Vegetarian Ecofrminism

This particular image was chosen to point out genderism of food choices in our society.  The puff-man seen carving into the dead animal with one foot on the cutting board may represents entitlement, power and control.  Although this is just an image it actually says a lot about our social norms, where everything has a role – we associate food in derogatory terms with identity – sex, gender, race, culture etc.   “So does meat make the man?….Meat still being the manly” choice, it becomes even harder for male consumers to opt for a meat-free lifestyle, even if they supported it in theory.  It’s hard to shift an individual’s perception without first tackling their society’s view” (Eisenberg).

Cultures differs when it comes to gendered foods but in the US especially, men identify meat eating with “masculinity”.  This is what they were taught growing up, “eat like a man” (Eisenberg), meaning eat more protein to look muscular.   This is not healthy eating, it’s one that encourages obesity in men and starvation in women by “fat shaming” them into eating foods such as salads or yogurt to stay skinny.  The practice here is that men must eat meat, which means we undervalue nutrition and instead are more concerned with identifying food with appearance.   Eisenberg’s article makes light of the fact that when it comes to meat in US culture, “not all men find meat-free to be a hit to their mojo” (Eisenberg).  This implies that some men want to make the change, some for health reasons others because they want to but is hard.  This lets us know that we should be worried more about changing the dynamics of “genderism” pertaining to our behavior with meat.

Another issue that we deal with when it comes to food that are claimed to be “gendered”, is the lack of understanding for what these foods entails.  For instance, I think foods such as quinoa is considered to be a gendered food because women, more than men tend to like it.  Also, because it is a plant-based food that can be used in salads, light dishes and is a great source of protein for vegetarians, which most men aren’t.  Women’s Health Magazine, labels it a “superfood” because of it’s tremendous health benefits – “nutty, nutritious, and filling, quinoa is one of only a few plant-based foods that provides complete protein, meaning it contains all of the amino acids your body requires—no additions needed ”(Sara Faye Green,).  Not only that, but it is a great source of fiber.

So why do I consider quinoa to be a gendered food?  Because of its origins.  Although it has only became a popular “superfood” in the US in recent years, it’s considered  to be the “mother grain” in the Incan culture.  “Quinoa is native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. This crop has been called 41 vegetable caviar” or Inca rice, and has been eaten continuously for 5,000 years by people who live on the mountain plateaus and in the valleys of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. Quinua means “mother grain” in the Inca language.” (hot.purdue.edu).  These countries are still struggling to be developed and farming is one of the strengths so grains like quinoa is how they make a living (women in particular). However, competing, commercial markets are trying take away their way of life by producing the crop via factory farming. “Not least, acknowledgment of the value of “underutilized and neglected species” NUS in traditional foods and cultures can empower indigenous communities (women in particular) and reaffirm their identity” (Emma McDonnel, NCLA).

Ecofeminists perception to non-human animals and our relations to them are no different than that of the exploitation as well as despotism of women.  The correlation with the two stems from the fact that animals are considered “less than”.  This is illustrated in the barbaric treatment toward animals, and women.  Curtain sees it in the sense that we should not eat animals unless absolutely necessary – “Though I am committed to moral vegetarianism, I cannot say that I would never kill an animal for food” (Curtain).  However, Gaards view has more to do with the relationship we have with animals.  In that, “no matter how much we love the animals we take into our homes and into our hearts, our relationship with them is always unequal” (Gaard).  Both perspectives share the similar views for animals as they relate to women.  Yet Curtain’s “ecofeminist ethic of care” brings empathy to animals and women due to the mistreatment.  Whereas Gaard feels that we are “complicit” in the mistreatment and lack awareness in the relationships we have with animals, simply because they are pets.

