Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Carol J. Adams' ~ Live Chat Transcript of 15 May 2010

Transcript of Carol Adams' Live Chat of 15 May 2010
3pm US Pacific Time
6pm US Eastern Time
11pm UK Time
16 May 2010 at:
8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 



Carolyn Bailey:

Carol J. Adams, today’s ARZone guest, is the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist – Vegetarian Critical Theory, as well as The Pornography of Meat” and almost 20 additional published books, along with close to 100 articles in journals, books, and magazines on the issues of vegetarianism, animal advocacy, domestic violence and sexual abuse. In addition, she has contributed entries on "vegetarianism" for numerous academic encyclopedias and dictionaries.


The Sexual Politics of Meat discusses how, especially in times of shortage, women often give men the meat that they perceive to be the "best" food, to the detriment of their own and their children's nutrition. She also
discusses the connections between feminism and vegetarianism, and patriarchy  and meat eating, historically and through the reading of literary texts. This describes what she calls the structure of the "absent referent",
which in this context is that, "which separates the meat eater from the animal and the animal from the end product," or food. 

Carol has been an activist on anti-violence issues since the early 70’s and is particularly interested in the interconnections among forms of violence against human and nonhuman animals, writing, for instance, about why woman-batterers harm animals and the implications of this (see Animals and Women). Her article, "Bringing Peace Home: A Feminist Philosophical Perspective on the Abuse of Women, Children, and Pet Animals," represents her approach to these interconnections. 

Carol is a dynamic and provocative speaker, providing keynote addresses on topics such as "Violence Against Women, Children, and Animals: Understanding the Connections," "An Ecofeminist Analysis of Violence in the Home," and her extremely popular Sexual Politics of Meat Slide Show. 

Would you please say hello to Carol J. Adams and welcome her to ARZone

Roger Yates:
Hello Carol

 

Thomas Janak:
Hello Carol


Carolyn Bailey:
Welcome, Carol!

 

Nicola Shine: 

hello


Jason Ward:
Hello Carol


Carol Adams: 
Thanks everybody. I have met some of you and hope to get a chance to meet the rest of you at some time.


Caroline Raward:. 
Hi Carol, Welcome!


Tim Marshall:
Great to have you here


Carolyn Bailey:
Before we begin, Carol has requested her responses be spontaneous. I would therefore request respect as Carol types, and request that all comments be withheld until after the formal chat has concluded, when, time permitting, Carol will engage all participants. 

I’d now like to ask Carol her first question, on behalf of Jeff Perz, who is unable to be here today. 

Hi Carol, I have read two of your books and attended your slideshow presentations twice (once in Washington DC in 2000 and once in Toronto a few years later). I completely agree with the interconnections you point to between sexism and speciesism. I thank you for your very important work. My question for you is this: Many feminist theorists take the view that moral and legal rights can afford womyn a minimum level of protection. After and only after that level of protection has been recognized, these feminists go on to articulate and advocate a feminist ethic of care. Do you agree with the approach of these feminists? Why or why not?


Carol Adams:
I guess the place to begin is in identifying what kind of feminism we are talking about. As a radical feminist, my critique begins with the societal construction of assumptions about gender and species and race. As such, the concept of rights arises from and within a patriarchal world. While, as Catharine MacKinnon points out, rights sometimes help and giving up rights would not be a good thing (a paraphrase) this does not mean that rights actually are doing for women what we assume they are. For instance, whatever rights we now have, they do not seem to actually prevent the intimate violence and abuse that is a serious problem for so many women around the world.

 

Also, the idea of the rights holder is a patriarchal concept that arose during Enlightenment times. The rights holder was definitely seen as male, upper class or property owning male. That the rights holder was this autonomous being who was male identified.

 

My challenge and critique begins there, that autonomy in our culture is actually a myth, before the rights holder became a rights holder he was cared for, educated and within a web of relationships. So, as a radical feminist I am not convinced that we can just take rights, add women (or animals) and stir. The problem is more extensive and problematic than that.


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks very much, Carol. Jason Ward has the next question for you, Jay?


