Bloomsbury Food Library - For a Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory
Loading
The Sexual Politics of Meat
The Sexual Politics of Meat

Carol J. Adams

Carol J. Adams is an activist and author of The Pornography of Meat, Living Among Meat Eaters, and many other books challenging a sexist, meat-eating world. She is a sought-after speaker throughout North America and Europe, and has been invited to more than 100 campuses to show "The Sexual Politics of Meat Slide Show," which is always being updated to include contemporary cultural representations. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

Search for publications


Bloomsbury Academic, 2015

Subjects

Content type:

Book chapter

Related Content

For a Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory

DOI: 10.5040/9781501312861.ch-009
Page Range: 155–175

Papers omitted in vegetarian novel, use in feminist novel?

 --—Agnes Ryan, note to herself

As we talked of freedom and justice one day for all, we sat down to steaks. I am eating misery, I thought, as I took the first bite. And spit it out.

 --—Alice Walker, “Am I Blue?”

eat rice have faith in women

what I dont know now

I can still learn

 --—Fran Winant, “Eat Rice Have Faith in Women”

Where does vegetarianism end and feminism begin, or feminism end and vegetarianism begin? None of these epigraphs indicates that the writer is changing subjects. Similarly, major moments in feminist history and major figures in women’s literature conjoined feminism and vegetarianism in ways announcing continuity, not discontinuity.

Developing a feminist-vegetarian theory includes recognizing this continuity. Our meals either embody or negate feminist principles by the food choices they enact. Novelists and individuals inscribe profound feminist statements within a vegetarian context. Just as revulsion to meat eating acts as trope for feelings about male dominance, in women’s novels and lives vegetarianism signals women’s independence. An integral part of autonomous female identity may be vegetarianism; it is a rebellion against dominant culture whether or not it is stated to be a rebellion against male structures. It resists the structure of the absent referent, which renders both women and animals as objects.

Not only is animal defense the theory and vegetarianism the practice, but feminism is the theory and vegetarianism is part of the practice, a point this chapter will more fully develop. Meat eating is an integral part of male dominance; vegetarianism acts as a sign of dis-ease with patriarchal culture. I will describe a model for expressing this dis-ease which has three facets: the revelation of the nothingness of meat, the naming of relationships, and the rebuking of a patriarchal and meat-eating world. Lastly I provide ground rules for a feminist-vegetarian reading of history and literature.

Examining the material reality of a vegetarian life enlightens theory, past and present. What do we make of the fact that many notable feminists who have written since early modern times have either responded to animals’ concerns or become interested in vegetarianism? In the seventeenth century, feminist writer Mary Astell cut back on her meat intake.[1] Katherine Philips and Margaret Cavendish discuss meat eating in their poetry as well as positing the Golden Age as vegetarian. As we learned in chapter 4, Aphra Behn, the eponymous heroine of the literary Aphra magazine, wrote a poem in praise of the writings of Thomas Tryon, whose seventeenth-century books on behalf of vegetarianism she said had influenced her to stop eating meat. Sarah Scott’s A Description of Millenium [sic] Hall describes an animal sanctuary in which humans are not tyrants over animals, and uses Alexander Pope’s words about Eden to reinforce the fact that the animals were protected from meat eating.[2] We know that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley makes her Creature who is at odds with the world a vegetarian in Frankenstein.

We can follow the historic alliance of feminism and vegetarianism in Utopian writings and societies, antivivisection activism, the temperance and suffrage movements, and twentieth century pacifism. Hydropathic institutes of the nineteenth century, which featured vegetarian regimens, were frequented by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and others. At a vegetarian banquet in 1853, the gathered guests lifted their alcohol-free glasses to toast: “Total Abstinence, Women’s Rights, and Vegetarianism.” In 1865, Dr. James Barry died. Dr. Barry was an army surgeon for more than forty four years, a vegetarian, and someone brought up by an ardent follower of Mary Wollstonecraft; it was discovered upon his death that Dr. Barry was a woman. Some who suspected all along that Dr. Barry was a woman referred to the vegetarian diet and fondness for pets as signs of female gender.[3] Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, Matilda Joslyn Gage (an editor of The History of Woman Suffrage with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony), and some leaders of the nineteenth-century dress reform movement were vegetarians. Feminist and vegetarian Alice Stockham was the American publisher of British socialist, anti-vivisectionist, and vegetarian Edward Carpenter.

