Girl Power: How Dairy Pornifies Motherhood

Dairy cow in field, reads "Girl Power." Ad for dairy products.

The capitalist system is a degendered one. Although capitalism heavily relies on female bodies, this reality is relatively obscured from popular consciousness. Advertisements selling hens’ eggs or cows’ milk exemplify this phenomenon. Although hens and cows are often anthropomorphized as “girls” or “ladies,” their mother status is frequently concealed.

In a typical advertisement for Bregott dairy products, for instance, a cow stands in a sunny field under a bright blue sky. The image reads “Girl Power.” On Bregott’s Instagram page, dozens of portraits capture these “girls” as they graze, relax, and play. Very rarely are the children of these “girls” pictured. Indeed, the invisibility of childbirth, nursing, and parenting is a consistent theme.

Images from Bergott including cows walking through fields, resting together, and wearing a wreath of flowers on their head

Consider also the “Happy Cows Come from California” television campaign for Real California Cheese or Laughing Cow’s advertising imagery. These cows are shown as giggling, trivial, and carefree. These are not depictions of ideal mothers, or even competent mothers. Depicting these cows as mothers would disrupt the fantasy presented to the human consumer; the presence of calves forces the viewer to acknowledge the intended purpose of cows’ breast milk.

 

Instead, farmers are more frequently pictured nurturing calves, when calves are visible at all. Farmers are thus presented as caring stewards, while the bovine mothers are dematernalized as silly and immature good-time girls. Characterized as such, they are not to be taken seriously as willing participants in this seemingly harmless, live-and-let-live industry.

It is worth considering that “girl” language encourages consumers to only superficially conceptualize dairy cows as female. Subsequently, the audience will not be invited to acknowledge that they are actually mothers. Motherhood reminds the audience that these animals do not exist solely for the pleasure of the consumer. It is a reminder of their connectedness in complex social relationships, their responsibilities for others, their love for others, and others’ love for them.

Cow grooming calf

Motherhood is essential to the reproduction of the capitalist system, but it must be hidden from the public sphere, lest its sentimentality interfere with cold and rational business. That said, it is also true that characterizing mothers as “girls” is certainly accurate in the sense that these are immature cows who are still juveniles themselves. While bovines live an average of two decades, their average age at slaughter is just four or five years. In this way, their own childhoods are erased as well.

As Carol Adams has indicated, pornography extends beyond the consumption of women’s bodies to include that of other animals as well. Pornography encourages the viewer to consume without emotional attachment, infantalizing adults, sexually exploiting children, and erasing the inherent violence in production. Flesh-eating consumers are thus encouraged to become “playboys,” enjoying the pleasures of nonhuman bodies, guilt-free with no strings attached.

Playboy Ad from 1960s showing a shirtless man in a bathroom with two women wearing only towels Playboy cover from the 1960s showing a model who looks underage wearing a nightie and holding a pen and a pink envelope Playboy cover from the 1960s showing a nude model with pigtails and tube socks squeezing a teddy bear

 

ARationalApproachtoAnimalRights

You can read more about intersections of gender, capitalism, and Nonhuman Animal rights in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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Des Hommes Rongeant des Steaks

Translation by Hypathie: Feminist and Anti-Speciesist Blog. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.
Man in a suit sits in front of a plate with a raw steak, knife and fork poised in his fists on the table

A la suite de mon essai “Des femmes riant seules avec des salades “, un collègue curieux google-ise ce qu’on pourrait considérer comme le contraire : des hommes mangeant des steaks. Ce qu’il a trouvé, et qui s’est trouvé confirmé lors de mes propres recherches d’images sur Google, est le thème répétitif  d’hommes s’agaçant les dents sur une grosse tranche de viande, souvent avec la fourchette et le couteau fermement plantés de chaque côté de leur assiette.

Man gnawing on raw steak

Le message primordial envoyé par ces images semble être ” JE SUIS UN HOMME ; L’HOMME A BESOIN DE VIANDE “. Ses poings bien alignés et leur prise ferme sur les ustensiles sont des codes genrés communs, présentant les hommes aux commandes et au contrôle de leur environnement.

De façon intéressante, les steaks sont presque toujours montrés crus. L’intention vraisemblable est de montrer la consommation de chair crue par les hommes (un comportement anti-naturel) comme naturelle. Le fait est souligné par l’abondance de photographies qui montrent des hommes consommant le steak directement sans l’aide de couverts, rongeant la chair comme s’ils étaient une espèce carnivore non humaine. A contrario, quand je cherche des images de femmes mangeant des steaks, à maintes reprises, elles sont aux prises avec de la viande crue positionnée au-dessus de leur tête, l’air accablé -personne ne mange la tête à la renverse. Ceci suggère aussi la soumission, une soumission souvent sexualisée à travers leur pose et leur nudité. Quand elles ont des couverts, elles sont davantage montrées les utilisant de manière faible ou peu sûre.

