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Archive for the ‘Animal Rights’ Category

So Maroon 5 released a new video a couple of days ago, “Animals,” and there are already feminist critiques of it out there, talking about its glamorizing of stalking, as well as the general message portraying men as uncontrollable animals that just have to “get” women, no matter what. What I want to throw into the discussion is this thought: were they intentionally trying to create a music video that might as well come with every copy of The Sexual Politics of Meat, just to really drive the point home?

For those of you not familiar with Carol J. Adams’ work, she basically talks about how the culture around meat-eating has a strong connection to sexism and to sexual violence against women. A few examples include our association of meat-eating with manliness, our tendency to compare women to animals like bunnies, the sexualization of meat and nonhuman animals, and the way in which we dissect and use women’s and animals’ bodies for our enjoyment.

Women as Maroon 5 sees them (illustration)

Seriously, this video is so on point in portraying everything that’s messed up about how society views women and animals, that it almost seems like a parody (don’t worry though, I assure you it’s not). He’s a manly man who needs to “hunt you down and eat you alive” (literally that is the chorus! What.), just like he does with his “regular” cow and pig meat. That’s what men do, they hunt weaker animals, women included.

Chickens , as Maroon 5 (probably) sees them (illustration)

The video, which is actually very painful to watch, portrays Levine as a weird guy who works at a butcher shop, and stalks a girl he sees there. Earlier in the video we see Levine hanging out with some animal corpses in what looks like a serial killer’s kill room but I guess is actually just the back of the butcher shop, while the lady he’s stalking walks in the street, undresses seductively in front of the mirror, and sleeps as he creeps into her room. Then they even provide us with a lovely sex scene, where we jump from shots of them passionately doing it to shots of Levine fondling those animals corpses from before (which are perfectly sequenced with his fondling of the lady’s various body parts). Later I guess having sex while thinking about animal corpses becomes not manly enough, so they even go as far as making out in a rain of thick blood. Truly inspiring.

It is seriously a textbook example of how consuming women’s and animals’ bodies is what it’s all about. How meat is sexy, how women are meaty, how it’s pretty much all the same to them, and how sexism and patriarchy go hand in hand with speciesism (the ideology which sees nonhuman animals as inferior to humans).

Maroon 5 in a visual representation of The Sexual Politics of Meat

The reason it’s important to discuss this really gross and creepy aspect of the video, and not just the stalking part, is because it is crucial to understand that as women, our subordination and oppression is tied to that of animals. It’s not a coincidence that they show Levine hanging out with dead animals and not, say, with cupcakes or spinach. There is a very specific meaning and ideology  in our culture around animal meat, and that ideology is very close to the one that makes people think that “Baby, I’m preying on you tonight” and “Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent from miles” are manifestations of a romantic and sexy situation.

So yeah, Maroon 5: women and animals were not made for your amusement and pleasure, we’re not body parts for you to consume, and we don’t enjoy being abused (whether through stalking like the lady or through butchering like the animals). Go find something else to grope.

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Last weekend I had the opportunity of going on a whale watch tour for the first time. Whales are a developing obsession of mine, and I feel so lucky that I got to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat. But I’m not here to talk about how cool whales are (although I really want to…), but about some other things that tour made me think about.

There was a very diverse group of people on the boat sailing out of Provincetown that day. Fewer kids than I thought, but still a good number, older men and women, tourists from other countries, young couples and small groups of teenagers. The one thing everyone had in common is how excited they were about seeing whales. We were all running from one side of the boat to the other to catch a glimpse of a whale’s back, constantly taking pictures and videos, and yelling out in awe whenever a whale came out of the water a little (this response seems to be almost instinctive, it just comes out of you without warning when you see these amazing animals). I mean, we did all pay about $50 for the experience of sailing around in the ocean looking for whales, and we were very excited once we did.

I saw similar reactions from people sitting on the beaches of Cape Cod, whenever a seal would pop their head out of the water. We felt so lucky every time we saw one, so lucky to catch a glimpse of another species of animals.

Seeing this much of a whale (two, actually) was pretty amazing

Seeing this much of a whale (two, actually) was enough to be amazing

This stood out in a very clear contrast to what can only be described as Cape Cod’s obsession with killing and eating pretty much everything else from the sea. The beautiful Cape roads and towns were overflowing with colorful signs offering tourists fried and raw clams, lobsters cooked in boiling water, crabs in a variety of forms, and just about any other creature from the sea that you’re legally allowed to eat.

It was just such a stark (and slightly painful) difference, the way people treated animals that they classified as food versus animals they classified as fellow inhabitants of the earth. Indifference on the one side, amazement on the other.

