Meat is for pussies?

feminismJohn Joseph suggests that meat is for pussies with the title of his book, and the issue has recently been discussed in an article with Carol J. Adams.

But what does the title actually suggest? In common parlance, he is suggesting that meat is something which is feline/feminine/weak/irrational and hence less than male. This is meant to cause men to question whether meat consumption is aligned to masculinity or whether it actually flies in its face.

Challenging meat consumption by turning the tables on attitudes of masculinity and meat is a problematic argument because it relies in making a claim on patriarchy to do so. Why would we want to reinforce the false proposition of patriarchy, a hierarchy feminists are attempting to expel, to prove a point about meat consumption and animal rights? It makes little sense to take a rational proposition; that is the avoidance of unnecessary suffering, and illustrate it with an irrational claim. Instead you could utilise an empathetic / rational approach; if you care for cats and dogs then it is irrational to consume the flesh of pigs and cows. This makes an objective appeal. Even so, if the idea of rational (male) and emotive (female) is apparent in the claim, then it would end up perpetuating the false binary.

We shouldn’t use any form of discrimination to promote veganism, whether it is racism, ableism, class or any other arbitrary form of division in society, so why use sexism? Why utilise one form of oppression in a vain attempt to undermine another? It doesn’t make any sense when you look at the ways people are oppressed, and the structural way that speciesism operates in tandem with other forms of oppression. Appealing to mainstream society by using endemic forms of discrimination may appear attractive in terms of promoting an issue, but if you are alienating women by doing so, then your attempt to promote animal rights overall is going to be significantly undermined.

So the focus ought not be on the notion of masculinity and the ‘real’ man (whatever that might mean), but on the activity of each individual. So a better approach would be to turn the tables on the fact people generally believe animal consumption is harmless. It isn’t, the consumption of animal products is largely detrimental to health, detrimental to the environment and clearly detrimental to non-human animals. Culture, that is tradition and habit, stand in the way of ending widespread animal abuse and exploitation, mainly because of the problematic aspects of identity that are tied up within it, so reinforcing those aspects in different ways just isn’t helpful overall.

This is the difficulty with uncritical appeals to ‘the mainstream’, the attempt to fit veganism into current society, instead of getting current society to shift toward veganism.  This is because in the end, veganism is a small but essential part of an endeavour for social change, and we need to avoid promoting the liberation of non-human animals at the expense of a liberatory movement with which we share a great deal in common.


‘The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory’, by Carol J. Adams. (1990)

The Hidden Cost of Patriarchy‘ with Jennai Bundock.

‘Rise of Sentimentalism: Implications for Animal Philosophy’, by Elisa Aaltola.  In ‘Animal Ethics and Philosophy: Questioning the Orthodoxy’, Elisa Aaltola and John Hadley (eds.) (2014)

This entry was posted in animal liberation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.