So I would like to thank, before I start my presentation, I would like to thank Tânia Mara Campos de Almeida, my doctoral supervisor in Brazil. And I would like to thank Lisa Kemmerer, my doctoral supervisor here in the United States. And overall, I would like to thank michael and Animal Liberation Ontario for this opportunity. They have been very patient and gentle with me. Thank you very much for that.
The other day I was walking in the Museum of Natural History in Boston with my friends Lisa and Bonnie, and we were looking at the dinosaurs and all. And I always read those plates that explain what the dinosaurs are and everything. One of these plates said that there’s no way the archaeologists can know the colours of the dinosaurs. Based on birds and reptiles, they would choose that randomly, the colours for the dinosaurs. So I started to look to the dinosaurs to appreciate their colours, but I see so much more than colours, you know? What I realized is that all these carnivores were portrayed with male features, and all the herbivores had female features. And I thought they are not just guessing the colour of the animals, but the genders too. They are creating social myths and then I started to think the animal studies.
The most common view of animal studies: it’s about deconstructing biological myths like saying that the animals are sentient too, they are intelligent, they are emotional. But most of the distinctions that we as a society create for humans and animals are based on prejudice and values and essentialism. So the construct of species is not so different from the construct of human. There is a true human. The quintessential symbol for humanity, it is a male.
So humanity is strongly based on an idea of a “man-kind” which is mainly influenced by an idea of manhood. As you all can think about, most of symbolic heroes that represent humanity are men. Like comic book heroes, like sports stars or even God is commonly portrayed as a man. Even Santa Claus. The feminist philosopher Elizabeth Spelman in her article “Women as Body” from 1982, analyzed the work of Plato and the idea of humanity in Plato. She analyzed that Plato created a dualist world. In one side we had a spiritual world, in which God lives and a world, a superior world where humans can ascend through spirituality and build to rationally. On the other side is old earthly world which is not so elevated. Which is no so special. It is meant to be controlled by this spirituality and rationality. All the humans had the same souls and potential to ascend to a godly condition through spirituality.
But according to Elizabeth Spelman, Plato differentiates women from men and saying the women are more susceptible to the influences of the body. So in a certain way, to Plato, men have controlled women so they can’t ascend to a godly condition, so they can’t ascend in their spirituality. She discussed the concept of somatophobia. It means aversion to the body. Soma – body, phobia – aversion. But is not truly aversion, because when you feel aversion for something, you cannot stand living with it But men have live with bodies and women and nature. So they create this controlled attraction context in which animals and women can live by very strict rules, by very strict morality. So somatophobia is about male dominance but, someone can say Plato wrote or did his work so long ago, what does that mean about society today?
When it comes to studying advertisement, the ideal of male dominance, it’s a very recurrent thing. Hyper masculinity is very important to understand the advertisement today. Hyper masculinity it creates an ideal of masculine self that has to express itself to violence, to dominance. Hyper masculinity ideals of man, the ideal man has to be over dominant, over muscular, overaggressive, over threatening, They have to be stoic and insensitive. They cannot express themselves to a wide range of feelings but they have to express themselves only to stress and aggression. This aggressivity can be directed to other men too but in advertising, this is mainly directed to women and animals.
You can see by this ad, that in this context, women’s consent doesn’t play a part. They are like objects or they are being forced into something or they are being unstoppably attracted. They cannot help themselves but being attracted to a hyper masculine ideal. That leads to the idea that advertisement maybe shows that we live in a culture of predation and what is that mean?
In the context of predation, what is values, it is the will of the power over consent. The hunters will over the will of the prey. It’s not about balance, not about harmony or consent, it’s about power over will. If you see predation like that, you will see that rape is just one of many forms of predation. For women, one of these parts is the part of women with meat. Women with meat means a domesticated woman. A woman that doesn’t live for her needs but lives to prepare meat, prepare house, prepare a house, lives to prepare environments so the men can live. Her life is entirely conditional by the will of a man. By the will of patriarchy. In this commercial, you can see the woman is completely torn apart because she burned the meat. Nobody would be torn apart because you got food wrong or burned food, only if your life is built around it – built around constructing a house.
They want to make women to believe that when you don’t do this right, you are failing your husband. It gets worse. So when the husband comes around it says don’t worry darling, at least you didn’t burn the beer like you are saying you are not stupid enough to burn the beer. That is aggressive and condescending. Like in this commercial, that says, “Women don’t leave the kitchen! We all know that the women’s place in the home, cooking a man a delicious meal”. You see this window, it looks like a bar, a prison, a woman belongs in the domestic environment and the man is freed outside and that is where she must be happy in the kitchen building a domestic environment.
You may ask, “but these are commercials are very old. What about today?” This is very recent commercial, from Hillshire Farms, put a very sexualized woman offering meat to a male or to a potential husband, you can interpret anyway you want. But it is certainly a male. She can never be happy by herself on her birthday, she has to seduce in some way her husband in order to achieve her own happiness. All her life goes through a domestic environment, all her life goes through men according to patriarchal views of women. This ad can be very confusing because we have characters that are being sexualized and have characters that are being carnified — is this turkey in a sexual or in a carnified-meat position? Is this woman in a sexual or meat position? For a deodorant
commercial – this makes no sense at all.
The other way, like we saw in the last ad, women can be portrayed in advertisement is when women are portrayed as meat. These advertisements connect perfectly with the previous one. It states: “I can’t cook. Who cares?” What she’s saying is that I can’t be domestic, I can’t cook you a meal, but I can offer myself as meat. I cannot cook the meat but can offer myself as meat. I think Carol Adams would say women has been fragmented into an absent referent. She is portrayed by patriarchal society as a hanging hook for her breast, the only thing that is focused in these advertisements is her breasts. And breasts are a very recurrent fragmentation, a very recurring image in patriarchal
advertising. Like you can see, breasts — what to make of these ads? Is that a burger breast or a breast burger?
