Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

96: Carol J. Adams part VI:
A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

In order to develop a feminist-vegetarian critical theory the theory of feminism and animal defense must be linked to vegetarianism as one of their practices. This is what engaged theory means in the context of feminism and animal advocacy: vegetarianism.

         Patriarchy is the system of values, attitudes and practices most common the dominant world view. Patriarchy is challenged by vegetarianism. However the meaning of vegetarianism is often ignored, de-contextualized, trivialized, or re-interpreted and misunderstood within patriarchy. A feminist-vegetarian critical theory is meant to counter this patriarchal incursion by highlighting and discussing the deep meaning and points that have been missed.

        Among the points that are often missed are: women and animals are similarly dominated and oppressed, with overlapping levels and systems of control. And that the choice of diet can destabilize and challenge these forms of domination, oppression, and control.

         The first step is to show the issues that vegetarianism has problems with. The author’s model for exposing these issues, “has three facets: the revelation of the nothingness of meat, the naming of relationships, and the rebuking of a patriarchal and meat-eating world.”

         At the very basic beginning, whenever a hint of vegetarianism is found in literature we should dwell for a moment and ask ourselves the W5 questions: who, what, where, when, why?

         In character formation, a spiritual quest is discernible which the author calls the vegetarian quest. “It consists of three parts: an awakening in which the revelation of the nothingness of meat occurs, naming the relationships one sees with animals, and rebuking a meat-eating world.” In the first stage, the nothingness of meat is a realization of its transformation from a living animal into dead food: the recognition of the missing absent referent. In the second stage, the naming of the relationships involves moving from the recognition to judgment: recognizing “the needless violence of meat eating.” and “the conviction that killing animals is wrong.” In the third stage the vegetarian quest moves from judgment to action. “Vegetarianism does more than rebuke a meat-eating society; it rebukes a patriarchal society…”

         “Literary critics need to be alert to the ways in which vegetarianism appears in women’s novels….vegetarianism appears in fiction through [1] allusion to previous vegetarian words; [2] in characters in novels who recall historic vegetarians; [3] through direct quotations from earlier vegetarian texts; and [4] through language that identifies the functioning of the structure of the absent referent.”

         Phenomenology is an approach that concentrates on consciousness and direct experience of objects from the first person point of view. Major aspects of phenomenology deal with intentionality and feelings. “A phenomenology of vegetarianism recapitulates the phenomenology of writing: of sizing language, of identifying gaps and silences. This vegetarian phenomenology includes identification with animals or animals’ fate; questions of articulation, of when to speak up or accept silence; of control of food choices; and of challenging patriarchal myths that approve of meat eating.”

         The author provides a model for exposing vegetarian concerns and problems, a quest for vegetarian characters and a phenomenology of what is personally relevant as the foundation for a feminist-vegetarian critical theory. This is important because literature that illuminates the problems have historically been the most effective in changing the world.

         In the afterword of the book written for the 25th anniversary edition she claims that the conversation has moved forward with many new authors contributing to bearing the vegetarian word against the texts of meat but that images and attitudes seem to be increasing in offensiveness and blatantness.

© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren