Posts Tagged vegetarianism

Vegetarianism: an Identity or Choice?

After our discussion on Friday about vegetarians and vegetarianism I got to thinking about the way in which food consumption governs our personal and political identity.  Is being a vegetarian/vegan simply about food choice?  Does the choice to eat meat end after the waitor takes orders at a restaurant?

Vegetarians can be  “pesco-vegetarian” , “pollo-vegetarian”, “vegetarian”, “lacto-vegetarian”, “ovo-vegetarian” and “vegan”.  Phew!  What choices one has in food consumption!  If we’re discussing political identity as an extension of personal choice, how is a “lacto-vegetarian” percieved as opposed to a “pollo-vegetarian”?  Is the consumption of any feminized or animal proteins enough to make your political identity as a vegetarian invalid?  Or does the line of acceptable consumption lie with “meat” consumption- aka “peco/pollo-vegetarians”?

Adams argues that the term meat “others animals”, and acts as a force that “naturaliz[es] animals as intrinsically consumable”.  She makes the argument that “to be a pig is to be pork” “to be a chicken is to be poultry”.  Thus, humans as a group with almost complete hegemonic power over animals feel entitled to treat them as simply a means to the end of meat consumption.  The thinking behind the process of meat-eating extends beyond the agro-industrial complex.  The choice to eat meat becomes a point of personal identity and the process of “othering” extends beyond the realm of meat production to human relations.

Let’s explore some potential intersections of politics and personal identity.  When asked “why are you a vegetarian?”  there are a variety of answers given.  Some common ones include: the opposition to animal cruelty, the disapproval of the energy used to raise animals for slaughter, the need to eat healthily, and cultural/religious reasons.  Let’s be real: some people hop on the vegetarian bandwagon because it’s trendy and fits in with their hippie-inspired boho-chic wardrobe.  Plus all of the Celebrities are doing it!  By stating these reasons, I am not trying to invalidate them or the decision to abstain from meat-eating trivial.  I am simply trying to point out that the desire to eat a vegetarian diet stems from a number of reasons.  Are some of these more politically-driven than others?  Who decides?

Perhaps it’s the outward declaration of vegetarianism that allows for political identity to become involved.  If one says that they are a vegetarian, then they are claiming an identity as determined by another person.  While this certainly exists within this context, it is a concept that can be more broadly applied.  Any personal choice can be subject to subjective classification by another.  The choice to perform as a woman, the choice to appear or pass at heteronormative, the choice to wear certain clothes and speak in a certain way all have connotations attached to them that we cannot escape.  While it may seem like a personal choice to purchase and wear a certain shirt, in a small way you are claiming an identity and asserting political power with that purchase.  When you wear that shirt you will be perceived in a certain way and may be able to mediate access to things you would otherwise not be privy to (meetings with people, ideas, opportunities etc.).  You are using your buying power to support (or not support) equitable business practices.

In a more abstract way, this concept can be tied back to any assumed identity (race, ethnicity, gender performance).  As a person who is of a minority status within a majority culture their actions and choices can viewed through a politicized  lens.  This is problematic because a personal choice becomes political (or racial or gendered) without the individual muttering a word.  Thus, by simply existing one can be viewed as self-identifying with a group (as determined by the individual in power!) and thus subject to all biases the person who is making these connections has previously determined!  It seems to be an abstract link, the process of  “othering”, whether it is in the context of glamorizing a vegetarian or placing racist assumptions on an individual is rampant.  It takes different forms and masks its self in different “identities”, but ultimately acts to subordinate any group which does not adhere to the majority’s conception of the “norm”.

 

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Permalink: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/ecofeminism/2012/04/29/vegetarianism-…tity-or-choice/ ‎Edit Get Shortlink
Word count: 141   Last edited by jordan on April 29, 2012 at 2:28 am

 

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Feminist Consumption: To Eat or Not to Eat Meat, That is the Question

Can you be a feminist and still eat meat? Carol Adams says no, I disagree. She believes that to claim the first while doing the other is a “violation” of all of all of your principles and that meat consumption and the oppression of women are irrevocably linked.

 

Her argument goes as follows: People eat meat due to origin myths, the joint idea of the natural domestication of animals and women and need for labor, religious connections, and the empiricism of modern thought. Origin myths, and this idea that “real men” hunt and women stay at home, really bothers me. A bunch of white, middle-class men, with a superiority complex almost as big as the patriarchy itself, just started theorizing in the early 20th century , states Gruen, that men must have naturally have been the hunters and providers while women were simply there to “breed a workforce” (Gruen, 63). The same can be said for animals who, as women were domesticated to the home, were domesticated and delegated as solely food. Both groups lost their agency as these forced roles alienated them to a greater and greater degree from men and humans, respectively. Also, just as we discussed in “Living Downstream,” women are at a greater risk of environment pollution and man-made environmental issues (such as exposure to cancer causing particles) just as animals are connected to this risk (canary in a cave anyone?) in addition to the hazards of testing (such as these beauty products that harm women) on animals first. This same disregard for women and animals can be found in religion, although in varying ways. I am not particularly religious, but growing up I was always bothered by the how the torah states that the Earth was given to man and so were women, both here for him to control and if you read through it you will discover that animals are only mentioned to show a mans wealth or as a sacrifice, while women only come up when they are marrying a man or if they have done something “wrong.” Christianity in particular has a pretty bloody history with women. Religion is also at odds with feminist protein often, since they often are fine with eating animal eggs but view abortion as a “sin.” Adam’s last point is that in this decision on whether or not we should eat meat, people tend to get overly rational to the point of rationalizing immoral things as ok, which I do believe occurs however I doubt the decision to eat meat could ever be so simplistic.

It is here, however, that Adams and my opinions diverge. Whereas I agree that there is strong social evidence that this link between women and animals exists, and that their respective oppression and domestication is identical in many ways, I do not agree with her practice of equating animals to humans, and her arguments in which she perpetuates the this equation of people, and specifically women, to animals in order to try and convince readers of her point. I believe strongly in the humane treatment of animals, and that we as a population have horribly mistreated the animals that we have domesticated as we have grown more and more modern, however I do not believe that animals are human. We should not isolate animals as solely food, it is through this practice that industries such as McDonalds slaughter millions of animals, however saying that the “oppression that black people suffer in South Africa” (Adams, 207) is the same as the mistreatment and “warehousing” (Adams, 203) that animals suffer daily is insulting as well as ignorant of all of the intersections that impact humans and not animals. It is very possible that I am blinded by my own privilege, and for this reason don’t think killing a pig is as awful as say the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but for me at least they are completely different.  Animals are not just here for feeding humans, just as women are not just domestic baby-makers.

In there the end there are a million different ways to identify as a feminist. Get a job, raise a family, eat meat, don’t eat meat, be subversive, or just be you. To me, being a feminist means doing what you want despite the oppression and privilege that is at play. I have eaten mean and been a vegetarian at different parts of my life, and for me both are ok. We need to focus less on whether eating meat is the issue and more on the way that we go about consuming it.

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