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The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory Anniversary Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0826411846
ISBN-10: 0826411843
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Many cultures equate meat-eating with virility, and in some societies women offer men the "best" (i.e., bloodiest) food at the expense of their own nutritional needs. Building upon these observations, feminist activist Adams detects intimate links between the slaughter of animals and violence directed against women. She ties the prevalence of a carnivorous diet to patriarchal attitudes, such as the idea that the end justifies the means, and the objectification of others. In Frankenstein , Mary Shelley made her Creature a vegetarian, a point Adams relates to the Romantics' radical politics and to visionary novels by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Dorothy Bryant and others. Adams, who teaches at Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, sketches the alliance of vegetarianism and feminism in antivivisection activism, the suffrage movement and 20th-century pacifism. Her original, provocative book makes a major contribution to the debate on animal rights.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Writer/activist/university lecturer Adams's important and provocative work compares myths about meat-eating with myths about manliness; and explores the literary, scientific, and social connections between meat-eating, male dominance, and war. Drawing on such diverse sources as butchering texts, cookbooks, Victorian "hygiene" manuals, and Alice Walker, the author provides a compelling case for inextricably linking feminist and vegetarian theory. This book is likely to both inspire and enrage readers across the political spectrum: we learn, for example, that veal was served at Gloria Steinem's 50th birthday, as well as of the atrocities of the slaughterhouse. One wishes Adams had been more careful about documenting some of her claims--her contention, for instance, that early humans were entirely vegetarian, requires scholarly support. Nevertheless this is recommended for both public and academic collections.
- Beverly Miller, Boise State Univ. Lib., Id.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum; Anniversary edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826411843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826411846
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,272,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book in the early nineties. It was an eye-opener for me then as a man, having had my mind socially trained by the sixties and seventies. Now my life-partner is working her way through it. She is a person who already has a great grasp on ethical-political-social-ethnic-psychological issues. Even she comes to me with the book in hand, saying "You've got to see this! Did you know about this?" I am thrilled that the book has had enough of a following to warrant a 20th Anniversary Edition. There may be hope for us after all...
Subtitled "A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory", this small book is no small work. Carol J. Adams was/is a pioneer in connecting words with images; Adams links words; like contexts with meanings, power to subordination, and humanity to kindness. This book is surely, but not only, a feminist treatise. It is also about the non-human animals which we debase with words. (Think, for example, how calling a female human " b**** " is actually a slander to females of two species at once...)
Adams addresses the demeaning of women and animals as well as societal correctives. I guess I need to read the book again because I don't recall if she addresses the effect of sexual politics on boys and men. How many PE coaches have told young males "You run like a girl"? How many boys and men have been called a " p**** ", again slandering females from two species at once. I've been challenged with "How do you handle having a woman for a boss?" But because of having been influenced by Carol J. Adams' writing, I do see the damage done to boys and men in these ways. And I see the secondary damage to girls and women, by insinuation, with such words.
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It's hard not to feel ambivalent - strongly ambivalent - about this book.

Unless you're a student, or teacher, of feminist literature, it is somewhat of a slog to get through this book. "The Sexual Politics of Meat" is mainly an analysis of feminist literature and most of the works to which Adams refers will seem obscure to the average reader.

On the other hand, this book is considered a classic in the veg*n genre and for good reason. Adams artfully conveys a number of important ideas, chief among them that meat-eating is strongly interrelated to other forms of oppression.

As she puts it, "Meat eating is to animals what white racism is to people of color, anti-Semitism is to Jewish people, homophobia is to gay men and lesbians, and woman hating is to women. All are oppressed by a culture that does not want to assimilate them fully on their grounds and with rights."

Amen to that.

As a Jew, it is upsetting to me that most of my co-religionists do not see the obvious parallels between the oppression and exploitation of animals, which is inherent in meat-eating, and the oppression and exploitation of Jews throughout almost all of our history.

And although I'm a male, I'm disappointed that the feminist movement largely ignores the exploitation of female organs in the dairy and egg industries.

Adams gives voice to these concerns, particularly the latter one.
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I read this book at the same time I was reading Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade. The two works seem to fit well together in some ways (and I noticed that Eisler quotes from one of Adams' later books in her book Sacred Pleasure). I agree with Adams' main assertion in this book: Throughout modern history meat has been associated with "domination"-type patriarchal values. I don't think there is any question that this meat = patriarchy assertion is true in most of our world's cultures. However, I find The Sexual Politics of Meat oddly and somewhat incoherently written. The book is not really comprehensively anthropological and it's not really comprehensively literary-analytical either. Adams seems to just jump around to (mostly) British-oriented novels and non-fiction works in a very haphazard way. I could not figure out exactly why she chose some of the books that she did. With the exception of some works like Percy Shelly's piece on meat-eating, many of her choices appeared quite random to me. And the other thing that bothered me was that Adams repeated herself a lot. I had trouble keeping track of the different works Adams was analyzing because she seemed to say the same thing about them over and over. Finally, in 2001, I find there is an obviousness to some of the examples Adams uses to make her point about meat-eating and patriarchal values. The Vietnam-era scene about someone refusing to eat meat in the house of prominent military person sticks out in my mind here. Perhaps when she wrote this down fifteen or so years ago, it seemed that our "majority culture" would have sympathized more with the military/macho meat guy. But I think today, more people (or a great many people) would sympathize with the person who refused to eat meat. I guess this book just doesn't seem as radical to me as it probably felt to Adams when she was writing it.
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This was one of the most important books I read, both in terms of animal rights and human rights. I clearly understood animal rights and how animals are abused in our society - I had no idea how this was linked to white patriarchy and the silencing of woman's voices. This book was my introduction to feminism, women's rights, and further into human rights causes and issues, and how they all tie together. Animal liberation is human liberation. None of us can be free while some of us are in chains and dying.
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