Eisenberg, Zoe. “Meat Heads”, Jan 13, 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/meat-heads-new-study-focuses_b_8964048

Curtin, Deane. “Contextual Moral Vegetarianism ‘Toward an Ecological Ethic of Care’.”, Hypathia, No. 6, spring 1991, pp. 68-71, http://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-m/curtin01.htm

Faye Green, Sara. “This Is How Much Protein Is In A Cup Of Quinoa”, SEP 27, 2017, https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a19938205/what-is-quinoa/

Gaard, Gretta. “Ecofeminism on the Wing: Perspectives on Human-Animal Relations”, 2001, https://www.academia.edu/2489929/Ecofeminism_on_the_Wing_Perspectives_on_Human-Animal_Relations

McDonnel, Emma. “The Quinoa Boom Goes Bust in the Andes”, March 12 2018, https://nacla.org/news/2018/03/12/quinoa-boom-goes-bust-andes

 

5 Replies to “Vegetarian Ecofrminism”

  1. Greetings Mary.
    Quinoa the “super food ” is more expensive than rice in the US, and it is an acquired taste. While I disagree with factory farming and its often environmental damage, bringing such foods to the rural and urban and even some suburban areas, help to expand health choices. Stores like Walmart ( who get food from these farms, am told) serve such areas. But all is not lost for indigenous farmers. Many products-like Quinoa have a label that says who and where your purchase goes to. Organization like ifad members traverse the globe educating and organizing small rural farmers and indigenous farmers on ways “to increase productivity and profitability.” (Beccio,Susan. ifad.org)
    As a pet owner what is your reaction to “animals are forced to conform to rituals and practices of humans, like cats and dogs, denied full expression of their natural urges.” (20) Gaard. as stated by Gruen. Gaard is opposed to killing mice, and no doubt neutering. Would planet earth be able to accommodate all those animals and humans if left uneaten or neutered? Would there be countless animal carcasses on the roads? would we be able to go to a park, or walk in the drive way? you get the picture. I, like all compassionate human beings, abhor animal brutality. There will be natural death, and perhaps a better functioning food chain, but will that be enough? I have not heard anyone address this. For e.g. Mice eat into peoples food stores, some took up residence in a house, matured, then ate the insulation. Cats get rid of mice, but how many uneutered cats should they have to be rid of this invasion of mice-rats? Where are the voices and opinions to address my concerns?
    When you have time look up Polyface Farm in rural Swoope VA for their style of farming.

    1. Hi Bridget,
      Thank you for dropping by to read my post!

      I agree, quinoa tends to cost a little more than the average rice but I think the health benefits can be enormous for some reasons I mentioned in the post “protein, meaning it contains all of the amino acids your body requires—no additions needed” and more. Our relationship with food should be as any healthy relationship in our lives but we are not taught this growing up. This is especially true in poor households, where people do not have much options for food, thereby, eating what they can afford, which is not always healthy. One thing I learned as I got older was that it actually cost less overall to eat healthy than it does to not eat healthy. This is because bad/undernutrition can lead to host of health concerns, with the biggest being heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Which then leads to a medical bills. Also, there is a vast amount of extremely nutritious plant-based foods that are inexpensive. So I really do think education is key here when it comes to the food choices we make. As far as profit for the rural farmers in the global south, I’m glad you read that they are being educated on productivity, as it is needed.

      My heart sunk with Gaard’s article. As a pet owner, my dog is an extension of me and my family to whom we have a lot of respect for, so I cannot imagine mistreating her one bit. Nor can I imagine people who mistreat any animal for that matter. However, I empathized with the story of poor Bella the bird, as this broke my heart. I do not believe that birds should be kept as pets because they are meant to fly and be free. And while I agreed with Gaard’s theory regarding our pets not being equal to us, I think the bigger question is – what kind of animals should be kept as pets? While the subjugation of animals relating to women is true, and I can see how speciesism is an issue that needs to be addressed when it comes to the care of animals, there is that “paradox”. For me, I’m conflicted between meat eating and pets.

      Apart from reading and discussing the issue of “meat”, I think I’m guilty like most of us because I do eat meat – wings, chicken breast, seafood, and beef. Although, I eat it probably twice a week now, which is a big difference from eating it everyday. But this surely makes no difference as I eat other diary products (eggs, milk, yogurt, etc.), so I guess this still makes me “complicit”. But sadly I was taught growing up that this is a great form of protein, not to mention when prepared right could be delicious. I’m still learning and changing my food choices as such to be plant-based.

