Fifty Shades of Chicken

TRIGGER WARNING: Contains graphic descriptions of rape and violence against women and other animals.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Contains graphic sexual language and disturbing images of violated animals.

Roasted chicken corpse bound in twine

Vegan feminists argue that oppression is intersectional. In particular, the ways in which women are exploited and harmed are very similar to the ways in which other animals are. A shining example of this intersection is found in Fifty Shades of Chicken, a cookbook that parodies Fifty Shades of Grey (a best selling novel which glamorizes submissive sexuality and violence against women).  Fifty Shades of Chicken, a book “for chicken lovers everywhere,” takes this disturbing subject matter to another level of degradation.

Throughout the book, a chicken’s body is used to replace that of a woman, and she is referred to as “Chicken” or “Miss Hen.”  The choice of “chicken” was not accidental.  Chickens eaten by humans are almost always female.  The body parts of chickens (breasts, legs, thighs) are often applied to that of human women, and human women are often called “birds,” “chicks,” “chickens,” or “hens.”

The cookbook features several images of a muscled, shirtless man dominating a chicken’s corpse with weapons, kitchen utensils, and binding (twine). In one image he is shown sodomizing her with an upright roasting device.  In others, he is shown penetrating her with a baster and shoving cream into her bottom with his fingers.  Most of the photographs of the finished “product” show the bird’s body splayed and ravaged.  She is posed pornographically to mimic a defiled human woman.

Man in an apron firmly places a chicken's corpse onto a funnel

The chef known as “Blades” sodomizes “Miss Hen” with the “erect member” of a vertical roaster.

The recipe titles are also disturbing:

  • “Popped-Cherry Pullet”
  • “Extra-Virgin Chicken”
  • “Please Don’t Stop Chicken”
  • “Jerked Around Chicken”
  • “Mustard Spanked Chicken”
  • “Cream-Slicked Chick”
  • “Chile-Lashed Fricassee”
  • “Skewered Chicken”
  • “Steamy White Meat”
  • “Bacon Bound Wings”
  • “Dripping Thighs”
  • “Thighs Spread Wide”
  • “Chicken Thighs Stirred Up and Fried Hard”
  • “Red Cheeks”
  • “Pound Me Tender”

And my favorite:

  • “Hog-Tied and Porked Chicken”

It is a regular smorgasbord of entangled oppression, violence, sexism, and speciesism.

These recipes are inextricably representative of rape culture.  Sexualized violence is presented as normative, the female body is objectified as a passive recipient of male desire and aggression, and the obligatory obsession with virginity and female purity is highlighted.

Shirtless, heavily-muscled man prepares to bind a chicken's corpse on a cutting board

Chapter Two, “Chicken Parts and Bits,” literally reenacts the fragmentation of the female body into consumable pieces which are wholly divorced from the person they once belonged to.  This objectification erases personhood and makes exploitative consumption all the more palatable.

The recipe instructions also entail graphic violence, domination, and control:

Much pleasure and satisfaction is to be had from tying up your bird.  Not only does it show your chicken who’s boss, but a tight binding ensures the chicken cooks exactly how you want it–evenly, moist, and tender.  It also closes off the chicken’s cavity, so the juices swelling within can’t spill out, at least not until you’re ready for them.  (p. 34)

Using large, strong kitchen shears and a confident hand, forcefully cut the backbone out of the chicken; first cut along one side of the backbone, then cut along the other side until it releases, then pull it out.  Gently spread the bird open, pressing down on the breast to flatten it (see Learning the Ropes).  Massage the flesh with 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt. (p. 116)

Position the chicken’s nether parts over the vertical roaster’s erect member and thrust the bird down.  Tuck her wing tips up behind her wings, behind her body.  Tie her legs together with a piece of butcher’s twine or cooking bands […] (p. 120)

It reads like a manual for serial killing.

Several gruesome pornographic narratives were included to preface the recipes and work the reader up into a hot bother for the pleasurable consumption awaiting them.  Take this example from “Backdoor Beer-Can Chicken”:

‘Hush,’ he says.  He smile and holds up a beer can.

‘Yes, baby, have a drink, I’m sure you need it.’

‘Oh, no, this is not for me, Chicken.’  He quirks his mouth into a wicked smile.

Holy f***…Will it?  How?

I gasp as he fills me with its astonishing girth.  The feeling of fullness is overpowering.

