Feminism and animal rights

(97 Posts)
LostinaPaperCup Fri 29-Jun-12 11:26:11

I posted a bit about veganism in the diet thread, but it's not the place for it really. I wanted to start a discussion about why, as feminists, when we are in a position to choose not to contribute to the suffering of others, we don't always think of animals or wider environmental concerns.

I have an ongoing (peaceful) disagreement with a fellow sex-industry survivor. I believe that there are parallels to be found with the sex-industry and the meat/dairy industry, in that sentient beings are treated as highly profitable commodities. She says I'm being offensive by comparing women to animals.

I sort of am, but only in the sense that the way men treat women in the sex trade is similar to how people treat farm animals, and there's also a 'I wouldn't want my daughter to be in porn' v 'I wouldn't eat my pet' type logic going on.

What do you all think? Carol J Adams is probably the most famous feminist for this issue - she has written The Sexual Politics of Meat and The Pornography of Meat.

This is an interesting article as well, by Gary Francione: he compares the abolitionist approach v animal welfare with the abolitionist approach v harm reduction in the sex industry. Just to confuse everyone here, he differentiates between radical and postmodern feminism, and doesn't mention liberal feminism at all!

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/postmodern-feminism-and-animal-welfare-perfect-together/

There are also other issues I'd like to discuss concerning the overbreeding of farm animals to the detriment of the poorest people, and the damage the meat/dairy industry does to the planet, but I think that's enough for now.

Hope this was coherent: I'm lying in bed with my laptop sideways (lazy).

Alameda Fri 29-Jun-12 21:26:38

thanks for starting this thread, will be back to follow your links later/tomorrow

Helxi Sat 30-Jun-12 20:47:47

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

SardineQueen Sat 30-Jun-12 22:36:53

That is a very interesting OP.

Of course you have a point.
I guess it comes back to what is important to you.
There is untold suffering in the world, there are loads of causes, all worthy.
However we can't all care about all of them all of the time, we can't all act on all of them all of the time.
You might as well ask, how do feminists square their purchase of cheap clothing, how can they consider driving a car. Equally, why does that person who is active in the RNIB support organised religion? And that person who campaigns for rights for disabled people has just had all their trees cut down and they use a computer manufactured at great cost to the production line workers....

It goes on and on. You are right - logically and morally - for sure. But no-one is perfect. We all cause harm in the things that we do.

i am sure lots of people will disagree with me on all that!

Incidentally, please do feel free to ignore posts that question your experiences and the parallels you draw smile

Helxi Sun 01-Jul-12 01:30:52

"Incidentally, please do feel free to ignore posts that question your experiences and the parallels you draw"

God forbid someone should feel the need to justify their reasoning.

"i am sure lots of people will disagree with me on all that!"

They'll be wasting their time I guess. See above.

SardineQueen Sun 01-Jul-12 01:33:43

Have you worked in the sex industry, Helxi, as a prostitute?

No?

Then I don't think you get to tell a person who has, that their parallel is a load of old shit.

HTH.

Helxi Sun 01-Jul-12 01:49:43

In answer to your question, no. And I know prostitutes carry with them the feminist equivalent of papal infallibility on these boards, being 'survivors' n' all that, but in reality it does not grant them the unquestionable ability to make spurious comparisons.

You see I've never worked in the meat industry either, as a vegan I very much doubt the OP has (which by your logic would invalidate her opinion too), but either way that's irrelevant to the issue that a prostitute and an incarcerated animal bred to die and be eaten by another species are clearly two very different things.

HesterBurnitall Sun 01-Jul-12 10:32:26

Some women who are trafficed and coerced into prostitution most certainly experience things like being caged and surrounded by their own shit while locked in a shipping container. There are even people who consider them dispensable to the extent that they will procure, sell and look away when the woman disappears, so long as the price is right.

Take out the Jeffery Dahmer and deep fied reference and there are indisputably women who are treated like animals in the 'sex industry'.

HesterBurnitall Sun 01-Jul-12 10:34:11

By the way, Jeffery Dahmer killed young men and McDonalds only deep fry potatoes and apple pies, but I can only assume you threw in those details to be deliberately, graphically offensive so accuracy wasn't high on your agenda.

thebackson12 Sun 01-Jul-12 10:40:21

I was just going to say shipping containers. A lot of women die over days/ a week overcrowded in their own shit.

how is that not dying like a battery farmed animal.

thebackson12 Sun 01-Jul-12 10:42:54

But the fact that they are not eaten of course is a point, but many do die and when they do nobody cares soo urgh, there are some similarities.

Whatmeworry Sun 01-Jul-12 12:44:09

I have an ongoing (peaceful) disagreement with a fellow sex-industry survivor. I believe that there are parallels to be found with the sex-industry and the meat/dairy industry, in that sentient beings are treated as highly profitable commodities. She says I'm being offensive by comparing women to animals.

Heck, sentient beings treated as commodities is the prime business model of most companies.

IMO this one is a stretch. Feminists need to pick relevant battles.

thebackson12 Sun 01-Jul-12 14:06:45

This is the first time I've heard, sex industry survivor unless you're friend was trafficked I really struggle with that term.

I know people will disagree with that. just imo.

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 14:17:59

Whatmeworry I don't think it's a stretch at all. All forms of bigotry are philosophically identical, regardless of their exact real-life application. Of course in practice they are different as they involve different groups, so affect them in different ways (whether that's women being paid less or animals being used in circuses).

I.e. sexism=racism=speciesism=ageism etc.

I am vegan (as I'm not speciesist, although there are other indirect reasons too) and anti-all the other -isms too. I think saying one -ism is wrong but others OK would be hypocritical.

SardineQueen

Why can't we care about all of them? I make effort to cover as many bases as possible. E.g. being vegan, buying organic & fairly-traded or secondhand textiles, organic & local-ish food, secondhand electronics, recycling, green energy, using public transport, volunteering etc etc.

None of these things stop me living, they are all choices the vast majority of people can make, they just don't want to because then they'd have to confront their cognitive dissonance, instead of shoving it to the back of their minds and justifying it uneasily.

Something like being vegan doesn't require any day-to-day effort once you've learnt how to do it anyway, so there's no excuse for not doing that, if you think it's right.

Very interesting analogy OP, I can definitely see the parallels.

I like how feminism focuses on women though. Lots of other bad stuff happens to all sorts of people and other creatures, the environment etc. but I don't see why it's the job of women, or feminists in particular, to sort everything out for everybody.

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 15:01:47

Do you like the idea because you're a woman? I think it's the job of everyone to create an equal society, regardless of what type of inequalities exist and whether they personally are affected by any of them.

The point is that if you care about one type of inequality, the others are theoretically automatically equally important. Otherwise you yourself are discriminating, which is what you want others not to do to you!

Sounds like a recipe for women's rights to go to the back of the queue to me. Again. Feminism is the only political movement that doesn't do that.

Good luck with the vegan campaigning. I won't be joining in because I don't believe eating meat or dairy is wrong, but it's great that people stand up for what they believe in.

hermioneweasley Sun 01-Jul-12 15:30:06

IMO animal welfare is not a feminist issue, and people that put a lot of energy into inhumane treatment of animals would be better off putting that energy into eliminating human rights violations. (disclaimer - I am not pro bad treatment of animals, it just doesn't get me a tiny fraction as worked up as people suffering).

Whatmeworry Sun 01-Jul-12 15:44:25

Whatmeworry I don't think it's a stretch at all. All forms of bigotry are philosophically identical, regardless of their exact real-life application. Of course in practice they are different as they involve different groups, so affect them in different ways (whether that's women being paid less or animals being used in circuses).

The risk you have here is the number of women who are vegan/vegetarian is quite small, the many are meat eaters. By essentially equating meat eating with prostitution you play right into the hands of the "jeez, those Feminists are total fuckwits" opponents.

IMO Feminism has a tough enough time without having to be drawn into battles like those

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 15:52:33

Again, there is no need to reduce priority of any of these issues. You can do them all. I'm not suggesting you have to go on marches for each one and fill up every weekend. But changing your own personal way of living to avoid discrimination in all forms is really not hard, so it's just untrue to imply you can only do one. They are in no way mutually exclusive. You can have compassion for everyone, just like you can have love for more than one child (i.e. your love for the first doesn't reduce once the second is born).

No, AR isn't directly a feminist issue. Just like racism isn't. But the rationale behind feminism (anti-sexism) is identical to the rationale behind veganism (anti-speciesism). They are all just different sides to the same coin of bigotry.

The basis of anti-sexism is that it's not right to treat women unequally just because they have different characteristics. That applies exactly the same to anyone else with different characteristics, whether the difference is species, age, race etc.

You saying human rights violations are more important than AR (because you're human) is philosophically identical to a man saying men's rights are more important than women's. Holding your own group out as the special one to work on is exactly what you're wanting others not to do, so it's hypocritical.

hermioneweasley Sun 01-Jul-12 16:02:50

But I don't agree with species -ism (never heard of it before). Women and men are equal, people of all races are equal. I believe humans are superior to sheep, and there is masses of evidence to support that view.

HesterBurnitall Sun 01-Jul-12 16:05:31

I'm not sure that much would be achieved if everyone focused on every issue of inequality. There's nothing wrong with choosing to focus your energies on one group or issue while others might choose to straddle several.

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 16:22:06

Haha at 'superior'! In what way? Men could argue they are superior to women as they can run faster, pick up heavier items etc (on average). The point is that these characteristics are morally irrelevant to whether or not their needs should have equal consideration.

If you mean intelligence, firstly human-type intelligence is not the only kind, and secondly there are plenty of non-human animals with more human-type intelligence than many humans (e.g. senile, disabled, babies).

You are all missing the point (deliberately?) that no significant effort is required to "focus" on these things. You can choose to only go on marches for feminism, or only post links to feminist stuff on Facebook, if you'd rather put your time into that. But time is not the only factor. You can personally be vegan (or anti-ageist etc) without campaigning about it.

It's like saying 'I'm a feminist so I don't have time to care about old people' - you don't need to go round to their houses and talk to them, but you can choose not to actively discriminate against them yourself (e.g. by running them over because they were too slow to finish crossing the road while the traffic light was red). Likewise, you may not want to leaflet about AR, but you are actively discriminating against animals by eating them - you could simply stop.

MiniTheMinx Sun 01-Jul-12 16:28:51

Yes, OP I think there is a link but I don't believe it is quite as easy as saying that men like meat because they hate women. The link is less tenuous than others are saying IMO but the rationale behind this is not as easy as pointing the finger and declaring men are meat eating women beating consumers.

Men have historically had a huge vested interest in two things live stock and power over other men in a race for resources. The commodification of women and the huge capitalist meat production industry in the states in particular are related. It comes down to money and the very first means of wealth creation came about after the domestication of animals. Historically men had always been involved in the domestication and no doubt slaughter of animals. Once we created a surplus that could be exchanged men further sought the control over that wealth by yet more farming and enslaving women to reproduction within the home.It is little wonder that the advertising industry taps into that ancient male brain by using sexual images and induendo to sell meat.

I'm glad you started the thread, I had always meant to read the first book and this has reminded me, so thank you.

Fourthdimensionallizard Sun 01-Jul-12 16:31:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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