On "Becoming a piece of meat"

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Baby Beef Rubaiyat Steak House (Tomato) - Remix

I originally wrote this commentary as part of my latest intersectionality link roundup, but the stupid is so painful that it quickly morphed into a full-blown post. Head on over to Salon and skim through Roger Thomas’s interview of Julie Powell (yes, she of Julie & Julia fame) for the backstory, as I haven’t included any excerpts here. It’s pretty clear to which statements I’m responding, anyhow.

Also, while Powell refers only to vegetarians and “meat” consumption in the interview, I’ve taken the liberty of extending her slurs to vegans as well. Clearly, you and I know that the two are not interchangeable, but seeing as the mainstream media usually treats them as such, *shrug*.

Salon: Becoming a piece of meat; Julie Powell’s racy follow-up to “Julie and Julia” — and why she’s fine turning into the new poster child for S/M

Dear Roger Thomas and/or Julie Powell:

1) BDSM and “rough sex” are not even remotely comparable to the exploitation and butchery of nonhuman animals. The former are consensual acts; the latter, not.

A better comparison is that of rape to “meat” production (and consumption): in each case, the oppressor dehumanizes and objectifies his (or her; women don’t typically rape other humans, but they do engage in, support and defend the exploitation of nonhuman animals) victim, treating her as a “thing” to be (ab)used and discarded at will, rather than the sentient individual that she is. To rape a woman is to treat her like “a piece of meat” – and nonhuman animals are no more and no less “meat”-like than human animals.

Of course, nonhuman animals are also literally raped as a matter of course in most (if not all) animal exploitation industries, especially animal agriculture. Usually this rape serves a “practical” purpose, i.e., in order to forcible impregnate female animals (or to obtain the sperm of males); other times, sexual violence is used as a means of control or punishment. Whatever its purpose, these violations are no less violating when visited upon the bodies of cows, pigs and chickens.

[For just several examples of “purposeless” sexual violations, see: PETA’s Iowa Sow Farm/Hormel Supplier Investigation, 2008; PETA’s Butterball Investigation, 2006; and PETA’s Belcross Farms Investigation, North Carolina, 1998-1999.

While undercover investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses are easy to come by, Googling for specific examples of rape and sexual assault is a depressing and difficult task: the rape and sexual assault of nonhuman animals is rarely referred to as rape and sexual assault. In general, this can be attributed to the attitude (quite pervasive among non-veg/an feminists, in my experience) that nonhuman animals, being the “unthinking,” “unfeeling” “brutes” that they are, cannot be sexually violated; that is, they don’t know enough to perceive sexual violations as such, and thus are not traumatized by rape and sexual abuse. Additionally, many forms of sexual violence are fundamental to the system; without the forced impregnation (and resulting birth) of sows, hens, ewes, nannies, heifers, mares, bitches, etc., our systems of animal exploitation would crumble. Here, the routineness of the violations renders them invisible and unnamed.

(More below the fold…)