Bodily Thinking (Why I Maybe Should Be A Vegetarian)

Vegetarianism and feminism might be more intrinsically link than they first appear... Deviance Editor Ana Hine explains her thinking

Blog by Ana Hine | 13 Jun 2012

The other day I came across an interesting connection. As a women who likes other women (and men, and others on the spectrum) people often assume I’m a vegetarian. I’ve always been a little surprised at the logic of this – surely human sexual orientation has nothing to do with animal rights. Turns out these people were less mistaken than I’d originally assumed. It’s as a woman, as a feminist, that I should be vegetarian.

Let me explain. At first I was sceptical, but I’ve started to come around to the simplicity of the argument. In brief it goes; human beings are afraid of death and thus they (and particularly men) come to associate bodily functions with death. For instance, we talk about the “little death” of orgasm and ejaculation. Traditionally, men were able to detach themselves more from their bodies than women were – they could ignore their bodies in a way that women, historically, were unable to. Women were treated as virtual slaves (forced to work unpaid doing household tasks, unable to own property or earn a living etc) because of their bodies.

What makes a woman? The ownership of a vagina? The ownership of a working womb? Or is it more societal – long hair and breasts maybe? Certain mannerisms? A high voice? A short stature? 

These are all bodily things. Animal things. Signifiers that mark women out as homo sapiens. Maybe being a woman is more than just a bodily experience. If I woke up tomorrow as a small blue cube would I still be female? Is my MIND female? Who knows. I don’t have a PhD in gender studies (yet) so I can’t give you a definite answer to that question. I’m not sure I believe that anyone can.

Society classes me as female because I have certain bodily signifiers, and other people behave in a certain way towards me because they read me as female. That, as much as anything, makes me a woman. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

How this links to vegetarianism is that, as a woman, my animalism, my bodiliness, has a profound determining effect on my life. Less so than it would in other cultures, or at other times in history, but still more than it would if I were male. Of course that is subjective, but ask yourself – would you have made exactly the same choices, been in exactly the same relationships, taken exactly the same courses, jobs, friends, if you had been a different sex/gender? Is your life true to you, or is it biologically determined according to your gender identity and sexed body? 

So in coming to terms with the bodily nature of my identity I do feel a sliver of sympathy for the other bodies around me. If I am an animal, then maybe I shouldn’t be eating other animals. Maybe they’re as trapped in their physicality as I am. I’m not going to stop eating bacon, but I am going to feel a bit more guilty about it. Thanks feminism.