by Gabriel Setright
Of the last three issues of the Echo, two of the covers have pictured meat. These covers seemed out of place and unrelated to the content described in the issue. We were troubled that no recognition or comment was made on the process of how, and why, we as a society consume meat. This response is triggered by the lack of acknowledgement, on the part of both the Echo and of the college as a whole, of the systems of violence and oppression toward animals and the environment.
First, the concept of “meat” is a product of the disconnect from and objectification of animals. As a society, consuming meat has become a commodity, a lifestyle, a choice, as well as a demonstration of privilege and power. This ideal is mainly perpetuated by the fact that the way we talk about meat is completely disconnected from where it comes from. For example, products such as hamburgers, steak, hot dogs, and leather have all been disconnected from the animals they are taken from. The only way to get these products is through the systematic killing of animals. The two Echo covers displaying meat showed the violent act of killing a non-human animal.
Second, society is obsessed with meat. We glorify meat, we compete for meat, we exchange meat, and—as previously mentioned—we are willing to kill for meat. How did these ideals become what they are in our society? One place to look for an answer is in the concept of “masculinity.” Eating meat has strongly been associated with the masculine ideal of authority, power, domination and control. Consuming meat is something that men do to stay “healthy” and full of energy to live their active lives; this also reinforces an oppressive gender binary by polarizing the concepts of masculinity as power above nature and femininity as identification with nature. The consumption of animals perpetuates patriarchy insofar as it emphasizes male power above other animals, both human and non-human. This oppressive ideal is also adopted into social discourses and is expressed by the dominant social attitudes which regard vegetarianism or veganism as a sign of weakness, associated with femininity, the “weaker sex.”
Third, there has been a significant amount of research coming from multiple environmental sources, claiming that the carnivorous diet is one of the main causes of environmental degradation. For example, the United Nations in 2006 stated that meat production is one of the sources of wide environmental problems, including loss of biodiversity, water shortage, and pollution. In this case doesn’t sponsoring meat go against the core of Warren Wilson’s sustainability claim?
Why is eating meat a feminist issue?
The Eco-Feminist Collective is a group of students who gather to analyze the intersectionalities between the oppression of women and the oppression of the environment. Ecofeminism draws attention to the parallels between the domination of women and the domination of animals. Women have been objectified and abused just as pigs, chickens and cows have been abused and tortured in farm factories. The underlying system of patriarchy is dominating women in the same way that it dominates animals. One example is in the way meat is disembodied from the animal it originated from, just as women are disembodied in mainstream magazines and are separated from the totality of their being. Women become pieces of meat that, just like the meat we consume, become glorified (celebrity culture), are competed for (the Bachelorette) and exchanged (the sex trade). Eating meat is a feminist issue because of the fact that the same systems that generated the meat we consume are the same ones that violently oppress women.
The purpose of this response is not to convert everybody to become vegetarians and vegans. Rather, it is to command the recognition that whenever we participate in eating meat, we are directly killing an animal, oppressing women, and enabling environmental degradation to continue in the process.
If you have a response, or would like to join in on our conversation, please join us for our weekly meetings, every Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Sage Café or “like” us on Facebook under “Ecofeminist Collective.” If you are interested in reading more about this, a good place to start is The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams.