The Sexual Politics of Meat: Don’t Pass the Turkey

It’s important to connect the various communities of which we are part, particularly where those communities are deeply interconnected. With that in mind, I wrote the following message to the Lesbian Life forum:

Is anyone else here familiar with the concept of intersectionality? It is a theory that recognizes the way that various forms of oppression interact, the way they are intertwined and contribute to each other as well as create unique experiences, rather than being independent processes. For example, in the U.S. the experience of a white woman and black woman are different… the black woman not only has to face gender inequality, but also racial inequality. I went to a panel discussion called “Coming Out as Transgender/Genderqueer,” and a transman said that he actually had more respect in the professional world as a manly woman than as an effeminate transman. I agree with intersectionality and believe that, as hard as it might be to deal with our own issue (i.e. the oppression of gay people), it will be even harder if we isolate ourselves and ignore that commonalities we share with other movements. I envision a world in which every hub of social justice discussion, even if it is devoted primarily to a particular issue, becomes a place to make deeper connections about liberation.

A student at my university who is a Women’s & Gender Studies major (feminist), identifies as bisexual, and also newly vegetarian, recently wrote an article for the student newspaper asking GU Pride (the LGBTQ organization on campus) to expand its focus and improve its outreach to other social justice movements: Call to Expand GU Pride Focus.

The title of this thread, The Sexual Politics of Meat, is from a book of the same name (a feminist-vegetarian critical theory) by Carol J. Adams. This book argues that meat bears the texts of patriarchy; it shares in patriarchal power, being considered a manly thing. Meanwhile, vegetables are looked down upon in our culture, and vegans and vegetarians are seen as being weak and too sentimental. This dismissal of vegans as too sentimental is a privileging of reason over emotion, a false dichotomy, which encourages us to deny our emotions. Please note that women used to be seen as lacking in reason, just emotional beings. Animals, too, are seen as unreasoning beings only capable of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain: society therefore deems them worthless, and abuse of them is seen as unworthy of moral sanction. This despite a widespread romanticizing of animals and great number of people who would readily declare their love of animals – or at least pets/dogs/cats/horses (upper-class animals).

A very popular vegan forum I participate in has a poll that asks its members’ sex. For a year since I joined the forum, it has shown that about 65% of the members are female. Meanwhile, my university’s Grilling Society consists almost entirely of white men. When people tell me why they could supposedly never be vegan, I typically hear “I like meat” from men, but “I like cheese” from women. Note that cheese (milk) involves in particular the exploitation of female cows. Think of the commonality here between the exploitation of female cows’ and humans’ reproductive systems: being forced into constant pregnancy so they can keep “putting out” for others.

I think it’s a good time to bring all of this up because it’s that poignant time of year for many of us when 45 million turkeys will be devoured, supposedly as an expression of “thanks,” but perhaps more an expression of commercialism. The turkey has been sold to Americans. This year will only mark my second vegan Thanksgiving… I have my share of killing on my hands. The innocent turkey was sold to me, too, from my own innocent childhood on into adulthood. No, not the turkey, but 45 million turkeys (per Turkey Day alone), because turkeys are individuals with hopes and fears. Believe that turkeys, too, are capable of love and affection.

Do we want to deconstruct patriarchy – the ideology of male power over women, of heterosexual power over sexual minorities, of white feminism over racially-aware feminism, etc. – to create solidarity among social justice movements so that we can challenge violence, together? Or do we want take the easy route and sit back and say that our hands are full without having to take a stand against multiple oppressions?

I choose the former. You can join me by examining your own prejudices, by reaching out to other marginalized groups, by making intersectionality a more common discussion. By skipping the “turkey” this week and making Turkey Day a celebration by, with, and for the turkeys (tofurky, anyone?). By going vegan. There was a time when many feminists resented lesbians and were quick to separate themselves from associations with lesbianism. We don’t have to do the same thing to other movements; we can listen. Ultimately, though it may not look like it, social justice is one multiform, rainbow movement: a movement that seeks to challenge exploitation, violence, oppression. Don’t wait for the bandwagon; hope that it catches up with you.

Peace and love.

Additional Links:

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Animal, Vegetable, Miserable

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~ by Louëlla on November 24, 2009.

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