He rests me on the grill and I can feel the entire world start to engorge.  Desire explodes in my cavity like a hand grenade. (p. 137)

Or this story from “Flattered Breasts”:

Suddenly he seizes me and lays me out on the counter, claiming me hungrily.  His fingers pull me taut, the palms of his hands grinding my soft white meat into the hard granite, trapping me.  I feel him.  His stomach growls, and my mind spins as I acknowledge his craving for me.

‘Why must you always challenge me?’ he murmurs breathlessly.

‘Because I can.’ My pulse throbs painfully.

He grabs a fistful of kosher salt.

‘I’m going to season you now.’

‘Yes.’  My voice is low and heated.

He reaches for a rolling pin, then hesitates, looking at me.

‘Yes, please, Chef,’ I moan.

The first blow of the rolling pin jolts me but leaves behind a delicious warm feeling.

‘I.  Will. Make.  You.  Mine.’  he says between blows. (p. 62)

These narratives often present the chicken’s corpse as a willing accomplice. This is quite telling, given that she was beheaded and drained of blood days before she arrived in this man’s kitchen under saran wrap. This narrative of willingness is ubiquitous in rape cases and pornography. Even girls and women who are drugged or unconscious are frequently considered “willing.” It is therefore not surprising that a decapitated corpse, in the case of Miss Hen, is depicted as consenting.

As with other females, Miss Hen’s sexuality is strictly controlled and meant only for male entitlement. The relationship of domination that makes consent an impossibility, privileges men, and leaves women and Nonhuman Animals in a position of subservience is obscured.  Instead this chicken is “free-range,” implying that she has a choice in the matter.

What is worse, these actions are supposedly done out of “love” and for her pleasure.  It is not enough that women and Nonhuman Animals submit to male superiority, they must also be seen as enjoying their subjugation.  If the consumer was made aware of the immense suffering that lies beneath the surface of pornography, prostitution, exotic dancing, dairy, “meat,” “leather,” zoos, horse racing etc., the pleasure of that consumption would be challenged.  Previously unexamined oppression would come to light. What a buzz kill.

This book takes the male fantasy of ultimate control over a humiliated, submissive woman to its full fruition.  Men cannot legally coerce women into obliging sex slaves through force and fear.  They cannot legally fragment women into their body parts, strip them of their identity and self-efficacy, or pulverize and consume their bodies for sexual gratification (though more men than we like to admit do).  However, men can have the next best thing–they can humiliate, torture, dismember, and objectify a female Nonhuman Animal for pleasure. He can molest her, sodomize her, rape her, bind her, break her, “pork” her, and “slick” her with cream to the point of physical arousal and salivation.

Whether the victim is human or nonhuman, the script is the same. Control over the vulnerable is sexualized; domination and power is hot stuff.  And it’s completely legal, with full support from a patriarchal society.

He continues to fondle my liver with his fingertips until I can’t stand it.

He gently places my quivering offal into a skillet where some softened onions are waiting for me.  Holy f****** s***…we’re cooking in the middle of a party?  Everyone’s mingling and chatting, but I am not paying attention.  He stirs my insides with a deft wooden spoon, around and around [ . . . ] (p. 103)

As traumatizing as this book is on its own, what is perhaps most upsetting is the complete lack of criticism from the general public. The book racks up rave reviews by Amazon users who are beside themselves with laughter, folks who can’t get over just how darn clever this book is.  Violence against women and Nonhuman Animals is often trivialized, masked by humor, downplayed, and made more or less invisible…but surely, the triggering offensiveness of this book could not be ignored?  Not so. At the time of this writing, Fifty Shades of Chicken enjoys a whopping 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

The message could not be clearer:

Women=Nonhuman Animals=Sexualized=Dominated=Meat=Objects of Pleasurable Consumption

and

Nonhuman Animals=Feminized=Sexualized=Dominated=Meat=Objects of Pleasurable Consumption

. . . and apparently this is a hoot.

 


This essay was based on the work of vegan feminist Carol Adams.  For more information, check our her comments on Fifty Shades of Chicken posted on her blog.  See also the book’s promotional video on YouTube depicting a bird’s corpse being bound and cooked by an imposing looking  man accompanied by music and narration intended to convince the audience that the assault is “sexy.”

An adaption of this essay was published in 2013 in Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism 2 (1): 135-139.

You can read more about intersections of sexism and speciesism in A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave 2016).


