Rape & Slaughter: Empirical Correlations

Slaughterhouses and rape

I had the pleasure of presenting at the American Sociological Conference last August in San Francisco with a panel of several talented female scholars in the field of Animals & Society.  One such presentation, that of Racine Jacques, a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida, especially caught my attention because of its implications for vegan feminist theory.  Ms. Jacques had discovered a very strong relationship between rape and the presence of “beef” slaughterhouses in the community.  This relationship remained strong even when controlling for a number of other variables typically responsible for increases in crime rates.  She reports that the presence of a slaughterhouse corresponds with a 166% increase in arrests for rape.  Her study looks at other forms of crime, but rape stands out as especially significant.

Racine Jacques

Racine Jacques

This study partially confirms what vegan feminist scholars have been theorizing for some decades:  Violence against women and violence against animals are closely entangled and likely aggravated by patriarchal rule and capitalist economics.  In a society where the bodies of women and other animals are considered commodities and resources for the privileged, it should come as no surprise to find intersections of violence.

Ms. Racine’s study, “Social Disorganization in Slaughterhouse Communities,” is due to be published in an upcoming issue of Society & Animals.  A more nuanced discussion of the race and class oppression felt by the slaughterhouse workers themselves is included in her analysis.

Prison Rape and the Sexual Politics of Meat

Billboard that reads "The Freshes Meat outside the prison"

The above image was taken on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The billboard pictured reads, “The Freshest Meat Outside of a Prison,” and advertises a fusion restaurant called Chino Latino.  The mocking reference to prison rape is both saddening and telling.

Though we often critique patriarchy in relationship to female disempowerment and violence against women, it is also true that the rape culture evidenced in advertisements like that of Chino Latino celebrate male violence in ways that hurt vulnerable men as well.  Rates of rape in the prison system (an institution that targets primarily men) are astronomically high.  Victimization is tied to severe emotional trauma, but also increased exposure to disease given the closed nature of the institution.  Gay men and transgender persons are extremely vulnerable to assault, but all men are at high risk within the hyper-masculinized and violent environment of the prison system.

Prison rape is a feminist issue for several reasons. First, male-on-male rape is a product of patriarchy and normalized male entitlement to vulnerable bodies.  Second, prisoners are, in many ways, feminized bodies. That is, they are disempowered persons who have been stripped of their agency and identity.  They generally fall into the “feminine” category within society’s masculine/feminine dichotomy.  They become deindividualized and are controlled and exploited by a capitalist/patriarchal institution (the privatized prison system is highly lucrative, relying on an inmate work force that is paid in pennies and cannot unionize).  Many are mentally ill when arrested or become mentally ill from the incarceration experience.  Imprisoned persons are often forcibly medicated.  Imprisoned persons are also forced to wear demeaning uniforms meant to deindividualize or humiliate them. Many are kept in solitary confinement to prevent meaningful and healthy social interactions or relationships.

Pink Uniforms Jail

Third, the prison system is notoriously racist and classist, meaning that poor persons and persons of color are disproportionately targeted for imprisonment.  Beginning in the 1970s, this trend increased significantly after the end of legalized slavery and the share-cropping system.  Previous economic forms of enslavement were simply replaced with the for-profit prison system.

Finally, of course, female prisoners experience high levels of rape as well, particularly from male prison staff.  Too often, the experiences of imprisoned persons are written off because these persons are presumed to “get what they deserve.”  This ideology, however, ignores the role of systemic oppression, gross violations of human rights, and the intentional targeting of vulnerable groups.

The Chino Latino advertisement makes light of this horrific system and plays on the rape of vulnerable, deindividualized and feminized bodies to sell the body parts of vulnerable, deindividualized and feminized bodies in the form of “meat.”  Exploiting and consuming the bodies of those who cannot consent is funny . . . and sexy . . .

The sexual politics of Chino Latino food is unmistakable. On their website, you are invited to look at “sexy pictures” and “hot shots” of their food and drinks.  Many of these images display the corpses of Nonhuman Animals in all varieties of dismemberment and display.

