Black Women And Dogs...Is There A Stereotype?
During the latter half of 2020 I had the amazing pleasure to be included on The Diversity & Inclusion In The Pet Industry Panel at The Pet Summit. The Pet Summit is the first ever conference designed to bring pet bloggers, influencers and brands together in this burgeoning industry. To catch the replay please visit The Pet Summit website here.
I was honored to be among so many talented and diverse business owners and influencers. But the need for such a panel and conversation highlights an existing disparity within the pet industry itself.
The Gap Within Pet Industry
Black dog moms like me are severely under-represented within this billion dollar pet industry. We aren’t evenly represented on the mainstream brand ads. We’re barely reflected on their social media feeds. For a long time, black dog moms were pretty much invisible within this community.
In fact, it wasn’t until the national outcry over social injustice reached an historic high during Summer 2020 that I began to see some diversity appear within the industry.
To be fair the same could be said of every other global billion dollar industry. From fashion houses to the banking industry, it seems like national shaming was required to move the needle towards diverse and inclusive brand representation.
So this month I caught up with two other black petfluencers to pose this question to them and get their take. Is there a stereotype when it comes to black women and dogs? And if so, what can be done to change it?
Black Female Petfluencers Talk Representation
In March 2020 fellow dog fanatic Ashley of the Instagram account @blackgirlslovedogstoo entered the pet influencer space. When I posed these questions to her, she was vocal about what she sees in this space.
“One of the main reasons I created Blackgirlslovedogstoo is because of the lack of representation I saw and experienced in the pet care industry.” Ashley continues, “I was often one of very few Black people at the rescues and shelters I volunteered for and often felt out of place. Although I was amongst other dogs lovers, being the one Black girl in a majority white space was uncomfortable at times.”
Ashley goes on even mention evidence of potential biases within the pet adoption space based on her time serving there. “I would notice the slight differences in how they treated Black patrons looking to adopt, especially when it came to a certain breed of dog. I also follow several dog and rescue pages on Instagram and Facebook and rarely saw anyone who looked like me.”
Another pioneer in the black petfluencer space, Christina of the Instagram account @blackwomenlovedogs had this to say.
”I didn’t understand how much I didn’t fit in until I became a dog mom. After adopting my puppy Kanna in 2019, I thought my only worry would be teaching her that shoes are not snacks and the carpet is not grass. When the first two weeks of dog motherhood started kicking my butt, I began to turn to social media. My ultimate goal was to find other dog moms I could go to for advice. I began following a couple of dog mom pages that showcased the most adorable puppies I’d ever seen in my life. I reached out to a few people to ask questions and I was happy to find women who gave me encouraging words. However, after a few hours of scrolling, I started to realize that the pages didn’t feature any women that looked like me.”
How did not seeing other black dog moms featured make Christina feel? She continues,
”I started to feel a bit misplaced. So I began looking for pages that catered to women who looked like me. I searched multiple hashtags related to dogs but I still couldn’t find a consistent theme of black women and dogs. You know how after you search for something online you start receiving advertisements for similar products on social media? Puppy products began to appear on my timeline but not one of them featured a black family with their dog. That’s when I knew that I had to do something to help end the stigma.”
Christina further questions the lack of diversity within brand advertisements. “Do pet brands honestly believe that black people do not take care of dogs? In 2020 Beyoncé said, ‘Not enough black women had a seat at the table, so I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table.’”
Pushing The Pet Industry Forward
Noticing the disparity in diversity and representation, both ladies are dedicated to pushing the pet industry forward.
”People often make comments and jokes about how much...white women love their dogs and I’m like, “Hold up! Black girls love dogs too!” states Ashley. “That’s why I’ve dedicated this page to spread awareness and promote those of us in the pet care industry. It’s been so refreshing to come across so many of us that are doing amazing things, we just need the world to see it.”
Christina adds, “Creating Black Women Love Dogs is so much more than seeing beautiful black women of different shapes, shades and personalities loving on their pooches. Black Women Love Dogs is our seat at the table. The table that I, a black woman, prepared when we weren’t given an invitation. Our dogs mean the world, moon and stars to us. Some of us have dogs who help guard our mental health. Some of us have dogs who remind us of loved ones we’ve lost. Some of us have dogs because they are the only children we will ever have. Some of us have dogs because we just have a place in our hearts and in our homes for a four-legged angel. After taking a scroll down my page I ask you, do you think “the stigma” should still exist?”
How To Support Black Petfluencers And Businesses
As for me here at Lindsey & Coco, I echo the conversations above. Diversity within the pet industry remains an issue. Under representation, a lack of brand interest and even a lack of grassroots support for diverse petfluencers all are part of a problem that is complex and pervasive.
I too hope that my blog and social media pages are providing a space where black dog moms feel represented, seen and heard. This is in fact one of the reasons why I pushed past my insecurities to create these platforms. And the lack of general diversity within the pet industry is why I go out of my way to also reflect dog moms of as many ethnic and diverse backgrounds as possible. Black, White, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latina, and etc. I try hard to represent all of us in my images and interviews.
But as highlighted by the interviews with these amazing ladies above, change is up to each one of us. These brave women noticed a void in the pet space and took it upon themselves to serve our community. I urge you all to support their amazing Instagram accounts and others like them.
I also urge you to support diverse influencers, bloggers and businesses within the pet industry. It costs nothing to share their content, follow their pages and amplify their voices.
Why should we do this?
Because we are all humans and we all have a desire to belong to a community; a tribe. Like me these lovely ladies have adopted our fellow dog moms as our tribe. Help us to feel heard, loved and a part of this amazing community by helping us to be seen.
I want to sincerely thank Ashley and Christina for contributing to this piece and I urge everyone who reads this point to follow their amazing Instagram pages.
Ashely @blackgirlslovedogstoo Christina @blackwomenlovedogs
Continue this conversation in the second article in the series Black Women & Dogs: Breaking Boundaries.