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

whyveganism.com

Does the C-word Belong in the Vegan Movement? Because It’s Here Right Now

Content Warning: Discusses systemic sexism, online harassment, and misogynistic language.
Not Safe for Work: Contains coarse language.

Editor’s Note: The author and I wish to make it clear that we do not endorse the notion that only cisgender women have vaginal canals, and we wish to acknowledge that some women do not have vaginal canals. We also acknowledge that intersex, transgender, agender, and other gender fluid persons can experience the sexism described in this essay.

Hiltner Cross-stictch
By Eve Christa Wetlaufer

“STOP EATING ANIMALS YOU CUNTS.”

I did a double take. Did he really just use that word – and to promote veganism at that? Yes, he did, in a meme on his Instagram feed. A feed with 50,000 followers.

I was stunned and sickened, but sadly, not surprised.

Vegan Meme

In recent weeks, I have become increasingly aware of members within the vegan community casually using term “cunt” to refer to (and scold) non-vegans. I have seen it used in at least a dozen captions of pictures and comments on social media. Perhaps its most vigorous adherent is “vegan famous” YouTuber @Durianrider, who uses the term in his videos, which can get up to 65,000 views. The majority of the voices using this term have been straight white men.

Whenever I see the use of this word, I have responded by commenting my gut reaction. I explain that using this term to urge others to become vegan is both harmful towards people who identify as female, and also harmful towards the movement’s health and validity. I write that for a movement based on compassion for “all” animals, it is shocking to see what disregard there can be for the oppressions of human animals. I’ve also mentioned the recent article, “When is being vegan no longer about ethical living?” written by Ruby Hamad, in which she asserts:

Any vegan who thinks animal liberation can be achieved without addressing human oppression is kidding themselves.

And on one of the posts I wrote:

Yes, peace on Earth will be vegan – but it will also be a world free of racism, sexism, religious discrimination, ableism, ageism, etc.

The response to my comments? Backlash – immediate and alarming. I was told to “Shut the fuck up.” I was told I was being “too soft,” that I was the “#funpolice,” “too politically correct,” and to “go cry somewhere else.” The supporters of using this term tried to silence me, and even questioned whether or not I was actually a vegan. As if a vegan would never point out inconsistencies within a movement – especially if the victim was a human! Especially if the victim was a woman.

After receiving these hateful comments, I did some research. Was I, in fact, over-reacting? I did a quick survey of the women in my house, and found that they too would be offended if called a “cunt.” My mother practically blanched at the question, and replied:

As far as I’m concerned, that’s the ultimate insult to a woman. You just don’t say it.

I then looked online and found that, interestingly, in England and Australia, “cunt” is generally used much more casually than in the United States, carrying much less of a sexist, derogatory stigma. Ok. But does that matter? Are we to forget the very real historical and contemporary uses of this term that have been, and still are, used to violate, denigrate and belittle those who identify as female?

I most certainly do not have all the answers, but I do understand that this topic is complicated. For instance, as a woman myself, I could feel empowered to use this term as to “reclaim” it, as different communities have done with words that have been used marginalized and oppressed them. I am also by no means speaking for all women, as I understand some are not offended by this word. But we cannot forget about those who are offended by it. We cannot call for liberation with words that do not further the liberation of other identity groups.

Since all ethical vegans want the world to go vegan, we need to start tailoring our language to be as effective and inclusive as possible, to make our mission based on love, on loving. If vegans really want to change the world, we need to stop using ethical eating to diminish or ignore other very real systems of oppression. It is also crucial for us to have the understanding that the vegan movement is just one puzzle piece in the greater movement for social justice. True social justice cannot be reached until all forms of oppression have been eradicated, and many of these injustices are linked. When we realize his struggles are her struggles, are their struggles are my struggles, the unity and support of each movement can propel us further into a more peaceful and just world.

The complex, gendered, and charged connotations with the term “cunt” should by no means be a part of the vocabulary of a movement comprised of individuals who preach compassion for animals. Changing the hearts, minds, and behaviors of non-vegans is crucial, but that also means investigating and changing our vocabulary at times. Although disagreements and conflicts within movements can potentially hinder the overall progress, it is important to constantly check ourselves and each other’s activism to make sure we are being as effective and compassionate as possible. So yes, I will continue to speak up when vegans use harmful words like “cunt,” and if you agree, I urge you to as well.

