Carol Adams Gives Intriguing Lecture on Sexual Politics of Meat
Published: Thursday, February 17, 2011
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011 14:02
On Monday night, Carol J. Adams delivered a lecture based on her book, The Sexual Politics of Meat. The lecture marked day one of Adams' three day visit to Davidson.
Dr. Lynn Poland, Associate Professor of Religion, introduced Adams."Carol J. Adams is the author of many books," Poland said. "Including titles like The Sexual Politics of Meat (now in its 20th anniversary edition), Living Among Meat Eaters, and How to Eat Like a Vegetarian. She also edited Eco-Feminism and The Sacred."
Then Adams, a "self-identified feminist and vegan," took the lectern. "I am a feminist," Adams began. "I know it's a dirty word in the U.S., but being a feminist and a vegan means I want to do the least harm possible. I want to walk lightly on this earth.
"I believe that our relationships with other humans can be loving ones," she continued. "And we can work to end suffering and find the beauty in a variety of relationships….[Feminism] means being involved fiercely with a world filled with many oppressive attitudes."
Adams presented a number of feminist-vegan arguments. Her first point was that "meat is associated with virility, masculinity; meat-eating societies gain male identification by their choice of food."
She elaborated on the expectations society holds about what men should eat and what women should eat. "There's this expectation that men should eat like a man and that women should serve men meat, should give him what he wants," Adams said. "There's this conception that vegetarianism was okay for women and those associated with women. Homophobia is connected to meat-centered definitions of maleness….The idea that men should eat meat is rampant in our culture."
Adams frowned upon people "being taught to believe a diet like that is good for them. I hate to break it to you," she said. "But meat eating can cause [impotence] when you get older. This is not healthy. Men are not benefitting form the sexual politics of meat.
Another theme in Adams' lecture has to do with the idea of an absent referent. She stated that "live animals are the absent referent [of the consumption of meat]. This separates the flesh eater from the animal and the animal from the meat deprived." She explained that this is so because by ignoring the live animal that was used to produce the meat on one's plate, people separate themselves from the reality of what they are doing. "With words like ‘hamburger' and ‘steak,' a meat eater is a consumer, not someone who has morally abandoned another being."
Adams then turned to her assertion that "a process of objectification, fragmentation and consumption connects women and animals in a patriarchal culture."
She supported this argument by commenting on modern day ads, which "perpetuate the women of object… Marketing itself speaks a language of women as meat. These ads remind us about certain cues, which trigger attitudes that women are supposed to represent to men. We find the resurgence of the raw: more raw talent, more raw meat, more raw lockers. Raw meat expresses a more immediate sense of the violated, an endless production of the raw."
To appeal to the practical side of things, Adams discussed "the environmental costs of animalizing protein…Meat production contributes to water pollution, climate change, habit fragmentation and desertification of arable land."
She rattled off the following facts: More than 60 billion farmed animals are alive today on this planet; 33% of the world's arable land is devoted to raising animals for humans to eat; 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of meat; one third of U.S. dependence on fossil fuels stems solely from the way we raise animals for meat.
Later in the lecture, Adams related women to animals, saying, "women are animalized, and animals are sexualized and feminized. The oppressions are interconnected. All domesticated animals at one point or another are represented as female…The white male perspective is universal, which is constantly exemplified and reiterated in ads. The white male is the humanized human. Below him is the animalized human and humanized animal. We're told who can be the objects of the humanized humans. These images are usually heteronormative."
She also commented on the recent growth of the sex trade around the world. "Anthropornography naturalizes sexual trafficking and the use of women. Misogyny keeps making comebacks. Sexual images of women, spread as hamburgers on buns, have been included in ads even today. The images are pathetically unfulfilling but show an instability – an almost surplus of sexually exploitive images."
At one point, Adams flashed pictures on the screen that were taken during Davidson's own self-selection night, implying that the events of the evening basically reduce women to pieces of meat. "Is slathering women in condiments objectifying them?" she questioned. "Is this the sexual politics of meat? Well, they're clothed. You probably know more about it than I do."
To conclude her talk, Adams advocated "resistance through a feminist ethic of care…a political ethic: It understands that ideology influences how we choose whom we care about."