For The Planet’s Sake: Unpacking Common Reactions To The Word Vegan

When I saw that the ocean was literally on fire in July 2021, besides experiencing a wave of panic because – the ocean was literally on fire – I was seeing a lot of discussions about what good are individual acts of accountability (such as recycling etc), when we have these giant corporations who cause this horrific level of destruction. That activists who care about the earth, need to focus mostly if not solely on corporate accountability. That the emphasis on individual actions places more of the responsibility and blame on the shoulders of the individual than the corporation.

[Video description: Part of the ocean is on fire and there are several people that are trying to put it out via what looks like boats with hoses on it. The footage is being captured via a helicopter which you can hear in the background. The next thing we see is from the helicopter again, this time a closer look at the fire itself. It is weird to see a body of water on fire.]

And to a certain extent, this is true. The powers that be will often promote individual acts while they approve new pipelines.

Related: Pipelines? Fracking? This is Fracking 101

Personally, I see individual acts of solidarity for the earth, as empowerment. So often we need to petition the powers that be to do the right thing, and keep protesting till they cave to public pressure and/or lack of profit (as we should). But with individual acts, we don’t need permission. We have the power to create change in that moment and that is powerful – especially when done on a collective level. That being said, are single acts like recycling enough? No. I think because we are at this level of destruction, we need as many tactics as possible.

That said, let’s discuss one tactic in particular that some people have this instant negative reaction to. It’s one of the largest contributors to climate change. Science has been saying this for years, and yet when the topic comes up? There is often these strong emotions that arise. What is it? Refraining from supporting animal agriculture aka: veganism or plant based. So, let’s break it down & unpack some of the most common reactions. No judgment. The topic of food is complicated, emotional, it’s tradition, it’s cultural and sometimes even religious, so it makes sense that it can bring up strong feelings for people. But if we can address and unpack the root of these feelings, it’ll be easier to embrace a plant based lifestyle (as much as one can) and that’s one more tactic in our tool box.

In the end, animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change and so we really can’t afford to let these feelings get in the way of saving the planet.

Feel free to skip the questions that aren’t applicable to you.

Wait a minute, so you’re vegan?

Yup.

Photo source: vegan food and living.com

So aren’t you just imposing your beliefs on people?

While I am vegan for various reasons, what I am talking about here is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of science & facts.

Related: Chili On Wheels was started by Michelle Carerra and provides vegan meals (and more) to those in need.

Yeah, but how are burgers etc. harming the earth?

It’s not just about cow farts, though that is part of the problem, as US Methane emissions from livestock and natural gas (fracking) are nearly equal.

It’s a matter of land. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.

It’s a matter of water usage. Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption. 56% of that goes towards growing crops for the livestock.

It even contributes to world hunger. 82% of starving children live in countries where the majority of crops are fed to animals, and the animal product is then sold to and eaten by western countries.

There is so much more to say on this, and I don’t want to inundate you with statistics as I know that can be overwhelming. If you like, you can read more. The point is that it’s absolutely devastating to the environment.

Yeah, but don’t humans need to consume animals for proper nutrition?

According to science, humans are not obligatory carnivores, meaning that we don’t need animals for proper nutrition. We can get enough via plant based sources.

Photo source: insider.com

There is often this myth that if you don’t eat meat, then you’ll become weak, but there are so many professional athletes and bodybuilders who are vegan. And if they can perform at this professional level, then us average people will do just fine.

How much protein do we need?

According to a Harvard health blog (and what seems to be the consensus), “To determine your daily protein intake, you can multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36“ That said, if you go on fitness websites, they will often have protein intake calculators that you can use to get a number that is more specific to your level of activity. For an example, I once knew a vegan who ran marathons, so he consumed more protein (and calories) than I did.

Because of my health / disability, I can not go fully vegan, but when I say that, vegans call me a liar. Some of them give me unsolicited advice, saying that a vegan diet could “cure” me. As a result, the topic of veganism brings up bad feelings.

Unfortunately, I hear this far too often. I don’t know why some vegans think they’re this instant specialist that is qualified to give advice to all people. Or why some think that a healthy vegan diet is this cure all, as it’s not. I eat a fairly whole food vegan diet, my spine still requires that I get around via a motorized wheelchair. There is nothing wrong with that. I am disabled and proud. I need my rights and access, not a cure – and certainly not unsolicited health advice.

