A Canadian restaurant has named their seal flesh and duck liver sandwich after a female Nonhuman Animal rights activist. Similar to the incident where conservative party members likened Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to dismembered chicken parts (“Julia Gillard Snack Pack: 2 Small Breasts 2 Extra Large Thighs, 1 Red Box”; the same has been done with American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), men are symbolically bringing down powerful, outspoken women by fragmenting them and turning them into consumable meat. In this case, the restaurant has named their sandwich the “The Phoque Bardot Burger.” “Phoque” is the French word for seal, but it reads “The Fuck Bardot Burger.”
The restaurant owners are selling the flesh of dead, vulnerable animals and naming it after threatening and very much alive (but vulnerable nonetheless) women. Women and other animals are meat. They are made powerless. They are resources to those of privilege (humans in general, men in particular). Turning Brigitte Bardot into a sandwich is intended to disempower and silence her. It’s intended to put her in her place. This is much more than a tongue-in-cheek prank, this is a tool of misogyny. It is a reminder to women that they are non-persons, their worth is tied only to their usefulness to those in power. If women step out of line, they will be ostracized, mocked, threatened, and firmly reinstated to their position at the bottom of the ladder. The fact that Bardot was a sex symbol of the 60’s and 70’s only aggravates this connection. We want our women sexually available, submissive, and silent. Women who challenge that role are asking for it.
Interestingly, the restaurant is considering changing the name. They claim that they have been barraged by “threatening” messages from other activists. While it is likely that this could be the case (despite being mostly women, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is male-led and celebrates male tactics), I think it’s rather strange that they are confused by the violent reaction to their violence.
The arena in which social movements and white patriarchal capitalism tussle is ultimately a male space. It is interesting (and telling) how women and other vulnerable groups are caught in the crossfire. Animalizing Bardot is an act of male violence on the part of the restaurant, attacking the restaurant with threats is an act of male violence on the part of the movement. But where does Bardot stand? What does she think? What is her response?
By Corey Lee Wrenn