Sexism isn't dead yet
A female friend recently called the county animal control officer to report that a stray dog appeared in her yard and evidently decided to call it home. She said the officer seemed to go out of his way to give her a hard time, saying that she would need to bring the dog in (easier said than done) and fill out forms at a time convenient for the officer, not her. She dreaded trying to capture the dog, drive 35 minutes to the county office, possibly wait for assistance, and then jump through the bureaucratic hoops before driving another 35 minutes home, after which she might need to clean a soiled car. Trying to find time to do all that in the midst of her jam-packed two-job-and-graduate-school schedule was like trying to find time for a pizza party while coding a patient with a heart attack.
She also said the county animal control officer seemed obsessed with finding out what county the dog was from. The dog wasn't talking, bore no tag, and she lived on the county border close to where four counties meet. How would she know?
Deterred by the foregoing, she decided to wait to see if the dog would leave. A day later, after $300 of property and other damage, she was more eager than ever to get rid of the dog, but she couldn't bring herself to phone the animal control officer again, so I called, expecting an equal hassle.
Did I get it? No. I received prompt, courteous service. Without me even asking for it, he offered to pick up the dog at a time convenient for me. I needed to leave soon, yet before I knew it, he knocked on the door with the dog already on a leash. Amazing.
I didn't need to raise my voice or tell him that I can break toothpicks with my bare hands. :-) I had a prior encounter with him (which he seemed not to recall) long ago, at which time he struck me as being intelligent, interesting, personable, and willing to go out of his way to be helpful. He impressed me so much that I mentally added him to my list of people to reward if I become rich. Thus I was very surprised to see my female friend, a perfectly reasonable person, report a markedly different experience.
This true story would be almost meaningless if it were an isolated example, but it is not. I've seen too many examples of women being treated as second-class citizens by government officials and as dupes by others such as mechanics and home contractors. This bothers me because I want everyone to be treated equally. If this isn't sexism, it sure looks like it. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck . . . .
I've seen an alarming incidence in stray but obviously domesticated animals after the economy nosedived in 2007–2008. Life is tough enough for wild animals, but it can be absolutely miserable for abandoned pets accustomed to having food, water, shelter, and human companionship provided to them. I've also heard of cases in which erstwhile animal lovers did mercilessly cruel things to dispose of pets they no longer wanted or could afford.
Pets can feel pain and emotions just as acutely as humans. I put myself in the shoes of other people and animals, treating them as I would wish to be treated if I were on the receiving end. When some people have the upper hand, they treat others as if they don't matter, or matter less, and can be treated harshly. I think that is an abominable viewpoint.
A relevant quote:
“True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view) consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.”
— Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being
- My site on shelters for wild animals