I think part of the reason some vegans don’t believe people, is that sometimes people say things like “I could never live without dairy cheese” (as an example) but they could. They just don’t want to, which is different from someone who legitimately can’t for medical reasons. So it leads to some vegan activists to be skeptical, but they are forgetting that not everyone is able bodied and needs do vary. In the end, if someone says I can’t do this thing for medical reasons, I believe them because I’m not a doctor and it sucks to not be believed.

Photo source: PETA

My advice is to do what you can. Not everyone can contribute at the same level of intensity, but everyone has something to contribute.

This is also true for people who live in food deserts and don’t have the same access to some vegan foods that others do. Or those who live in areas where dairy/meat is cheaper than the plant based alternative and you’re on a tight budget etc.

Related: Why Banning Straws Hurts Some People (Video)
Related: Is Veganism Ableist?
Related: We Need Power To Live: One Way Climate Change Impacts The Disability Community

Photo source: inspired taste.net

So you’re saying because I eat meat (etc.), I’m a bad person?!

No. Unless you were born into a vegan family, you grew up eating meat and/or dairy. My family is Jewish so it was considered a treat to go to the local deli and get a sandwich that literally had a pound of meat in it, that was given to me as a child. I was told as a kid that cows need humans to milk them or they will explode (which I kind of laugh at now, because that’s just now how it works. They’re mammals. They only produce milk when they have a baby to feed.) The point is, it’s all very normalized so, I get it. There’s a lot of misinformation that we are told as kids about animal agriculture, but like a lot of things we were taught as kids, that just weren’t right, as we get older and hopefully wiser, we can choose to level up. This is part of our responsibility, especially since this isn’t just about us and a sandwich, this is about the planet and thus about us all.

Related: Why Is Climate Change a Racial Justice Issue?

I once met a vegan who made derogatory comments (towards myself and/or people I care about / have solidarity with) and now I associate a plant based lifestyle with that behavior.

I hear you. I’ve certainly met my share of vegans who were blatantly and un-apologetically ignorant. I’ve also met people in the anti-war movement and people in the environmental activist movement etc. who were also like that. In any case, it’s not okay.

I think it’s extra complicated though with veganism because it is such an emotional topic to begin with. But in the end, I think it’s important to separate the person(s) from the cause, meaning that just because I meet someone who is a prick and/or ignorant etc. it doesn’t make fighting climate change or war a bad idea. It doesn’t make veganism a bad idea either.

Also keep in mind that while some vegans (or vegan-ish people) get into Animal Rights and take it to the streets, this is not a requirement. You can just go about your life and be as plant based as you can and that’s fine.

Related: The Sistah Vegan Project is a great resource.
Related: UK based Fat Gay Vegan has a great blog and podcast
Related: Vegan Bodega Cat is a NYC based vegan youtuber with Arab roots.

Photo source: well and good.com

Related: Jenné Claiborne from Sweet Potato Soul wrote “Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul : a Cookbook“

But food is part of my culture, it’s tradition and/or in some cases, part of sacred rituals in my religion

As far as tradition and culture goes, there are a lot of people like Sweet Potato Soul who are taking traditional meals and making them vegan, so that might be one route.

There are also some people who are religious and are taking traditional recipes and making them vegan.

But at the end of the day, that’s something that you need to figure out how you want to navigate. And if there are some things that are sacred and can’t be made vegan, then try to be vegan in other ways

Photo source: veg out mag.com

Where do I even begin?

Vegan Kit is a free resource. Keep it mind that it was put together before all these realistic vegan meats alternatives came out. Now you can go to Burger King and get a vegan burger. You can get vegan fried chicken at KFC. It’s actually become quite common to see vegan options at fast food restaurants (depending on where you live).

There are also a slew of accidentally vegan junkfood that you can get in stores.

A lot of people find Meatless Monday to be a great way to dip their toe in the water. It’s also a great resource for recipes.

Speaking of recipes, there is also an abundance of vegan meal and snack ideas online that are available for free. In addition to Sweet Potato Soul, and Vegan Bodega Cat, I also enjoy: The Unhealthy Vegan (who makes decadent but easy vegan food), Candice from The Edgy Veg , No Egg Craig , Tabitha Brown and Lisa from The Viet Vegan.