In this sign you can read: “Double D’s BBQ, ’cause the size of your rack matters”. What patriarchy are saying to women through meat is that only the size of her rack matters. Another way that women can be portrayed in meat-eating advertisement is as hunting or fishing game. If you think about it, if people sit down on this table, what can they do to that woman, what can they do that is not cruel or bizarre? But patriarchy internalizes these ideas of rape and predation so deeply that people don’t see the bizarre thing to this picture, normally.
Another way that women can be portrayed as meat is when the act of eating meat is compared to the act of having sex. In this context, both characters of meat and women are portrayed as objects of consumption. Clearly, the acts of consumption are very similar in the patriarchal mind. To the picture, I ask you all, does this picture – does the meat in this picture cover the woman’s sexual parts or expose them?
Animals, play in a similar way a sexual part in the predatory culture of advertisement. It’s strange, these advertisements become more aggressive when it comes to seasoning and condiment advertisement. I think the patriarchal thought is very clear about that. To patriarchy society, what brings flavor to meat is the seasoning or condiments. To patriarchal society, what brings flavor to women is sexuality. So is this a duck woman or a woman duck? Is this a woman pig or a pig woman? Is this a chicken woman or a woman chicken?
These advertisements here are even more aggressive. Because of this logo, that states: “Makes food that easy”. What patriarchal society is trying to say is to eat meat with this ketchup is so easy as to rape promiscuous women. So they are comparing rape and predation in a very clear way. So, the final question that this presentation asks is: In our predatory p patriarchal societies, are women being sexualized or are animals being sexualized or women eating carnified?
In this picture take from Brian Luke’s book “Brutal: Man and the Exploitation of Animals”, you can see a great synthesis of what I am talking about here. It’s a hyper-masculine man with the penis-like harpoon fishing a sexualized woman, or more precisely, fishing a sexualized butt, a sexualized body part. It is very common that the image of male domination in advertisement towards women and towards animals to be very similar. They are very similar expressions. From my studies I concluded that that is not about different oppressions that intersect in some way, but about the same male patriarchal oppressions over different subjects.
That’s why I make an appeal to feminists and vegans. Feminism and veganism are not about bringing change through oppression, but to fight oppression to bring change. We don’t have to think about the social movements as a form of bringing empowerment no matter what, but we have to think gender as a trans-species concept.
In order to finish this presentation, I will like to quote Isaac Bashevis Singer who said that: “When it comes to animals, we are all Nazis”, and to finish this presentation I would like to provoke and say when it comes to animals, we are all sexist.
Thank you very much.
I’m not criticizing violence, but I’m criticizing the construction of violence as a masculine thing and justification to oppress women and animals. It’s not about violence in nature like, I don’t believe that exists, but construction of violence as a social technology, as a social expression of masculinity. That is a vital concept to understand predatory culture because its based on the false belief that men are essentially violent and dominant and women are essentially domestic and submissive. That is not true at all. I’m questioning here not violence, I wouldn’t know what to say about violence in essence or in nature, but I’m questioning here the social technology of construction of violence or the social constructions of gender over violence.
Masculinity is often admired in vegan groups. Do you meet solidarity between veganism and feminism from men, or is it uncommon? Its very difficult to be a feminist vegan. For example in the issue of abortion, I can never find the feminist vegan group that make powers to my voice, that would support me. I would choose to always defend women’s choice by myself. In Brazil, it’s a very sexist country and also I think, I’ve been travelling through Brazil presenting to vegan and feminist groups in order to try to connect in people’s minds veganism and feminism. But I don’t think, I’m the most qualified person to do that because I’m a middle-class white heterosexual man, you know, but I’m doing my best to do it. I think currently, here in the United States as in Brazil, the feminist and the vegan movement are widely disconnected. Once I made a community in a social network that was veganism without homophobia and I could convince in Brazil only 10% of people in Brazil to join me in the community, it was a big failure. So that was pretty frustrating but I’m not giving up and trying to through masculinity, which as a man is a field I can explore more, try to link these two things.
There has been a huge increase of women hunting, but still not really relevant statistically speaking. Hunting is like a 90% man activity. But I believe is not about when men or women do these things because I believe that sexism is a generalized tradition that we all must fight against. Men mainly, I think men are the ones that have to fight it with more strength and have to be more strong about it, giving up their own privileges and all, but I think everyone was born in a sexist culture and we have to question the gender constructions and sexism, and women and everyone can be sexist. And we have to watch that and always discuss that but I don’t believe hunting is a sport, hunting is a massacre. It’s very unfortunate that women are engaging in that practice and it’s very unfortunate they think that’s empowerment. That is not empowerment, that is reinforcement of a culture of rape.
Daniel Kirjner is a vegan-feminist activist and doctoral student at the University of Brasília in Brazil, and is currently working with Dr. Lisa Kemmerer as a visiting scholar at Montana State University. His research focuses on links between the construction of masculinity and the glorification of violence against animals and women in contemporary capitalist societies.
Since 2011, Daniel has offered his presentation, “An invisible Veil: a feminist look at animal’s destinies” at a handful of Brazilian universities and social collectives. He has an article accepted for an Australian an anthology on the Anthropocene but, more importantly, he is working hard to always learn about, question, and deconstruct masculinity in his own life, and heighten his awareness of the importance of feminism for changing predatory male behaviour in our society.