 


EveEve Wetlaufer is in her third year at New York University in the Gallatin Program, with an individualized major investigating the historical human orientation toward animals, spirituality, and the environment, with a minor in the Animal Studies Initiative. Eve also holds a certification in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She has worked at several animal rescues, most recently Catskill Animal Sanctuary, as an Outreach and Education intern. She is also the loving companion to a rescued hound named Chrissy.

Veganismo y Políticas de Género

 

Translation by Mariángel Villalobos. You can follow her on Twitter @mvillabe. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

Por Corey Lee Wrenn

Un lector, Alexander Lawrie me envió esta historia y pensé que sería un ejemplo excelente de la supremacía masculina y la vigilancia de género como una barrera en contra del avance de los intereses de las mujeres y otros animales. Un periódico Escocés reportó que los empleados de un restaurante se burlaron de una mujer la cual solicitó que un artículo del menú se hiciera vegano. Su recibo leía: “Vegan Vegan Vegan Pussy”. El restaurante añadió sal a la herida cuando se burlaron de la mujer en su página de Facebook.

¡Pero no termina ahí! El periódico que cubría la historia encontró la página de Facebook de la mujer e imprimió su foto de perfil junto con su nombre completo y lugar de empleo. El acoso adicional que siguió fue lo suficientemente severo para que el periódico moderara los comentarios y eliminara su foto.

Todo el incidente apesta a misoginia. Si la víctima hubiese sido hombre, esperaría que la reacción hubiese sido similar, aunque probablemente con la adición de la homofobia. Bajo el patriarcado, el dominio sobre otros y del consumo de la carne es altamente masculinizado. El veganismo ha sido feminizado no solo porque es más común que los veganos sean mujeres, sino también porque el veganismo representa los intereses de quienes son subyugados a la opresión masculina. El veganismo lucha contra el patriarcado.

No deberíamos de estar sorprendidos de que una compañía que saca provecho de la explotación de los Animales No Humanos use un insulto especista y sexista para desestimar a la mujer, ni deberíamos estar sorprendidos de que los medios de comunicación (que por lo general existen para proteger y reproducir los intereses de la élite) solo hagan las cosas peores. ¿Pero por qué la mesera actuó de esta manera?

En “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women in the Rise of Raunch Culture” (Disculpen el título especista), Ariel Levy explica que la popularidad del “post-feminismo” en realidad representa una co-optación de una ideología céntrica en la mujer anti-opresión patriarcal. Las mujeres son puestas a competir entre ellas al rivalizar por la aprobación del hombre. En un mundo donde la masculinidad es igualada con prestigio y poder, es común que las mujeres abandonen su feminidad y recurran a la masculinidad. Denis Kandiyoti (1998) le llama a esto negociación patriarcal. Para hacer frente a un mundo que es hostil hacia todo lo femenino, la mesera estaba cuidando sus intereses al apoyar los valores masculinos y al condenar la cena vegana.

Por supuesto, esto significa que los hombres mismos están bajo una enorme presión de conformarse a estos valores masculinos. Este comercial para el “Carnivore Club” (Club Carnívoro) busca reafirmar el control masculino, la inteligencia masculina, y la superioridad masculina de cara a los valores femeninos invasores.

 

Este comercial juega con muchos estereotipos del veganismo: Es para mujeres; es castrante, sin sabor, y fastidiosamente saludable. El unirse al Club Carnívoro promete a los hombres proteger su dominio, su control sobre la naturaleza y hasta su virilidad (aunque consumir productos de Animales no Humanos es vinculado a una letanía de enfermedades que amenazan a la vida, incluyendo problemas cardiovasculares y diabetes, que son unas de las causas principales de la disfunción eréctil).

Carnivore Club Advert

Formular este producto como un “club” es intencional. Los anunciantes esperan usar la masculinidad como un espacio exclusivo para miembros, que están al día. Como los CEOs de Fortune 500, los cuerpos legislativos, los ejecutivos de los medios de comunicación, y otros espacios exclusivos de chicos y su privilegio masculino, el “Carnivore Club” invita a los hombres a que se unan al rango de la élite masculina en su dominio sobre los vulnerables. Verdaderamente, uno no puede siquiera tener acceso a su sitio web sin iniciar sesión como un miembro. Nota también el cuento de la “esposa boba y despistada” tan común utilizado en comerciales, programas y filmes. Las mujeres son demasiado incompetentes para darse cuenta de lo que hacen sus compañeros masculinos de mentalidad superior.