Photo source: the viet vegan .com

So, that’s it. I know there is a lot going on right now in the world, but I do hope that when you can, you will really think about this and add this tactic to what you are already doing. It doesn’t have to be this huge instant change. Start by eating one plant based meal and go from there. Thank you for your time and I shall “see you” in the fight.

This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox in 2021.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

V-Rated: Sexualizing and Depoliticizing Veganism

After much ridicule and resistance, veganism seems to be reaching a tipping point in popularity, cultural assimilation, and institutional accommodation in the West. Indeed, the 2021 Veganuary event pulled a record 600,000 registrants, while hundreds of stores and restaurants eagerly provided new products and specials to facilitate the trend. A year prior, veganism was even recognized as a protected belief in the United Kingdom.

Yet, with any successful political movement comes the predictable countermovement tasked with troubling mobilization efforts and preserving the status quo. For the vegan movement, its opposition takes many forms. This has included newly formed laws designed to protect the secrecy of animal agriculture (Martin 2015, Simon 2013), recharacterize vegan activists as terrorists (Wright 2015), redefine common food terminology and labeling to exclude plant-based options (such as “mayo,” “milk,” and “burger”) (Kleeman 2020), and cast doubt on vegan healthfulness with state-funded marketing campaigns (Nibert 2003). Opposition also materializes in the cultural realm with vegans routinely mocked, marginalized (Cole and Morgan 2011), and feminized (Adams 2000; Gambert and Linné 2018).

It is veganism’s feminine association that has become its greatest point of vulnerability in a society that is, according to some feminist sociologists (Dines 2010), increasingly pornified, commodified, and antagonistic toward all things feminine. This begs the question: how can the popularity of veganism be reconciled within a patriarchal marketplace?

I suggest that veganism is regularly described by advertisers in fetishistic terms, likely as a means to resonate with audiences that have been increasingly cued by pornographic and androcentric scripts of consumption. In this way, it is reduced to a hedonistic, capitalist-friendly practice of pleasurable consumption that is very much in line with existing unequal social relations. Drawing on vegan feminist theory, I argue that the veganism—a political position that fundamentally challenges narratives of domination—poses a threat to patriarchal social relations. Subsequently, veganism is depoliticized by patriarchal practices of sexual objectification and capitalistic practices of commodity fetishism. Sexualization, I conclude, transforms veganism from a mode of resistance into a mode of complicity.

This talk, presented at the British Sociological Association’s Food Study Group Conference, is available to view here.


Works Cited

Adams, C. 2000. The Sexual Politics of Meat. London: Continuum.

Cole, M. and K. Morgan. 2011. “Veganphobia: Derogatory Discourses of Veganism and the Reproduction of Speciesism in UK National Newspapers.” The British Journal of Sociology 62 (1): 134-153.

Dines, G. 2010. Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon.

Gambert, I. and T. Linné. 2018. “From Rice Eaters to Soy Boys: Race, Gender, and Tropes of ‘Plant Food Masculinity’.” Animal Studies Journal 7 (2): 129-179.

Kleeman, J. 2020. Sex Robots & Vegan Meat. London: Picador.

Dr. Wrenn is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. 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 is the co-founder of the International Association of Vegan Sociologists. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and is a member of the Research Advisory Council of The Vegan Society. She has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute and has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Environmental Values, 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.

Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to her newsletter.

Vegan Sustainability

The term ‘sustainability’ has been critiqued as being performative and devoid of meaning. Sustainability at its core is understood as the drive towards maintaining ecological balance. It is a word that inspires strategies that are greener and considers the consequences and potential impact of extractive industries and depletion of natural resources on future generations. However, sustainability as a term has been misused, manipulated, and commodified. As vegan organizations grapple with critiques of colonialism and white supremacy, it is imperative to do the work to decolonize this movement and imagine a just vegan sustainability framework.  In this piece, I offer recommendations on how to decolonize sustainability and fight for land justice, animal liberation, and food sovereignty in order to save the Earth and ourselves. It is time for a total overhaul of our food system itself.

Sustainability for Who?

This question of ‘sustainability for who’ is at the heart of this conversation. While affluent countries in the Global North emit the majority of emissions behind global climate change, countries in the global South not only face more consequences, but also are scapegoated in discussions of climate justice. If sustainability is operationalized as prolonging the current economic system and keeping things ‘business as usual,’ marginalized communities, both human and nonhuman, will continue to suffer.