Screencap from website that shows a large piece of animal flesh being sliced. Labeled under "Sexy pictures!!" and "Hot shots"The advertisement for their party room (a webpage entitled, “Explore Our Private Parts – It’s Okay to Stare”) proclaims:

We don’t like to brag, but why be coy? For parties and private events, Chino Latino is unusually well-endowed, with five unique spaces.

One suggested use (there was no mention of any female equivalent, such as a bridal shower):

[ . . . ] have us host a bachelor party the groom won’t remember to regret.

In other words, spaces where “meat” is served and consumed are considered male spaces, and the products are framed as feminized and waiting for male penetration.

The consumption of animal bodies is embedded within the patriarchal language and imagery of sexualized entitlement to and domination over feminized bodies, be they imprisoned persons, women, or other animals.  The references to rape and voyeurism denotes the right of persons of privilege to the private and personal spaces of vulnerable persons.  They become objects of resource and enjoyment; their individual agency is obscured and ignored.

The institutionalized and epidemic levels of violence, rape, and death imposed on imprisoned persons (primarily poor persons and persons of color charged with drug offenses), women, and Nonhuman Animals is neither funny nor sexy.  That a billboard like this could be posted at all indicates how ingrained rape culture and patriarchal values have become.  The presence of these messages demonstrates how the public space is, by default, the male space, maintaining a rigid gender/class/race/species stratification system.

 

References to the sexual politics of meat in this essay are based on the work of Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, The Pornography of Meat, and other vegan feminist titles.

 

Species and Class Seeking Voices of Women, People of Color

By Jon Hochschartner

Hey all! I’m not sure if you are familiar with the site I volunteer for, SpeciesAndClass.com. But in case you aren’t, in short, it’s a group blog which tries to facilitate dialogue between animal activists and socialists and social anarchists. The project seeks to be a forum for open debate. And articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of anyone but their authors.

I’m proud of its progress so far. But I’m really aware it’s lacking in gender and racial representation. Our contributors and newly formed editorial collective are mostly made up of white men. This is something I would like to change. A recent submission to the Vegan Feminist Network, which Species and Class reposted with permission, concluded by asking, “How can we devise appropriate strategies to change the world if we don’t analyze it accurately?”

tumblr_mjrseq7mQd1qayeymo6_500

Women and people of color who belong to the working class, and here I’m using the term in the broad, Marxist sense, are exploited to a higher degree than their white, male coworkers. They are paid less. Further, they face unique oppressions, such as sexual and racial harassment and biased hiring practices, of which white, male workers, often are not even aware. To put it simply, Species and Class’ analysis of capitalism will always be shortsighted so long as it’s contributor base and editorial collective are primarily made up of white men. Because white men are a minority of the working class, both on a national and global level.

So we are looking for the voices of women and people of color to add to our site. If you would like to submit some of your work or be considered for the editorial collective, please get in touch. Also, if you have any recommendations for how we might make Species and Class more welcoming, something which we have clearly so far failed at, please let us know. Some socialist groups, such as Socialist Party USA, insist on gender parity in their leadership. Perhaps we should do something like that.

The Patriarchal Orientation of Sex, Race, Economic and Human/Nonhuman Classes

By marv wheale 

 

Neither capital nor labor tend to consider women as a sex class beneath men.  Both economic classes are prone to treat sexual relations as private, naturalist, voluntaristic, thereby not collectively antagonistic.  Sexual equality is generally perceived as almost a given by men and women of the lower and middle economic classes.  They acknowledge some irrational differences that manifest because of poverty and cultural discrimination.  Racism is frequently explained along the same lines.   Celebrating diversity and commonality  are deemed as the answers to sex and race prejudice.  Full gender and race equality will be achieved in an economic classless society, they think.  So sex and race relations are subsumed into the class struggle and defined in primarily economic terms.  At the same time men and women in the capitalist class are mostly white at least in developed nations.  They often admit that women, especially women of color and of aboriginal descent (minority men as well) do not have equal economic power to white men but this will be resolved over time with more awareness, education and acceptance of differences.   These elite, not unlike their subordinate classes, are resistant to the idea that there is a systemic sex and race division of power inside and outside the marketplace and the state.