Esto es una masculinidad tóxica. No solo los hombres son motivados a dar rienda suelta a comportamientos nutricionales que les causa enfermedad y muerte, pero las mujeres son también motivadas a que rechacen el veganismo al planear su supervivencia en un patriarcado anti-feminista. Y no nos olvidemos, los más grandes perdedores son los Animales No Humanos cuya opresión es vista como natural y sus defensores son burlados, acosados y silenciados.

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. In 2015, she was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

 

Rape Analogy as Fast Food Advocacy

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay contains a frank discussion of rape analogy in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, including images that depict violence against women. There are also discussions of other forms of human suffering (like pedophilia and racism) that may be painful for some readers.

Fast Food Advocacy

In this essay, I want to quickly address some common responses to Vegan Feminist Network’s position on misogynistic imagery as a tactic in Nonhuman Animal rights. I believe much of the response reflects a commitment to sexism, but some also reflects a general ignorance to the impact that patriarchal ideology and a social environment of misogyny has on the activist imagination. The response also reflects a need to deflect discomfort, because these are tactics that have come to dominate our social movement space, and many have taken them for granted as acceptable and useful. Being made aware of participation in violence triggers cognitive dissonance, and it is a natural response to debate, deride, or deflect in order to protect a positive self-concept.

One of the most common responses we receive is an appeal to alternatives (the implication being that alternatives are either too difficult to imagine or simply do not exist). Activists may be sincere in their inquiries for alternatives to misogynistic tactics, but I believe this response is often engaged to derail the discussion. All activists know that there are certain lines that should not be crossed because they will be so offensive that they will hurt others and repel participants.1 We don’t want to cause hurt and we want to grow our movement, so analogies that go too far are inappropriate.

Man artificially inseminating a cow

Just today, this image was shared by A Well Fed World and Free From Harm. While no women are pictured, the analogy is implicit. Research into morally shocking imagery suggests that this approach can easily repel audiences. We can imagine how this response would be magnified by female audiences that are triggered by images of sexual assault and rape.

More and more activists in the movement recognize that slavery and Holocaust analogies are problematic. True, there are still some white-identified/non-Jewish persons clinging onto these analogies, but there are other analogies that I daresay no one would get behind. For instance, I think it is fair to say that everyone agrees that pedophilia analogies would go too far. A common analogy between women and other animals involves the violence of dairy production. Women are often depicted as being assaulted, beaten, and raped to make a point about what happens to cows. When women are targeted, there seems to be little objection. However, if activists were to produce and promote memes of children being sexually assaulted to raise awareness to dairy cows being violated, most would have to agree that this approach would be so triggering and hurtful, that it would be an act of violence and would put the movement in a bad light. Indeed, because the cows in the dairy industry are still babies and children themselves when they are hoisted onto the industry-termed “rape rack,” wouldn’t pedophilia analogies be more accurate than those that draw on violence against adult women?

But it isn’t about accuracy. It’s about swapping out one degraded and worthless body for another. As one reader pointed out, PETA’s foie gras campaign that positions women as the duck victim in advertisements and demonstrations across the world is illogical because ducks used in the industry are male. That doesn’t stop PETA from “telling it like it is.”

Woman at a dining table being forcefed by a man with a tube, she looks frightened Woman bound by rope face down on a dining table covered in her blood and vomit in an anti-foie gras demo PETA Founder Force-Fed Outside Fortnum&Manson Man standing over woman on her knees being choked by a feeding tube in an anti-foie gras demo Woman force fed with feeding tube, her mouth is stretched and bleeding Man standing over bound and kneeling woman, he is pushing her head down and forcefeeding her with a feeding tube, she looks scared

Indeed, a common response to misogynistic analogies is that “this is accurate; this is how it really is.” Vegan Feminist Network isn’t arguing against that, but we must be cognizant of media as a social construction. Media creators choose what story they want to tell and they seek to manipulate how audiences will interpret them. We live in a rape culture where violence against women is commonplace. The movement draws on this social reality to trigger a specific response. Patriarchal ideology may make many unconscious to this language they are using, but activists are not ignorant. No one (I hope) uses images of lynching or violence in nursing homes or mental institutions. No one uses images of humans with deadly diseases like cancer, AIDS, or ebola. All of these human experiences with violence and suffering could easily be enacted to make analogies about Nonhuman Animal exploitation. Fortunately, activists know better than to use them, because it is understood that they will be offensive and painful to the vulnerable groups whose experiences are appropriated. Except for women. The movement produces thousands of images and reenactments of women bloodied, bruised, assaulted, raped, dying and dead. Because women don’t count.