In many ways, sustainability has been weaponized against the Global South and other communities that have been historically harmed by colonizing nations. The most obvious and insidious use of sustainability as a continued form of colonialism concerns population control. This discourse posits that the current amount of resources on the planet cannot sustain the current population and, therefore, countries with high birth rates should introduce population regulations. This discourse is saturated in white nationalism, is built on the continuing legacy of genocide and eugenics, and is integral to the contemporary ecofascist movement.

Usually this ‘family planning’ rhetoric is espoused by white environmentalists from the global North, such as Carter Dillard, Senior Policy Advisor to the Animal Legal Defense Fund who founded the family planning organization Having Kids, concerning rising population in the Global South. Dillard’s argument for a family planning modeled built with equity in mind posits that the most vulnerable population: children, specifically future children. As he argues, a human rights based approach “would protect [children] from being brought into the world beneath a particular threshold of well-being,” meaning that an unborn child would be more ethical, under this framework, than a poor child.

Dillard is aware that there is “a lot of history — around eugenics, foreign aid, welfare reform, etc. — [that] supports [the] argument…[that] focusing on population is actually a way of targeting the poor and people of color, rather than targeting the rich white men driving the fossil-fuel industries” but decides to instead focus on the to-be-born who he believes ethically should stay unborn. This continuation of colonial logics saturated in sustainability rhetoric illustrates that a new conception of sustainability is necessary to move forward towards a just future. I believe that integral to this conception of sustainability is an analysis of what historic harms have been done to previously colonized countries, how capitalism continued to propagate extractive industries in these nations, and how the Global North will hold itself accountable for this legacy of climate change.

Decolonizing Sustainability

What would a sustainable future that encompasses the needs and considerations of the Earth and nonhuman animals look like from a decolonial perspective? Any future-oriented vegan organization must be focused on acknowledging its pattern of centering white male voices from the Global North and espousing damaging colonial rhetoric. Doing this work—not to perform solidarity but to enact it – begins the slow process of building relationships with communities that the vegan movement has marginalized and tokenized.

While not a vegan organization, groups could learn a lot from  Soul Fire Farm. Soul Fire Farm is a Black-led multi-racial sustainable farm that challenges injustice in the food system and it is also leading a reparations movement for Black farmersCase studies like Soul Fire Farm offer examples of how to do food justice right:

  • Build community and partner with activists, networks, institutions, and indigenous tribes.
  • Create spaces to heal from generational trauma.
  • Offer solidarity-shares and distribute to your communities.
  • Tell stories and raise historically marginalized voices and histories.
  • Engage in radical self care and create a healthy work culture.
  • Participate in regenerative farming practices based on respect for non/humans.
  • Create workshops that equip marginalized folks with the tools to create their own movements.
  • Collaborate with and act in solidarity with indigenous communities.
  • Give your land back to Black-Indigenous farmers.

It is only through true, non-performative reparations that we can undo the harm of food apartheid together.

This work is necessary in order to grow regional partnerships with sister organizations and begin working towards sustainable farming, environmental stewardship models, and food justice. Consider language justice and indigenous land ownership throughout entire project, build a portfolio of insights from model organization’s programming, and consider the advice of land and farm elders. Always ask, “How will the work stay grounded in truth and reconciliation between black and indigenous people? How will these communities be provided access to power building opportunities? How can my organizations create autonomous spaces for these communities?”

Vegan Sustainability

This conversation concerning sustainability is tackled directly in the new film, “We Fly, We Crawl, We Swim” by the collective Just Wondering and has been celebrated in film showings across the world. Just Wondering creates animations that make posthumanist and critical animal studies theories digestible and understandable. Their videos also challenge the status quo and illustrate how normative power structures are inherently oppressive and marginalized people, nonhumans and the planet “We Fly” argues that environmental justice cannot be accomplished without challenging the current systems at fault for pollution—capitalism and its obsession with consumption and commodification. Just Wondering’s solution: creating a multispecies society that views the more-than-human world as kin and changes our economic system with their needs and consideration in mind.