In fact the sexes and races are classes too.  Anyone who understands social classes knows that they refer to power inequalities not bigotry.  Male dominance is a sex class.  It signifies the political forms men’s power has taken over time:  the sexual allocation of childcare and labour, pornography, sexual harassment, stripping, burlesque, beauty practices, rape,  prostitution, battering, obligatory heterosexuality, homophobia,  transphobia, the state, capitalism, colonization, the military, etc.  Women assimilate into these constructs.  They did not determine them.  Hence male supremacy is institutional sexism not a natural or solely individual phenomenon.   In terms of race class, it was white men in Europe, Australia and North America who organized  the government, economy, servitude of  men and women of colour, segregation and the occupation of indigenous lands – all illustrations of institutional racism.

As a correlation think about capitalism.  Capitalists and workers do not have the same power to dictate each other’s lives.  It would be ludicrous to believe that capital is not dominant over labour and that mistrust and intolerance are the causes of the ill feelings towards each other.  To see the enmity in economic class divisions as a result of reciprocal misunderstandings would be an obscene misrepresentation of reality.   Capitalist rule is institutional economic classism.   Mutual respect, dialogue and compromise are not the solutions here to power and powerlessness;  abolition is, at the system design level.

Big fish eating smaller fish eating smaller fish; meant to represent capitalism

Many millennia ago males constructed masculinity thereby creating femininity out  of females, causing the rise of the sex class hierarchy.   When women  were privatized and isolated into pair bonding/marriage it obscured their sex class status and the systemic violence towards them.  Conjugality kept them divided against themselves by publicly declaring their primary identification as spouse/wife.  Women’s lower economic status is shrouded as well when they marry men because men generally have more wealth.  What’s more, women mediate economic class relations between men  when they marry across (and within) class lines.  Women serve to ease monetary and race class hostility by having men of different classes bond across women’s bodies providing political stability and legitimacy to the whole class system.

Woman and man holding signs that read "marriage equals" with a figure of a man and a woman

As noted by Cheryl Abbate the ascendancy of the male gender is obvious on the basis of aggression alone:  The idea that masculinity is responsible for violence, including sexual assault, is rarely disputed.   As Kilmartin points out, the vast majority of violent acts are committed by males, leading us to conclude that there is a high correlation between masculinity and aggression (Kilmartin 1994, 211).   According to the FBI (2011), approximately 90% of violent crimes in the United States are committed by men.”

Male dominance exists cross culturally in common and particular local forms too.  Women are inferior everywhere in terms of the gendered/sex lines of power.  Trouble is, the partitioning is usually defined as the biological sex differences by men (and many women) concealing its sexual politics.  When the Left admits that austerity measures and poverty affect women, First Nations and people of colour more than white men, it seems to be aware of the centrality of white male privilege;  but the Left doesn’t honestly face the universal historicity of patriarchy, preceding and following primitive accumulation.

Since all the world is a structural stage and the central element is patriarchy, gender conditions our choices in sexual relations in conjunction with capitalism in economic relations.   No one purely chooses heterosexuality no matter how much consent there is because the assent is shaped by inequality.  Heteronormativity under male imperialism is (man)datory whether it be monogamy, sexual harassment, pornography, prostitution or polyandrous relations.    As mentioned earlier, in western countries male monopoly is integrated with white supremacy as the public setting for people of color.  The difference is that many progressives suppose race classes should be undone while the majority uphold masculinity and femininity as innate.  They only want femininity to be as socially valued  and empowering as masculinity.  Liberal feminists take this viewpoint that sex work, cosmetics, BDSM, marriage and housework can be liberating.

Woman at SlutWalk protest holding sign that reads "Is it legal to eat me if I wear bacon?"

The following rhetorical questions should resonate with socialists and feminists alike :  Do workers meaningfully choose their type of work or place of work?  Have women played an equal part with men in conceiving and building the major institutions of society?  If working conditions improve would oppression disappear? If women are granted greater legal protection from male violence does their exploitation vanish?   If you have satisfying and high paying work, does that imply your work is not exploited? If a woman has high status in society by male standards does that mean she isn’t discriminated against or sexually objectified?   As feminist scholar Catharine Mackinnon once said, is “a good fuck…any compensation for getting fucked?”   I hope we all have honest answers to these questions.  Apply race to these queries, which we must, and you will have another layer of subordination alongside and below white women.  Add colonization, sexual orientation, age, disability, body shape and biosphere debasement to the equation, and more intertwining injustices come to light.

