Carol J. Adams gave a lecture on Western’s campus this past week entitled, “The Sexual Politics of Meat”, that could not have been more eye-opening. Attending the lecture, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. What is the Sexual Politics of Meat? (What does the word politics even entail anyway?)
Adams discussed all the stereotypes and social constructions surrounding food in general. They’re ideas that are so ingrained in our mind, in society, and reinforced by the media that it’s hard to even consider that these are in fact social constructions. We only see things in this way because we are told to, not because it’s natural.
She started by pointing out some small overarching concepts: meat is associated with manliness, and women are often reduced to a piece of meat. For example the stereotypical masculine meal is steak and potatoes, or a juicy hamburger, or perhaps chicken wings and beer. While women are referred to in animalistic ways; as chicks, babe, meaty, or a hot piece of ass.
She showed many ads concerning men and women that work to reinforce this ideology. She discussed the stigma around vegetarianism and men, that men who don’t eat meat aren’t real men. Men are girly, or homosexual if they are vegetarians. Hummer’s marketing campaign in 2006 capitalized on this idea (it didn’t bode well), featuring ads that depicted a Hummer with the caption, “A big juicy burger in a land of tofu”. They also produced a commercial where two men are in line at the grocery; one man is a vegetarian, while the man behind him buys racks and racks of ribs and other meats. The vegetarian immediately feels insecure, looks towards the magazines along the aisle, sees an ad for a Hummer and walks out of the grocery store with his meat-free groceries. The next slide depicts the man driving out of a Hummer dealership in a brand new Hummer. He’s eating a carrot as the caption reads, “Restore The Balance”.
Although the advertisements for Adams’ lecture left me a little lost; I didn’t know what to expect attending her lecture, it was illuminating in so many important ways. We are what we eat. Or rather, we are judged for what we eat. Society seems to tell us what we eat makes us who we are. Whether we recognize it or not. And these constructions are everywhere. Our food choices can never be an isolated choice. Our food choices can’t go without judgements.