A true sustainability—one that not only regulates harm but abolishes it—is predicated on the embracing of a multi-species liberation. Performing sustainability in order to continue extractive practices only reifies the structures that support this exploitation of people, non-human animals, and the environment. In order to build a multi-species solidarity future, it is imperative that we not only predicate social justice movements on environmental justice, but that we also reform our current economic system towards a more just commons-based society that includes the needs of non-human actors and actants. I view this framework as a ‘vegan sustainability’ and believe this is the sustainability we should work towards in the future.

Vegan sustainability is built upon the following tenants:

1) Animals and the environment are worthy of care and moral consideration.

2) Capitalism is the underlying current that is behind the current commodification and exploitation of people, nonhuman animals, and the environment.

3) Nonhuman population deserve recognition of their autonomy and should be viewed as political persons.

4) Harm has been wrecked on non-human and marginalized human communities and these population deserve accountability and reparations for this harm. 

5) A just world and just future outside of our current system is possible and attainable.

Just Wondering’s main argument is one of idealism, not self-defeating pessimism. They posit that it is not only conceivable but achievable to imagine and create a society that is anti-capitalism, anti-specieisism, anti-white supremacy, and anticisheteronormativity. It is through this framework of vegan sustainability, an off-shoot of the revolutionary potential of vegan politics, that we can move towards an economic reformation outside of our contemporary systems of violence and towards total liberation.


Z. Zane McNeill is an activist-scholar, co-editor of Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression, and the founder of
Sparks & McNeill
.

COVID Masculinities and the Meat of the Matter

On Super Bowl Sunday, households across the nation ignored Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice to only enjoy the iconic game with their immediate household. Instead, Super Bowl parties are expected to be ‘mini super spreader’ events with COVID-19 infections projected to grow exponentially because of these gatherings. Like cockfights in Bali (a case study often used by anthropologists to understand gendered politics in the region), Dr. Jan Huebenthal has argued that the Super Bowl similarly says something about masculinity in America. The potential for Super Bowl parties, often facilitated by men, to increase COVID-19 infections is not the first time toxic masculinity has been criticized for exacerbating the harm caused by COVID-19. Salon has written that “toxic masculinity has become a threat to public health,” the New York Times has argued that men’s “aversion to common sense protections” is inherently intertwined with men’s fear of seeming weak, and Wyoming News has simply stated that “toxic masculinity [is] a big reason for spread of COVID-19.” However, the implications of toxic masculinities and pandemics does not stop at COVID-19; toxic masculinity also increases the risks for future infectious disease outbreaks caused by animal agriculture.

Though the origin of COIVD-19 remains unknown, it has been argued that there are “many unshakeable links between modern animal agriculture and COVID-19.” COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, which means that it originates in animals and can jump to other species, such as human beings. The root cause of zoonotic diseases is  often animal exploitation;  modern agricultural practices, such as factory farms, are involved in high-risk interaction between humans and animals and pose a serious risk for future outbreaks, such as avian flu. This is why organizations, like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, have published white papers on the relationship between COVID-19 and animal agriculture in the hopes of reducing the likelihood of a future global pandemics.

In addition to necessary policy changes that the white papers discuss, we must also interrogate the relationship between toxic masculinity and meat consumption, specifically in the context of COVID-19. Toxic masculinity has been a hot-button term for the past few years and is used to describe how what society deems ‘being manly’ is can be harmful to women, as well as the men themselves. Similarly, hegemonic masculinity is the practice of structures and institutions that legitimize men’s dominant position in society and encourage toxic masculinities. In the autumn of 2020, NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies posted a call for papers concerning the masculinities of COVID-19 in which the journal contended that “political and social appeals to act responsibly seem to be intertwined with different assumptions of what a good man should and should not do, not only among politicians but also in everyday encounters between obliging and obstructing citizens.” It asked scholars to research why men are dying at higher rates than women from the COVID-19 pandemic, how toxic masculinities played out on the federal level through policy creation, and in which ways fear of seeming weak and vulnerable have affected some men’s usage of commonsense COVID-19 protections, such as wearing masks.

These traits of what being a strong man means, which Salon described as “individualistic, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric,” has been reified by Trump’s re-election campaign. As the Washington Post reported, Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be “This potentially deadly illness is something to dominate or be dominated by.”  These anxieties about seeming ‘weak’ are an example of toxic masculinities that directly affect public health, especially as men have refused to wear masks in fear of being seen as weak and have “turned mask wearing into a battlefield in the culture war,” as argued in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. This threat of emasculation by something as simple as wearing a mask has made “flouting public health guidelines became synonymous with manliness,” as reported on in Mother Jones.