 

Women and Nonhuman Animals

Capitalists, socialists and anarchists have other conceptual barriers linked to male hegemony:  an aversion to regarding nonhuman animals as a subjected class.   Moreover these speciesist androcentrists dismiss women’s rank in interrelationship to animals’ position.   The comparative mirror reveals the oppressions are not the same: women aren’t eaten and animals aren’t usually men’s sexual fetishes, for examples.   Nonetheless there are numerous similarities.  Dog and pony shows are analogous to beauty pageants and runway modelling.Hypermuscular man is binding the corpse of a chicken   Animals are imprisoned and assaulted in our homes, corrals, barns, laboratories, rodeos, horse races, circuses, zoos, aquariums and fight rings.  Women are detained and abused in prostitution, brothels, rape camps, strip clubs, peep shows and in their homes.  It is men who typically control these forms of enslavement of women and animals.  Domesticated animals are cooked and photographed in sexual postures as the pornography of meat.  Women are sexually depersonalized in and by pornography.   Harassment is common to either group.   Animals and women are most frequently killed by men, and some women have been slaughtered, eviscerated and dismembered like animals by men.  In addition, societal assumptions in general that animals “exist” for human welfare should not sound totally different from women’s experiences under male expectations.  Even the therapeutic role animals and women play correlate.   Most people live their entire lives without learning of the barbarity that occurs behind the closed doors of brothels, pornography studios, massage parlours, sex trafficking, strip clubs and private dwellings on the one hand, and slaughterhouses, vivisection labs, animal entertainment industries, animal traffickers, product-testing facilities, factory farms and households on the other.  The business of exploiting women and animals for pleasure, convenience, amusement, taste and moneymaking is intentionally well hidden.   Disclosure would undermine the power and profit of male capitalist and socialist enterprises.   Men must have their sex and steak at all costs.

Men walking through red light district with women's bodies in the windows

The truth of the interrelationship of patriarchy, capitalism and speciesism is revealed by vegan feminists who believe it is crucial not to conflate them in ways that are fanciful and offensive to women or untrue of animals.   When relating the rape of women and farmed animals for instance, Corey Lee Wrenn  calls for respect: “Knowing that about 1 in 3 women have or will be raped, I find it extremely inappropriate to utilize rape imagery to promote veganism.  First off, our primary audience is women.  If 80% of the movement is women, and 1 in 3 women are rape victims, that means that more than 27% of our movement (or more than 1 in 4 activists) are likely to have been the victim of rape.  Any rape victim can tell  you, seeing images of rape or reading graphic descriptions is extremely triggering.  It is also revictimizing when it is made obvious that our community doesn’t care enough about our safety to avoid using our experiences for animal rights claims on our behalf.”   A discerning approach is always necessary to examine these oppressions together and separately.

 

Transforming Cognizance

Vegan feminists unmask and demystify our personal identities.  Part of seeing through the identity fog means admitting the delusions we took for granted, the “habitual patterns” –  the assigned gender hierarchies of masculinity and femininity, human species superiority and capital control –  reinforced through millions and millions of moments of social learning.  Before “awakening” we thought  it wasn’t possible for things to be any other way as if these tendencies were an unchanging part of human nature (coming from the stork or written in the stars).  These assumptions easily perpetuated themselves because they are some of the most unquestioned beliefs we have.  As we begin to grow in consciousness and apprehend the alternatives to the prison of gender roles, non-human animal inferiority and labour submission, we become unstuck from oppressive attitudes.  Declaring a primary loyalty to women’s or animals’ or workers’ liberation is now regarded as a misconceived notion.  They are different, interrelated and of equal value.  There is no complete separation among them when each is understood as they actually exist in the context of patriarchal systems and rules.

