Have you ever watched a televised advertisement or taken a second glance at a poster meant to sell you some delicious meal? As individuals living in Western society, there appears to be nothing wrong at the surface, but I urge you to think twice before you indulge in the message these corporations are trying to sell you.
Carol J. Adams in her interview with Annie Potts, describes how the sexualization and feminization of animals not only justifies the action of consumption, but also directly connects with the exploitation of women through cultural images that favor male centeredness. This can be described as:
Anthropornography → the presentation of animals, usually those presumed literally consumable, as sexually consumable in a way that upholds the sexual exploitation of women (Adams 14).
In other words, animals are presented in specified ways to generate capital in the food industry under the presumption that humans and non-human animals are separate species. Therefore, the sexualization and feminization of animals justifies consumption as it is targeted towards masculine consumers while simultaneously overlapping with the exploitation of women as justified consumption of feminized non-human animals implies that women are too in need of male control.
In order to apply this to our understanding of the women-nature association a select few images from Adams’ Sexual Politics of Meat will be analyzed.
Image #1: A Barbecue Fit For Men
Pictured is a trio of smiling men, one holding a set of tongs, all under a pop-up tent adorned with banners that read ‘Meat Club’ while wearing t-shirts stamped with what appears to be a sexy silhouette of a woman with a bull head asking ‘got meat?’ Here we have our first example of anthropornography in which male dominant sexual economy is present (Adams 14). To be masculine means to eat meat, this explains the ‘meat club’ banner as these men are inviting you to their all inclusive club which includes the violation and sexualization of non-human animals and the exploitation of women, an all-in-one patriarchal package, “an act of self-definition as a privileged (male-identified) human, and it allows all other humans the access to that self-definition, too, as voyeurs and consumers” (Adams 17). Solidarity around meat consumption only reinforces male domination and acceptance in society as the non-human animal is exploited and consumed without consent.
The shirt sends an additional message, as the non-human animal is feminized and sexualized with the replacing of its body with that of a woman simultaneously with the animalization of women as her head is shaped into that of a bull. To place a bull’s head on the sexualized body of a woman then asking the message of ‘got meat’ while actively cooking meat for consumption is a practice that enforces hegemonic masculinity in which “…reassures and re-establishes human (male-identified) primacy at several levels are hidden or unacknowledged, it never has to expose itself for what it is” (Adams 20). Cultural ideologies teach us to look past this common tendency to exploit the women-nature association while every aspect of visual representation and action continues to be justified. Here men are the consumers while women and non-human animals are the consumed. As Kemmerer states in her review of Adams’ The Pornography of Meat, “…we fail to notice that ‘consumable’ animals are invariably portrayed as feminine, as sexual–available to men, just like female human beings (2006).
Image #2: The Hanging Objectification
This image proposes an abundance of startling messages in the objectification of women and non-human animals. Presented is a portion of raw meat, hanging from a hook that pierces the skin while its body is clothed in feminine attire. The chosen attire to clothe the raw meat in rather what is considered “revealing feminine clothing” works to sexualize the now dead non-human animal, a representation of “misery made sexy” (Adams 15). The message at the bottom of the advertisement reads, “It’s not acceptable to treat a woman like one” and comes from a coalition that stands against domestic violence. The first thing that stands out is the clear connection between nature and women as the ad calls out for men to speak out against violence in order to prevent women from being treated as if they were a dead animal. This functions as “propaganda for speciesism…art that reinscribes the denial of the animal through actively denying/depriving them of life…simultaneously reassures our self-definitions as humans while also affirming human superiority” (Adams 19) as if it is justified to violate the non-human animal dead or alive, the human as consumer while the non-human animal being consumed.
Adams also touches upon the narrative of raw as “real” in which “raw meat may express a more immediate sense of violation of what once was, what once existed and only recently lost their lives” (14). Using raw meat in awareness of domestic violence might create the perception of what harm violence against the human body can do; however, the connection between non-human animals and humans is absent. Adams speaks of artist privilege in which “…current laws allow artists to manipulate and kill someone else if that someone else is a nonhuman” (18). Because humans are viewed as a superior form of life, cultural images such as this one corrupt mainstream society.
