The Sexual Politics of Meat: A talk by Carol J Adams

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

  • One of Adams slide show images

    One of Adams slide show images

Written by www.thecannon.ca

Carol J. Adams came to speak at the University of Guelph's Peter Clark Hall last night, November 26th, to a crowd of almost 300 people. She was introduced by Professor Karen Houle as; "a peace and anti-violence activist". Adams has written many books including: The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, The Pornography of Meat, and Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian Survival Guide

Adams gave a speech and slide show presentation in which she showed how advertisements convey basic ideas of our culture. It drew connections between the oppression of women and animals because she believes animal liberation is a feminist issue.

In order to frame the discussion she broke our dualistic culture into two categories: an 'A' side and a 'B' side. On the 'A' side she placed; men, culture, white, human. On the 'B' side was; women, nature, colored, animal. Those on the 'B' side are oppressed by the dominant 'A' side. The slide show then illustrated the ways in which the inequalities that arise from this split in culture are reinforced through pornography and advertisements.

Adams talked about how women are 'body chopped' meaning they are fragmented into and seen only as body parts. This dehumanizes and objectifies them. A male volunteer from the audience was asked to prove this point by imitating the pose of a female fashion model. It proved very difficult and humorous. However, that posture, characterized by exposure and instability, is expected from women. Women in venerable poses are sexy because they reinforces power dynamics in a male dominated, sexualized economy that wants to control women's bodies. To make this clearer Adams says; "Men represent, women are represented."

Animals are consumed literally and women figuratively and through access to their bodies. Puns and visual substitutions make inequality funny. She showed multiple adds where the sexualizing of women's bodies was used to sell meat. For example, an advertisement headline reads; "Everyone loves a nice pair of legs!" which was actually referring to crab legs. Other adds were less subtle, depicting pigs with large breasts and female facial features as waitresses selling (pork) ribs.

This depiction of animals who are destined for consumption as sexy females goes deeper than just anthropomorphism (placing human characteristics onto animals). Adams coined a new phrase, anthropornographic, to describe the way animals are portrayed as whores. One of the more disturbing examples being from a magazine called Littermate, where pigs are posed like pornstars, in suggestive and erotic positions. Adams calls this the celebration of sexualized killing and therefore, sees meat eating as the inaction of sexual murder. It comes as no surprise that she advocates strongly for a vegan diet.

Following her talk Carol Adams signed copies of her books and attended a reception catered with vegan food.

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  1. Posted by: j on Nov 28, 2007 @ 12:19am


    This is the most far out, ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. You eat meat, you must hate women. That sure sounds like a logical judgement to make.

    I like meat cause it's tasty, not because I have some subconscious desire to oppress women.

    This just goes to show you, you can find any kind of symbolism in anything.

  2. Posted by: Sean on Nov 28, 2007 @ 12:30pm

    I'm not even sure its worth commenting on all the flaws with her argument. I'm only placing a comment here because this article was so ridiculous I couldn't help but laugh for several minutes, and thought it appropriate to congratulate the author on a job well done. My day has definately improved thanks to reading this, Cheers.

  3. Posted by: Kate Curtis on Nov 28, 2007 @ 3:54pm

    I actually went to see this talk. When I found out about this event, the subject matter definitely intrigued me, but I was very doubtful about connections between animal oppression and female oppression. However, after listening to Carol speak, and seeing the slide show she presented, I think that there are some very valid arguments in her theory.
    I wouldn't go so far as to say "You eat meat, you must hate women", because that simply is not true, and not what she is pointing out. I think what she was saying, is that these two issues of animal oppression and the objectification of women are very closely tied in some parts of our culture, specifically advertising, and in order to fight one, you must consider the other issue.
    Before drawing conclusions from an article written about Carol Adams' theory, I would encourage you to research this topic further, by visiting her website: http://www.triroc.com/caroladams/femanimalrights.html, going to see her speak, or reading her book ("The Sexual Politics of Meat").
    You don't need to agree with her ideas completely, but I personally feel she has some very interesting points to make, and this article does not reflect them entirely.

  4. Posted by: on Nov 30, 2007 @ 12:44pm

    j, you really need to work on your précis skills.

    it isn't about eating meat, it's about the way that meat is advertised - it isn't about hating women, it's about the way that the female body is proferred for a different kind of consumption in advertisement.

    that said, i think it's time to move beyond the simple male/female, culture/nature, representer/represented binaries. many women work in the advertising business, and advertising increasingly fetishizes the male body alongside the female. i think, too, that those binaries are kind of heteronormative...

    while gender issues are certainly a very important part of the issue, i think that the way that we conceptualize food, sex, bodies, clothing, etc. etc. in a broader sense is at stake... we are programmed to consume, not just for survival or health or genuine happiness, but out of some compulsive behaviour.

    ps. where did you find the pic of the turkey hooker?!?

  5. Posted by: j on Nov 30, 2007 @ 6:45pm

    Andrea: Perhaps if I was summarizing the article, would the term précis be appropriate. In this case, I fear that you're displaying a bit of pretentiousness. I tend not to utilize my best summarization and writing skills posting comments on a "news" article.

    That being said, advertising of meat involving the female body? Try the advertising of anything involving the female body. Not exclusive to just meat, though I think the author has latched onto meat to support her own veganism.

  6. Posted by: chad on Dec 17, 2007 @ 7:45am

    The statement "you eat meat = you hate women" is facetious and fallacious and is not what is presented here.

    What the point of the discussion is that the commidification of women is as ingrained in our culture as the commodification of non-human animals.

    If one is able to view their partner/sister/classmate/co-worker/fellow bus passenger as a hyper sexualized object simply based on our arbitrary assignment of value/beauty/utility, then it's a pretty easy thing to do to a pig.

    As well, whether you want to delve in to the psychological/philosophical elements of this issue, or simply view it topically, there are obvious points of resonance which arise.
    For example, how many different ways can you label a penis in terms of "sausage" or "meat stick" etc.? Or how many ways can you depersonalize parts of a woman's anatomy with similar euphemisms?

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