Jason Ward: 
Thanks Carolyn. On p.151 of The Pornography of Meat you reproduce a regularly emailed poem which is proceeded by “He places his hands on her breast and she slowly spreads her legs apart”  And when I did it, I felt no shame. All at once the white stuff came. At last I’m finished; it’s all over now, My first time ever, At milking a cow. Given this sort of thing, and much more, why on earth can’t the PeTA “feminists,” or others see the connections?


Carol Adams: 
Gosh, I'd lose sleep every night if every sexist/speciesist intersection prompted that question, because it's everywhere! Basically, I would argue that in our culture species is gendered; that attitudes about other species is influenced by gender assumptions and by the lowering that is femaleness in our culture. If PETA acknowledged this, then they would have to stop using objectified women in their ads.

 

Every time PETA or anyone else (the recent debate about the Barbi twins and the Cove is another example) uses "sexy" women to raise an issue about animal exploitation tells us something about the absent referent. The absent referent (the cow, the dolphin, etc.) can't even be used to present their own case to be seen as individuals.

 

One of the problems is that there is an evangelical nature to the animal activist movement (animals need us, we must do this for animals) that resists theorizing. There is also a sense that animal liberation is the teleological fulfillment of 20th century activism 20th century reform initiatives and so animal activists don't have to pay attention to other forms of oppressions (that's been done or that's been taken care of or those people can speak for themselves). So, animal activists who use sex fail to theorize, or engage with theory that addresses intersectionality. It would require such a drastic change in how they approach the issues. But the other problem is why, given the example of the cow being milked you used, don't feminists see that misogyny finds a welcome home in language about and attitudes toward domesticated female animals.


Jason Ward:
Great response- thank you

 

Roger Yates: 
Brilliant response, Carol :-)


Jason.Ward: 
Next Carolyn Bailey will ask a question, take it away Carolyn


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks, Jay. I believe when you were working on your “Living Among Meat Eaters” project you were told that society’s conscience has a “collective hole” in it when it comes to the exploitation of nonhuman animals. Can you expand on that, please?


Carol Adams:
It was in answer to my question to a meat eater as to why, if he knew what he was doing was wrong -- which he had already conceded, why did he continue to do it? He said, I have a hole in my conscience. so I drew on that to talk about meat eaters as blocked vegetarians/vegans. The idea being that somewhere within them they already have the feelings about what they are doing, they just haven't figured out how to use the feelings in a positive way. 

Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks very much, again, Carol! Next question will be asked by Roger Yates, Rog?


Roger Yates:
Hi Carol - I used your "blocked vegetarian" concept in my PhD - my Q.... You have advocated an “ethic of care,” rather than “animal rights.” You maintain that animal rights talk is a product of the Enlightenment. Do you still criticize the language of animal rights as non-emotional and “manly,” even though both Tom Regan and Gary Francione have said that a blend of emotional response and rationality will rightly drive our feelings toward the rights violations perpetuated against other animals?


Carol Adams: 

I believe the critique of rights as non emotional and manly actually is originating from something deeper than simply the way Tom and Gary are responding to it. Again, it begins with the notion of the autonomous rights holder. I don't believe that being actually exists, the idea of autonomy has masked women's labor for centuries.

 

I think a lot of rights language that historically we find in the animal rights movement has attempted to distinguish itself from being "emotional" so that intrinsically there was a sense that to be emotional about animals was not trusted, or had to be overcome, to make a compelling case for attending to animals situtation. I think the position you will find in The Feminist Care Tradition in Animal Ethics (a reader) is that if we trusted emotions, if we honored them, if we listened to them, we would know what to do about animals.

But I want to say something else here, if the animal rights movement was stripped of its male rights language, its mainly male leaders and the sexist approach of some of the promotional material, what would we have? We would have to acknowledge that it is largely a movement of women who care about animals. Being a part of a movement that is overwhelmingly female identified is often not seen as positive. So I have always felt that the animal rights movement compensates for its basic female identification by lifting up "fathers" (Singer, Regan, Francione, etc.), but situating these fathers to debate each other, and by making sure that most of the spokespeople are men. When you add PETA and others sexist ads, you find a movement that is trying to talk to men about some of the objects in their lives. So, to me rights language continues to be a concern.


