The issue of how different genders regard the treatment of animals is a very interesting one; the way in which we may or may not be hard-wired plays a crucial role in determining just how we interact with animals. The prevailing wisdom is that men treat animals more harshly than women do, and therefore hunting is much easier for them. However, the line between domesticated animals/pets and wild animals is often blurred for many, and women tend to be more predisposed to anthropomorphize and humanize animals in their minds. The differences between how men and women look at animals can be tied to cultural ideas of masculinity and femininity, and the support networks currently present for animal rights groups are much more open to women than they are to men.
Of course, these gender-based stereotypes regarding who does what regarding the treatment of animals are not always true, and there are remarkable similarities in behavior for both genders. "Equal numbers of men and women own companion animals, they are just as likely to buy holiday presents for their dogs and cats and to pay newspapers to publish obituaries for their deceased pets" (Herzog, p. 132). The line between pet and wild animal seems to be the real distinction that determines whether or not an animal deserves to die or to be cared about. If an animal cannot be controlled or placed in an environment that allows the human owner to restrict power and autonomy to the animal, it cannot be "domesticated" and as a result is much more fair game for hunting and the like. Apart from physical attractiveness and adorability of the animal, the ability for humans to do things to animals with their consent helps to contribute to positive feelings regarding the animal in the case of both sexes. Women have been shown to be much more likely to dress pets up and treat them as closer to human, while men are seen to hold a bit more distance with the animal.
These gender differences also extend to the desire or fervor by which people fight for animal rights. Women are more likely than men to be brought into animal rights' groups, as "animal rights are seen by many as a feminine issue" (Kruse, p. 195). There are two reasons for this, one cultural and one structural - because of the male attitude that animal activism is not masculine, they would not want to demasculinize themselves as a result, leaving more room for women. Furthermore, recruitment networks are more easily targeted toward women, because of the proportionally greater free time to volunteer at shelters and the like. This leaves the process of fighting for animal rights to be much more closely targeted toward women than men.
In conclusion, the gendered perception of how to treat animals is tied in very much with social and cultural notions of what it means to help animals. Women feel closer to animals and are much more likely to domesticate them, considering them more humanlike than animal in personality. They are also much more highly targeted for social and animal rights mobilization, given the perspective that animal rights is inherently feminine and protective.
Herzog, Hal. "Prom Queen Kills First Deer on Sixteenth Birthday." Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals. Harper Collins,
Kruse, Corwin R. "Gender, Views of Nature, and Support for Animal Rights." Society and Animals, vol.7, no. 3, pp. 179-198. 1999. Print.