Meat-Free Misogyny

July 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

by SARAH

In preparation for a delicious, animal-free dinner party I am to be throwing, I was leafing through the Babycakes cookbook (for those who don’t know, Babycakes is a rather excellent and slightly famous vegan bakery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side), and noticed this little blurb right in the middle of the cupcakes chapter:

You know her, you love her (me, too)!, and she needs no introduction…Ladies and gentlemen, the pride of PETA, Ms. Pamela Anderson!

A little-known fact: Animals especially appreciate being rescued by friends in white, French-cut bikinis as opposed to those in modest onesies (I don’t know why, they just do). And, of course, I’m happy to oblige – I’ve long been committed to sticking up for defenseless animals and the worldwide proliferation of sexy water-wear. But to successfully rock a shockingly shocking suit requires less chubby desserts. Thank all that is holy for Babycakes NYC and my new favorite indulgence: The sultry Healthy Hostess (aka Healthy Ho). In the wrong hands, Vegan fare can be tasteless, boring, and unattractive, but these are the greatest things since the California sunshine. When I bring the Ho’s around my boys and their buddies, they hover like undernourished pigeons, and with pals on set or at a fund-raiser it’s the same thing. In the end, I’m happy to pimp my Ho’s around town if it means chickens and cows remain unharmed and that people are made to realize that making delicious recipes doesn’t require the use of any animal products.

I’ll assume there’s no real need to explain the innuendo, but I must really point out and loudly shit on the encouragement of veganism as a weight-loss diet, a disturbingly widespread advertising trend that infuriates me largely because of how many young people really do use veganism as an excuse to hide their eating disorders. Here, Anderson appears to have been painted more as a billboard than an activist or even a real spokesperson. Comically shiny, cutesy, sexy, and glossy. That’s the image this text conjures up even without any pictures. Babycakes is, obviously, desperately trying to offset the traditionally feminine vibe of the pastel colors, cursive script, and pictures of ladies with brown curly hair in aprons with some unabashed appeal to the male gaze. And the mainstream vegetarian/animal rights movement nabs a spot in my list of “well-intentioned liberal-tinted movements that I despise” precisely because of this constant objectification of women, display of non-empowering sexuality, and obvious disregard for the dignity of over half the human population.

I’m sure many of us remember this intriguingly misguided bit of bullshit from a few years ago:

Ah, yes, the veg*n and vagina’d among us are all about the asparagus dildos.

Do vegetarians really have better sex? I don’t know! I’m sure there’s some sort of cause-and-effect snafu in play there. That’s kind of cool and interesting though, and I would really appreciate it if we lived in a society where we could introduce that sort of message to people’s minds without having to degrade women and enforce traditional notions of masculine sexuality to make it tolerable to the public.

It is true, PETA does sometimes put naked dudes in their ads.

Not good enough, though. Compare:

Both ads have de-clothed conventionally attractive people on them, giving the camera fuck-me eyes, with stupid captions sporting supposedly sexy puns that really don’t even make any sense. But the dude is facing the camera straight-on, with a sure, bold, dignified stare, in a powerful arms crossed position. The girl’s position is a lot more overtly sexualized, as if it were showing her off as a product.

Although, on one level, it baffles me why a lifestyle so seemingly compatible with feminism should become a platform for raging misogyny, it also really makes sense. On the other side of the dietary (but same side of the lady-hating) spectrum, we have those Swanson Hungry Man ads that question the masculinity (and mock the supposed femininity) of men who don’t eat lots and lots of frozen fried chicken from cardboard boxes:

There’s also that bogus but shockingly respected myth that a meat-free diet can lead to infertility in men, those jokes about Paul Rudd eating salad in that Jason Segal bromantic comedy, and the constant cultural equation of barbecue and burgers with good ol’ Uhmerrican manliness. Vegetarianism is undoubtedly feminized by US American society.  I’m sure I could go off and write at least 80 more pages about why that is, but the point is that these infuriating kinds of animal rights people are so afraid of this feminization that they have to bolt the other way. Typically, traditionally “feminine” industries and/or products, such as anything related to fashion, cosmetics, etc, often feel the need to go out of their way to make their product appealing to men by making their ads real sexy and pouty. Whereas traditionally masculine things like beer, bacon, trucks, whatever, rarely ever feel the need to make their products appeal to whatever standard those advertising people mean when they say “women.” On top of the fact that these advertisers already operate within restrictive and constructed notions of gender, they add insult to injury by acting afraid of female attention, because if too many girls like it then it’s a girly thing and girls have cooties. The route of masculinization that organizations like PETA take is one that is so obvious, gross, over-the-top and upfront about its total disregard for women, the real benefits of an animal friendly diet seem like a secondary message. I don’t believe for a second that it is necessary to encourage sexism twice as much as vegetarianism to get people to listen.

I became a vegan because it’s a lifestyle about compassion, respect, and, to a certain degree, humility.  The transition was an exercise in sacrificing personal desires for the sake of something bigger and more important, particularly challenging because I could not really see the results of my actions. But I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. I finally feel settled comfortably into my relatively new-found animal-free lifestyle (vegetarian for coming on 1 ½ years, vegan for about 4 months), and honestly, it makes me feel really, really fucking great. There are so many wonderful and obvious reasons to go veg*n for those who can physically and financially afford it. I also feel like my veganism and my feminism work in tandem, informing an important part of my identity and faithfully representing my principles and how I look at the world. However, the mainstream manifestation of the animal rights movement, in all of its cynicism and feminiphobia, pits animal rights against women’s dignity, ignoring the roots of its principles, not just succumbing to patriarchal influence, but actively supporting and encouraging it.

And Babycakes, because you ruined my morning, I will be serving homemade chocolate chunk coconut banana “ice cream” instead of your lovely looking peach cobbler.

§ One Response to Meat-Free Misogyny

  • vesta44 says:

    I have absolutely no use for PETA. Aside from their misogyny, they really don’t care about animals at all, it’s all about the publicity and fund-raising. They have shelters where they accept unwanted pets, but 95% of those pets are euthanized, not adopted into loving homes. How is killing unwanted pets a humane thing to do, when they campaign against killing animals for food/clothing? Hypocrisy, thy name is PETA.

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