      Lastly, went to “Polyfacefarms” as you suggested and found it interesting and I liked the concept of “environmentally-friendly farming”. To your point though, a “better functioned food chain” absolutely makes the most sense but eating an animal that died of natural causes just sounds like a bad idea to me. Though, one thing I could not get out of my head was the end result for the animals, which is death in most cases. I struggle with the idea of raising animals for (regardless to how good they are treated) for food consumption. One review read – “I don’t’ eat much meat, but I had one of your steaks the other day and it made me want to have another one. It may have been the best I’ve ever had.” B.W.” (Polyfacefarms). I can see eggs and dairy but even so, we are still forcing animals out of their natural ways of life. I, like you, am also trying to figure out how we live on a planet with mice, rodents, and other kinds of what we call “pests”?

      Mary

  2. Mary,
    Reading Gaard broke my heart, thinking of my animals I know the relationship is lopsided as I have so much control over them; but, I really hope that they feel the relationship is beneficial. When they all curl up around me at night to sleep, I tend to think they appreciate my love as much as I appreciate theirs.
    It is really hard for people to change their diet in our society. It’s hard as an adult to break those habits of cooking, and it is hard as a child as you are not in control of what you eat. I’m not sure if I would ever switch to vegetarianism. It breaks my heart to know the conditions those animals are raised in, and I try to do my part by consuming meat that has been allowed to live it’s life on it’s own terms. I know this isn’t fixing the problem and is still problematic, deciding that taking an animals life for your own nourishment is ethically wrong.
    Here are two articles talking about the two different sides of the ethical meat eating debate:
    https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/green-life/toward-moral-case-for-meat-eating
    https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/nov/16/theres-no-such-thing-as-humane-meat-or-eggs-stop-kidding-yourself

  3. Hello!

    Your response about quinoa as a gendered food was one I had not given any thought to, but upon your explanation, I can definitely see it. Quinoa, at least to me, has been associated with dieting that is predominantly done by females and something I associate with the wealthier middle-aged women that shop at Whole Foods (mostly because I have seen internet memes that suggest this stereotype). Not only is quinoa, as a natural plant-based product, associated with gendered eating, but I also did some research and found that 31% of Peruvian agricultural producers are women (ILO Newsroom 1). According to this source from the International Labour Organization identifies how women as quinoa farmers and producers were also working for lower wages while being the sole caregivers to their families (ILO News 1). This gendered food goes even further into one of our past lessons about the impacts of environmental struggles on women, showing that these foods associated with femininity can even go as far as being produced and harvested by women as well.

    Drawing on the perceptions of Curtin and Gaard, I was most intrigued by Gaard’s beliefs on speciesism, or the exploitation of animals that is conducted by humans. I myself have a dog, and I had never previously had thoughts on keeping pets as an unethical practice. I personally do not completely agree with Gaard’s beliefs on keeping pets, as one of our classmates Nick Souza pointed out in his post that some domesticated animals such as dogs and cats are not well suited to live in the wilderness. I feel as though Curtin’s perspective of the relations that humans morally should have with animals is what I more align with. Although I do not agree with Gaard’s perspectives fully and that I am not a vegetarian, it is noted that both perspectives bring about the thought of whether we are as compassionate with nature and animals as we should be.

    If you would like to take a look at the article on female quinoa farmers in Peru and programs that have been passed to support them and other agricultural producers, you can find the link here:
    https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/features/WCMS_579074/lang–en/index.htm

  4. Hello,

    I think that Gaard’s perspective of “not killing an animal unless absolutely necessary” confirms that we perceive animals as “less than”. Why can’t we respect animals the same way that we respect other humans? Would we kill another human and eat them if it was necessary? Some people probably would, in fact, there have been cases of cannibalism, but my point is that this is not something that we would normally think of because we know that humans are not supposed to be killed for food. So, even though Gaard is advocating for the respect of animals, he is still reinforcing the idea of animals as “less than”. Also, I like your comparison of quinoa and women. Not only is quinoa associated with women because women are the ones who grow it, but because quinoa is a healthy food that can keep women in shape. I learned in one of my classes that quinoa used to be considered a food of the poor. This could be another reason why quinoa is associated with women, because quinoa was perceived as “less than” at some point and as we know, women have been under appreciated for most of our existence. Learning all this information has really taught me to analyze many things that I did not find important before. It is interesting to see that all the healthy foods are associated with women.

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