It seems to me that humans have a very deep instinct of loving and appreciating other animals. If you ever saw a toddler responding to a dog, you know what I’m talking about. They don’t need to be taught this, they are just automatically fascinated with them. They might be a little shy or even anxious, but they almost always get extremely excited, laugh, squeal, obsessively try to pet the dog (which often they don’t even know how to do), and are usually completely overjoyed. It’s a pretty similar reaction to what I saw adults express when seeing whales and seals, (or even just very cute dogs or cats really).

We seek the companionship of animals in a lot of ways. We raise them in our homes, taking care of their needs and wants, often swearing that they’re just like children or siblings to us. We spend money on whale-watching tours and spend three or four hours searching for a few precious seconds of looking right at a whale peeking out of the water briefly (and know that it was totally worth it). We venture into the woods to look for animals, and get excited to see as much as their footprints on the ground. We even go as far as abusing and imprisoning animals just so we can see and interact with them, in places like zoos, SeaWorld, and the circus. SeaWorld is actually one of those places that are absolutely awful and horrifying, and yet I completely understand why people go there, the excitement over seeing Orcas and Dolphins trumps the sadness and danger of their captivity.

Petting zoos (which I do not support) are also interesting. There you can see children (and adults) get excited over “farm animals” as if they were actually just animals. At first I thought maybe this apathy VS excitement distinction is all about the type of animal in question. The way each culture classifies animal species determines if we want to play with them or kill them (you know, why do Americans find it so awful to eat cats, dogs, or dolphins, but perfectly normal to eat cows and pigs?). But in petting zoos we see people excited about animals they should just want to kill. Suddenly, in the entertainment context, we can appreciate these animals for what they are. I mean, it is probably one of the only places where regular people (who do not work in farming) get to interact with these farm animals when they’re still alive, so it’s no wonder that it’s the only place where we show them empathy. If you went into a petting zoo and announced that you are going to slaughter one of the goats, you’d have children and adults absolutely infuriated and doing anything in their power to stop you. And yet when it’s all sliced up and ready in a nice plastic container in the store, they have no problem paying for someone to kill hundreds of these animals. How weird is that?

Earlier this year I visited the Maple Farm Sanctuary for the first time. It was a really special opportunity, and I can tell you that interacting with goats, sheep, and cows felt almost as cool as seeing whales in the ocean. They were playful, adorable, and surprisingly large. It was hard to believe what humans do to these innocent animals, who were just as excited and curious about us as we were about them. It was clear as day to me, you don’t have to be an animal rights activist to feel connected to these animals, and I am positive that 99% of the people who eat meat, if faced with one of these animals and having the choice of killing her/him or sparing them, would choose to spare them any day of the week. So why do they choose to kill them every single day, without thinking about it for more than a second?

Obviously there are a lot of answers to this question, but I think at least a part of it is due to the fact that we don’t see these animals in any other context, just in the fridge and on our plate. We don’t see them play, we don’t see them when they’re scared, we don’t see them care for their young. We don’t really see them being animals at all, so we don’t think about them that way. We just see them as food, products, and body parts for us to use and consume. We don’t know anything about them (some people actually try to tell me that cows will explode if it wasn’t for humans milking them, and are convinced that they lactate all the time, even when they don’t have calves), and we don’t really care.

Best friends at Maple Farm Sanctuary (they hang out together all the time)

Best friends at Maple Farm Sanctuary (they hang out together all the time)

The contrast and, honestly, hypocrisy that exist in our understanding of animals is really painful to witness and really dangerous. It is so backwards to be willing to risk your life for your dog, go to great lengths to see dolphins and whales (and regard the people who eat them as “barbaric”), while constantly directly contributing to the murder of millions and billions of other animals. I cannot handle people saying that they love and care for animals if it’s only for the kind of animals that their specific culture finds important enough to care about.

The good news is that I know we can change. I don’t believe that any creature has to “prove themselves” to show that they are worthy of living, but they do it anyway. I think people should really start looking not just at what they’re eating, but who they’re eating. Go and learn about these animals, visit farm sanctuaries and read about their behavior and life, go a little closer to the animals you find so delicious. If you think dogs are fun, go play with a goat. If you think whaling is cruel, go spend some time with cows and pigs and see if you find them relatable (and if your natural instincts kick in and make you want to kill them). Let yourself become excited about animals that you’re used to seeing as food, allow yourself to connect and appreciate them, not as a step in a process to something you consume, but as fellow animals sharing this world with us.

 


 

* Another small thought I wanted to share about my visit to the farm sanctuary is how surprised I was by all the animals sharing the space. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was very odd at first to see all the different animals, chickens, llamas, goats, pigs, sheep, and ducks all running around together, in and out of each other’s pens. I couldn’t help but think about how they can all exist together peacefully (obviously without any predators, the cat has to stay in a separate area), but once humans get involved, we just mess everything up. Even in the context of the sanctuary, we very clearly stood out, not knowing how to behave and not sure how to relate to the animals, so not used to spending time with them and so used to think of ourselves as completely different from them.

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