Image #3: “Racks For Racks”
Included in this image is an advertisement for a fundraiser in support of raising proceeds for Breast Cancer sponsored by a barbeque company. What makes money raised for a good cause problematic one may ask? The proof is in the poster. As Breast Cancer is an already sexualized disease in Western society, this flier further adds to the objectification of women as the fundraiser is called “Racks for Racks,” insinuating that the more racks of meat eaten, the more you care about saving women’s breasts connecting masculine meat consumption to the desire for male pleasure by the female body. The presentation of the non-human animal pig produces both the animalization of women and feminization of animals as the pig is pictured to have a female stature, curvy with a large bust, ready for male consumption, anthropornographic evidence. Adams suggests “animalizing women and feminizing animals helps in this process because it renders women and dead animals used as flesh as commodities” (Adams 15). The consumption of non-human animal flesh is being consumed to generate capital in support of a feminized disease and the feminization of the pig for barbecue generates interest as it correlates closely with masculinity.
The chosen skin tone of the animal is also to be noted as it appears to be that of a white woman. Adams writes of ads appealing to white, heterosexual men as “heterosexual politics are also embedded; the assumption that woman is available as an orifice for men” (16). Society not only enforces the ideal that man must be attracted to woman and vice versa but also that white colonialism must be favored to support that “casting individuals as animalized humans is usually influenced by race, sex, and class…because the race hierarchy is inscribed so strongly in Western culture, a white pig was needed, so that the degradation being represented could be as strongly represented as possible” (Adams 15,17). Not only are women and non-human animals being consumed, but also people of color as the white human male works to gain control over the objectification of vulnerable communities.
Author’s Selection: Wrap it Up
Pictured is the advertisement for a bakery corporation’s product, wraps. On one side we have a cow standing with a feminine pose holding its tail with facial features of long lashes, juicy red lips, and purple eyeshadow, all sealed with a wink. On the other side we have a pig also with feminine facial features of rosy cheeks, long lashes, and arched eyebrows while standing in a pose that draws explicit attention to its voluptuous rump. Both animals feminized, sexualized, and draped in a food product made to sell to an audience. This is not an accident but instead anthropornography as non-human animals are depicted as sexualized women, promiscuous and in need of sex calling for men to consume them as if they are in desire to be exploited and violated (Kemmerer 2016). The wrap literally wrapped around them as if tempting for the consumer to take it off and expose the body as if consumption of their product gets you closer to pleasure. The use of non-human animals as a “model” feminizes animals to show that both non-human animals and women are being consumed and oppressed due to male societal dominance.
These are only a select few examples of the many efforts to justify exploitation of women and consumption of non-human animals through sexualization, feminization, and animalization practices in the food marketing industry all with the desire to objectify. Adams describes objectification in the sexual politics of meat to permit an oppressor to view another being as an object which then turns into violation through object-like treatment, fragmentation, brutal dismemberment, and finally consumption (13). Animals are viewed as objects, their life taken away for the human palate. Women are perceived as objects meant to be used in ways that satisfy men. The overlap in cultural images justifies that masculine power is the backbone of society’s structure and in feminizing non-human animals, we justify that meat consumption is just as sexy and valuable as women subjugation.
As each of the images above present, white male privilege is at the center of each message and although solutions to improve societal outlook are possible, “people don’t want to give up their privilege; after all inequality is tasty” (Adams 21).
Adams, Carol J. “Examples of the Sexual Politics of Meat.” Carol J. Adams, 2018, https://caroljadams.com/examples-of-spom/.
Kemmerer, Lisa. “The Pornography of Meat by Carol Adams.” Philosophy Now, 2006, https://philosophynow.org/issues/56/The_Pornography_of_Meat_by_Carol_Adams.
Potts, Annie, and Carol J. Adams. “The Politics of Carol J. Adams.” Antennae, no. 14, 2010, pp. 12–24., https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54792ff7e4b0674c74cb719d/t/55dc8dace4b0ad76d7277cb7/1440517548517/ANTENNAE+ISSUE+14.pdf. Accessed 5 Mar. 2023.