while women are rendered as nameless objects who exacerbate their own violation by their delay in seeking shelter and whose deaths are reported as collateral to episodes of animal cruelty. And the only time in this entire account that a perpetrator leaps into the frame as an active subject is when he is harming an animal.
The author fails to address the video’s impact upon women who have experienced domestic violence but that is hardly surprising considering how she has instrumentalised abused women in the service of her animal rights agenda, how she denies them subjectivity. This email and the video are the obverse and reverse faces of the same patriarchal coin. The RSPCA re enact the cultural conditions that perpetuate domestic violence: the objectification of women and the trivialisation of violence against them. The ‘service’ rendered by this Community Service Announcement is to remind the community that the world denies women personhood, uses their pain for many ends but won’t end their pain, and ranks them lower than animals.
Excuse me while I go howl at the moon.