In 1910, Canadian suffragists opened a vegetarian restaurant at their Toronto headquarters. The Vegetarian Magazine of the early twentieth century carried a column called “The Circle of Women’s Enfranchisement.” In the 1914 book, Potpourri Mixed by Two, two women exchange reflections on vegetarian cooking, women’s suffrage, and other common concerns. Notable independent women of the twentieth century such as Louise Nevelson and Lou Andreas-Salome were vegetarians.[4] From all these examples arises a compelling revelation: There is a feminist-vegetarian literary and historical tradition. What is needed to espy it and interpret it?

Reconstructing the history of feminism and vegetarianism

Why can’t we be rounded out reformers? Why do we make one reform topic a hobby and forget all the others? Mercy, Prohibition, Vegetarianism, Woman’s Suffrage and Peace would make Old Earth a paradise, and yet the majority advocate but one, if any, of these.

 --—Flora T. Neff, Indiana State Superintendent of Mercy, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, to the Vegetarian Magazine, 1907[5]

A feminist-vegetarian critical theory begins, as we have seen, with the perception that women and animals are similarly positioned in a patriarchal world, as objects rather than subjects. Men are instructed as to how they should behave toward women and animals in the Tenth Commandment. Since the fall of Man is attributed to a woman and an animal, the Brotherhood of Man excludes both women and animals. In reviewing Henry Salt’s Animal Rights for Shafts, the British working-class, feminist, and vegetarian newspaper of the 1890s, Edith Ward argues that “the case of the animal is the case of the woman.” She explained that the “similitude of position between women and the lower animals, although vastly different in degree, should insure from the former the most unflinching and powerful support to all movements for the amelioration of the conditions of animal existence. Is this the case?”[6] More recently, Brigid Brophy, vegetarian and feminist, observes: “In reality women in the western, industrialized world today are like the animals in a modern zoo. There are no bars. It appears that cages have been abolished. Yet in practice women are still kept in their place just as firmly as the animals are kept in their enclosures.”[7] Or consider this declaration found in The History of Woman Suffrage: “Past civilization has not troubled either dumb creatures or women by consulting them in regard to their own affairs.”[8] Who Cares for the Animals? the title of a history of 150 years of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, provides an answer on its cover: women. Margaret Mead’s description of her activist mother invokes two of her favorite causes in one paragraph: “Mother’s vehemence was reserved for the causes she supported. . . . As a matter of principle she never wore furs; and feathers, except for ostrich plumes, were forbidden. Long before I had an idea what they were, I learned that aigrettes represented a murder of the innocents. There were types of people, too, for whom she had no use—anti-suffragettes.”[9]

The patriarchal structure of the absent referent that renders women and animals absent as subjects, collapses referent points, and results in overlapping oppression, requires a combined challenge by feminism and vegetarianism. Yet, this oppression of women and animals, though unified by the structure of the absent referent, is experienced separately and differently by women and animals. Thus, it is an oppressive structure that, when perceived, is often perceived in fragments and attacked in fragmented ways, i.e., some women work for their liberation, other women and men challenge the oppression of animals.

A sign that the oppression is of one piece exists whenever patriarchal culture experiences its control over women to be threatened by the choice of a meatless diet. On the domestic level this can be seen when men use the pretext of the absence of meat in committing violence against women, as we saw in chapter 1. Additionally, a threatened worldview evidences the unity of this oppression when it concludes that arguments for women’s rights will lead to arguments for animals’ rights. In response to the woman suffrage movement of the nineteenth century one man retorted, “What will they be doing next, educating cows?” It is almost to be expected that the first challenge to Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes. Yet, the parody relied on one of the classic vegetarian texts: Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Animal Food. Since the oppression of women and the other animals derives from one hierarchical structure, we can expect that at certain points in our history a few will have challenged the structure in a unified way; that is, we can expect to find the intersection of feminism and vegetarianism, the unifying of the arguments of Wollstonecraft and Porphyry. Thus Edith Ward in Shafts argues