All this illustrates the extraordinary power and influence of male ideologies over our consciousness, unconsciousness and societal institutions. They render dissenting views like the abolition of pornstitution,  animal products and capitalism as absurd and unintelligible – it has always been this way so it must be this way.  Overcoming the suppression of freedom of expression by male dogma is daunting but achievable.   Promoting veganism is an essential though utterly deficient way forward.   Political engagement in women’s, people of colour’s, workers’ and other species’ emancipation from  patriarchal organizational injustice is the ultimate solution.    Single issue approaches focusing on higher status animals as in dogs, cats, bears, whales, dolphins, sharks, elephants, tigers, gorillas, etc., does not constitute a serious engagement with comprehensive structural violence when they omit contextual analyses and strategies.

 

Feminism, Anti-Capitalism and Anti-Specieisism

That deep feminism is the missing underpinning of anti-speciesist socialist/left/anarchist analyses is another point of this reflection.   Some pro-animal revolutionaries from these traditions agree that all oppressions including sexism are entangled.     However they are reluctant to admit that men, often white males, have dominated the top tiers of monarchial, feudalist, religious, slavery, animal industry, state, military, capitalist, colonialist, family and pornstitution systems.   The animalist left typically denies that the male sex class could well be the enveloping power of all social hierarchies throughout (his)tory. Patriarchy was never unvarying. It evolved in various ways depending on how societies were organized within the hierarchies of men of which women and animals had little decision making power. It would be more factual therefore to resolve other class struggles within the broader sex class struggle.   Male supremacy should be emphasized as the first among equal subjections rather than one structure among many.  Opting for an “interlocking equal oppressions method” has the effect of minimizing foundational sources and influences even though women oppress animals, women capitalists have power over their workers and white women as a group have advantages over people of colour.

How can we devise appropriate strategies to change the world if we don’t  analyze it accurately?

 

Note: Few of the ideas in this post originate with me.  The principal ones stem from feminists like Cheryl Abbate and Corey Lee Wrenn  who have taught me how to think rationally, critically and inclusively,  something my non-feminist teachers failed to do. 

 

Party with the Meat Stick: The Sexual Politics of Slim Jim

Slim Jim, an American brand of cheap, convenience store animal-based jerky has launched a new ad campaign, “Party with the Meat Stick.”  A series of three commercials, all place “meat” within the realm of masculinity by feminizing their competitors.  This is done in some cases to degrade the competition.  In other cases, Slim Jim jerky is positioned with women to make their jerky appear more sexy, attractive, and consumable.

Image from Slim Jim website that shows 2 white women's bodies in tiny shorts and tops with midriffs exposed. They are touching each other with the beef jerky sticks.

The first ad features two women’s bodies (their heads are cut off, because this is, much like the jerky, about the consumption of fragmented body parts).  The Slim Jim women touch each other sexually with the “meat sticks” (an obvious phallic referent).  The competitor’s jerky, however, is held by two fat men who rub and poke each other’s protruding bellies with the sticks.  The commercial pulls on homosexuality (and fat-phobia) and makes it “disgusting” in order to feminize their competitor in the negative sense.

 

In the second commercial, a display box of Slim Jim gets progressively more masculine (first donning men’s sunglasses, then a mustache and an athletic medal, and finally a captain’s hat).  The “impostor” jerky (or, what they call “impostor meat sticks”), however, gets progressively more feminized.  First, the display box dons a baby’s bonnet and diaper, then a possum appears next to the box. In the case of Slim Jim, many masculine referents are used; in the case of the competitor, femininity referents are used (infants and Nonhuman Animals are both feminized bodies).  Note that feminist theory considers any  group that is marked with powerlessness, vulnerability, and low social status and is also oppressed, dominated, and consumed within a patriarchal society a feminized group.

Man dancing behind Slim Jim display surrounded by several dancing women.

Older woman in a pink cat sweater holding two cats next to "impostor" jerky

In the final commercial, the Slim Jim jerky attracts a partying man with several young women dancing behind him.  The “impostor meat sticks” attract an older woman wearing a cat sweater who holds two cats.  With “real” meat, men can expect a sexy good time with lots of available women at their disposal.  With “fake” meat, we should expect non-sexy, worthless women who are of no use to men because they are no longer viewed as sexual resources.  The cats are additional markers of “negative” femininity, as, again, Nonhuman Animals can be considered feminized bodies.

