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The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  3,169 ratings  ·  302 reviews
First published in 1990, The Sexual Politics of Meat is a landmark text in the ongoing debates about animal rights. In the two decades since, the book has inspired controversy and heated debate.

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Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 1st 1999 by Continuum (first published 1990)
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Sean Barrs
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists
“If the body becomes a special focus for women's struggle for freedom then what is ingested is a logical initial locus for announcing one's independence. Refusing the male order in food, women practiced the theory of feminism through their bodies and their choice of vegetarianism.”

This book questions the nature of feminism; it questions its purpose, it’s incompleteness and its prejudices within the world at large.

Now that an odd thing to say isn’t it? Prejudices, in a movement that argues for
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
Recently my adult English class were studying the topic of 'nature' which had a section on 'animals'. One of the opinions on the page was something along the lines of 'the world would be a healthier and happier place if everyone went vegetarian and it would be good for the environment too'. After giving time for students to discuss this and other ideas, I asked if they agreed with it and was answered by a chorus of heartfelt 'no!'s. Why not, I wanted to hear, and the students vehemently insisted ...more
Amy Laurens
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
How could I resist a title like this? This is supposed to be a classic, whatever that means. And I really came at this book wanting to like it, being a vegetarian feminist that's long wished for ANY critical theory that I don't consider to be a massive inward-looking circle jerk. But unfortunately it is quite bonkers.

There are some basic points I was on board with. There are some interesting ways that women and meat are connected by "da patriarchy": meat eating is associated with strength and v
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ecofeminists, vegetarians & vegans, animal rights activists
let me preface this review by saying that carol adams is a true pioneer in the field of eco/vegetarian-feminist critical theory. she sheds light on how systems of oppression intersect with one another and how capitalism, patriarchy, racism and classism converge and are expressed in the oppression and exploitation of animals. i think this is a seminal work in the field and warrants thoughtful reading. it provides an alternative critique of capitalist and patriarchal systems of oppression and is a ...more
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Look, this book was OK. The things that make me not consider it to be a better work, was the cissexism and transphobia throughout the piece. It turns out Adams' mentor was Mary Daly, notorious for not just her radical feminism, but her extreme transphobia.

The most blatant (and simple) demonstration of Adams' prejudice was her treatment of Doctor James Barry.

When Dr. Barry died, it was discovered that he was apparently born female. Once she reveals this of Barry, Adams proceeds to repeatedly ref
The New York Times runs an essay contest on the ethics of meat eating. The judges are animal rights advocates and plant-based nutrition gurus. They are all men.

Carol J. Adams wrote "The Sexual Politics of Ethics" and questioned the choice of an all male panel. Why wasn't a single female included (Karen Davis, Pattrice Jones, Lauren Ornelas, Erica Meier, Josephine Donovan, Greta Gaard, Lori Gruen, Marla Rose, Laura Wright, Kim Socha, Breeze Harper, Jasmin Singer or Mariann Sullivan for exampl
Jeffrey Spitz Cohan
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: veganism

It’s hard not to feel ambivalent – strongly ambivalent – about this book.

Unless you’re a student, or teacher, of feminist literature, it is somewhat of a slog to get through this book. “The Sexual Politics of Meat” is mainly an analysis of feminist literature and most of the works to which Adams refers will seem obscure to the average reader.

On the other hand, this book is considered a classic in the veg*n genre and for good reason. Adams artfully conveys a number of important ideas, chief among
Mark Robison
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. This academic text read like a thriller for me, as each page turned up new insights. It looks at how patriarchal society treats women and nonhuman animals as objects and how if one wants to overturn patriarchy, one must give up meat because it is part of patriarchal power.
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
“Our dietary choices reflect and reinforce our cosmology, our politics.”