What, for example, could be more calculated to produce brutal wife-beaters than long practice of savage cruelty towards the other animals? And what, on the other hand, more likely to impress mankind with the necessity of justice for women than the awakening of the idea that justice was the right of even an ox or a sheep?[10]

Vegetarianism was one way that many people, especially women, expressed a connection with specific animals—those destined to become meat—by affirming “I care about these creatures. I will not eat them.” Vegetarianism was one way to reject a male world that objectified both women and animals; women not only enunciated connections with animals but defined themselves as subjects with the right to act and make ethical decisions, and in doing so defined animals as subjects, not objects. Ethical vegetarianism became a symbolic as well as literal enaction of right relationships with animals.

Elemental aspects of feminism and vegetarianism intersect. While vegetarians posit a fall from grace, a Golden Age that was vegetarian, many feminists hearken to a similar time in which women’s power was not restricted, a matriarchal period of human existence. When considered as a mythopoesis which motivates feminism, rather than as a historically validated period, its intersection with the Golden Age of vegetarianism is revealing. What, after all, were the great goddesses the great goddesses of? Grains and vegetables possess a long history of woman-association.

Early in the twentieth century, we can find an equation of matriarchal power with vegetarianism and patriarchal power with meat eating, an association that is an intimate part of current feminist mythmaking. In 1903, when Jane Harrison published Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, she offered clues to the association of the worship of goddesses and vegetarianism. In her book we find Pausanias’s report on his sacrifice to the goddess Demeter according to local custom: “I sacrificed no victim to the goddess, such being the custom of the people of the country. They bring instead as offerings the fruit of the vine and of other trees they cultivate, and honey-combs and wool.” Harrison observes that this “was a service to content even Pythagoras.” The ingredients of one of the women’s festivals that Harrison describes would almost have satisfied Pythagoras’s standards as well: “The materials of the women’s feast are interesting. The diet prescribed is of cereals and of fish and possibly fowl, but clearly not of flesh. As such it is characteristic of the old Pelasgian population before the coming of the flesh-eating Achaeans.”[11] She cannot be unequivocally claimed for the vegetarian side, this is true, but a further reference to Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Animal Food, her suggestions of the invasion of flesh-eating male-god worshippers who overcame vegetarian goddess worshippers, may have offered a sense of historical or mythological perspective to feminist vegetarians of the time. Were they picked up on? We know that Harrison influenced Virginia Woolf. Were there others she influenced specifically because of their interest in vegetarianism? Whether or not Harrison was absorbed into feminist-vegetarian thought of her time, she has been assimilated by the current movement. (Recall the discussion of June Brindel’s novel Ariadne in chapter 7.) Recent formulators of a matriarchal time period identify it as vegetarian as well.[12]

The recent history of feminism and vegetarianism also offers points of intersection. Both experienced a rebirth through books in the years after the French Revolution. Each considers a meeting held in the 1840s as very important: the 1847 Ramsgate meeting at which the term vegetarian was either coined or ratified; the 1848 meeting at Seneca Falls in which American women’s rights demands were outlined. According to certain historical analyses, each has been viewed as lapsing into obscurity; feminism after the achievement of suffrage in 1920, vegetarianism practically from the moment it began as a self-identified movement.

Reconstructing feminist-vegetarian history requires heightened attention to meanings hidden within statements about health and diet. For instance, in a book of oral interviews with surviving suffragists, we can discover a statement with clues that point to vegetarianism. Jessie Haver Butler in describing her childhood states: “But my mother was very smart. She had a great big health book with which she was thoroughly familiar. She was also a faddist, so it’s natural that I’ve been somewhat of a faddist all my life. She had all the books of a man named Dr. Jackson, who started a whole new system of eating.”[13] Clues that she is describing a vegetarian diet include her reference to the “faddishness” of her mother, as vegetarianism has been saddled with that label. Corroborating this is her reference to “a new system of eating.” The final confirmation comes from her invocation of the name of Dr. Jackson. James Caleb Jackson ran a hydropathic health institute in Dansville, New York.

