In the most random of moments, today I came across an article about the connections between the objectification of women and meat in advertisements. The article itself was about a conference that feminist author and animal rights advocate Carol J. Adams gave at Michigan State University. From the article about the conference:
The lecture focused on the connection between the oppression of women and animals.
“I’m looking at how women in our culture are animalized and how animals are feminized and sexualized,” Adams said.
Adams is the author of several books, including “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and “The Pornography of Meat.”
She used a slideshow with pictures of advertisements and images from her books to supplement her lecture.
Adams said in the U.S., advertising represents public attitudes about meat and the female body.
“I think (images and advertisements are) a way now of hiding misogyny and making it safe to be misogynistic in a culture where sexual assault is illegal,” she said. “The problem is attitude.”
I do not eat meat. I do not like to label myself a vegetarian, though. That label carries limitations and is symbolic of many wrongs and elitisms in much of the Western World. I do not eat meat for several reasons, my love of animals being the primary one (to which I came into through a long process that is personal and beyond the point for this post). However, labeling myself vegetarian would also limit my interactions. I get invited to dinners and meetings where food is served by people of cultures other than mine. I have to attend business (and personal) events where food has been arranged and it sometimes happens that, in cultures other than the one where I live, vegetarianism is not considered or present as a daily, regular occurrence. When someone invites me to share a meal, I feel terrible imposing my restrictions, especially when said meal has already been carefully planned in advance. I accept the food graciously and enjoy it. If I am invited to eat at someone’s place, I will eat anything that is served because I am grateful for the invitation and the time, money and efforts put into planning the meal. I don’t do this out of some holier than thou creed but because I’ve seen directly, family members and friends spend whatever money they had left to prepare a meal for guests. In the Argentinian environment where I grew up, people tend to give their best for communal meals. The same can be said of friends and family I regularly visit in Spain. In both cases, especially among older folks, little if any thought is ever given to vegetarianism. (I should devote a series of posts just to my Spanish mother’s weekly worries and nagging about meat).
But then I read about vegetarians like the one above, talking about meat consumption and the relation between sexualization and objectification and I tend to get pretty upset. The amount of privilege and blindness towards the realities of much of the world are staggering. That this conference takes place at a University only furthers the detachment between the educated, wealthy classes and the poor, those who either eat meat or well, just perish.
While going through this thought process and my usual associations, I also wondered if there was an equivalent to the Pyramid of Needs but for Oppression. Something like a “Pyramid of Oppression“ where I would place all of this vegetarian nonsense at pretty much the bottom. As I thought about it, I also immediately realized the futility of such graphic. Oppression is relative to one’s reality. The Pyramid of Oppression for, say, a transwoman of color living in a major urban center would look very different to the Pyramid of Oppression of a cisgendered woman living in a rural region of Asia. Both would have equally devastating effects on the respective individuals, but they would involve very different factors.
However, I still did a search on Google Images for the terms “Pyramid of Oppression”. I was wondering if anyone had attempted to create such graph. The second result, even though it was not exactly what I was looking for, offered the best visual depiction of such pyramid I can think of. A “Pyramid of Oppression” like no other.