This sentence, the third-to-last sentence in The Sexual Politics of Meat, nicely summarizes Carol Adams’s basic thesis in this book wherein she ties together her feminist critique of patriarchy with her vegetarian critique of patriarchy. These two social critiques, argues Adams, are not merely related but are part of an organic whole: to live fully the feminist protest against the heterosexual male oppressiveness of patriarc
Lisa Vegan
Jun 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all women, feminists, those interested in animal & human rights
I don’t know whether it was the style or some other nebulous reason, but I found this book difficult to read. It was well worth the effort, though, because the author presents an important hypothesis about the correlation between the ways women and animals are treated and regarded in society. I found this book to be unique, as some of the information and ideas it presents I’ve found in no other books.
Molly Smith
Nov 12, 2021 rated it it was ok
stopped reading this halfway thru. yes we get it, you think the meat industry is like a brothel. yada yada. Idk I could probably read this more generously but it just didn’t resonate for me.
Jean Grace
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This was the first book I bought the week I decided to be a vegetarian. I found it in a new agey store in Sedona, Arizona. It's an important book. It helped me understand omnivore aggression toward vegetarians at the table, which can be a baffling experience. This is good read for new vegetarians with an academic bent. It is actually a little painfully graphic to me now. ...more
Jul 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the girlies... or anyone, really
it has a tendency to be a tad one note... in truth the author really has two main points to get across to the reader... but she milks (ha ha! food analogy!) the material well. of interest are her sections on language and animal metaphors as they are employed to describe meat dishes (hero sandwiches, etc) as well as in how victims of sexual violence describe themselves ("i was a piece of meat")... the author navigates the theoretical aspects of this discussion reasonably well.

thus far my only rea
I'm conflicted. On the one hand, I feel like the arguments are sometimes circular, the writing isn't fabulous, and I had a hard time getting through such a theoretical book. I admit that I skimmed the last half because I had already discussed it at book group and I was getting a bit bogged down in the repetition.

But. This book has probably given me more pause than anything I've read in a while, simply because she makes some interesting arguments that, while not the main thesis of the book, are r
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
"[T]he phrase 'humane slaughter' confers a certain benignity on the term 'slaughter.' [Mary] Daly would call this process of 'simple inversion': 'the usage of terms and phrases to label ... activites as the opposite of what they are.' [...] Just as all rapes are forcible, all slaughter of animals for food is inhumane regardless of what it is called" (69-70).
Most compelling are Carol J. Adams' deconstructions of language. Adams' literary examinations of vegetarianism and feminism are least intere
Nov 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd read part of this for a previous class; read the whole thing this time, and am glad I did. It's both wonderful and awful. First the bad: bad use of theory, bad readings of literature, writing that lacks nuance, extremely polemical. But, at certain points the key argument really sings through, namely that feminism and vegetarianism both are anti-patriarchal and are inherently tied to one another. She also tries to re-establish a feminist-vegetarian literary and cultural history, which is admi ...more
Kim Stallwood
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Singularly important book to read to understand why meat is so culturally important...and why it shouldn't be. ...more
Melissa (YA Book Shelf)
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vegan
I initially read the intro chapter to this book back in 2003 when I was taking an EcoFeminism class at university. I was a new vegetarian, and many of the things that Carol J Adams mentioned in that chapter stayed with me over the years to the point when I saw her tweet something about the book, I decided that I had to go back to this text. It's been years, and now I'm a vegan and it's still just as - if not more - relevant to me.

Adams does several things with this book. She makes you really re
Nov 05, 2009 rated it liked it
In this book, Carol Adams argues the intersection of feminist and vegetarian theory. She successfully demonstrates a connect between meat and power. There is also an interesting discussion of the use of language surrounding meat and vegetables ("beef up," "feel like a piece of meat," "a vegetative state"). I found her most compelling argument to be that people who claim to oppose war/are non-violent should also espouse that behavior in their food choices. Near the end of the book Adams raises so ...more
Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars, really. I almost liked it, I liked parts of it. I enjoyed learning about the historical connections between vegetarianism and feminism. Adams makes a good point that these connections have generally been ignored. However, I disagree with many of her premises and conclusions. In particular, she presents diet choices as those who eat nothing but meat all day, every day, and those who abstain from meat in all circumstances. There is no room for a middle ground. I, myself, like to eat mea ...more
Martin Smrek
I was looking forward to reading this for years. But I was mostly disappointed. There are couple of valid points stated in few chapters of the book, that were worth reading it and worth spreading too. But large swaths of the book were filled with dull interpretations of fictional books, from which a lot of far-fetched points were made. Occasional references to alternative medicine, including mention of vegetarianism curing small-pox, also did not help very much. However, considering the time it ...more
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to honeybean by: Rachel Macklin
This book is incredibly good, and still relevant even though it was first published in 1990. From showing the paradox of Shelley's Frankenstein being considered a monster despite its vegetarian diet and higher constructs of thinking, to showing the struggles of women compared/shown through the rape and oppression of animals, this book highlighted ideologies and challenged me to be more intentional in my thinking and eating habits. I can't wait to read Adams new book (published this year!) ...more
missy jean
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Different than I expected, but still so interesting. Adams links up the oppression of women and the oppression of animals, and explores the way that women's and animal's bodies have been dismembered and consumed by patriarchal systems. This book gave me a lot to chew on (ha! pun!), and I'm still digesting the ideas (ha! ha!) ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books
I found the core arguments of the book intriguing, but they were buried in so much academia-speak that it was often tough going to get to the heart of the matter.