Jackson encouraged meatless diets. Ellen G. White who frequented Jackson’s “Home on the Hillside” reported, “Dr. Jackson carries out his principles in regard to diet to the letter. He places no butter or salt upon his table, no meat or any kind of grease.”[14] Clara Barton’s “entire philosophy of living underwent a change in this environment” of Jackson’s Home on the Hillside, so much so that she moved to Dansville and adopted vegetarianism.[15]

Jackson adhered to Sylvester Graham’s principles concerning food. Graham, for instance, recommended that meals be no more frequent than every six hours and never before retiring. At Dansville there were only two meals a day: breakfast at eight and dinner at 2:30. Butler remarked that Jackson “had some strange ideas that didn’t fit with farm life very well. One of them was there was to be no supper.” Yet Butler’s mother followed Jackson’s recommendations to the letter, as Butler recalls the situation of the farm workers: “To go without supper until breakfast, from the dinner meal until breakfast, must have been a great strain”

Jackson’s influence through his popular book, How to Treat the Sick without Medicine, reached all the way to Butler’s mother in Colorado. Butler was right when she called it “a great big health book”—it was 537 pages long. A common measure prevails for healing the diseases he discusses in his book whether it be scald head, measles, inflammation of the eyes, insanity, diabetes, or alcoholism: omitting flesh foods. And there in Colorado, on a prairie farm, removed from conventions and the wide circle of support for these reforms in the East, in the midst of feeding the workhands, raising four children and stumping for suffrage, Jessie Haver Butler’s mother felt it was important to find the time to learn about Dr. Jackson’s ideas, own all of his books, and be so thoroughly familiar with one of them that her daughter knew about its recommendations for proper diet.

In fact, it may be because she was stumping for suffrage that she learned of Dr. Jackson. Jackson was a good friend of numerous suffragists. Amelia Bloomer lectured at Dansville. Elizabeth Cady Stanton retreated to Dansville for rest and restoration[16]; the residents of Dansville raised money for Susan B. Anthony’s trial when she was charged with voting illegally in 1872. Jackson faithfully sent messages to suffrage conventions; tribute was paid to him during the memorial services of the 1896 convention.

Other suffrage workers adopted vegetarianism as well. The obituary of Jessica Henderson, suffragist and vegetarian, can be found in Agnes Ryan’s papers. Gloria Steinem describes her vegetarian suffragist grandmother who continued to serve meat to her meat-eating and anti-feminist sons.[17] Socialist Anna Gvinter, imprisoned with other suffragists in 1917, wrote from jail that she did not eat meat.[18] The Canadian suffragists who opened a vegetarian restaurant in 1910 certainly thought that there would be customers for such a venture.

The confrontation at the 1907 meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association reveals the challenge of reconstructing feminist-vegetarian history. As I indicated in the last chapter, this confrontation was omitted from the official record, The History of Woman Suffrage, yet it reveals the demand some were making at the time to unify reform issues. During an appeal for funds, Harriet Taylor Upton, the national treasurer, reported that she had been asked to promise not to wear the aigretted hat she had worn during the convention. To which she responded “Nobody who will eat a chicken or a cow or a fish has any right to say a word when anybody else kills a parrot or a fox or a seal. It’s just as bad, one way or another, and I guess we have all eaten chickens!” It was at this point that the feminist vegetarian milliner interrupted the meeting, trembling with indignation and anger. “I must protest,” she said, “against being included in such a sweeping statement. Nothing would persuade me to eat a chicken, or to connive at the horror of trapping innocent animals for their fur. It causes a thrill of horror to pass through me when I attend a woman’s suffrage convention and see women with ghastly trophies of slaughter upon their persons.” In her response, she countered the challenge of inconsistency that Upton invoked to deflect criticism.

