Jun 21 2005

On Dinner And Patriarchy

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. [From PETA]

Reader Lil, unnerved by my meatly proclivities, recently took me to task for my failure to address “animal and food politics consciousness” along with the general patriarchy-blaming.

What I know of Lil suggests that she is a thoughtful person (she left an excellent comment on the pie fight post attributing the vileness at Abu Ghraib to the pervy patriarchal sense of fun) and I applaud her interest in holding her internet feminists to a high ethical standard. A vegetarian’s enthusiasm for any given lefty blogger would understandably wane if it turned out that the blogger in question is blithely sauntering from town to town cramming the products of institutionalized cruelty into her mouth.

Now that there are cruelty-free meat options, I don’t believe that the feminist appetite must automatically default to vegetarian. Still, it cannot be ignored that one of the founding principles of patriarchy (the blaming of which, you will have noticed, is something of a theme with me) is meat, meat, and more meat. All meat all the time. Eat meat, wear meat, sell meat, use women as meat, use women as meat to sell meat. Naturally, anything so cherished by the patriarchy must come under suspicion by those who seek to blame it.

It’s no secret to anyone with even a partial brain that factory “farms” are places of indescribable horror. Beakless chickens collapsing under their own weight; cattle strung up on hooks, still living, their tracheas ripped out; pigs boiled alive at the rate of 1000 an hour. That these atrocities are driven by greed rather than need imbues them with a particularly patriarchal stench, for as we have seen, The Establishment has no interest in living things beyond the extent to which they can be exploited.

But I’m not just talking about corporate greed. The American individual’s sense of meat-entitlement is as deeply ingrained as his fundamental burly-man right to a V8 engine and marital rape. It’s as though Hamburgers For All were written into the Bill of Rights. But here’s the thing:

Anytime an individual gratifies a hankerin’ for a McBallbuster, he debases our whole species. If he buys a cello-pak of Tyson drumettes at the Piggly Wiggly, he debases our whole species. If he protests, “I feel bad about the slaughterhouses, but I can’t afford organic free-range cruelty-free rump roasts,” the answer is: “Try the falafel!” It’s either that or live with his complicity in the completely gratuitous suffering of sentient beings who, let’s face it, never said a word against him.

The latter of which would make him a lowlife fucktard hypocrite, which would probably not be news to his wife, who has been aware of his secret stash of “Hot Teen Butts” magazines for quite some time.

Buy organic!


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  1. deja pseu

    For those of you with a Trader Joe’s in the neighborhood, they have several organic, free-range poultry and meat products available. Or try your local Kosher market. It may not be organic or free-range, but kashrut laws dictate how the animal must be killed, and emphasizes minimizing pain and cruelty.

    I’ve really noticed a difference in switching to (mostly) organic products, especially dairy and meat. My body now reacts very negatively to the growth hormones present in most commercial non-organic dairy products. It’s like Instant PMS in a carton!

  2. Twisty

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but according to PETA, the kosher market is no guarantee of humane treatment. Read it and weep. Make sure you’re not gettin’ Rubashkin’s or Aaron’s Best Meats!

  3. homossouri

    It’s probably a mistake to confuse ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ with ‘cruelty free’. Unless you don’t think that killing stuff, however gently, isn’t fundamentally cruel. The logical and ethical contortions required to feel mighty fine about ingesting cadavers rival those required to believe in the naturalness of patriarchy, or the goodness of BushCo. Even if nature is all about murder and rape, we hominids, burdened as we are with conscience, have the ability – and perhaps the duty – to draw a line in the tablecloth and say “It stops with me.”

  4. TeenageCatgirl

    Excellently put, Homossouri.

    Personally, I’m not sure how you would go about cutting throats gently.

  5. Twisty

    Yes, well said, Homossouri. I absolutely appreciate the vegetarian point of view. In fact, I subscribed to it myself for many years.

    But do you really see nature as all about murder and rape? I see it as quite the opposite. I spend a lot of time following wild critters around–my ranch is a wildlife preserve–and the one thing I have never seen any of’em do is exhibit gleeful bloodlust. Humans appear to have cornered that market, on this planet, at least.

  6. Sunni

    Thanks, Twisty, for the thoughtful post on buying organic. I am mostly vegetarian (I currently eat fish and seafood) and will probably go back to full vegetarian like I was for years before now. Regardless of my particular eating habits, however, I feel that anyone who chooses to eat meat should make all reasonable attempts to buy organic. To do otherwise is actually quite horrifying if you ponder it.

