Love, Sex, and the Animal Liberation Front

Man in ski mask kisses woman in black hoodie
Image from Animal Freedom Fighters Unite Facebook group

More so than other factions of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, the “liberation” or “direct action” faction (frequently associated with the Animal Liberation Front) often engages symbolism of human-to-human love, intimacy, and sex in its activist narrative.

Consider Love and Liberation: An Animal Liberation Front Story, a romance novel following a young female activist who falls in love with another direct action activist, the two of them bonding over illegal actions in the name of anti-speciesism.

Cover of Love and Liberation

Consider also the direct action comic, The Liberator, male-created with a male and female protagonist. The female-bodied hero, however, tends to be drawn for the male-gaze, large breasted and sometimes bra-less.

Liberator

More than other factions of the movement, the direct action faction relies on narratives of heroism, machismo, and domination. As with any hero’s tale, the “girl as reward” must be present. In a previous essay, I note the “Liam Neeson effect,” whereby Nonhuman Animals are feminized and their plight exploited as a plot device to excuse hypermasculine vigilantism and violence. “Direct action” activism hopes to attract members and new recruits by creating an opportunity for boys and men to prove their manhood and become real-life superheroes. Steve Best, a leader of the ALF faction, has stated that it will be the media coverage of this type of activism which will motivate and inspire viewers to take up arms, so to speak. Love and sex must be part of this opportunity, as becoming a “man” necessitates power over the feminine.

Relatedly, ALF activists also frequently pose with Nonhuman Animals as loving and thankful. Most of these survivors are undoubtedly relieved, but we must keep in mind that media is not created by accident, and images are carefully chosen to convey a particular message. I see in this thankful animal trope the same patriarchal or paternalist concept: man as liberator and benevolent leader, woman and animal as grateful and dependent. Savior narratives, well-meaning though they may be, are inherently disempowering to the marginalized (this is a major concern in ally politics).

ALF member in ski mask cradling small monkey

Social movements consciously strategize in their media representations, using particular codes that the audience will be expected to accurately and favorably interpret. The ALF and other direct action collectives bank on our cultural literacy with misogyny and patriarchy in order for these scripts and codes to make sense. I question as to whether or not this hypermasculine script will translate for an anti-oppression future if we’re still speaking the same language of domination.

 


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 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. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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Héganisme: Le Véganisme pour Hommes!

Essay and translation by Hypathia: Feminist and Anti-Speciesist Blog. The original English version of the embedded essay can be found by clicking here.

Le mot “héganisme” n’est pas arrivé en France me direz-vous. Quoique. On est fins prêts en tous cas. Mardi 16 février 2016, France 5 diffusait “Un monde sans viande” plutôt prometteur. Sauf que. C’est parti en couilles dès les premières cinq minutes. Le documentariste est allé s’acheter un steak végétal chez Sojasun (lien non sponsorisé, même si c’est un voisin de Noyal Sur Vilaine) et en a fait l’analyse. Ce steak végétal est à base de soja, sorte de haricot, donc une légumineuse très protéinée, mais qui a la réputation de contenir des isoflavones, un ersatz végétal d’hormones femelles. Bon pour les femmes de plus de 50 ans, mais mauvaises, très mauvaises pour les hommes et les enfants prépubères et même pubères, dixit le journaliste ! Nous y voilà: le steak de soja est soupçonné de déviriliser les hommes. S’en est suivie une pénible bataille de chiffres et de milligrammes entre une diététicienne défenseuse des couilles des mecs, et la Cheffe de produit de Sojasun qui défend elle son produit et dit que, pas du tout, son steak de soja contient moins d’isoflavones que le prétend la diététicienne. Après le film, durant le débat, le médecin pro-viande a affirmé que les isoflavones sont inoffensives et même plutôt bonnes pour la santé. Mais le mal était fait, à mon avis. Le végétarisme et le véganisme sont perçus comme une menace pour la virilité, comme l’explique Corey Wrenn sur son blog Vegan Feminist Network, dont je vous propose cette semaine la traduction du billet:

Man with big lettuce leaf hanging out of mouth

Crédit photo: Salon – Forget vegan, he’s hegan (en anglais)

What is Heganism?

Héganisme. Oui, c’est bien quelque chose. C’est le véganisme… pour les hommes. “Héganisme” réfère généralement au “rebranding,” à donner une autre image de marque aux traditionnels concepts véganes, afin qu’ils conviennent à la consommation masculine. Mais pourquoi ?

Le mouvement végane est truffé de 101 variations différentes du véganisme, toutes avec la même intention: vendre et faire rentrer des cotisations. C’est le marketing des associations demandant à ses équipes “comment pouvons-nous nous démarquer sur cette tendance? Comment pouvons-nous nous distinguer du reste des autres? Comment pouvons-nous les faire acheter ici et pas ailleurs? Les distinctions de genre servent généralement les intérêts capitalistes et ils le font en maintenant les différences et les inégalités. Spécialiser les produits par genre suppose que les ménages ne doivent plus se contenter d’un seul produit qui peut être partagé (et les produits destinés aux femmes coûtent souvent plus cher). Le produit bleu et industriel pour lui, le produit rose fleuri (plus cher) pour elle.

Genrer est aussi l’occasion d’ouvrir un plus large marché aux produits. Le stigmate féminin est enlevé, ainsi les hommes peuvent les consommer plus confortablement ; mais ce faisant le stigmate ne disparaît pas, il est seulement renforcé. Comme pour “Guy-et,”1 Dr Pepper10 et la lotion Dove men care (pour hommes), genrer le véganisme travaille à protéger la masculinité en ostracisant, en renvoyant à l’altérité ce qui est féminin. Qu’est ce qu’il y a de mal à faire un régime, boire du soda sans sucre, ou manger végane? C’est que ce sont les stéréotypes de ce que les femmes sont censées faire, et les femmes sont le groupe le plus détesté et le plus dévalorisé de la société. Pour que les hommes y participent, il faut enlever le stigmate féminin en créant une alternative “masculine”.

A father and son in a sea of fruit and vegetables, only their faces are peaking out

Faire venir plus d’hommes au véganisme est important pour la santé du mouvement végane et pour la santé des garçons et des hommes -la plupart ne consommant pas assez de fruits et légumes. Mais l’inclusion des hommes ne doit pas se faire aux dépens des droits des femmes. Crédit photo: The Advertiser.

La masculinité est largement définie par ce qu’elle n’est pas-et elle n’est pas féminine. Cela marche de la même façon avec le spécisme:2 nous définissons l’humanité comme n’étant pas animale, et donc l’humanité est supérieure par comparaison. On pense aussi qu’elle est l’une des racines de l’hétéro-sexisme : la masculinité est définie par l’ostracisation de ce qui est féminin. En d’autres termes, différencier les personnes en groupes et les placer dans une hiérarchie qui soutient ces différences nourrit une discrimination structurelle. La distinction huile les roues de l’oppression.

PETA ad showing a nude woman laying on a giant bunch of broccoli; reads, "EAT YOUR VEGGIES"

Dans mon livre, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights, j’explore le thème du nouveau packaging des espaces véganes. Parce que le véganisme est tellement féminisé, il est considéré comme une menace pour le patriarcat et donc dévalorisé. En réaction, les organisations qui le défendent adoptent le langage du patriarcat pour mieux “vendre” le véganisme. Au lieu de rester ferme sur une opposition féministe radicale à l’oppression patriarcale, les véganes refont l’emballage du véganisme en le présentant comme “sexy” et montrent les femmes comme objets destinés à la consommation des hommes. PETA est probablement la plus détestable association à cet égard, et sa position dominante dans le mouvement signifie qu’elle influence une norme de protestation pornographique. Les femmes véganes ne sont plus facteures de changement, elles sont juste un autre goût “exotique” destinée à être servi sur un plateau au patriarcaux. Ce Tumblr “Galerie hégan” en est littéralement un exemple : les images sont inspirées de la pornographie.

Il y a un réel danger à aggraver les attitudes sexistes dans l’activisme pour les droits des animaux non humains. Le mot “Héganisme” est inutile et insultant. Est-ce qu’un espace végane féminin est si répugnant que les hommes doivent s’en dégager et occuper un espace séparé pour y participer? Si oui, nous devons remplacer et réévaluer notre approche. Aussi longtemps que le mouvement soutiendra la haine des femmes, il ne peut pas raisonnablement attendre de son public qu’il arrête de haïr les animaux non humains.