Woman Eating Steak

Par dessus tout, les images de femmes mangeant des steaks sont moins nombreuses, car la notion est contraire aux normes de genre. Quand on en trouve, il est clair que la hiérarchie des genres doit être préservée en démontrant que la consommation de chair (un acte de domination et de pouvoir) est moins naturelle et plus maladroite chez les femmes.

Women Cutting Steak

La viande est un symbole de masculinité. Donc, les hommes interagissent avec la viande pour démontrer leurs prouesses, les femmes interagissent avec la viande pour démontrer leur soumission.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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Mujeres que se Ríen Solas con Ensaladas

Translation by María. María is active with Ochodoscuatro Ediciones, a non-profit anti-speciesist book house that is noted for translating Carol Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat into Spanish. You can view the original English version of the essay below by clicking here.

Por Corey Lee Wrenn

Lo has visto cientos de veces. Ya sabes, la mujer de ojos brillantes que se está comiendo una ensalada. La cabeza inclinada hacia atrás en gesto de júbilo histérico, aparece completamente superada por la gloriosa mezcla de vegetales que adornan su plato. El folleto promocional de tu cooperativa local de alimentos naturales incluye esta escena. La página web de tu cadena de supermercados las utiliza. Así como los carteles de las paredes de su centro de salud. Montones de organizaciones veganas las utilizan. Diablos, apuesto que, si recuerdo bien, yo misma he utilizado una para ilustrar una publicación en este blog al menos una vez.

Fotos de archivo de mujeres… sentadas solas… con una ensalada tan condenadamente hilarante, que no pueden evitar estallar en risas y deleite.

Hace poco, lo absurdo de estas imágenes ha atraído la atención en Internet, resultando en imitaciones: una página Tumblr, e incluso una obra de teatro.

Comer ensalada no es especialmente divertido. Rara vez induce al éxtasis. Por lo general, resulta más bien una experiencia difícil, que consiste en empujar desordenadamente hojas de lechuga en tu boca. A menudo no es satisfactorio: demasiado aliño, o no suficiente. En realidad, puede que estés pensando si se te ha quedado un trocito de lechuga entre los dientes, y eso te impide sonreír de oreja a oreja entre bocado y bocado. Comer ensalada es, habitualmente, una actividad ordinaria y aburrida.

Cuando tu ensalada no para de contarte chistes.

Pero comer ensalada es una actividad femenina, y como tal, la tarea debe ser realizada para contar una historia particular, que tiene una función cuando lo observamos y documentamos.

La teoría feminista vegana nos dice que los alimentos (aquello que comemos y cómo lo comemos) está firmemente arraigado en las normas de género. El consumo de verduras (siendo la ensalada el tópico omnipresente) es un comportamiento altamente feminizado. Los códigos de género también se manifiestan en la habitual hiper-emotividad de las mujeres en publicidad. Es decir; las mujeres son a menudo retratadas teniendo respuestas emocionales inapropiadamente extremas. La representación de este tipo se suma a la comprensión cultural de la feminidad como infantil, irracional e inmadura. En este caso, incluso un poco alocada. Estas imágenes refuerzan la condición de subordinación de las mujeres. Unir mujeres hiper-emotivas con alimentos hiper-feminizados construyen una perfecta iconografía sexista.

Hombre a punto de tomar un poco de ensalada, sonríe suavemente a la cámara.

Por supuesto, ya me han hecho el inevitable comentario “¡pero los hombres también!”. Es cierto, a veces también se muestra a hombres estando un poquito demasiado emocionados al comer ensalada. Pero, seamos sinceros; ellos aparecen con mucha menos frecuencia representados carcajeándose, con su cabeza echada hacia atrás, en ropa interior, o embarazados. La frivolidad del consumo de ensaladas es, en gran medida, un asunto femenino.

Mujer acostada en la cama con ropa interior blanca comiéndose una ensalada.

Cuando los hombres sean representados en el escenario improbable de comerse una ensalada recostados en una cama llevando un tanga blanco, entonces, hablemos.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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Des Femmes Riant Seules Avec des Salades

Translation by Hypathia: Feminist and Anti-Speciesist Blog. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

Woman eating outdoors

Vous les avez vues des centaines de fois. Vous savez, la dame croquant dans une salade, les yeux brillants. Tête rejetée en arrière avec une jubilation hystérique, elle est surprise par le glorieux mélange de végétaux qui agrémentent son assiette. Le tract promotionnel de votre coopérative locale d’alimentation naturelle en est orné. Le site web de votre chaîne d’épicerie les utilise. Ainsi que les affiches sur les murs de la salle d’attente de votre médecin. Des tonnes d’organisations véganes les utilisent. Zut, je parie que si je vérifie bien, j’en ai probablement montré une pour illustrer un des billets de ce blog au moins une fois.

