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Our Speciesist Culture

Carol Adams has made a career out of comparing women and animals. An author famous for works like The Pornography of Meat and Living Among Meat Eaters, she now makes her living by going from campus to campus presenting her slide show entitled “The Sexual Politics of Meat.”  

Harvard, like dozens of other campuses, fell victim to Ms. Adams’ slide show a week ago—given in the ironic location of Quincy Dining Hall—with the gleeful imprimatur of Quincy Co-Master Jayne Loader. To Loader, she is “the most provocative and interesting theorist working in the animal rights field.” That’s one way to put it, but it’s best to let Ms. Adams speak for herself.

For starters, she argues, Nixon’s and Kruschev’s debates in a model kitchen are an allegory to the “sexual politics of meat.” And she claims that even the seemingly benign symbols of our carno-centric culture—in her slide show, a cartoon pig with barely noticeable eyelashes—are really insidious elements which further the oppression of women (and animals) by “feminizing animals and animalizing females.”

Her slide show’s message is contained quite aptly in one image that shows a steak, a garnish of parsley, and asparagus. “Don’t tell me these advertisers don’t know exactly what they’re doing,” admonishes Ms. Adams as she flips to this image, apparently a comment directed at people like me who see, well, a steak with some vegetables. She lets her warning set in and then explains: the steak is really a “fragmentized referent” to the female body; the parsley, pubic hair; the asparagus, a phallus.

You see, in the land in which Ms. Adams dwells, social norms oppress children who would otherwise become vegetarians. In pursuit of elusive facts to back up this, uh, assertion, she alleges a conspiracy of the American Dairy Council in public schools. She gives further evidence, her voice tinged with horror, of her child being coerced to color in a picture of a turkey in a grade school worksheet about the first Thanksgiving.

Space constraints sadly limit more references to the madness of Ms. Adams though more fragments of her “philosophy” are available on her hilariously self-promoting website, www.caroljadams.com.

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Just as the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance would not engage in debate with a person it labels a “homophobe,” someone irreversibly against a homosexual lifestyle (for you confused first-years, do a Crimson archives search for Gladden Pappin), it behooves me not even to attempt rational debate with Ms. Adams, a person who’s clearly gone over the edge.

 Rather, it is enough to declare simply that her equation which levels “sexism” with “speciesism”—one of Ms. Adams’ other talents is, apparently, adding to our already-rich lexicon—is ravenously sexist itself. It is not society that so intimately links animals and females; it is Ms. Adams and like-minded psychos, within the confines of their delusions about America’s banal, but not speciesist/sexist, pop culture. And to equate, say, the pressing issues of women’s equal rights with the purported “rights” of animals is nothing short of ludicrous. Yet, this is nothing new for the PETA circuit, which has previously launched vile ad campaigns which compare the killing of chickens to the Holocaust and the captivity of circus elephants to the trans-Atlantic slave trade—fliers on the latter theme were actually available at Ms. Adams’ lecture. But, in the speaker’s crowd of about 125, there was not (apart from my laughter) a single sound of disapproval.

At least when Larry Flynt comes to speak at Harvard, he does so under the banner of pop culture, not academia. Ms. Adams is not a credible academic and her mere appearance at Harvard denigrates the university. At least in this sense, it is pleasing to see that Ms. Adams is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and not of one of Harvard’s. Even if the Quincy co-master has erred in giving Ms. Adams’ an intellectual pedestal to speak, at least we are spared the embarrassment of having produced a graduate capable of such drivel.

—Travis R. Kavulla is an editorial editor.

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