The overlap of feminism and vegetarianism becomes more complex when considering temperance. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union Department of Health and Hygiene was headed by Mrs. Ella Kellogg, a vegetarian. Hydropathists such as her husband, Dr. J. Kellogg, and Dr. Jackson held that the stimulating influence of meat contributed to alcoholism. Consequently vegetarianism was needed to cure alcoholism. Jackson exhorted: “I do not believe reformed inebriates, generally, can be kept sober after they are pronounced cured, if they are permitted to eat largely of flesh meats seasoned with the various spices in common use with our people.”[19] How did this perspective influence, if it did, the activities of the WCTU? Both Frances Willard, WCTU President, and her successor, Lillian Stevens, were vegetarians. When the World Temperance Organization met in London in 1895, their reception was a vegetarian one organized by the Women’s Vegetarian Union.

What of feminist-vegetarian-lesbian (or homosocial) connections? Historically, homosocial relationships often included vegetarianism.[20] Thus, besides “The Historical Denial of Lesbianism” which Blanche Cook identifies, there is a historical denial of vegetarianism as it was shared within lesbian relationships. For instance, Cook notes that Anna Mary Well’s Miss Marks and Miss Woolley denies the possibility of sexuality in the lives of these two women who had a forty-seven-year-long relationship. Because of this denial, Wells “inevitably diminishes the quality of their life together.” Cook notes in addition, “The entire political dimension of their lives, the nature of their socialism, feminism, and internationalism remains unexplored.”[21] Cook falls into the same trap as Wells—failing to recognize the importance and legitimacy of private behavior—because Cook omits vegetarianism in her listing of this couple’s interests. When Jeanette Marks returned from Battle Creek sanitarium, operated by John Harvey Kellogg, Miss Woolley “ordered nuts, raisins, and whole-grain cereals from the S. S. Pierce Co. in Boston.”[22]

Other close female friendships may have included a shared concern for vegetarianism. Mary Walker, feminist, dress reformer, Civil War hero, was a vegetarian. Was her “Adamless Eden,” a retreat for women, vegetarian, as most people viewed the original Eden to be? Did feminist lawyer Belva Lockwood, who lived with Mary Walker for a while, try vegetarianism as a result? Did Clara Barton’s close friendship with Harriet Austin, a hydropathic doctor and vegetarian at Dr. Jackson’s institute influence her decision to live in Dansville and adopt vegetarianism? In 1893 Frances Willard met Lady Somerset, head of the British WCTU, and joined the Fabian Society and the London Vegetarian society. Was vegetarianism a part of her relationship with Lady Somerset, and did the homosocial world of British temperance and feminist workers accentuate vegetarianism in a way that attracted Willard? Were the Grimké sisters able to sustain their vegetarianism because they were two, not one, and had a built-in support of it?

If the woman of the past ate a vegetarian meal we need to ask:

  • Where did she eat it? At the vegetarian restaurant run by suffragists at their headquarters in Toronto? The Wheatsheaf or the Orange Grove in London, John Maxwell’s in Chicago, or Bernarr Macfadden’s Physical Culture and Strength Food Restaurant in New York City?

  • What were her resources? A vegetarian-feminist magazine like Shafts? Membership in the Millennium Guild? The Vegetarian Magazine? Vegetarian cookbooks? Dr. Jackson’s great big health book?

  • What was her context? Animal rights? A utopian society? The WCTU? The time-saving nature of vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism was an integral part of autonomous female identity. It was de facto a rebellion against a dominant culture regardless of whether it was claimed to be a rebellion. But many women did claim its rebellious aspects. Recall that Mary Alden Hopkins, writing in the 1920s, reported that at one point in her life she reacted “against all established institutions, like marriage, spanking, meat diet, prison, war, public schools and our form of government.”[23]

The vegetarian quest

May 1, 1922:Should like to talk diet with you both—but I hereby warn you—that all vegetarians but me place vegetarian diet all out of proportion—(it is 100% of life’s aims—meat is 100% of mistakes—no causes operating on the human frame but diet.) I deny the “foul aspersion.” There are some causes in the universe beside meat and vegetarianism.