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks Carol, Roger, did you require a follow-up?


Roger Yates:
 

Please. Thanks for that Carol - a quick response (we need to talk about this at length) It has been noteworthy that the "animal rights movement" has been led by women when compared to other social movements. Is it not the case that there is hardly any genuine rights-based language in the AR movement - it is rhetorical. I agree that the beginnings of rights talk are problematic - but times do change: should we be punished for the limitations of ideas founders?

 

Carol Adams:
You are right, there probably is needed a lengthier time and forum for discussing this.

 

We are not being punished for the limitations of the founders. We are being directed to look at the social construction of the human at that time and learn from that. For instance, there is a famous statement from Andrea Dworkin that pornography uses those who aren't in the Constitution (i.e., women, people of color, animals, lower class men). The recent Supreme Court decision in the US reminded me of that because the Supreme Court said videos of animals were someone's speech. So, a basic premise of the Constitution is being used to protect the original rights holders, who actually are the ones whose speech is protected, while not protecting animals (or women used in pornography) for whom what happens to their bodies is someone's speech right. I just think that conceptually the idea of rights is problematic. You are probably right that rhetorically speaking, the philosophy of rights is not evident in the activism, just like many people become vegans after reading Animal Liberation but few become utilitarians.


Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks very much, Carol, and Roger. Next question is from Tammy McLeod who isn't here and will be asked on her behalf by Jason. Jay?


Jason Ward:
In reading a number of your interviews, I’ve noticed others refer to you as a vegetarian, not a vegan. Do you see this as an issue? If so; why? 

Carol Adams:
I don't see it as an issue as I always make it clear that to me vegetarian means complete vegetarian. I still like the word "vegetarian." I like its history. It's problem is the way Luis Utility is a very subjective perception and inconsiderate of a variety of elements, none the least Time and Influence. Everyone is a contributor.

 

Popular culture has worked to dilute it's meaning. as though people could be pescatarians, etc. This dilution of the meaning of the word vegetarian is deeply disturbing. Since dairy and eggs are deeply implicated in the meat industry, I always encourage people to give up feminized protein.

 

We talked about changing the subtitle of the 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat to "a feminist-vegan theory", but since it is clear in the book that I object both to animalized protein and feminized protein, and since I wanted to respond the book's history, I left it feminist-vegetarian. I always have vegan receptions after my talks and showing The Sexual Politics of Meat slide show so I don't think there is much confusion. I also like to think that this propels vegetarianism toward fulfilling its roots by keeping the word associated with non dairy and non-egg consumption.


Jason Ward:
Thanks


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks Carol. Kate would like to ask a question but is busy transcribing, Jason will also ask Kate's question, Jay?


Jason Ward:
Thanks. Hello Carol. Thank you and well done for your great contribution to feministand animal rights philosophy. In the forward for Animal Equality: Language and liberation by Joan Dunayer you wrote, "Nothing like Animal Equality exists, and nothing will surpass this work for years, if ever. Animal Equality is a giant step for animal kind. Joan believes that we can change our language. She believes that we can end the needless speciesist practices that cause so much suffering and death. So do I. I believe Animal Equality will accomplish its purpose. As more and more readers spread its message, it will bring us closer to justice and compassion for all beings - closer to animal equality." Please can you tell us briefly why you think Joan Dunayer's moral philosophies are so important to the antispeciesist/Animal Rights Movement?


Carol Adams: 
I don't think of Animal Equality, to be precise, as a moral philosophy so much as providing a critique of speciesists' language based on a deeply held philosophical viewpoint. What I felt was important about the book was the way it exposed the cruelty of the practices that the language was covering up. In The Sexual Politics of Meat I talk about the structure of the absent referent that which makes the animal disappear in theory and practice, in idea and in body.


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks, Carol. I'd like to ask another question now please. Flesh consumption is connected to social status, therefore the patriarch gets the most. In The Sexual Politics of Meat you describe notions of meat virility (Australian example), the fact that women often prepare two meals in some cultures, and the socialising effects of fairy tales, Biblical stories and taboos. Could you say more about this please?


