More than rump, thigh or breast

Elizabeth Nickol

Discussion explores connection between gender and food

Matthew Coate, sophomore art and philosophy major, hosts a lecture on the Carol Adams’ book The Sexual Politics of Meat. Adams wrote about the idea of strength-giving meat being associated with men and passive vegetables being associated with women.

Credit: Andrew popik

“Animals are little people in fur coats,” and “fish are friends, not food,” were among the slogans displayed on stickers and buttons scattered through the room.

However, Campus Animal Rights Expedition explored deeper issues in a discussion it hosted last night in the Student Center.

These issues included the idea that meat and male dominance are tied together: In a society that is shaped by this ideology, women and animals are not seen as ends in themselves, but merely as objects to satisfy the desires of the dominant.

Matthew Coate, sophomore art and philosophy major, and Elaine Hullihen, junior fine arts major, led an exploration of the link between sexism and the exploitation of animals.

Both drew their inspiration from a book by Carol Adams titled The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory.

Coate, who read the book when he was about 17, said it was formative in his development as a person and in his world view. Recently, he had forgotten about the book, but when Hullihen and her roommate began to read it, it once again sparked his interest.

Cultural notions include the idea that “a real man is a beef eater” and men don’t eat veggies, Coate said.

Such psychological notions suggest that meat is strength-giving, he said. Real men are strong.

On the other hand, femininity is considered passive, Coate said. Vegetables are also seen as being passive, so much so that society uses the world “vegetable” to describe a comatose person, he said.

In her book, Adams noted that in the first cultures that had meat-based diets, gender schisms were also present, Coate said. Adams defined four types of schisms:

n Women do more work, but work is less valued.

n Women are almost totally responsible for childcare, and because the work that women do is “less valuable,” childcare becomes devalued in a society.

n Worship of male gods.

n Patrilineality, or tracing family lines through a man’s name, is practiced.

All four of these describe the United States, Coate said, noting that the United States is, per capita, the largest meat-eating society that has ever existed.

According to Adams, society uses “absent referent” methods to separate the idea of being from what the being really is, Hullihen said.

Very rarely do we think of an animal as being dead, she said.

“Women are brutalized and oppressed in the same way meat is,” Hullihen said.

Adams defined three steps in the cycle of oppression: objectification, fragmentation and consumption.

Objectification means turning the subject into an object for another’s use.

“We don’t talk about a cow anymore when it’s on a plate. It’s steak,” Hullihen said.

In a similar way, fashion magazines turn women into body parts. Readers don’t worry about who she is, but instead see her as an object, she said.

With fragmentation, the being vanishes and only the dismembered parts, such as breasts or legs are recognized, depriving the woman or animal of meaning, Coate said.

Consumption is realized through eating meat, treating women as sex objects or consuming the work that women do without considering the women themselves.

Vegetarians and feminists overcome cultural notions, such as hierarchy, to see both women and animals not as objects, but as subjects in and of themselves.

Contact news correspondent Elizabeth Nickol at [email protected].