December 31, 1936:But as to propaganda and agitation—I always choose feminism first. I’d like a chance to argue with you on that point.

February 5, 1941:But beware of the almost universal bigotry of vegetarians that meat is the biggest or only devil—

 --—Alice Park, feminist, pacifist, vegetarian, author of “The Circle of Women’s Enfranchisement” in The Vegetarian Magazine, letters to Agnes Ryan and Henry Bailey Stevens[24]

Carol Christ in Diving Deep and Surfacing describes a typology for women’s spiritual quest.[25] In adopting vegetarianism, certain patterns I call “the vegetarian quest” are evident. It consists of three parts: an awakening in which the revelation of the nothingness of meat occurs, naming the relationships one sees with animals, and rebuking a meat-eating world.

The first step in the vegetarian quest is experiencing the revelation of the nothingness of meat as an item of food. The nothingness of meat arises because one sees that it came from something, or rather someone, and it has been made into no-thing, no-body. The revelation involves recognizing the structure of the absent referent. The revelation can also be catalyzed when meat has been divested of any positive qualities with which it is usually associated. After the awakening to meat’s nothingness one sees that its sumptuousness derives from the disguises of sauces, gravies, marinades, and cooking, that its protein offerings are not unique nor irreplaceable. In experiencing the nothingness of meat, one realizes that one is not eating food but dead bodies. Thus, George Sand stopped eating red meat for two weeks after a grisly battle left human corpses rotting within view of her window.[26] Many writers describe an epiphanal experience that locks them into movement away from meat. It is a moment of realization in which they say, “What am I doing eating meat?” Barbara Cook ascribes her “awakening to love” and animal rights activism to a time when she held a small calf in her arms, who “seemed the symbol of every new creature ever brought into the world.” But she learned that this symbol often became veal. Thus, the nothingness of meat was revealed to her: “For months afterward I cried when I thought of the calf. I cried when I saw milk-fed veal on a menu. The piece of pale flesh wrapped neatly in cellophane in the supermarket would never again be faceless masses.”[27]

Agnes Ryan’s unpublished autobiography discusses her vegetarianism in a chapter called “I Meet a New Force.” Her recollections of this event provide an excellent case study for describing the revelation of the nothingness of meat. When she began to prepare some meat, she realized that it was rotten.

The chops were spoiled. They had been frozen. The warmth of the room was thawing them out. I was horrified. It was a long time since I had known that smell. A terrible and devastating flood of thoughts began to pour in on me. Something true in my life was fighting for release. It is amazing what a lifetime can race through the mind in a half minute.[28]

Memories, reactions, revulsions, reflections are triggered by the putrid meat: “Had I ever in my life been able to eat meat at all if I allowed myself to think of the living creature which had been deprived of life?”

She considers meat from the view of a New Woman who has bifurcated the world at large: “I knew that men were not supposed to mind killing. Weren’t men usually the butchers, the soldiers, the hangmen?” She confides to her husband, “I had never been able to swallow a bite of meat or fish in all my life—if I remembered where the stuff came from, how it came! I told him of the violence, the horror, the degradation that flesh-eating involves.” Ryan reports that she had never heard of vegetarians, but, “I thought of all the girls and women who loathed the handling of meat as I had done, and who saw no way out, believing that flesh food was necessary for bodily health and strength.” Then she hears the president of the Millennium Guild, Emarel Freshel, speak out against meat eating and her reaction is given a new context: “Here was a new type of woman: here was a new spiritual force at work in the universe. . . . She clearly stressed the idea that wars will never be overcome until the belief that it is justifiable to take life, to kill—when expedient,—is eradicated from human consciousness.” According to Ryan’s reconstruction of this event, the revelation of meat eating provides a context for considering the gender role expectations in Western culture. Through exposure to a female role model, Freshel, she finds a context for interpreting the nothingness of meat in a warring world. Her revelation was undergirded by connections between feminism, vegetarianism, and pacifism.

