Consider How Meat and Milk Uphold Misogyny

“Bitch from hell,” her ear tag read, instead of the usual 3-digit number used to identify dairy cows. On a farmers’ Facebook group page, a dairy farmer posted her photo and joked about how difficult she was.

The universal language for females who don’t behave: She’s a bitch. On dairy farms –and hog farms and egg farms — female animals have one purpose which is to produce milk and eggs and baby animals for farmers to sell. They are confined to small spaces, deprived of the outdoors and forcibly impregnated until their bodies are used up, and then they are sent to slaughter. On dairy farms, cows are restrained in chutes and forcibly artificially inseminated. Physically resisting their treatment and confinement is their only means of expressing an opinion about any of this and that doesn’t usually end well. “Shoot in head,” another ear tag read, posted in the same Facebook discussion by a farmer who had his own “poorly behaved” cow, i.e., one who resists.

On hog farms, it’s standard practice to confine female pigs in gestation crates, which are pens so small that they can’t turn around. In response to criticism of this blatantly cruel practice, a spokesperson for the National Pork Producers’ Council said: “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2 ½ years that they are in the stalls producing piglets. I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.”

The answer is no one. No one asked. Because on hog farms, where the pig’s only role is to produce and feed piglets for meat, no one cares. She’s just an animal after all. Just a female animal whose sole purpose in life lies in her exploitation by the farmers who want to sell the products of her misery and the consumers who want to eat those products. If a pig resists her confinement, chances are she’ll earn a title like “fat selfish bitch,” which is sign that was printed on one sow’s crate.

It’s not so different from men who view women as something to be consumed by sheer will and force. Like the current president of the United States. “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” Donald J. Trump boasted in the Access Hollywood video leaked to the Washington Post in October 2016. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

“That’s it,” we all said. “He can’t get elected now. Nobody would defend that.” But defend it they did. It was just “locker room talk,” some said. In the end, he was elected, but it wasn’t despite misogyny; he got elected because of it.

In the summer of 2016, the New York Times, posted a three-minute video culled from reporters’ coverage of Donald Trump’s rallies. The video began with a warning: “This video includes vulgarities and racial and ethnic slurs.” Amidst anti-Muslim invective, xenophobic references to “build that wall,” racist slurs against President Obama, and violent incidents, we learn that “perhaps nothing draws more ire than mentions of Hillary Clinton.” We hear shouts of “Bitch,” “Tramp,” “Fuck you Hillary,” and “Hang the bitch.” At minute 2:31, a political pin appears with the wording “KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 small breasts…left wing.”

One of the most powerful women in the world, reduced to body parts. Who else gets reduced to body parts? The animals whose meat we eat. There is a stark analogy here. Female humans and female animals are viewed as available for the taking. Embracing misogyny as a shared project among men, Trump gleefully chortled, “Grab ’em by the pussy,” expecting affirmation not criticism. “Are you a breast man or a leg man?” a popular chicken franchise asks. Body parts on offer. Both the women and the animals matter only to the degree that their body parts — pussies, legs, breasts — are seen as available. Male entitlement is circulated among men, who together create the object status of the women. Meat eaters create the object status of animals.

In December 2017, Emily Nussbaum, Pulitzer prize winning TV Critic for The New Yorker tweeted “I realize this is the world’s smallest issue, but I still don’t understand what “I moved on her like a bitch“ means.”

We can help her.

The cow with the ear tag “Bitch from Hell”? Maybe she resisted being restrained for artificial insemination. They moved on her like a bitch. She became hamburger.

The pig in the factory farm labeled “Fat selfish bitch?” They moved on her like a bitch. She became bacon.

Trump moved on his chosen prey like a bitch, determined to overcome any protestations.

He moved on her as though she were merely a bitch, a cow, a sow, a hen, an old biddy — a female available for exploitation.

What appears to be a feature of life, misogyny, is actually a one-sided construct, a particular point of view. Misogyny, resurgent among Republican lawmakers, reflects the same kind of entitlement that undergirds animal agriculture and fuels popular culture’s depiction of dead animals who will be eaten as female. They are inviting us all to move on her like a bitch.

Carol J. Adams and Virginia Messina are the authors of Protest Kitchen: Fight Injustice, Save the Planet and Fuel the Resistance One Meal at a Time.

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