Le héganisme est une tactique qui se sabote elle-même. Si les activistes soutiennent la notion que le véganisme est “juste pour les femmes” et que les hommes seront stigmatisés s’ils y participent sans la façade de la masculinité pour les protéger, cela rend un mauvais service au mouvement. Au lieu de s’accommoder du patriarcat et du capitalisme pour être entendu.es, les activistes doivent au contraire incorporer une approche féministe à l’antispécisme. De cette façon, tous les intérêts sont pris en compte et un groupe ne sera pas diminué ou exclu au bénéfice d’un autre. Les capitalistes vont inévitablement argumenter que genrer le véganisme c’est simplement nourrir le marché, mais ils créent simplement un marché de cette sorte : “LEGO se résout finalement à créer des jouets pour les filles” (en anglais chez Feminist Frequency). Un marché basé sur l’oppression, un marché qui fonctionne sur des groupes divisés selon la ligne pouvoir contre impuissance, et ce ne sera pas un espace conduisant à la libération.”

Notes:
1. “Guy-et” : jeu de mot intraduisible en français formé de “diet”: régime, et de guy : mec, soit régime pour mec.
2. Le spécisme est un préjugé, une attitude ou un biais envers les intérêts des membres de notre propre espèce, contre les membres des autres espèces. J’ai préféré le mot francisé épicène végane à l’anglais vegan, -ce sont eux qui ont inventé le mot. En français on peut aussi écrire végétalien.

Edit: Le documentaire de France 5 comportait aussi une visite dans les laboratoires de Beyond Meat, une corporation étasunienne qui tente de cultiver le la viande en éprouvette, un autre cauchemar carniste ; en attendant l’avènement de la viande de culture, leurs steaks végétaux sont fait pour donner le change, oubliant qu’on ne devient pas forcément végéta*ien pour manger des substituts de viande, sauf si on craint de mettre à mal virilité des hommes ? On n’en sort pas.

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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What is Heganism?

Actor Joaquin Phoenix poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills. He has a huge beard and is looking very scruffy.

Vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix

Heganism. Yes, it’s a thing. It’s veganism…for men. “Heganism” generally refers to the rebranding of traditional vegan concepts or products to be suitable for male consumption.

But why?

The vegan movement is crowded with 101 different variations of veganism, all with one intention: sales and fundraising. It’s non-profit marketers asking the team, “How can we make our own stamp on this trend? How can we stand out against the rest? How do we make them buy here and not somewhere else?”

Gender distinction generally serves capitalist interests, and it does so by maintaining difference and inequality. Gendering products mean that households need to buy more than one product that might otherwise be shared (and women’s products often cost more). The blue, industrial one for him; the pink, flowery (and more expensive) one for her.

Gendering can also open up products to a larger market. The feminine stigma must be removed so that men can feel comfortable consuming them; but the stigma doesn’t disappear, it’s only reinforced. Like the guy-etDr. Pepper 10, and lotion “for men,” gendering veganism works to protect masculinity by otherizing that which is feminine.

What’s wrong with dieting, drinking diet soda, using body lotion, or eating vegan? It’s what women stereotypically do, and women are one of the most detested and devalued groups in society. In order for men to participate, the stigma must be removed by creating a “masculine” alternative.

A father and son in a sea of fruit and vegetables, only their faces are peaking out

Introducing more men to veganism is important for the health of the vegan movement and for the health of boys and men (most of whom do not consume the recommended amount of fruit and veg). But male inclusivity should not come at the cost of women’s rights. Photo credit: The Advertiser.

Masculinity is defined largely in what it is not–and it is not feminine.  This works much in the same way as speciesism: we define humanity in being not animal, and therefore humanity is superior by comparison.  This is also thought to be one of the root causes of heterosexism: masculinity is defined by ostracizing that which is feminine. In other words, differentiating persons into groups and then placing them on a hierarchy to support these differentiations feeds structural discrimination.

Distinction greases the wheels of oppression.

