Feminism, Veganism, and Activism with Carol Adams: PYP 296

Photo copyright Hillary Cohen DeParde

Carol J. Adams is the author most recently of Burger and Protest Kitchen, and a self-described “feminist-vegan.”

Our conversation was eye-opening to me in many ways.

I noticed my language in ways I hadn't before. I saw for the first time a chunk of cultural programming that was determining a lot of my attitudes and actions.

And I watched myself tread lightly – and I suspect clumsily – for fear of offending Adams and listeners to the podcast.


Adams' best-known work, The Sexual Politics of Meat, was first published in 1990. In it, she argued that exploiting animals – including eating them – went hand in hand with patriarchal exploitation and disempowerment and abuse of women.

In the #metoo era, in the #whyididntreport era, in the “Grab them by the…” era, Adams' voice is provocative, challenging, and and important.

As someone who encourages people to eat plant-based, as opposed to vegan, I found her moral clarity particularly challenging as I wrestle with means and ends, progress vs absolutism.

I hope my own issues don't get in the way of Adams' message, and that you find value and wisdom and a prophetic passion in her words.

We covered:

  • animals as “absent referents” – applying literary theory to politics
  • animals as metaphors for feminine victimization (“I felt like a piece of meat”)
  • connections between patriarchal attitudes, sexual violence, and meat eating
  • famous vegetarian feminists
  • ads for meat reinforcing a culture of sexual assault
  • the “sexy animals” trope in fast food advertising
  • who are you eating? a burger or a woman? (Hardees, Carl's Junior)
  • men need to “reup their man card at every meal”
  • masculinity defined as being violent
  • ethics eclipsed by pleasure (“I can't give up my hamburger”)
  • pleasure becomes  a response enabled by a privilege
  • the “talk radio eye roll”
  • why “dominion over the animals” doesn't mean keeping them in a cage
  • historians see the hamburger as the greatest thing ever
  • the hamburger as another failed modernist solution (like apartment buildings)
  • the importance of redefining pleasure
  • not changing is harder than changing
  • “Why Look at Animals” – John Berger
  • “Why Look at Women” – Suzanne Kappler
  • misogyny is undergirded by animal agriculture
  • from “the animal that…” to “the animal who…”
  • the slippery deniability of symbolism
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box or audio recording box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.



Protest Kitchen

The Sexual Politics of Meat

Carol Adams' website

How Meat and Milk Uphold Misogyny

Sexual Politics of Meat Examples

From the Ground Up documentary website

Talk Back

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.


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One Response to “Feminism, Veganism, and Activism with Carol Adams: PYP 296”

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  1. Harry says:

    Wow! What a beautiful conversation! I have spent enough time with western philosophy and critical theory to already appreciate Carol Adam’s kind of analysis, but I didn’t expect to feel so moved by what she had to say and how gracious she was in sharing her insights into our culture’s blind spots around food. Her work seems like something I didn’t realize I had been craving intellectually until I heard her speak about it. I tend to be very pragmatic in my thinking about topics like WFPB diets and human well-being, but I still do have a love for thinking through our thinking behind these things. Like I think I heard you say, it feels a bit too awkward or confrontational to start a conversation about eating plants with something like ‘the unexamined assumptions behind your thinking about what to eat are fundamentally flawed’ – even though that might be 100% correct. I’m going to start with Protest Kitchen and see if I can understand how she takes her readers through that process of thinking that through.

    And thanks for being willing to have a guest who may have been a little outside of your wheelhouse! I both identified with some of your uncertainty and respected the way you handled your intellectual vulnerability during the conversation.

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