Des stocks de femmes… assises seules… avec une salade tellement hilarante, qu’elles ne peuvent s’empêcher d’exploser de rire et de délice.

L’absurdité de ces images a attiré l’attention d’Internet, avec pour résultat des imitations: une page Tumblr, et même une pièce de théâtre.

Manger une salade n’est pas particulièrement drôle. Ça induit rarement l’extase. Habituellement, c’est plutôt une expérience difficile consistant à introduire maladroitement des feuilles de laitue ans votre bouche. C’est souvent insatisfaisant : trop ou pas assez d’assaisonnement. En réalité, vous craignez qu’un bout de laitue reste coincé entre vos dents, et ça vous empêche de sourire d’une oreille à l’autre entre chaque bouchée. En général, manger de la salade est une activité ennuyeuse et ordinaire.

Quand votre salade n’arrête pas de faire des plaisanteries:

Collection of stock photos showing women laughing while they eat a salad

Mais manger de la salade est une activité de femme, et comme telle, elle doit être accomplie de façon à raconter une histoire particulière qui a une fonction quand on l’observe et la documente.

La théorie féministe végane nous dit que la nourriture -ce que nous mangeons et comment nous le mangeons- est fermement enracinée dans des normes de genre. La consommation de légumes (avec la salade comme omniprésent cliché) est un comportement hautement féminisé. Les codes publicitaires genrés montrent aussi de façon régulière une hyper émotivité chez les femmes. D’où découle qu’elles y sont portraiturées avec des réponses émotionnelles extrêmes et inappropriées. Ces représentations ajoutent l’émotivité, l’infantilité et l’immaturité, à l’habituelle compréhension culturelle de la féminité. Ces images renforcent le statut de subordination des femmes. Apparier des femmes hyper-émotives avec des nourritures hyper-féminisées compose une parfaite iconographie sexiste.

Man about to eat a forkfull of salad, smiles softly to camera

Bien sûr, on m’a opposé l’inévitable argument “les hommes aussi”. Vrai, on nous montre des hommes s’excitant légèrement avec des salades, mais soyons honnêtes, ils sont moins fréquemment dépeints riant la tête rejetée en arrière, en sous-vêtements ou enceint.es ! La frivolité genrée de la consommation de salades est terriblement une affaire de femmes.

Woman laying on bed in white underwear eating a salad

Quand on nous montrera des hommes -scénario improbable- mangeant une salade, prostrés dans un lit, en string blanc, alors, OK, on en reparle.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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Research Finds Gender Bias in Self-Reported Meat Consumption

Woman Eating Meat

New research confirms that women downplay their flesh consumption. Gender roles strongly influence our attitudes and behaviors…and this includes what we eat and how we eat it.

Caring about Nonhuman Animals is “for girls.” Women are socialized to be empathetic to other animals, while men are socialized to have instrumental, non-caring relationships with other animals.

For women and men, gender is something that is performed. Eating animals or not eating them is part of that performance. Not only do women eat less flesh than men, they also underreport their actual consumption. This is because femininity requires that women consume less flesh, and women feel pressured to conform to that feminine ideal.

The gender binary aggravates this, pushing women to care about animals (and not eat them) and pushing men to not care about animals (and eat a lot of them). This binary stretches and distorts the behavior of men and women. Performing gender according to this exaggerated binary helps to reinforce the perceived natural differences between women and men. This not only erases the existence of nonconforming persons, but it also supports patriarchal dominance.

What does this mean for activists? First, women are clearly the “low hanging fruit” in terms of outreach, as they are more receptive to anti-speciesist campaigning because of their gendered socialization. It also means that men will be a tougher audience as they must overcome both human and male supremacist ideologies on their path to veganism. According to the research, simply making mention of a PETA video was enough to induce the guilt and denial response from women, but men had no such reaction.

 

Thank you to Carol J. Adams for bringing attention to this story.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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“The AK47 I Have Sitting Conveniently Beside My Coffee Machine”: Benevolent Sexism and Veganism

Content Warning: Contains sexist and ableist language in addition to threats of violence.

Photo of owner from White Moose Cafe Facebook page. Caption reads, "If you do happen to see Paul in the café, it is strongly advised that you do not approach him with any complaints. This is in the interest of your own safety, as well as the safety of others around you."

Photo of owner from White Moose Cafe Facebook page, Paul Stenson. Caption reads, “If you do happen to see Paul in the café, it is strongly advised that you do not approach him with any complaints. This is in the interest of your own safety, as well as the safety of others around you.”