In all cases, “impostor meat sticks” are feminized using references to women, children, homosexuals, older persons, fat persons, and other animals.  “Real meat’ is masculine, or rather “real men” eat meat, and “real men” are defined by what they are not:  feminine. They are in control, they dominate, and their power and social status comes from the denigration and consumption of vulnerable bodies. In the case of the Nonhuman Animals, cows, pigs, and other animals are tortured, killed, ground up, spiced, and squeezed into plastic tubes.  Their bodies are literally being consumed to maintain male privilege.  “Meat” becomes a signifier of masculinity.  The consumption of animal bodies becomes a way of “doing” male gender.  It is a performance of domination enacted through the consumption and the active maligning and mocking of the non-masculine.  Men are encouraged to “party with the meat stick,” meaning, they are invited to celebrate and enjoy the privilege of masculinity using feminized bodies.  Their privileged status is demonstrated by reinforcing the disadvantaged status of others.

 

This blog is based on the theory of Carol Adams. Learn more about the sexual politics of meat by visiting her website.

 

The Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge: A way to help without hurting (or wasting)

For those of you who have logged onto one of your social media accounts within the past week, chances are, you have seen a video of one of your friends participating in the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”: the trendy new way of supposedly raising awareness and money for ALS research, while at the some time, convincing one’s self that she has, with courage and bravery, fulfilled her moral obligation to be charitable. While I recently wrote a detailed blog post enumerating the ways in which the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” is harmful for both humans and nonhuman animals, counterproductive, and a shameful display of western privilege, Corey Wrenn and I have put our heads together to come up with a new “challenge” that does not waste precious resources like water, that does not raise awareness for harmful biomedical research, and that actually helps the most innocent and vulnerable within our society: nonhuman animals. Specifically, we want to initiate a project which will raise money for Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: a farm sanctuary that not only rescues farm animals who have been exploited and used in agribusiness, but also promotes a vegan lifestyle.

The Challenge, then, is the Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge.

kiss a non human animal challenge

The rules: film yourself kissing a nonhuman companion, whether it be a cat, dog, lizard, chicken, bird, and so forth. Then, challenge another individual or individuals to also kiss a nonhuman animal (and, of course, they should film this and challenge someone else). If they don’t complete the challenge within 24 hours, they should donate whatever they can afford to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, even if it is as little as one dollar. They can go directly to the PPS website and make their donation on the front page (Of course, all individuals are encouraged to make a donation whether or not they meet the challenge). For those without the resources to donate, participating in the video challenge is a great way to raise awareness about animal rights. Feel free to leave your own message about why others should care about the plight of other animals and how they can help (by going vegan, for example!). Join the “Kiss A Nonhuman Companion Challenge” group on facebook and upload your video to inspire others!

**Note: you don’t need to be challenged to challenge. Start helping animals today and promoting awareness of animal exploitation by challenging others to Kiss a Nonhuman Companion today!

**Also note: there are no limits on challenges! Challenge as many people as you would like!

The goal of the “Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge” is to raise awareness for not only the billions of nonhuman animals who are exploited and tortured every year in agriculture in the United States, but also, to encourage individuals to donate to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: a sanctuary that takes serious the rights of animals while promoting an unwavering philosophy of veganism. Finally, it is an attempt to remind others that love, and not the shameful wasting of precious resources like water, is what will help alleviate suffering in the world.

So here it is, the first Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge: Cheryl Abbate of Vegan Feminist Network challenges her friend, colleague, and fellow Vegan Feminist: Corey Wrenn to the Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge:

 

In addition, see Corey Wrenn of the Vegan Feminist Network challenge Stevie of Team Earthling: Vegan Radio to Kiss a Nonhuman Companion!

Let’s raise some money for Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary and remind others of the billions of nonhuman animals who suffer and die due to human selfishness.

Written by Cheryl E Abbate
Philosophy PhD Student at Marquette University
Follow her on
Twitter and through the Vegan Feminist Network on Facebook