Not only do toxic masculinities put people’s physical safety at risk, but COVID-19 has also exacerbated mental health crises. In “Men, Suicide, and Covid-19: Critical Masculinity Analyses and Interventions,” Khan et al. found that “Excessive pressure to conform to traditional modes of masculinity increases the risk of men’s suicidal behavior.” Over 75% of men in a Cleveland Clinic survey reported increased levels of stress and worsened mental health. As Healthline reported, “When asked about their own health priorities and stressors, the men surveyed cited the economy and their family’s well-being ahead of their own personal health.” This is troubling, especially as men attempt suicide at higher rates than women and that suicide rates are increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is well accepted that toxic masculinities hurt men themselves and that this harm has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic itself—as well as the potential for future pandemics—can also be blamed on hegemonic masculinity. The connection between meat consumption and masculinity has been well researched, and have inspired books like Carol Adam’s keystone work, the Sexual Politics of Meat, in which she argues that “white supremacy and misogyny together upheld meat as white man’s food.” Simply, men consume more animal products because meat and masculinity are inherently intertwined because meat is seen as a stand-in for power and strength. Not only does this form of masculinity have an ecological and ethical footprint, but it also hurts the men themselves who face health risks connected to meat consumption, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.  

In an interview concerning COVID masculinities conducted by history PhD student Matthew Sparks, an interviewee explained the anxieties COVID-19 created for their masculinity:

Men are supposed to be the protective, providers, go out and hunt the boar and bring back the meat, go out and fight and defend the home, protect the home and the hearth and all that kind of stuff, it’s kind of ingrained in us, even if we don’t necessarily relate to that kind of behavior, it is ingrained in our way of thinking and in our society…So, here we are in survival mode, and those perceived gender roles are just sporadically going everywhere…We’ve redefined and rearranged our roles in the household to where it’s like “what the fuck are we supposed to do right now?”

This confusion over identity and purpose illustrated above, as well as the perceived failing many men currently feel for not being able to provide for their families as unemployment rates rise, is another example of toxic masculinity harming men themselves. However, as explained earlier, toxic masculinity has a body count—when men see wearing masks as ‘feminine,’ people get sick and masculinity literally threatens public safety and health. When eating meat is seen as manly, zoonotic disease outbreaks can occur that can detrimentally harm our global community, when men feel pressured to uphold the ‘right’ kind of masculinity, men’s mental health suffers. In order to mediate future pandemics, it is imperative that we as men question what it means to be ‘manly.’ Toxic masculinity isn’t helping any of us—give yourself the freedom to pursue healthy forms of masculinity and let’s redefine what being a ‘man’ means together.  


Z. Zane McNeill is an activist-scholar, co-editor of Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression, and the founder of
Sparks & McNeill
.

Armie Hammer’s Alleged Cannibalistic Fantasy is the Ultimate Manifestation of Misogyny

By Antonia Georgiou
Trigger warning: This post discusses extreme violence including rape.

Privileged and powerful men, as we learn time and time again, feel that they can get away with all manner of abuse against women. But when #armiehammer began trending recently, no one was quite prepared for the horrific nature of the accusations. The Call Me By Your Name star is facing allegations of indulging in violent sexual fantasies involving cannibalism, rape, and bloodsucking. Whether these claims are true or not, past statements made by the actor are testament to his hatred of women. Hammer was once quoted as saying, “I liked the grabbing of the neck and the hair and all that. But then you get married… You can’t really pull your wife’s hair. It gets to a point where you say, ‘I respect you too much to do these things that I kind of want to do.’” The debate as to whether certain women are “worthy” of respect is frequently propagated by misogynists; that is, women perceived as being of less value may be subjected to degrading acts, whereas women who uphold the traditional gender role of, say, wife or mother deserve respect.