What happens when a seemingly “vegan-friendly” restaurant gets a reaction it doesn’t want?

Apparently vegans can’t take a joke. Or at least that’s what the owner of Dublin-based restaurant Paul Stenson envisions as he grapples with a torrent of customer backlash.

The cafe reportedly published some snarky comments about vegans, only to experience a retaliation in bad reviews. From there, things escalated quickly.

An anti-cafe page emerged, then and anti-anti page emerged. Online networks were activated, and vegans came in droves to drive down the review rating of the restaurant. Stenson then began monitoring reviews and posting increasingly hostile public announcements on the Facebook page.

The show that has ensued makes for an amazing example of what can happen when male privilege is challenged by feminine forces.

First, presumably male customers are invited to bond (and become aroused) over the domination of feminized bodies:

Facebook post from WMC: "A warm welcome to everyone joining us from the Chef Memes page. You are guaranteed a good time here on our page. There are lots of psychotic vegans to make fun of, and lots of mouth-watering meat dish pics to become aroused by. I wish you a very pleasant stay at The White Moose Café."

Another response (likely due to his suspicion that many of the fake reviewers were American) was to fabricate “joking” threats to assault vegans with a high powered rifle. For Americans, mass shootings are a reality, and the owner intentionally draws on this trauma to demean and intimidate.

Facebook post by WMC in response to a visitor who was sharing advice on how to report the owner's threats to the police "For any vegans worried about the mass shooting I am going to commit with the AK47 I have sitting conveniently beside my coffee machine, please see this advice from Ciara Norton. When you call the station and the Garda laughs at you, please remember that it's not because you are a vegan, it's because you are a fucking sap with the intelligence of a hot dog."

WMC Facebook post: **SPECIAL OFFER ON FULL IRISH BREAKFAST - ONE DAY ONLY** Seeing as we have had so many vegans trying to 'turn' us over the past day or two, it's now our turn to try to 'turn' them! For one day only, our delicious, meat-rich, Full Irish breakfast is ONLY €5 (usually €11.95). We guarantee that any vegans who try this will never look back! P.S. Don't forget your bullet-proof vests!

Not surprisingly, ableism is at the root of most interactions, as is misogyny:

WMC Facebook post: "**FOR THE ATTENTION OF THE VEGANS PROTESTING OUTSIDE THE CAFE** Please be advised that our café operates during day time hours only. Our opening hours are clearly visible on both our Facebook page and our website. You might want to familiarise yourself with these before you turn up at the café door looking like complete and utter twats."

Apparently, White Moose Cafe also has some serious issues with ethnocentrism and racism, having caught fire in the past for unapologetically hiring “Irish Only.” The restaurant is also openly hostile to poor and/or homeless persons, discouraging unworthy clientele from visiting its establishment. Owner Stenson writes:

Look we’re not a charity, if you want charity then go to a homeless shelter or sleep with a dog at the DSPCA [Dublin’s SPCA], you have to be firm with this otherwise people will walk all over you.

It is not uncommon for men and patriarchal spaces to react in this way. This is because male power is protected and replicated by 1. Dominating feminized bodies; 2. Denigrating all that is feminine; and 3. Using force and violence.

But, wait, what happened? Wasn’t this restaurant supposed to be vegan-friendly?

Feminists are often critical of benevolent sexism, that seemingly positive “special treatment” given to women that is generally rooted in discrimination and wields the potential for violence. “Cat-calling,” for instance, is supposedly just well-meaning guys “complimenting” women they don’t know on the street. In reality, it’s a show of male power over the public space and a not-so-subtle reminder to women that their existence in that space is conditional and vulnerable. If the men cat-calling do not get the response they want, women know all too well that things can become extremely threatening very quickly as men seek to establish dominance and exert male entitlement.

I see a similar pattern in the vegan/nonvegan interactions. In the case of White Moose Cafe, apparently some vegan options are offered on the menu, but if vegans step out of their place in the hierarchy (pushing back against anti-vegan “jokes”), patriarchal dominance will be enacted. White Moose Cafe does this by 1. Dominating feminized bodies (reminding the audience that the real heart of the business is hurting Nonhuman Animals; offering specials for Nonhuman Animal corpses); 2. Denigrating all that is feminine (using speciesist, misogynist, and ableist insults); and 3: Using force and violence (posting aggressive announcements and threatening a mass shooting).

Beware of benevolent sexism. When the male entitlement to feminized bodies is challenged, violence is often the next recourse to maintain dominance and power.

 

Note: While Irish gun control is quite strong and the possibility of Stenson committing a mass shooting is rather small, it is also important to consider the considerable white privilege he is able to engage by repeatedly making public threats without fear of police intervention.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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