In response to: KD Angle-Traegner’s piece entitled ‘Rape Culture in Veganism’.
As a young woman in a frightfully patriarchal world, I have thankfully never been sexually abused, or made subject of a sexual predator’s attack. Recently it has been disclosed that Harvey Weinstein has been inviting young and vulnerable actresses back to his hotel room, on the pretense of ‘private parties’ and wanking himself off in front of young women in the basements of restaurants, all on the back of him being ‘Hollywood royalty.’ It’s incredible that only 50 years ago Bill Cosby was doing the same thing, drugging, knocking out and raping women who came to him as mentees. As the values and norms of a patriarchal culture are slowly being exposed and denied access to normal life in 2017, it’s important to not only look at the normalised abuse of women, but also the normalised abuse of animals.
KD Angle-Traegner’s piece ‘Rape Culture in Veganism’ is a thought provoking blog about Rape Culture in our society, herself having been sexually violated, at 18 years old. She calls out the rape culture of normalising rape and the culture of excusing the yes, normally male abusers, by paying off the victims with hush-hush money. KD Angle-Traegner goes on then one step further, and questions when the word ‘rape’ is used in other contexts:
The term rape is frequently used by activists to describe the process of artificially inseminating animals- most commonly, cows. This dairy is rape analogy makes me cringe every time I read it. That’s the point. It is used to paint a violent and horrifying picture of violation- one so gut-wrenching that it alters the way someone thinks about consuming dairy.
But let me ask, is using the dairy-rape analogy dismissive of what rape really is and does it actually promote rape culture? Using rape analogies to further the vegan agenda uses the suffering of rape victims
Carol J. Adams, an American writer, feminist and animal rights activist explores this lexical relationship in her chapter ‘The Rape of Animals, The Butchering of Women.’ She however proves that just how activists of animals appropriate the word rape with metaphors, so too do feminists in theirs.
Carol refers to the structure of ‘overlapping but absent referents that links violence against women and animals.’ Below is a diagram I have made for easier comprehensibility.
Carol explains how through butchering, animals become absent referents. For animals to become meat, they must be dead. If they are alive, they cannot be meat. In this way animals are forgotten as sentient beings, and instead must be thought of as things put on this planet for meat-eaters to eat, to be then turned into meat. Animals are thus made absent through language, and and are then further made absent when we refer to pieces of meat and choice cuts as not butchered animals, “but cuisine”.
The same happens, Carol suggests, in our descriptions of cultural violence against women. When a woman is raped or grabbed or sexually dominated without permission the abuser must see the woman as not a sentient, fellow human being, but rather as an object that exists purely to fulfill their sexual needs.
I have tried to show this visually with the above diagrams: Both women and cows as they are in reality and in step 1 are forgotten, and rather for rape to happen and for meat to be put on our plates as pictured in step 3, they must be thought of as purely in terms of step 2.
“Through the structure of the absent referent, patriarchal values become institutionalized.”
In response to KD Angle-Traegner’s piece I can see why she gets upset when the rape experiences of women are used as a “vehicle for describing other oppression.” As Carol puts it:
Rape, in particular, carries such potent imagery that the term is transferred from the literal experience of women and applied metaphorically to other instances… such as the ‘rape’ of the earth in ecological writings… Women, upon whose bodies actual rape is most often committed, become the absent referent when the language is used metaphorically. These terms recall women’s experiences but not the woman.
Carol’s points sympathies with what KD Angle-Traegner puts forward, and Carol recognizes that it is exploitative to use the experience of one group’s oppression and appropriate it to others.
However, Carol points to the language employed by rape victims to describe how they felt, such as ‘he made me feel like a piece of meat’, as too appropriated from an oppressed group.
Rape has a different social context for women than for other animals. So, too, does butchering for animals. Yet feminists among others, appropriate the metaphor of butchering without acknowledging the originating oppression of animals that generates the power of the metaphor.
So KD Angle-Traegner, your point still stands, and women’s experiences should not be penciled down as a metaphor to be used over and over again as just a way to describe the other experiences of other groups. But at the same time we must see the similarity in the way women appropriate the metaphor of the meat industry to best explain how the men who abused them made them feel: ‘He made me feel like nothing- like a mere piece of meat for him to do with what he wanted.’
Perhaps then it’s time we looked at the patriarchal structure of society and realise this cross over in language is more than just lexical coincidence.
Is meat really necessary? Why is it considered manly for a man to have a steak? Why are we being sold these ideas? In a next blog I’ll be exploring the link between Harvey Weinstein as seeing women as just walking vaginas, and why meat-eaters see cows as just steaks with legs.
Header photo credit: http://chiaralascura.com/en/