Women are still at the bottom of the ladder. Violence against women is so commonplace, it is rarely even questioned as a painful subject in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. This is to be expected. In all social movements, women have been ignored, exploited, and left behind.2 The anti-slavery movement would not let women participate and intentionally excluded gender from campaigns to make legislative language more inclusive. The Civil Rights movement kept women in organizational roles and pushed men into the leadership positions.  The gay rights movement seriously underserved lesbians. The free-thinking/atheist movement soundly denies the need to recognize feminist issues. In all efforts to advance social justice, women have been made to take a back seat, never considered fully equal or worthy of rights. The feminist movement has been seeking to challenge this ideology since women were first ousted from anti-slavery efforts in the 1800s, but female activists continue to be framed as loudmouthed, unattractive, mentally unstable, feminazis. Just last month, Time Magazine listed the word “feminist” on their reader poll of words that should be banned. We’ve come a long way baby…but not nearly far enough.

Sexism is so normalized in our society that it has become invisible. You cannot turn on the television without being exposed to sexist remarks, jokes at women’s expense, sexual harassment, sexual objectification, and violent assault and rape of women. We are all exposed to a nonstop onslaught of sexist imagery in our society. It becomes as natural as the air we breathe. The bodies of women have always been sites of violence and domination, to the point where it becomes mundane and expected. So, when Vegan Feminist Network takes a stand against the encroachment of this violent imagery in Nonhuman Animal rights spaces, readers are understandably taken aback. They’ve never been made to think critically about the gender-based violence they have taken for granted as acceptable and normal for all of their lives.

Readers often respond with disbelief or with weak justifications, demanding a soundbite explanation as to why this behavior is problematic in two Facebook comments or less. The information is out there (as just one example, the Vegan Feminist Network website is chock full of free information), but few really want to learn more, because I suspect that few really care. This is the way it has always been done, women are easy targets, and women’s pain doesn’t matter (or matters less).

Kim Socha refers to these kinds of trans-species tactics as “fast food activism.” There is no concern with investigating why these analogies might be problematic, that is, why they may not work as a scientific matter, how the state of sexism is in our society influences interpretation, or how they impact women. Just like McDonalds, these analogies pull on the readily available language of violence against women and pump out advocacy cheaply and quickly irrespective of the hurt it causes to vulnerable groups and the damage done to society.

Woman hugging cow

Violence-free activism that brings attention to Nonhuman Animal exploitation and the intersectionality of oppression is not difficult to achieve.

There are tons of ways we can help other animals without resorting to this tokenizing approach. I’ve published hundreds of essays on this website and on my personal blog, The Academic Abolitionist Vegan, most of which are grounded in my research in social movement theory and social psychology, and all of which are freely available. There are also hundreds of books on effective social change available. There’s no excuse for allowing patriarchal norms and PETA’s influence to dictate our activism. We don’t need to hurt women to help animals. We do it because it is easy and because women don’t matter, and that is a problem.

 
Notes

1. There are a few exceptions, including Israeli group 269Life which, in addition to “reenacting” sexual assault and violence against women in public, also uses shackles, chains, and branding on humans in street demonstrations. PETA, too, has utilized graphic analogies of African slavery and the Holocaust.

2. This is not to say that women were not leaders and important players (in all movements there are important exceptions), but only to emphasize that movements act as microcosmic social systems and too often exclude women and ignore their interests.

Giving “Real” Feminism a Bad Name

I'm making history, what's your excuse?

In this essay I will be addressing some common tools of dismissal utilized by those who adhere to sexism or otherwise seek to block feminism in Nonhuman Animal rights spaces (though, this essay has potential for general application to feminism in any space).

Those who are targeted as accomplice to sexist norms often retaliate by insisting that vegan feminists call out sexism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement to “get attention” or achieve some sort of personal gain or interest. In short, people like us do a disservice to “real” feminists; we give “real” feminism a bad name.

So, what is “real” feminism from this point of view? “Real” feminism means working to advance opportunities for women without challenging the privilege of those who stand to gain from a system of inequality. People of this persuasion are all for feminism . . . as long as it doesn’t question their own actions, their own privilege, and their own unearned opportunities and advantages. Unfortunately, feminism that sticks to the rules of proper ladylike behavior by politely asking for more without disrupting the system of male rule is not the type of feminism that is likely to create any meaningful advancements for women. It maintains women’s status as inferior and subservient.

