Marti Kheel

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Marti Kheel

From Animals and Society Institute (ASI)
February 2012

On November 19, 2011, ecofeminist, author, and human-animal studies scholar Marti Kheel died. She co-founded Feminists for Animal Rights in 1982, the first organization to work to end the dual oppressions felt by animals and women, and to show the links between both forms of oppression. Kheel had a doctorate in religious studies from the Graduate Theological Union, and was most recently a visiting scholar at the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. She was also an expert in ASI’s Experts Database.

Kheel was a prolific writer; her book, Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective, was published in 2008 by Rowman & Littlefield, and she published chapters in such widely read books as Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations (Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan, eds), Food for Thought: The Debate Over Eating Meat (Steve F. Sapontzis, ed), Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (Greta Gaard, ed), and Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (Anthony J. Nocella and Steve Best, eds). Her work inspired a generation of feminists, animal rights activists, and human-animal studies scholars.

Animals and Women, published in 1995, was one of the first books I ever bought in the then-new-to-me field of human-animal studies. I was shocked and inspired by the chapters in the book, which drove me to think about animals and women in ways that I had never thought about before, and which inspired me to create a course I taught in 2003 called “Animals, Science and Women.” Kheel’s piece in the book, “License to Kill: An Ecofeminist Critique of Hunters’ Discourse” was a radical dissection of the discourse of hunters. In particular, it critiqued the notion, popular among many hunters today, that hunting is a way to back to a more “natural” way of living, and that hunting is both a form of conservation as well as an ethical, and even holy activity. Ultimately, in this piece as in many of her pieces, she connects the exploitation of animals to a patriarchal world in which hegemonic masculinity entails the dominance, by men, of both women and non-human animals.

The work of Marti Kheel and her organization, Feminists for Animal Rights, while no longer active, continues to shape the thinking of men and women who question the basis for animal exploitation. From the promotional flyer of FAR:

In patriarchal society women and animals are….
raped, beaten, hated, enslaved as pets
exploited as wives, sold for money, used
for entertainment, cheap labor, sex experiments...

In patriarchal society women and animals are considered…
inferior, “cute,” childish, uncontrollable,
emotional, impulsive, instinctive, irrational,
evil, property, objects...

In patriarchal society women and animals are referred to as…
chicks, bitches, pussies, foxes, dogs,
cows, beavers, birds, bunnies, kittens
sows, lambs, shrews, geese, fillies,
bats, crows, heifers, vixens...

Rest in peace, Marti.