It has been over twenty years since Carol Adams wrote The Sexual Politics of Meat, and her message was a strong one. Her basic idea is that the sexual oppression of women is tied up with the violent oppression of non-human animals. She argues that women are used as sexual objects to sell animals-as-food that renders women and animals absent from the image but supports strong negative cultural messages about them. It seems her message, over twenty years old, is still relevant. For example, just recently Goodtime Burgers published an advertisementwhich was a photoshopped image of a meat patty and salad between the buttocks of a headless woman in a bikini, accompanied with the caption “the freshest fun between the buns”. The responses seem to be mixed, some seeing it as “gross” and “unappetizing” and others seeing the sexism inherent in the image. Still, some people may wonder why we should care about such “sexist schoolboy toilet humour”, but the reality is that these images hold more power than we often give credit for. They posit women and animals as objects to be consumed by men. The ideology behind rendering women and animals as consumables is problematic, as it has consequences for women and animals who share the brunt of violence from Patriarchal culture.
First of all, if you head to the Facebook page of this Goodtime Burgers you will find some images that show that men are, indeed, the audience that they are trying to reach, and it is clear that pornographic suggestions are used to sell the burgers. It is reminiscent of Playboy and Hooters-style imagery when the women are shown wearing shirts that say “I love girls”, “I like big buns” and “You now it’s a good time when it’s running down your face”. When feminists all over the world work to end sexual violence against women, these sexualized, pornographic advertisements to sell a product (meat) that has come about through violence (the death of an animal) are not simply “schoolboy toilet humour” but indicators of a social-wide acceptance of the exploitation of women and animals. This is the reason why the same image would not work between a man’s buttocks, as one commentator has suggested – the background of ideas sexualizing him and selling him for consumption through pornographic imagery does not exist. It is men who are the consumers – not the consumed.
The gendered nature of how animals are perceived, used and abused in our culture is stark, which is why human-animal studies, critical animal studies and feminist theory must be acutely aware of the intersections of such violence. There is plenty of evidence to show the links between violence against women and animals. Hunting practices are predominantly practiced by men, and there are links between violence against women and animal abuse, an increased experience of violence by those working in slaughterhouses and the cruel practices of intense farming, and everyday uses of language that use animal metaphors to refer to women. This is on top of a sexual politics of meat. References to animals and women as food are used interchangeably, as we see in the ad’s reference to “freshest fun between the buns” and refer to an entire system of abuse and violence against women and animals. Each system of oppression sustains another, which is why we must protest against such advertisements that pile brick upon brick on the wall of Patriarchy that harms us all.
Author: Mel Jackman