Let’s play: Woman, vegetable, or mineral (or maybe all three?)

Katie Presley

Katie PresleyI can’t make up my mind about feminist vegetarians. Which means I can’t make up my mind about myself. What I can’t decide is this: Are the two related? Am I one at least partially because I am the other? Why do so many women hate meat so much? Why does my mom have to lie to my stepdad and tell him he’s eating beef when he’s eating tofu? Have I hopped on too many bandwagons with my coexistent activisms?

There are, it seems to me, quite a few reasons for ladies to opt for chik’n instead of chicken. The meat industry is one of the worst for its female employees. Pregnancy and childbirth will get you fired, as will trying to report the sexual harassment you will have to prepare for. The freezing temperatures in packing factories increase menstrual cramps that then require women to miss work. That will get them fired, too.

Video games and TV bombard their audiences with comparisons between women and animals, both as domesticated pets and as pieces of meat. Do any of these sound familiar? Chick, chicken, beaver, kitty, pussy, bird, cow, bunny, fox, babe, bitch…some of these words get used so often to describe human females that hearing them in context as animals is more jarring to the senses. Let

Hustler magazine (all other criticism aside) once ran a cover with a women being run through a meat grinder. A KFC in Fort Worth, Texas, offers a Hillary [Clinton] Dinner: “Two fat thighs, two small breasts and one left wing.” Phrases like “nice breasts,” “great legs” and “hot chicks” get used all the time in meat advertising. So…are we all supposed to be cannibals? Are women the other white meat?

Not quite. The non-meat sector hasn’t quite gotten its beat down, either. Pamela Anderson poses with lettuce leaves as her bikini in an advert saying “Turn Over a New Leaf.” Way to convince us you deserve better than the meatloaf we’re sitting down to, Pam. A large part of advertising for meat substitutes is aimed at women ‘tricking’ their husbands into healthier vegetarian diets. (“Half the fun of eating your veggie burger is eating. The other half, tricking your husband.”)

I have no husband. I do not even really cook. And it would take a very small amount of lettuce to cover my breasts. Not very many people would want to wear lettuce because of me. So where do I fit in?

A protester throws a bucket of blood on a woman wearing a fur coat. Usually this protester is portrayed as an angry, ugly woman in popular media. I used to think this was great. Right up my angry alley. Now I hesitate. What is so different about attacking this woman and attacking one trying to walk into an abortion clinic? Both people are trying to live their lives based on their own choices. Someone else has deemed these choices immoral and disgusting and has invaded the privacy of the perpetrator to the point of harassment.

Putting this in writing, I can see this connection. In action I want activism to be in-your-face and upsetting and impossible to avoid. But I also see that radical action for any cause can go down a predictable, dangerous path that crucifies one person for supposedly representing all that is evil about their lifestyle. Essentially, I have yet to see a balance struck consistently by my fellow rabble-rousers in both the meatless camp and the vagina-loving camp. We haven’t figured out how to stop getting called bitches. Funny thing that so many feminists, perhaps disproportionately, have experience with that word.

Funny thing that I don’t buy into coincidence. If feminists are uber-women, we better be uber-compared to something domestic and controllable.

I’m not going to buy meat because it’s expensive. I have a heart condition, and animal products raise cholesterol and lead to heart disease. I don’t like the way meat tastes, and to me it all tastes vaguely like blood.

This has nothing to do with my feminism, except that I also hate the word “bitch.” I will make my choices and contribute to my causes for myself. I will never throw blood, and I will walk any girl through a crowd of screaming pro-lifers that needs it. My activism is to educate others but ultimately to do the (usually unrelated) things I think need doing.