Carol Adams:
Well, that's what the entire first chapter of The Sexual Politics of Meat is about. The meat is associated with virility and so the assumption is that by eating meat people, men will get strong. A sort of superstition that by eating strong animals people get strong. Of course that is a myth as we know.

 

But another aspect is the idea that meat is a symbol of patriarchy and since patriarchy must be recalled at every meal, meat as the centerpiece of the meal enacts that recall. to remove meat from the table not only threatens the notion of the individual meat eater as male but the cutlure's commitment to and basis in patriarchy.


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks Carol, very interesting. Roger Yates would like to ask another question, Roger?


Roger Yates:
Can you describe your concept of "anthropornography"?


Carol Adams:
It was coined by a friend, Amie Hamllin when I was showing The Sexual Politics of Meat slide show and I said we need a term for these images that show animals as sexually consumable. Amie called out "anthropornography." what is insidious about it is that it upholds the sexual exploitation of women while also hiding it within images of animals.

We aren't talking about women here, someone could say, we are just laughing at a pig. My soundbite for anthropornography is that women are animalized and animals are feminized and sexualized. This process intersects in anthropornography.


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks once again, Carol. The next question is another one from Jeff Perz and in relation to the first question. It's quite long and contains a few questions. As Jeff is busy today, Roger will ask on Jeff's behalf, thanks, Roger?


Roger Yates:
Deep breath everyone.... 


In light of your response to my first question - Imagine a world (taken from the past, or merely a hypothetical example) where womyn are slaves; chattel property. The concepts of moral and legal rights exist in this world, and they have arisen in a patriarchal context. The chattel slave womyn in this world are exploited for labor, sex, breast milk, their fertilised eggs, etc A group of advocates seek to have the moral right of womyn not to be used as resources recognized first politically by changing the culture, and eventually this would be recognized in law. So, they undertake a womyn's rights educational campaign. In this society, an ethic of care is far from being generally accepted. 

  1. Would you critique the advocates' use of rights language? Why or why not? 
  2. Would you support in any way a different group of advocates who seek, *as a short-term step toward eventual abolition* measures to make the sexual exploitation of womyn more caring, have caring rape, humane harvesting of ova and breast milk, etc.? Why or why not? 
  3. I maintain that, although the concept of rights has arisen in a sexist, hierarchical and individualist society, rights need not be sexist or patriarchal and -- to the extent that they protect individuals -- this is not a bad thing. In other words, a right is merely a claim that protects an interest. For example, I have an interest in not being raped and I claim that I should not be raped as my right. I claim protection of my bodily integrity and of my choice to say "no." There is no sexism or hierarchy inherent in this concept of a right. It does not need to involve Western individualism running amok. Similarly, knives have arisen in a sexist and hierarchical society. They have been used to kill womyn and they have been used to make fruit salad. But a knife is not inherently sexist, and nor is a right inherently patriarchal. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?


Carol Adams:
Wow.

 

First, let me say I find it interesting this focus on rights. I guess I should assume that this is occurring because the questioners so far actually agree with in all the claims I make in The Sexual Politics of Meat which doesn't discuss rights at all.


Second, I would really urge all of you to think about doing a reading group based on the feminist care tradition in animal ethics which represents this alternative way of thinking about engaging with animals.

 

Thirdly, I am always uncomfortable speaking hypothetically. The ability to speak hypothetically is a
privilege, it arises from Cartesian rationality, and I just prefer, as an activist and theorist who's theories arise from activism, to begin in the real world. That said, why, if we are speaking hypothetically do we begin with rights protecting against wrongs, rather than begin in a world where wrongs don't happen?

 

The problem with rights is not individualism run amok, it is the conceptual a prioi about individuals that is embedded in the concept of the rights holder. Let's see, I was going to say something else but there's an awful lot there to respond to. Oh. I might have a right to my body, but somehow that doesn't mean I won't be raped. What it means is that if I am raped I have some legal protections that can be asserted against the rapist.

