Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The sexual politics of meat and powerful political women

A menu designed for an Australian Liberal National Party fundraising dinner to benefit candidate Mal Brough expressed misogynist attitudes toward Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

Here it is:

Many news media have covered this story, and Gillard herself has responded and called it "sexist." Yes, implying any woman should be reduced to body parts and likened to being dead pieces of meat is misogynistic. Patriarchal politics likes consumable women. They are women whose power is limited and constrained, or in the case of powerful political women, fantasized as limited and constrained. But, that is not all that is going on. 

The imagined fragmentation of women--powerful political women or not--is part of the sexual politics of meat. Meat is sexualized, women are seen as meat. Meat, after all, has no power. It is the opposite of power; it is what happens to someone who has no power: they are treated like pieces of meat (as happens to 9 billion land animals in the US each year alone).

In The Sexual Politics of Meat, I say “if meat eating is a sign of male dominance, then the presence of meat announces the disempowerment of women.” And one way to try to disempower a powerful political woman is to imply that she is nothing but meat.

But why are people so surprised? This is business as usual; the sexual politics of meat needs constantly to be reiterated, reimagined. Apparently you have to keep doing it, you have to keep participating in the construction of maleness through the sexual politics of meat.

Such references are nothing new. In fact, in the early 1990s, a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Fort Worth advertised a "Hillary Clinton Special" along these same lines.
What is surprising is the surprise that has greeted this most recent example of the sexual politics of meat. After all, it is all around us. Representations of dead animals as women, and associating women with dead parts of animals is just business as usual for many advertisers, some fraternities, some male comics. My collection of examples is now well over 1000 images and references.

Indeed, this ad just appeared in Israel:

This isn’t the first time the misogyny against Julia Gillard has been expressed through speciesism. Last year, David Farley, CEO of Australian Agricultural Company, Australia's largest beef cattle company, announced its plans to build a slaughterhouse that specializes in killing older cows, when they are no longer “productive.” Farley said, “So, it’s designed for non-productive old cows—Julia Gillard’s got to watch out.”

The fate of domesticated animals becomes a potent symbol of negation. Out of the day-to-day suffering inflicted on female animals, arises a contempt that those who suffer for us are beneath our notice; the result is that names associated with the female reproductive system become insults: Cow, pig, sow, hen, old biddy, bitch. All  have negative connotations…terms for women derived from females who have absolutely no control over their reproductive choices.

I took this photograph on my way to a Hillary Clinton rally in a very wealthy area of Dallas during the 2008 primaries:

That powerful women evoke these kinds of reactions is a reminder that this is not a post-feminist world. It is a sexual politics of meat world.


  1. Your quote: "That powerful women evoke these kinds of reactions is a reminder that this is not a post-feminist world. It is a sexual politics of meat world," is - on its face - illogical, e.g. Margaret Thatcher.

  2. hilary,clinton,SHAREHOLDER-she,bought,shares,in,cattle,n,slaughterhouse-got,rich,quick-see,gail,eisnitz,book-"slaughterhouse-shocking,story,of,greed,neglect----