PETA ad showing a nude woman laying on a giant bunch of broccoli; reads, "EAT YOUR VEGGIES"

In my book, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights, I explore the theme of feminist repackaging in vegan spaces. Because veganism is so feminized, it is deemed a threat to patriarchy and it is often dismissed. One reaction that organizations take is to actually buy into the language of patriarchy in order to “sell” veganism.

So, instead of remaining firm in radical feminist opposition to patriarchal oppression, vegans sometimes repackage veganism as “sexy” and present women as consumable objects for male consumption. PETA is probably the most notable organization in this regard, but its dominant position in the movement means that is is influencing a norm of pornographic protest. Vegan women are no longer changemakers, they’re just another “exotic” taste served up on the patriarchal platter. Take this Tumbler “heganism” gallery as one very literal example (warning, contains pornography).

There is a real danger in aggravating sexist attitudes about Nonhuman Animal rights activism.  “Heganism” is unnecessary and offensive. Is a feminized vegan space so repugnant that men need to spin off into a separate space in order to participate? If so, we need to back up and reevaluate our approach. So long as the movement supports the hating of women, it can’t reasonably expect its audience to stop hating other animals.

Heganism is a tactic that undermines itself. If activists inadvertently support the notion that veganism is “just for women” and that men will be stigmatized if they participate in “regular” veganism without the masculinity facade to protect them, this is doing the movement a disservice. Instead of pandering to patriarchy and capitalism to be heard, activists could instead incorporate a feminist approach to anti-speciesism. In this way, all interests are considered, and one group will not be demeaned for the hoped benefit of another.

Capitalists will inevitably argue that gendering veganism is simply catering to the market, but they are actually creating a market with approaches of this kind (LEGO makes the same disingenuous claim about its gendered products). A market built on oppression, one that functions to divide groups along lines of power and powerlessness, will not be a space that is conducive to liberation.

 


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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“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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Men Gnawing on Steaks

Man in a suit sits in front of a plate with a raw steak, knife and fork poised in his fists on the table

Following my essay on Women Laughing Alone with Salads, a colleague became curious and googled what we might consider to be the reverse: men eating steaks. What he found, and what I was able to verify in my own Google image search, was the repeated theme of men gnashing their teeth at a big slab of flesh, often with a fork and knife firmly planted on either side of its plate.

In a somewhat primordial manner, these images seem to read, “I AM MAN; MAN NEED MEAT.” The firm, just-slammed look of his fists and the strong grip they have on the utensils are rather common gender codes that present men as in control and in command over their surroundings.

Man gnawing on raw steak

Interestingly, the steaks are almost always shown uncooked. The intention is likely to portray men’s flesh-consumption (a very unnatural behavior) as natural. This is underscored by the frequency of stock photographs that show men consuming the steak directly without the help of utensils, gnawing on the flesh as though they were a carnivorous nonhuman species.

Another interesting point: when I searched for images of women eating steaks, time and time again, they are grappling with raw flesh positioned above the head as though overwhelmed (people don’t eat upside down). It also seems to suggest subservience, a subservience that is frequently sexualized through pose and nudity. When she is using utensils, she is more likely to be handling them weakly or in an unsure manner.

Woman Eating Steak

Overall, images of women eating steaks are few, as the notion is contrary to gender norms. When pictured at all, it is clear that the gender hierarchy must be preserved by demonstrating that flesh consumption (an act of domination and power) is less natural and more awkward for women.

Women Cutting Steak

Meat acts as a symbol of masculinity. Therefore, men interact with meat to demonstrate their prowess, while women interact with meat to demonstrate their subservience.


Corey Lee Wrenn

Dr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology with the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Political Movements 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), was elected Chair in 2018, and co-founded the International Association of Vegan Sociologists in 2020. She serves as Book Review Editor for Society & Animals and Editor for The Sociological Quarterly, is a member of The Vegan Society’s Research Advisory Committee, and hosts Sociology & Animals Podcast. Dr. Wrenn has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender StudiesEnvironmental Values, Feminist Media StudiesDisability & SocietyFood, 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), Piecemeal Protest: Animal Rights in the Age of Nonprofits (University of Michigan Press 2019), and Animals in Irish Society (SUNY Press 2021).

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