Feminist icon Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency is often accused of using feminism for personal gain, evidenced in "Gamergate"

Feminist icon Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency is often accused of using feminism for personal gain, evidenced in the “Gamergate” scandal. She has been targeted by thousands of men (and some women) with misogynistic messages and death threats, including one promising to conduct the world’s largest school shooting at one of her scheduled talks.

The abolitionist faction of Nonhuman Animal rights is perhaps one of the most sexist in the movement.1 Maybe not as bad as PETA’s outright sexist tactics which aggravate a culture of violence against women, but just as insidious because this faction cleverly masks itself behind post-sexist ideologies and the veneer of intersectionality. Prominent abolitionists often accuse Vegan Feminist Network contributors of using feminist critique to dishonestly shut down their approaches. These are approaches we identify as fundamentally uncritical and privileged, approaches that are doing real hurt to real people.  Simply slapping a label of intersectionality on outreach does not guarantee adequate comprehension or successful implementation. In too many cases, it appears that the label is used to protect privilege and deflect critical reflection on effective, non-violent activism.

A strong indication that someone is actively engaging in sexism is the nasty employment of gendered, derailing tropes that frame feminists as gossiping troublemakers seeking attention/personal gain/cheap shots. This is a sexist response that works to protect a violent social system because it obscures the validity of the feminist argument by ostracizing or attacking the character of the messenger in a gendered manner. For centuries, women have been stereotyped as greedy, untrustworthy gossipers, so it is all too easy for these labels to be applied to feminists. The unfortunate reality is that most people will believe the labels because society both hates and distrusts women: using sexist tropes to deflect feminist critique is very effective. Again, this has relevance beyond the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. It is a standard, sexist deflection of feminist thought. The same response is used to dismiss Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency (celebrity feminist in the gaming world) and Rebecca Watson of Skepchick (iconic feminist of atheist spaces). If a woman is speaking, the default is to dismiss her, not believe her, or presume her ignorant or up to no good. This is one reason why the contributors to this website rely on screen captures: women will always be accused of lying and deceit in a misogynist world, so we put the perpetrator’s own words on display. We let them speak for themselves.

Feminist Rebecca Watson began criticizing sexism in the atheist movement, and has become the target of serious harassment, with many accusing her of profiteering and manufacturing sexism where it does not exist.

Feminist Rebecca Watson began criticizing sexism in the atheist movement and soon became the target of serious harassment, with many (including the famous Richard Dawkins) accusing her of profiteering and manufacturing sexism where it does not exist. The man pictured is PJ Myers, an outspoken male ally.

Suggesting that feminists are just a bunch of troublemakers is in of itself evidence of serious sexism. Make no mistake, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is deeply sexist, and at times, very misogynistic (for those unfamiliar with these trends, please take the time to browse our previous essays and recommended readings). The idea that any feminist would challenge misogyny for fun or personal gain is nothing short of ridiculous and offensive–no woman enjoys retaliation from privileged persons upset by feminist critique. This is one reason why so few women (and men) are vocal about the sexism and misogyny that runs rampant in the movement. It is the proverbial elephant in the room. No one wants to speak out about it because it will result in a tirade of punishment.

It isn’t fun work. Every single day, contributors to Vegan Feminist Network deal with angry racists, classists, and men and their female supporters who insist we should have been aborted, that we are fascists, that we are despicable or disgusting, that we are “moronic/idiotic/stupid” or otherwise mentally ill,2 that we are divisive, that we are man-haters, etc. This happens Every. Day. Ironically, when we block or ignore these comments and emails, we’re then accused of censorship. It is common for some to pull on sexist expectations that women nurture men’s contributions by listening to them and entitling them platform (it is an expected privilege that men’s/whites’/higher classed persons’ opinions are always needed, relevant, and important and that they should be allowed to take up space, even where they are not welcome).  Some pull on sexist expectations that women “teach” them, instead of taking the initiative to read and learn without exploiting women to do the work for them. It is as though our website resources and Facebook activities aren’t enough. Indeed, nothing is ever enough as long as male/white/class privilege is at stake.

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Casey is correct to point out that sexist character attacks and offensive measures are more common than genuine concern for deconstructing inequality in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement.