Where I wished for specific examples I got only avalanches of esoteric words. Those seeking Adam’s arguments in a more concise, reader-friendly form should pick up The Pornography of Meat.
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most amazing books written about how our society,
through the culture and nature of patriarchy chews up and spits out women and animals. It's a brilliant book and one every animal rights advocate and feminist should read.
Jun 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book was a cornerstone in my growth as a woman,a vegetarian and as a social liberal. Carol Adams' thorough examination of how these issues are linked is fascinating and compelling. ...more
Updated review from 2nd reading. We read this for our book group.

This is my second time reading this book, and while I finally figured out why Adams sticks to literary examples of vegetarianism at work in women’s lives (at least I think I know: because it is otherwise difficult to find information of one’s personal life from earlier than about 100 years ago, and even 1920 media would be difficult to find proof in, so we’re really looking at perhaps the last 50-80 years or so), I have to admit t
’Theory’ is a word that is written in large font in the cover The Sexual Politics of Meat yet I still wasn’t prepared to how theoretical the book would be. Longwinded examples and deep analyzes of even the weak connections made this slightly tedious to read, even though I found the main message, the connection between vegetarism and feminism, fascinating. It’s a connection that I now understand much better than before but I wish I could have gotten the same knowledge through a different form. My ...more
Emily Vause
May 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Adams has an interesting outlook on the relationship between the treatment of women and the meat industry and, while I’m all about improving the lives of both, I think I’ll need to read more around the subject to be completely convinced by her ideas. Nevertheless this was an interesting and enlightening read about the horrors of both.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sh-terature
First let me start by explaining something, I am a feminist, and I am a vegetarian. But this book is by far the most grasp-at-straws reason to become either.
This book is exactly the kind of theory that occurs from reading into too much symbolism and mistaking correlations with causes. This book serves as a warning to logical minded feminists as it should have been titled "Why the rest of the world won't take feminism as seriously as they should."*
This book is written in that oh so evident psuedo
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Carol J. Adams is a feminist-vegetarian theorist and author of books on eco-feminism and the links between species oppression and gender oppression.

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“We live in a culture that has institutionalized the oppression of animals on at least two levels: in formal structures such as slaughterhouses, meat markets, zoos, laboratories, and circuses, and through our language. That we refer to meat eating rather than to corpse eating is a central example of how our language transmits the dominant culture's approval of this activity.” 27 likes
“The situation is established not only to provoke defensiveness but to sidetrack the reformer into answering the wrong questions.... In this, the pattern of discourse resembles that of dinnertime conversations about feminism in the early 1970s. Questions of definition often predominate. Whereas feminists were parlaying questions which trivialized feminism such as "Are you one of those bra burners?" vegetarians must define themselves against the trivializations of "Are you one of those health nuts?" or "Are you one of those animal lovers?" While feminists encountered the response that "men need liberation too," vegetarians are greeted by the postulate that "plants have life too." Or to make the issue appear more ridiculous, the position is forwarded this way: "But what of the lettuce and tomato you are eating; they have feelings too!"

The attempt to create defensiveness through trivialization is the first conversational gambit which greets threatening reforms. This pre-establishes the perimeters of discourse. One must explain that no bras were burned at the Miss America pageant, or the symbolic nature of the action of that time, or that this question fails to regard with seriousness questions such as equal pay for equal work. Similarly, a vegetarian, thinking that answering these questions will provide enlightenment, may patiently explain that if plants have life, then why not be responsible solely for the plants one eats at the table rather than for the larger quantities of plants consumed by the herbivorous animals before they become meat? In each case a more radical answer could be forwarded: "Men need first to acknowledge how they benefit from male dominance," "Can anyone really argue that the suffering of this lettuce equals that of a sentient cow who must be bled out before being butchered?" But if the feminist or vegetarian responds this way they will be put back on the defensive by the accusation that they are being aggressive. What to a vegetarian or a feminist is of political, personal, existential, and ethical importance, becomes for others only an entertainment during dinnertime.”
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