 

Why don't we want to envision a world not where my right is violated, but where people, through empathy, don't objectify other beings, reducing them to objects and then fragmenting them (through meat eating or pornography or intimate violence)? Why do we assume people's inability to care, and think that we have to have rights to protect us from that lack of care rather than situating ourselves as teaching people how to care? I don't believe we should use other animals and I believe they let us know they don't want to be used. That is part of the ethic of care.

 

Animal husbandry is an interesting term, that shows us some interesting history, it is not my main or only concern in The Sexual Politics of Meat.


Roger Yates:
Thanks Carol.


Carolyn Bailey:
Thanks again, Carol. At this point I'd like to open up the chat to anyone else who would like to engage Carol. Feel free to send myself or Jason a PM if you'd like to ask a question of Carol at this time. I'd also like to sincerely thank Carol for her thoughtful and detailed responses.


Carol Adams:
I am sorry they are so detailed; these are complex issues and not easy too answer in 250 characters. Sorry it takes so long sometimes!


Carolyn Bailey:
It's perfectly understandable, your responses have been very helpful!


Lorna Hughes. 
Thanks for your time, Carol.


Roger Yates:
Are there any further Qs for Carol please?


Carol Adams:
I am glad to be a part of this community. 

Jason Ward:
Any plans to put out any new books Carol?


Stacey Rakic:
Thank you, Carol. Fascinating discussion.


Carol Adams:
I am working on several. The 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat comes out this month in the us but in two months every else


Jason Ward:
cool - I'll have to look for it


Carol Adams:
There are several essays I have done that I am thinking of bringing together in a book; don't know yet whether to do that or not. Also, intertwining many interviews into a small book called Engaging The Sexual Politics of Meat.


Lorna Hughes 
That sounds wonderful!


Roger Yates:
Carol - is the full The Sexual Politics of Meat slide show online anywhere?

Carol Adams: 
This book would sort of deal with lots of the questions I get asked (are things better or worse? ) how did you get started etc. @Roger... no it isn't. I have really hesitated doing that because I feel it could be misused. so right now it can only be seen live, with me showing it and then answering questions after ward.


Lorna Hughes:
What is the question you have been ask the most?


Roger Yates:
Understandable - how about a film of you doing that?


Carol Adams:
The Pornography of Meat has some of the images in the slide show and develops many of the ideas; The Sexual Politics of Meat had 8 pages of illustrations with new examples. @Lorna--how did I first think to combine feminism and vegetarianism?


Lorna Hughes
What was your answer?


Carol Adams:
@Roger.. yes, that's been discussed. It's a possiblility, it's just I keep changing the slide show. for instance, I completely changed it last November so now I say, it's The Sexual Politics of Meat Slide Show 6.2 

@Lorna, it was when I was walking down a Cambridge, MA street in October 1974. It was an incredible experience and I did not know it would completely change my life! I discuss the experience in the preface to The Sexual Politics of Meat.


Jason Ward:
I have a question from one of our members.. "What is so wrong with women who have built their careers around being sexy and later using that fame and image for a good cause"?


Carol Adams: 
"for a good cause" -- There we are back to the evangelical notion of how change has to happen. Why do we think that using sex actually changes people's view of animals I have done a blog on this and you can go to my blogspot to see it. I think it is caroljadams@blogspot.com. It was in August 2009. Sex sells sex. I don't believe it can sell animals. But there is a more profound answer as well, definitely not 240 characters, but it's in the last chapter of The Pornography of Meat. Basically: how is it that the gender that is burdened with species associations (women) can liberate through being objectified the species that has been burdened with gender associations? It just can't be done.

That is the nature of interconnected oppressions. why do we think our culture needs to be further saturated with the object of women to end the object status of animals? Why can't animals be seen to be individuals with their own needs? Why in fact does our culture notice women using sex? Because that is what our culture needs, the construction of the subject at the expense of an object.


Jason Ward:
What if they don't sell sex anymore. They have an image and are famous - that brings attention to animal rights.


Carol Adams: 
I propose intersubjectivity. I don't think we can achieve it through benefiting from any one's objectification, even if they are happy to be objectified.


