“Language distances us from the reality of meat eating, thus reinforcing the symbolic meaning of meat eating, a symbolic meaning that is intrinsically patriarchal and male-oriented. Meat becomes a symbol for what is not seen but is always there – patriarchal control of animals and of language,” says Carol J. Adams in her 1990 book, the Sexual Politics of Meat.
Adams presented the theory that feminism and animal rights were intrinsically linked. Like one can have white privilege, male privilege, or straight privilege, Adams argues that humans have species privilege. She proposed the theory that consumption of flesh gave women and animals more common ground than we would care to admit, and that their struggles were interconnected.
Thousands agreed and the book became required reading in gender studies classes and in feminist circles. Two decades later, young feminists still see the validity in her theory and the issues are still as relevant as ever. Defiant Daughters is their analysis of current issues and attitudes and response to the original text.
Growing up in a culture that tears apart our self-esteem through media and then sells it back—allowing factory farms to flourish while selling us on the benefits of dairy, eggs, and milk—the need for this analysis is obvious and the contributor’s personal experiences are well-informed. While the Sexual Politics of Meat is a heavily academic book, the anthology is more accessible in its delivery, which is a good thing.
Organized into categories named after animals and finishing with “Woman,” the essays are varied and range from theory to personal experience. With diverse voices, Defiant Daughters provides the intersectional theories of feminism and other analyses of oppression and cultural influence. Exploring themes like bodily acceptance, art, free-range meat, queerness, breastfeeding, and gender equality amongst others, this book does look at the issue from all angles and in that way encourages readers to make their own connections between feminism and animal rights.
In “Sustaining Rice,” Carolyn Mullin explores her Mexican identity and the connection between the commodification of the bodies of women and animals in art with nuance and justified anger. The essay “Knowing Ignorance” by Vidushi Sharma brings to attention a common hypocrisy in society: caring for the welfare of companion animals and ignoring the welfare of animals we have grown up eating.
One of the most affecting essays is “A Moment of Truth” by Rochelle M. Green, which explores the correlation of rape and animal products, and deconstructs the familiar saying, “feeling like a piece of meat”.
Every anthology will undoubtedly have a piece that doesn’t seem to fit, and “Opening Veins” by Kim Socha is that piece. It’s long and meandering and felt disjointed, offering no real stimulating analysis.
Just as its predecessor, this book could easily be considered required reading for feminists, vegans, and those who fall under both categories. It is non-alienating and could challenge the thinking of even the most devoted carnivore. This vibrant, accessible, and interesting anthology is provocative and will inspire critical thinking and conversation for years to come.