|From the cover of|
The Sexual Politics of Meat
According to John Berger in Ways of Seeing, “To be born a woman has been to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men. . . . A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. . . . Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object.”
Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? This phrase, which has been around since at least the seventeenth century and was popular with my grandmother's generation, was often said by women to younger women as a warning not to have sex before marriage or they might find themselves husbandless. The phrase still resonates today—with women in particular—in spite of its overt sexism and speciesism, and its making light of the exploitation and enslavement of other female animals. It's also worth noting that animal husbandry is a field of study taught by many taxpayer-funded state university animal science and agriculture departments in the breeding and keeping of farmed animals for their flesh, milk, and eggs.
No, I will not.
Being vegan and fighting against speciesist cultural norms and traditions is not very different from battling sexist and patriarchal customs. Together, ethical veganism and feminism counter the fairy tales (Old MacDonald, Prince Charming), the false choices, and the ideas of masculinity and femininity that have brainwashed us—who is consumable . . . tasty chicks with shapely, hairless thighs and large, tender breasts?
That was the slogan on a Rutgers fraternity t-shirt I saw a friend wearing while I was working a dinner shift in the dining hall during my undergraduate studies. The t-shirt featured a large cartoon character of the Tasmanian Devil. The figure held a mug of beer in one hand and in the other, the beer's apparent equivalent—a curvy, busty, bikini-clad woman with long blonde hair. I was incensed and cleverly acquired the phone number of the president of the fraternity. I was able to get him to concede the t-shirts’ offensiveness—not only to women but to those men who neither consider themselves nor want to promote themselves as shallow, beer-guzzling misogynists.
What some men desire often gets women into trouble, even killed. “Abusive men are the major source of injury to adult women in the United States,” continued Adams. “The World Health Organization, in the first comprehensive documentation of global violence released in October, 2002, found that 40-70 percent of female murder victims in Australia, the United States, Canada, Israel, and South Africa were killed by their husbands or boyfriends. . . . many women realized that their partners were planning to kill them when they killed a dog, a cat, a horse.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), killing, harming, or threatening to harm animals are weapons used by abusers to manipulate victims into silence and to destroy the comfort animals provide. Abuse is not a problem with anger management, but rather a way to establish and maintain control over victims.
The oppression of women and oppression of nonhumans often overlap and reinforce one another. I do not share these statistics and anecdotes as a means to male bashing but to bring awareness and insight. Sadly, these are facts of life that impact women and nonhuman animals every single day.
And sometimes there is no distinction, like when a Tennessee man was charged with dismembering the body of a woman and eating part of her corpse. Or when a New York City cop was arrested for planning to rape, kill, cook, and eat women, including his wife. In his defense, his lawyer claimed they were just—wait for it— fantasies.
The personal is political. Men's subjection of women and nonhuman animals reinforces hierarchies of power . . . and so do our diets. What we subscribe to and consent to as individuals and as participants of institutions is as relevant to animal advocacy and social justice as to our very own lives. Every day we have choices to make. We can participate in our own exploitation and suffering and that of countless other beings. Or we can choose to respect our own bodies and the bodies of others. I choose the latter.
How Do I Go Vegan?