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On Pets, and Metaphors for the Oppressed

December 26, 2010

I will never own a pet. My thought processes go like this. They’re living creatures. They shouldn’t be kept purely for our own amusement. If we did that to humans it would be considered slavery and degrading. We do it to other animals, and it’s considered normal practice. I’m pretty sure it’s only considered acceptable because that’s what’s always been done. Working animals are in another form of slavery, but one that isn’t as degrading as being a household jester.

Why do I mention this? Well, I’m not at home at the moment – I’m having some enforced relatives time. Another visitor to the house at the moment is a dog. I’ve encountered this dog a few times over the last two years, but this is the first time we’ve both been living in, rather than visiting, a place.

I don’t like how they treat the dog.

She’s not allowed to look at food or Christmas presents, and gets forcibly turned round if she does. If she makes the slightest whimper, four people will tell her to shut up in chorus. I know she’s been told off once for a noise I made – I was panting enthusiastically at Doctor Who. She’s not allowed to eat until all the humans have.

The worst thing is the dog toys. She currently has two toys, both designed for a human to hold one end in their hand/s and the dog to hold the other end in their jaw. The family seem so amused by their ability to drag the dog around the room, through their legs, and the inevitable angry noises that go with it. I’m not so amused.

This dog is not in a place that she considers home. The toys are one of the few reminders of home she has. Safety and comfort that she knows how to get from home are only avaliable through the toy. And the humans keep trying to take them away from her. No wonder she will hang on when being dragged around by humans that are  much larger than her. She worries that she may never see that toy again.

So, metaphors for the oppressed. I take the dog toy incident as a metaphor for legal recognition of gender, though it probably applies to other pointlessly overcomplicated beurocratic journeys that oppressed people have to undergo. The toy is the rules that you have to live by, the hoops that you have to jump through, and the miles of paperwork you need to deal with. The priviledged people in the system shake the toy, move the hoops, change the rules. They’re then amazed that the oppressed still hold onto the toy, even though they’re complaining about it at the same time. That’s because we never know when we’ll get a chance to grab hold of it again. Sometimes, when the privileged realise that we’re not going to let go, they intentionally make the toy even harder to keep a hold of, just because they don’t want t0 give the toy away. They’ve toys over the house, but because we want this one, they decide that they want it.

Here’s another metaphor, that I only spotted this morning. The dog has to eat after the humans. Why? Because she’s less important, and less likely to complain, and it doesn’t matter as much if she does complain. In this household, no-one is allowed to eat until the youngest pair – the oldest of the two is 7 now – have eaten their lunch. Is that implying that we must all be less important than those two? I know that mine or Theo’s being in distress is a far lower priority than either of them being slightly unhappy. And these people claim to be our family.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 26, 2010 17:44

    I know that in the family house here the pets have always been treated more as adopted members of the family (though not to the crazy levels that some do). Sure there are scoldings, but really only for breaking rules that could damage property belong to or cause actual harm to others. The pets are actually very well-behaved for it. When eating, we don’t like him begging around the table, but rather than send him out of the room he will be allowed to sit in his chair until his own dinner time comes. He has his own sense of routine and, at least as far as we can tell, seems pretty content with his lot. Certainly, being a rescue dog, it is better than what he was used to before now and, not immodestly, we’re a pretty decent family to end up staying with.

  2. December 26, 2010 17:48

    That said, we’re also pretty liberal regards the other stuff. We care about who you are, regardless of what you are (much better wording that saying “we don’t care what you are”), so long as you are similarly courteous towards other people. The youngest has grown up with much more exposure to the language of the Internet, so we have to train him out of casual slurs (thanks, the World), but I’m sure he’ll be quite charming once he matures and learns more about people through direct contact.

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