Man is the hunter; woman is his game

There is a connection between violence against women and violence against animals. Our culture sees women as meat.

A strip joint in Minneapolis used to offer a “Deer hunter’s special” during the fall, with the invitation to “Come check out our buck-naked girls.” A couple of years ago, “Hunting for Bambi” generated a lot of media attention with its supposed $10,000 hunting spree said to allow men to chase two naked women (except for sneakers) and try to shoot them with paintballs.

It was a hoax, but this wasn’t: Referring to the dead boar he was straddling for a photograph for the Philadelphia Inquirer a few years ago, a hunter explained to the reporter, “I’ll grab it just like I grab my women.” Then there was the fur store that invited women to “Come in and get skinned beautifully.”

The strip joint, the hoax, the hunter and the fur salon represent the ephemera of popular culture that have shown up in my mailbox ever since my controversial book, “The Sexual Politics of Meat” appeared in 1990.

In that book, I proposed that there was a connection between violence against women and violence against animals. I identified how our culture sees women as meat, or at least has fun implying that they are, and sees animals eaten as meat as female.

Since that time, things have only gotten worse. Women continue to be shown as animal-like; the bodies and severed body parts of farm animals are made sexy.

Recently, in California, burger restaurant chain Carl’s Jr. ran a TV advertisement that began with the statement, “We can’t usually show large breasts on national television.”

The visual was a white chicken with a black censored bar across its chest. The ad went on to say, “… unless it’s on a sandwich.” And then there was the restaurant in Chicago. It offered a “Double D cup breast of turkey sandwich.”

Often, the media participate in this rather than commenting with horror on it. From my files, I could pull out the image of a sexy, anorexic cow, with bangles on her arm, with spots that look like a sports bra, holding a picture of a big, fat, old cow. The image is akin to a weight loss ad. The image is from The New York Times, illustrating an article on a low-fat hamburger.

It seemed to announce, “I used to be an old cow, but now with this low-fat hamburger I am thin and sexy again.” The idea of cows eating a low-fat hamburger might be laughable if mad cow disease hadn’t entered the scene precisely because cows were fed cows.

Another newspaper, this time from the West Coast, shows another image: a very sexy cow, clad in a very skimpy bikini with one high heel pump kicked off, the other about ready to fall, her pink fishnet stockings pulled thigh-high. She has big pink lips, mascaraed eyes and a large feather standing erect at the top of her head.

And right there, with her rump hanging way over a champagne glass are the words “A REAL CHEAP DISH,” showing us all just who is a real cheap dish – a cow. The article that is dwarfed by the headline and this posed, sexually attractive “come-and-get-me-big-boy” cow is about fixing cheap cuts of meat.

In fact, these images are so prolific a friend coined a term for them, “Anthropornography” – animals posed as strippers and prostitutes. With anthropornography, the attitudes toward women found in pornography can be expressed freely, yet in a disguised way – with nonhuman animals as the objects.

Anthropornography provides a way for men to bond publicly around misogyny. Men can publicly consume what is usually private. These images, these advertisements, these menus assure their consumers that everything is OK, their world view is OK.

Animal activists proclaim, “Look, we are animals, too! Animals are like us in so many ways. They have feelings. They have social relationships. They have consciousness.”

Anthropornography takes the sensibility that animals are like us – a sensibility that is disturbing if you benefit from animal exploitation – and lodges it safely within a culture predicated on women’s sexual inequality. In this way, violence is made sexy. And No one appears harmed, and so no one has to be accountable.

As a feminist-vegan, I know that with each meal, I boycott this culture with its fraternity like restaurant menus, its promise of buck-naked girls, its canned hunts and sexy breast “meat.”

I invite you to consider joining the boycott.

Carol J. Adams is the author of “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and “The Pornography of Meat.” She will speak at 6 p.m. Thursday in 250 Anderson Hall at an event co-sponsored by the Women’s Student Activist Collective and Compassionate Action for Animals.