Jason Ward:
Sorry - I interrupted there :-)


Carol Adams:
@Jason, what are our assumptions about how change happens? We have a very linear assumption about this in the animal rights movement, i.e., someone famous will bring attention, attention will help the animals. Do we actually know that this is how change happens? Or are we feeding a machine, the machine of culture.


Jason Ward:
Thank you


Carolyn Bailey: 
Carol, some people argue that PeTA ads, for example, while they draw attention to urgent issues, are worthwhile, and serve a very important purpose, even if they do objectify women in order to do so.


Carol Adams:
 

Yes I know they argue that and I have not seen proof of it. I argue that we live in a world in which a sex-species system is in operation; PETA accepts one part of that system to try to end the other part, it can't be done. Or, to bring in Derrida here, and I think Derrida has some really good points about animals.

 

Derrida identified the carnophallogocentric subject, a speaking subject for whom eating meat is a central aspect of who he is. I feel that PETA is saying, "It's okay, you can still be a phallogocentric subject (a male centered, speaking subject, who exists through objectifying others), you just have to stop eating meat and using animals,. But don't worry we won't take women away from you. You don't really have to change!" And, I would argue, that in fact you cannot separate the carno from the phallogocentric subject. You can't uncouple the sex-species system, and you support it by objectifying women and/or animals.


Lorna Hughes 
What book are you most proud of having written?


Carolyn Bailey:. 
Thanks again, Carol!


Carol Adams: 
Well, it's got to be The Sexual Politics of Meat, because it has helped so many people rethink their lives. I hear from somebody every day that this book changed their lives. That is such an honor! So it is a book that it is out there doing the work of changing consciousness. But on a personal note, I have written books with each of my children and that is very special too.


Tim Marshall:
While a widely adopted ethic of care would address problems with exploitation of women and also animals is it not true that rights and laws based on them currently protect women from exploitations (e.g. rape as mentioned) in an organised and public sense? Thus, there is value in rights for animals and laws based on them to practically protect animals from organised exploitation while we educate the population in an ethic of care to make these protections inherent and internal.


Carolyn Bailey: 
After 20 years, that's incredible! Congratulations!

Carol Adams:
@Carolyn, thanks. @Tim: The issue here is your use of the word "public."

 

There is a wonderful book called The Sexual Contract that says before there was a social contract there was a sexual contract and the nature of this sexual contract is to allow men to do to women what they want in the privacy of their home and that the social contract would govern the public sphere. So I am not sure I would begin with the presumption you begin with.

 

Back to the issue of advertising, what if we had advertising that talked about caring, that showed celebrities caring, that said, caring is okay? We have never tried that or many approaches that honor the non linear side of the brain. I feel we need to widen our ideas about how change happens. Again, so far, nothing has truly protected women from rape.


Lorna Hughes 
There are a lot of young people getting into animal rights, Do you have any advice to young people who are interested in speaking about animal rights or vegetarianism?


Carolyn Bailey: 
Thanks again, Carol! At this point I'd like to thank Carol Adams sincerely, on behalf of ARZone, for her time and insight.


Carol Adams: 
Yes, that they should not be disappointed if at first they aren't heard for what they are saying. That they should read Living Among Meat Eaters. That they shouldn't believe people who say "the animals need you and so you must do .... @Lorna, well you get the idea.

 

Thank you everybody for the stimulating questions and for caring about the questions and the answers and the answerer!


Lorna Hughes
Yes i do, thank you


Carolyn Bailey:
ARZone sincerely thanks Carol for her contribution today, and I personally wish to say thanks as well. This will conclude today's chat with Carol Adams.


Tim Marshall:
thanks for coming by!


Roger Yates:
thanks Carol


Jason Ward:
Thanks Carol - it's been eye opening and I'm glad I was able to attend!


Carolyn Bailey: 

It's been a wonderful, educating experience, thanks again, Carol

 

Stacey Rakic:

Thank you, Carol.



ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after “chats” by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.

 

 

Views: 228

Tags: Carol-Adams, Sexual-Politics-of-Meat, Transcript, politics, sexism

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