Social justice activists have found a new pet cause: the patriarchal oppression of canines.
Writing for Reuters, Stephanie Kelly highlights how male-dominated the field of dog shows have become and asks, Is there a "glass ceiling for dogs?" The primary root of the patriarchal problem is that females eventually have to retire in order to breed puppies, whereas the male dogs can "keep competing for years."
Gail Miller Bisher, a spokeswoman for the Westminster Kennel Club, said the winning female German shepherd from last year's Westminster competition, Rumor, will not be returning this year after becoming a mom.
"Now she won't show again, she's done," said Bisher. "But males can keep going. They can be used as stud and continue showing and keep their coat and keep their shape of body and all that."
Because of this unfair truth of biology, female dogs have taken home the award for Best In Show at Westminster just 39 times, a little over half the number of times male dogs have won (71). The gender inequity is also evident in the number of competitors this year: 1,220 females vs. 1,699 males.
Kelly also notes the oppressive language used in reference to female dogs in pure-bred circles; males are referred to simply as "dogs," while females are "bitches."
Dogs typically reach peak competition at ages 3 to 5 years old, which is prime breeding age for females. Kimberly Calvacca, a professional handler and breeder from Westbury, New York, says that breeders typically avoid campaigning females because their value stems less from their wins and more from their breeding.
"People don’t like to campaign females because they don’t like to jeopardize their breeding program," said Calvacca. But studs "still show and breed at the same time."
Aside from the breeding, competition can be rather taxing on female dogs, which can cause "changes in temperament and hormones," Kelly reports. When a female dog enters its cycle every six months, some owners will forgo showing it altogether, because "they're moody."
"Depending on the breed, a female dog in season will shed her coat, leaving her less impressive looking than male peers," writes Kelly. "Those kinds of changes can knock her out of competition for months."
All of this just means that there are more male dogs competing and less female dogs, and that's something we all need to care about, apparently.