We here at Vegan Feminist Network find oppression problematic, we find the sexist response to our feminist work problematic, and we want to put an end to it. Doing so is not attention-seeking, it is social justice in action. Some parting words of advice:  When an individual or group suggests that a feminist uses feminist critique to start trouble, there is a good chance that they are indeed engaging sexism and have something to hide (or protect). If derailers truly care about “real” feminism, perhaps they might spend less time demonizing feminists and more time learning about how they can be a positive force in social change.

Believe women.

 

Notes

1. Important exceptions include The Abolitionist Vegan Society, Vegan Information Project, and the Food Empowerment Project.

2. These disableist responses by prominent abolitionists offer further evidence that abolitionism has largely failed to put “intersectionality” successfully into practice

PETA Applauds Horrific Maroon 5 Video Glamorizing Violence Against Women

Trigger Warning:  Post contains images and discussion of violence against women.

Lead singer Adam Levine holds a reclining woman. Both are naked and covered in blood

PETA has a rich history of using explicit violence against women to promote Nonhuman Animal rights, a tactic that has been spreading to other organizations that follow PETA’s example.  In 2013, a PETA commercial depicted a scantily-clothed model in a locked car dying a sexy death to raise awareness for dogs vulnerable to heat exhaustion in the summer. LUSH hosted an anti-vivisection street demo featuring a woman in a nude suit enduring 10 hours of torture that culminated in her simulated death.  Animal Liberation Victoria campaigns against vivisection and whaling by positioning women in various states of undress, doused in blood for public spectacle.  Many of PETA’s print ads feature sexualized women in pain, often bloodied or dismembered.  In addition to PETA’s 20 year campaign of sexually objectifying young white women “for the animals,” it is clear that misogyny has become an anti-speciesist tactic of choice.

Image depicts the upper body of a woman butchered and hanging on a meat hook. Reads: “Hooked on meat? Go veg.”

PETA seems pleased that others capitalize on sexualized violence against women as well.  “Animals,” a new video release by American pop band Maroon 5, has come under severe scrutiny by feminists who are aghast at the video’s glamorization of stalking and violence against women. Indeed, as the lead singer/stalker Adam Levine (People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” 2013) is also portrayed as a butcher and the sexualized body parts of the female love interest (his “prey”) are juxtaposed with the fragmented, bloody body parts of Nonhuman Animals,  the video brilliantly exemplifies vegan feminist theories of intersecting oppression.  Despite the loud outcry from feminist and anti-domestic violence communities concerned with the impact this video may have on dating norms, rape culture, and women’s safety, it turns out that images of blood-soaked naked women in danger are right up PETA’s alley.  PETA spokesperson Ben Williamson reports to MSN:

Actually, we think Adam does a very convincing job of making slaughterers look deranged… If anything, the video doesn’t go far enough in showing the bloody horror of the meat industry and the misery that animals endure before their carcasses end up on a meat hook or butcher’s chopping block… We’re all ‘Animals,’ but anyone upset by the bloody scenes in the video had better opt out of real life violence by choosing to be a compassionate, vegan animal!

Typical of sexist advocacy in Nonhuman Animal rights, PETA is pulling on misogyny to scare or shame women into compliance.  If women are “upset” by exposure to male violence, they “had better” go vegan.

Using images of violence against women should never be an acceptable form of advocacy in a world where violence against women is real, lived, and on-going.  Most women will experience violence at the hands of men at least once in their lives, and all women suffer the constant threat of it.  The statistics for harassment, stalking, assault, rape, and homicide are staggering.  Given this reality, these approaches are nothing short of unethical and irresponsible.  By stepping in to defend the Maroon 5 video (what feminists are calling “this year’s ‘Blurred Lines’“), PETA is actively aggravating the distrust many women harbor for the stereotypically sexist Nonhuman Animal rights movement.

Incidentally, PETA’s comment that “slaughterers look deranged” is extremely disableist, classist, and racist.  Slaughterhouse work is the most dangerous profession in the United States; and it is grossly underpaid with the highest turnover rate.  What this means is that lower class persons, non-native persons, uneducated or illiterate persons, mentally disabled persons, non-English speaking persons, people of color, and other vulnerable groups are pushed into these jobs.  Using disableist rhetoric to describe human victims of industrialized food systems further alienates marginalized communities and puts Nonhuman Animal rights activism in an ugly light.

With so many peaceful and creative ways to advocate against speciesism, I reject the movement’s insistence on exploiting systemic violence against women, poor persons, disabled persons, persons of color, etc. Such an approach is inherently limited and can only alienate potential allies.