Hammer’s purported behaviour is merely an extension, albeit an extreme one, of what powerful men in Hollywood have been getting away with for decades. The list of men accused of sexual misconduct seems to grow every day; some face repercussions, while others are either forgiven or their actions are swiftly swept under the carpet. Hammer, it seems, may very well end up in the latter category, with colleagues quick to dismiss the messages as fake news. This denial is demonstrative of the endemic nature of rape culture, as accusers are dismissed and distrusted, while their alleged abusers are painted as the real victims. Despite what his devotees may assert, dozens of screenshots of messages believed to have been written by Hammer exhibit a desire to quite literally consume women.

While there is nothing wrong with kinks involving consensual adults, an impulse to eat women is inherently misogynistic, and Hammer’s accusers have said that they did not consent to the alleged acts. According to one of the DMs, Hammer is claimed to have “cut the heart out of a living animal before and eaten it while still warm”. Tellingly, Hammer once revelled in posting gory photos of a dissected pig on his official Instagram, proclaiming with morbid glee that “He’s smiling!”

The patriarchy tells us that real men eat meat, but when man has conquered, killed, and consumed as many non-human animals as he can, he may then turn to another animal that he deems lowly, lesser, and, crucially, unequal to him: the human female. It is not enough for rich and entitled men to subjugate women through power imbalances; the ultimate manifestation of misogyny comes in tearing off a woman’s flesh, abasing her not simply through the patriarchal hegemony, but through the diminution of her very being. For these men, women are viewed as prey to be hunted, captured, and devoured. Though shocking, these alleged fetishes are an extreme symptom of pervasive misogyny whereby women are regarded as nothing more than vessels for male gratification, no matter how cruel and depraved the enactments may be. Moreover, cannibalism is a fundamentally selfish endeavour, which is symptomatic of a culture that centres itself on male pleasure, male needs, and women as the receptacles for whatever men desire.

In a recent interview with the Guardian, counsellor Michael Sheath explained that watching extreme pornography is a gateway into real life violence: “If you look at the videos on mainstream porn sites you can see ‘teen’ themes, ‘mom and son’ themes, lots of incestuous porn. It’s pretty deviant stuff. To watch this you have already lowered your threshold of what is acceptable. Porn is an entry drug for a lot of them.” While we may not know the reasons for Hammer’s purported predilections, their depraved nature is rooted in increasingly callous pornography, in which women are routinely beaten and abused for perverse gratification. The more violent the pornography, the less satisfied the viewer, resulting in further aberrant searches until the fantasies manifest in everyday life.

As with kinks, there is nothing wrong with pornography itself; the problem lies with a male-dominated industry that exploits women’s bodies and labour, for which they do not own the means, in unwaveringly aggressive and extreme enactments. When men grow accustomed to violent sex as the norm, there is a greater risk for women being subjected to this brutality in real life intimacy. For instance, when referring to raping a woman at knife point, Hammer allegedly laments that “everything else seemed boring” afterwards. As Sheath explains, “Think of young women emerging into the sexual world and meeting men who are into strangulation and anal sex. It’s not criminal, it’s not being reported, but as a social and cultural experience it’s really significant.”

Other DMs demonstrate a desire to be a slave master who owns his partners, as Hammer professes to a woman that he wants to “brand you, tattoo you, mark you”. One former girlfriend, Paige Lorenze, has claimed that Hammer branded her by carving his initial into the skin near her vagina, which is undoubtedly the uttermost emblem of his patriarchal dominance. The veracity of Hammer and Lorenze’s relationship has been confirmed by the former’s team, who assert that the acts were consensual and did not amount to abuse. Branding is one of the most monstrous weapons of domestic violence, and the ultimate means of control, so the extent to which such intrinsically misogynistic acts could be consensual is dubious at best. By viewing women as property for his sole ownership, Hammer exposes the true extent of his privilege, suggesting that art imitates life and he is perhaps not dissimilar from malevolent characters he has played in excellent, anti-racist films such as The Birth of a Nation (2016) and Sorry to Bother You (2018).

Whether these allegations are true or not, they shed light on a woman-hatred so endemic in society that supporters are quick to defend even the most heinous of accusations. But there is no doubt that such an extreme fantasy, the literal devouring and degeneration of women, is the pinnacle of misogyny.


Antonia is a London-based writer with degrees from Queen Mary University and UCL. She is culture editor at New Socialist where she writes primarily on film from a feminist perspective. A lifelong feminist and animal welfare advocate, her other areas of interest include mental health, disability rights, and an end to austerity