    Try the falafel indeed. I just got back from East Texas (dare I say the meat eating capital of the state?) and whipped up a batch of falafel for “sandwich night” at my parents’ house. A few people did try it and pronounced it “not bad” between mouthfuls of shrink-wrapped turkey and ham, all floppy and grey. Huh. Perhaps it was the lack of tahini, which I found a dearth of at the local Krogers. (I was just impressed they had Nature’s Food Falafel mix!)

  7. homossouri

    No, in truth, I don’t think nature is all about murder and rape. The hyperbole was a cheez-E rhetorical device. Nature is neither all bonobo-rape, nor is it all pretty blossoms. I wager it’s six of one, half dozen of the other, like a lot of stuff.

  8. Twisty

    It’s definitely not all pretty blossoms. I won’t lie to you and say I don’t feel kind of horrible all over when I see a red-tailed hawk take a swoop at a baby bunny.

  9. Anonymous

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that although I do absolutely support and endorse ethical and cruelty-free treatment of animals, that I do not support PETA. They have a history or misogynistic and sexist ad campaigns and stunts and have shown no remorse for degrading women to promote better treatment of animals. Don’t mean to incite a war here, but when they use women’s bodies to promote their cause and attract attention, it shows me that they’re not getting the patriarchy/meat connection themselves.

  10. emjaybee

    I’m pretty sure I couldn’t make a convincing argument that carnivorousness (organic, free range, etc., yes) is ok for people to someone who was convinced it was in itself morally wrong, so I won’t.

    But I don’t agree, and I guess I can leave it at that. I would ask that those of us who promote organic, free-range carnivorousness not focus on meat consumers as the main culprits, because like it or not, finances have a lot to do with what people buy at the meat counter, and if there are organic choices available, they are expensive. And because most people will just get defensive and tune you out anyway.

    I would rather spend my energy on reforming the food industry itself, so that more people get the *chance* to eat organic and realize it really does taste better and is better for you. There are real health reasons to get rid of feedlots, hormones, etc., and that is where the strongest chances for change are. People may not be open to hearing “meat is murder” so much as “antibiotic-pumped, hormone-laced meat is bad for you and your kids.”

    Just my $.02.

  11. deja pseu

    That was my comment above, forgot to log in. And should read “history of”.

  12. Twisty

    PETA get alot of their dough from Hollywood, the epicenter of American misogyny.

  13. Twisty

    Emjaybee makes the excellent point that an ethical vegetarian lifestyle is a luxury, and as such can be construed as a class issue. Lots of people don’t have access to resources–education-wise, time-wise, and provender-wise–required for a healthy vegetarian diet; this little snag particularly affects kids and pregnant/nursing women, who need more protein, and yet are most likely to live in poverty.

  14. homossouri

    I realize this particular piece of gristle has been well-masticated by now…but I’d be no kind of fanatic if I didn’t point out that a fair percentage of the world’s poor (that is, a fair percentage of the world’s people)enjoy a bean-and-grain-o-centric diet. Because it’s cheap, right? Though I imagine the ones without ethical/religious objections would happily devour the nearest squab if they could. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the word.

    What was my point? It seems rather less brilliant since I started in on the Shiraz mid-post. I bet it had something to do with home economics though.

  15. Twisty

    Well if you can’t drink Shiraz in the middle of a patriarchy-blaming post, when can you drink it?

    I get what you’re saying, however, and agree that in many parts of the world it’s probably true. I base my vegan-as-luxury remark on a study I read a while ago and of course cannot now find so you’ll just have to take my word for it saying kids and their single mothers living in urban poverty in developed countries are less likely than wealthier people to be acquainted with tenets of basic nutrition and are therefore unlikely to know how to combine grains and whatnot to achieve the desired healthy vegan glow. This cannot come as much of a surprise when ketchup was once declared a vegetable by these people’s own government.

  16. Lizzie

    Just for everyone to know, a lot of people in the animal advocacy world really have “issues” with PETA for the exact same reasons y’all mentioned. Sadly, though, PETA’s the group who gets the attention, because they’re the one’s who know how- apparently by any means necessary. Please know that there is more to animal advocacy than just that infamous group. I mean, the Humane Society of the United States is awesome- and they manage a message that is VERY respected by a wide political swath of Americans- tres impressive feat these days.

  17. Lil

    Hey Twisty, delighted that you responded to my comment in such a thoughtful way. I agree with you that a feminist need not necessarily become vegetarian. I think that the psychological war between veggies and carnivores just wastes energy that could otherwise go to changing our food systems and especially putting an end to the unbelievably cruel methods of factory animal farming.

    My original point was made because it is my opinion that, if one is going to be a meat-eater, it should be done with “food conciousness” (as you articulately demonstrated in this post) and respect for the animal who is providing you with the meat.

    But — off topic, the photography is awesome. Are you the photographer?

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