Feminism & Food
Browsing the internet for hours can turn up some pretty interesting subjects. Catching up on my google reader from the holidays, I began reading a Bitch article about PETA’s disgusting objectification of women. (I have nothing to add to the feminist critique of PETA’S advertising tactics except to echo the many criticisms already written.) The article highly recommended Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat. Adams has written several books about the intersection of vegan/vegetarianism and feminism, (see a more comprehensive list here) and I would be very interested to hear readers’ thoughts on the subject.
Admittedly, I know very little about this subject and would love to know more. I am one of those guilty Americans who orders a cheeseburger at a pub and the next day buys wilting, overpriced organic basil in an attempt to counteract my murderous eating ways. A few days later I’m happily enjoying a chicken panini and the cycle continues. The blog Vegans of Color argues that racism, speciesism, and other -isms that perpetuate an imbalance of power and privilege are all connected. (Their tag-line: Because we don’t have the privilege of being single-issue.) Another blog, Sistah Vegan, specifically marries eating habits and feminism and argues that a vegan/raw food diet is a tool for black women to decolonize and assert control over their own bodies.
A (female) reader’s review of The Sexual Politics of Meat stated an opinion that I have heard before applied to the connection between feminism and racism:
Feminists, in their tendency to view their set of beliefs as a seamless garment, often argue that their other causes are an inherent part of feminism, which burdens feminism by making it more exclusionary. I don’t often hear people making the opposite argument and burdening their other causes with feminism. Adams argues that vegetarianism should be considered an intrinsic part of feminism. Does she argue that feminism is an intrinsic part of vegetarianism? Does she tell vegans that they can’t really consider themselves to be vegetarians if they don’t support feminist issues?
I don’t think feminism is burdened when it includes other causes. I think very few people have the luxury to be single-issue and all aspects of their identities should be respected as a whole. What would the feminist movement be without feminists of color? Feminists with different abilities? Feminists of different gender identities and sexual orientations? (I shudder at the thought.) To quote another feminist raw food blog (I found a surprising number of them), Choosing Raw,
Labels are, if nothing else, hopelessly limited. Whether political, racial, cultural, or dietary, they simply fail to capture the variety and complexity of human identity in an adequately nuanced fashion.
Also, I think very few other causes are “burdened” by feminism because Feminism is still a very dirty word for many people, and people fear that the label itself will drive away supporters.
Should there be a line when it comes to animals, though? Our furry (or scaly, feathered, etc) friends suffer persecution only for food and fashion, not for their gender/race/other identity factors. We could claim veganism as a path towards one of the ever elusive goals of feminism: agency over our healthy, celebrated bodies. We could object to speciesism on the grounds that we, as feminists, object to and refuse to take part in any system of power imbalance where those with more power persecute those with less. Or we could just ignore it because plenty of white men are vegans, so the movement is bound to continue in perpetuity, right?
What say you readers?