I thought that today (as no time can be soon enough for sharing a pertinent piece of writing) I would write about one of my favourite books from the animal rights movement—which is more accurately an intersectional book, and one that explores the indivisible relationship between animal rights, feminism, civil rights, disability rights, and all forms of oppression or societal injustice—The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams (1990).
Adams explores notions of traditional (which is to say, old-fashioned) ideas of masculinity and femininity, and gives particular focus to the “absent-referent”—the lack of acknowledging, in an animal’s case, their death and dismemberment to provide a meal, and in a woman’s case, of their being turned into objects in a culture that normalises their being viewed as things for mere sexual consumption.
We see this also in remarks, for example, made about Hillary Clinton—“a hawk with no breasts and two left wings,” or labelling women as “chicks” and “tootsie rolls” and their use in advertising to fellate hot dogs or having burger buns in place of their buttocks, and so on.
Adams also analyses stories through history that touch on animal rights, such as Frankenstein and The Shooting Party. When I read this book I was already engaged by the subjects of animal rights, feminism, and humanism, so I don’t know what my reaction would have been five years before that; but if books are meant to pry open our complaisant eyes to ideas that, though they may have occurred to us, have not quite come to the forefront of our consciousness yet in all their importance, then this is perhaps one of the first books that compassionate people ought to find and read.
The writing is potent but affable, and the ideas simple but unforgettable; on today’s crowded bookshelf the general reader or a vegan old or new would do well to go directly to this book. The messages she shares are critical to communicate with the widest audience possible, and are as important today as when the book was published more than a quarter century ago.