DEFIANT DAUGHTERS: A (personal) review

Having always loved Carol Adam’s « The Sexual Politics of Meat », I plunged very eagerly into this book by women who have been influenced by her and this started a fascinating journey into the personal experiences of these women of varied backgrounds.

My own feminism started after being physically assaulted in the early 90s. Until that point, I was playing into the game of what women were supposed to be according to men: desirable objects. I didn’t realize that I had become this dismembered being, wanted for certain attributes. I had fooled myself into believing that seduction led to empowerment and finally realized that this was the opposite. I was just playing into a game set up for thousands of years by men. Carol Adams’ book opened my eyes to the truth.

My food disorders also started around that time. After so many years, and a lot of self-therapy and regular therapy, I mostly found peace and I, particularly, found Veganism which I used as a tool of healing and reconciliation with myself. I am far from where I want to be, but my healing is continuing and it allows me to help others, humans and non-humans as I am able to. This book is God-sent with its true stories or women searching for themselves in a male dominated society which still calls the shots on what women are supposed to be.

From the get go, I was struck by the power of the stories presented by each author in this book. So much sincerity can hardly let someone leave the book feeling nothing. But what really grabbed me was the sense of being among soul sisters, regardless of their various background or journeys.

In each woman’s story, I saw part of myself. Having grown up in France where we have a large Muslim community in which I mingled a bit, I could relate to Ruby Hamad’s story.

Having gone through my own alcohol, cigarettes and food addictions as well as body image problems, Kim Socha’s story touched me deeply.

Jennifer Grubb’s story about breastfeeding her child reminded me of what other women I have known have confronted in a society which considers breasts as sexual and not nurturing. I personally never had or wanted children but, as a woman, this was still personal.

Colleen Martell’s struggle with being a vegetarian outside of home reminded me of my own and how I isolated myself and will only go eat with Vegans in Vegan places and can’t tolerate the non-Vegan world anymore. How do we create balance when we still are a minority that is still ridiculed by the majority? How do we deal with the disconnectedness of other people even when they are presented with the truth? These issues I have struggled with since I went Vegan in 2006 and Colleen’s story rang true to me.

Sunaura Taylor’s view of animals as disabled beings is something I had never thought off but made total sense. They are bred to become disabled and then dismembered victims. She also makes a wonderful point about the use of some words and reminded me of the importance I place on words and language in general in my own advocacy. That is something so often ignored in the animal rights and Vegan movement.

Carolyn Mullin’s story of her Mexican heritage fascinated me as, having Mexican neighbors does not obviously make me knowledgeable about Mexican culture, particularly when it comes to women and the difficulty in finding women role-models who are not domestic workers or house makers. I had no idea for instance that so many women had been enslaved during the Mexican Revolution. This was a (sad) revelation. I was also fascinated by the calendar girls’ history and it’s white domination underlying. And the biggest surprise was for me to learn that Jack London had tried to get Ringling Brothers to stop using animals in the circus. Carolyn’s vast knowledge of museums put me back in touch with my love of antiquity and visiting museums as a kid. However, I never wanted to see a museum of natural history for the gruesome displays of « preserved » animal bodies. The animal advocacy movement constantly revisits old themes.

Dallas Rising’s story of her rape by a weirdo from a Star Trek convention was strangely reminiscent of my own sexual assault by a weirdo who was a Star Trek maniac and wore a lot of Star Trek uniforms (please note that I am still a Star Trek fan in spite of it). I love Dallas’ work with Midwest Vegan Radio (and miss the podcast). Her comments about the so-called « happy meat » movement and what some welfare animal organizations spoke deeply to my abolitionist liberationist position and how I relate to the movement in general. This particular paragraph resonated deeply with me: « I worried for years that it was my fault because my rape didn’t look like that. But it was still rape and it was still wrong and it still left me traumatized and wounded. Hearing people advocate for cage-free eggs or asking people to go vegetarian instead of vegan when they know the violence inherent in the dairy and egg industries is, to me, exactly like hearing that my rape doesn’t count. I wasn’t violated to the degree that they feel is sufficient to be worth speaking out against. »

Finally, Jasmin Singer’s story is one I was excited to read as I am a big fan of Our Hen House and the wonderful work she and Mariann Sullivan do to raise awareness of animal issues and feminism. Jasmin’s story talked to me on various levels. I was bullied in school by both boys and other girls. I remember one spilling a red liquid on my bed without me noticing so that my clothes would be smeared in red to look like I was menstruating and being later humiliated in public because I had failed to notice it. I remember being madly in love with this 16 year old guy until I found out he was using me for a bet with his friends and being crushed for month. A few years later, I was assaulted by a « friend » of mine in my parents’ home and he ran out the door leaving me completely lost and terrified. I hated men so much that I turned to lesbianism for a few years and even had a couple of girlfriends. The difference with Jasmin is that I was always bi-sexual and never ended up rejecting men. By the way, I am not implying that lesbianism is a result of rape but that it was to me a way of healing and finding who I was. Jasmin beautifully makes the connection between the rapes of mother cows on the « rape racks » (which is an industry term) and women’s own experience with assault. « I recalled watching the footage of factory farming, of cows screaming, and I thought of the many times I would leave rehearsal from a play that focused on rape, and get some ice cream on the way home – a « food » that was the byproduct of, in essence, rape ». I couldn’t say it better.

And I could go on and on about all the wonderful stories in this book. Whether their stories related to mine is irrelevant in the end. We are all sisters and we all face the same ugly patriarchy and all its difficulties thrown at us as women.

I am so grateful for this anthology and the beautiful stories from everyone of these women who are not only remarkable human beings but incredible animal advocates and Vegans (and near Vegans).

Carol Adams’ books shaped most of my own writing to this day. If there was ever a second book like this one, I would apply to write my own story and add it to this necessary book’s mission of educating more women and men to feminism and Veganism.

As women of the world are raped, abused, and killed in wars started by men so are our animal sisters who are also raped, abused and killed in a war against them started by men. All this is also damaging to men as it prevents them from developing empathy and respect for both women and animals. It is impossible to not make the connection once you read both The Sexual Politics of Meat and this wonderful anthology. Everyone is being consumed by patriarchy.

© copyright November 2013- All rights reserved

Defiant Daughters

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