The image above is up for interpretation. Immediately upon looking at it, I was confused. Who made this image? What is the point? Is that real meat? Did the artist waste actual meat in order to convey a point about not eating or wasting meat??? If I had to say what this image represents, I think it’s the mystery behind the meat industry. We see a nondescript white chef clip art character cutting into a slab of meat. The man is vague, and the action makes me want to look away – exactly like the meat industry. People want to ignore how the meat gets on the table. Paul McCartney famously once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
Gendered eating is something that can be socially ingrained in us from the time we are young. It may be something we are not even aware of. I was not until I read the article “Meat Heads: New Study Focuses on How Meat Consumption Alters Men’s Self-Perceived Levels of Masculinity” by Zoe Eisenberg. The article says that genders are assigned certain foods, such as men with meat and women with salads. A google image search can back that up. I googled “man eating” and here are some results:
I googled “woman eating” and got these results:
I am not surprised.
Another gendered food conception is that healthier food in general is for women, and unhealthier food for men. A study was done with 93 adults where certain foods were shown to them, and they were to say whether or not they considered the foods masculine or feminine. For example, they were to label baked chicken or fried chicken. The results backed up that people have a perception of different foods, or even the way the are prepared, applying to different genders. (More about the study can be found here: https://time.com/4021781/food-marketing-gender/)
There are two main theories regarding how ecofeminists see humans’ relationship with non-human animals. One is from Greta Gaard. She believes that the next natural progression in ecofeminist theory is being vegetarian, just as the progression of feminism created ecofeminism. The other is Diane Curtin, who believes in contextual moral vegetarianism. This is basically saying that eating animals is wrong in cases that it is not necessary to do so. She argues that in some cases, it could be morally okay. For example, when a family has no other option for food supply unless it came from an animal. While these two theories do differ, they have some shared principles. In her essay “Vegetarian Ecofeminism,” Gaard said “One of the strengths of feminist thought is that it is never ‘just’ about women: it is a critical discourse that tends to ask uncomfortable questions about everything.” I like that this quote calls the conversation about vegetarianism uncomfortable. For some people, it is. Eating habits and what we consume daily are very personal, and some people are not open-minded to hearing other points of view about it. It can also be uncomfortable because a lot of people who consider themselves feminists may have never heard of ecofeminism, much less vegetarian ecofeminism.
Most people who aren’t born into a vegetarian culture but later on choose to become vegetarian do so out of sympathy for animals (Gaard 119.) The abuse and suffering of animals in the meat industry is well known. Many of us just choose to look the other way, or not think about it. Eating meat and other animal products is so ingrained into our culture. It is more taboo to be vegetarian or vegan than it is to be a meat consumer, despite the stigma the meat industry holds. By ignoring the suffering of animals, vegetarian ecofeminist believe that humans are being held to a higher regard than non-human animals. It is oppressing another living animal. That is when the concept of speciesism comes into play. Speciesism is “an arbitrary form of discrimination that gives preference to one’s own species over all other species and that functions in a way that is similar to racism or sexism” (Gaard 122). In vegetarian ecofeminism, oppression of all animals, human or non, is wrong. Curtain would agree with that in areas where people are financially well-off and can find other food sources, which is often the case in America. Curtain believes that vegetarianism should be followed unless there is an absolute real reason for it not to be, in the name of survival.
Eisenberg, Zoe. “Meat Heads: New Study Focuses on How Meat Consumption Alters Men’s Self-Perceived Levels of Masculinity.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 13 Jan. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/meat-heads-new-study-focuses_b_8964048.
Gaard, Greta. “Vegetarian Ecofeminism.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 23, no. 3, Sept. 2002, p. 117. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/fro.2003.0006.
This is a quality source because it is another writing from a man ecofeminist we are studying, Greta Gaard. This was published in an academic journal within the past twenty years. This source gives her argument for vegetarianism and includes some great quotes.