Carol J. Adams gave a speech called “The Sexual Politics of Meat,” which supported both eco-feminism and vegetarianism, and drew parallels between the two concepts yesterday. It was presented in the form of a slideshow.
Through the use of advertisements, most of which she received in the mail from supporters, Adams showed how pornography is heavily used in advertising, as well as how women are often depicted as being merely “pieces of meat.”
Adams divided the lecture into chapters, with each one addressing a different aspect of the way meat and women are portrayed, and showing how “species oppression intersects with sexual oppression.”
“I think the speaker is very sincere and honest. She really believes in what she’s doing,” said Hao-Jing Huang grad.
One chapter called attention to the absent referent. “The absent referent keeps us from feeling,” Adams said.
She said that it allows us to separate what we are eating from the animal the meat comes from.
She went on to explain how our culture classifies things into two groups, which are called A and not-A.
The two groups are contraries, with group A holding the categories of male, culture, human and white. Not-A contains the categories female, nature, animal and “colored.”
When explaining how the not-A group is often considered subservient in modern society, Adams said, “Not-A serves A; the dominated serves the dominant.” She later added, “The only reason why we don’t see the killing of animals as murder is because they’re not-As.”
She also said that stereotypes are used to further differentiate between the two groups.
Adams references pornography as one of the ways in which women, who are in the not-A group, are further degraded. She said that, through pornography, “inequality is made sexy.”
Rear-entry photographs are used in pornography to indicate that the woman in the photograph is “open, ready, and available.” They portray women as being animal-like with little or no self-control. Similar poses are commonly used in advertisements. Animals such as cows and chickens are given effeminate features and shown in rear-entry positions.
“It gives me a different perspective the next time I see an advertisement like that,” said Allison Petrucci ’05.
Through the use of terms such as breast and thigh, all chickens and turkeys have become feminized.
The way in which animals are portrayed in advertisements has lead to the term, “anthropornography,” or “the depiction of animals as whores.”
“Animals are consumed literally. Women are consumed visually,” Adams said.
The slides she showed, including an advertisement for chicken that showed a woman in a suggestive pose and the caption, “Nibble on these,” and another featuring a cooked chicken with a bikini tan, emphasized her point.
“Double entendres, puns and visual substitutions” are all used while drawing parallels between women and meat, and this has helped contribute to a society in which “all women live in sexual objectification the way fish live in water.”
“It [the lecture] made me think a lot about the way I perceive my own gender, because I know that’s something I struggle with,” said Emily Parsons ’09. “As an artist I have a tendency to make art about females. It can be a feminist thing, but it can also be a gender trap.”
When asked how her slideshow has evolved over time, Adams said, “It’s very sad. There’s more and more terrible images out there. It’s not going away, it’s getting worse – It’s such an uphill battle.”
Adams also compared the way women are portrayed in advertisements to the way men are portrayed.
“Men, especially white men, are supposed to be shown in control or taken care of,” Adams said.
When men are shown in meat advertisements, they are depicted in a virile manner, fully clothed and eating cooked meat. Women, on the other hand, are commonly shown wearing very little clothing and eating raw meat, which once again implies that women are similar to animals and may be treated as such.
“We’re encouraged to believe we can’t change,” Adams said.
Adams wanted her lecture to make the audience say, “I can change … I can try to do the least damage possible.”
At least some audience members did walk away thinking of changing. “I think I might try [being vegetarian] for a week and see how it goes because I’ve never done this before,” Huang said.
Adams used the format of a slideshow because of the complexity of the idea she tried to convey.
“It’s a difficult concept … I wanted there to be a way for people to experience their own relationship with the images.”
The lecture was sponsored by the Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense. A short question and answer section followed the lecture.
Archived article by Sara Gorecki