Ryan’s story of this event conflicts with that of her husband’s, Henry Bailey Stevens. Stevens states that he was skeptical of vegetarianism at first; Ryan portrays him as being receptive to the idea. Stevens says that they had purchased fresh meat; Ryan says they were frozen. Ryan describes her meeting with Freshel as coincidental and endows it with providential meaning, “What power it was that brought me as by accident to the meeting of the Millennium Guild the very week of our awakening I do not know.” But Stevens quotes Ryan as saying, “I’ve just learned there’s a woman giving lectures on vegetarianism.”[29] Because Ryan syncretizes her most relevant positions against meat into this event, I am not convinced that the sequence and intensity of her reactions are as she reported. However, in her eyes, this moment was of such consequence that reflecting back on it she saw within it the originating point for all the major positions she held for the next forty years. That she placed them at the point in her life when she became a vegetarian confirms the revelatory experience of the nothingness of meat.

Experiencing the nothingness of meat can amount to a conversion experience, a turning away from meat eating accompanied by active proselytizing. The zealous loyalty to vegetarianism that characterizes many converts concerned feminist-vegetarian Alice Park, as we see in the epigraphs to this section. Vegetarianism, she argued to Ryan and Stevens, has a context, a context of feminism.

The revelation of the nothingness of meat may be less dramatic or less elaborately reconstructed as that which we have examined in depth. Yet whatever its trigger—and there are endless catalysts, such as association with an animal who was then butchered, a recall of the eyes of an animal, connecting meat with human corpses, seeing a slaughterhouse, reading another’s views—it brings about a detachment from the desire to eat meat.

Experiencing the nothingness of meat does not automatically result in vegetarianism: it requires a context and an interpretation. Thus, the second step in the vegetarian quest is naming the relationships. These relationships include: the connection between meat on the table and a living animal; between ourselves and the other animals; between our ethics and our diet; and the recognition of the needless violence of meat eating. The interpretation moves from the nothingness of meat to the conviction that killing animals is wrong. It may include the realization of a continuity between war and meat eating within a patriarchal world as Freshel showed Ryan. Revulsion toward human corpses can erupt into refusal of animal corpses, as happened with George Sand. Identifying women’s fate with that of animals appears in the naming stage as well. Women identify their own nothingness with that of the nothingness of animals when they talk of being treated like pieces of meat. As we saw in chapter 7, when Marge Piercy describes an epiphanal moment in the life of Beth in her novel Small Changes, she links the double-edged nothingness. Beth was a “trapped animal eating a dead animal.”[30] It would be illuminating to know how many women became vegetarians because of the analogies they perceived between the treatment of animals and the treatment of women under patriarchy.

One aspect of naming the relationships is reclaiming appropriate words for meat, words which do not rely on euphemisms, distortions, mis-naming. By re-naming words about meat, vegetarians re-define meat and offer a vision of how human beings should see themselves in relationship to animals.

The vegetarian quest often becomes more intense over time. In 1905 May Wright Sewall wrote: “I grow to be a more and more enthusiastic vegetarian all the time.”[31] As one of the participants on the Ford Peace Ship a decade later, her enthusiasm was not limited solely to vegetarianism. Henry Bailey Stevens’s vegetarian conversion prompted a book, which thirty years later named relationships, those of vegetarianism, goddess worship, and pacifism, The Recovery of Culture. [32]

Rebuking a meat-eating world is the final stage in the vegetarian quest. By its enaction vegetarianism rebukes a meat-eating society because it proves that an alternative to meat eating exists and that it works. In the Western world, vegetarians in great numbers are living free of heart attacks, hypertension, and cancer. The practice of vegetarianism seems to confirm the claims of a vegetarian body. But many vegetarians do not rest with the proof of the healthfulness of the vegetarian body. They seek to change the meat-eating world. Thus, though Gloria Steinem tells of her vegetarian feminist grandmother who served meat to her family, individual vegetarians often sought to alter meat-eating habits. We learn of vegetarian, pacifist, and feminist Charlotte Despard who did not serve meat meals to the poor. Agnes Ryan planned a “Vegetarian Pocket Monthly,” a small, easy-to-carry manual, which would provide interested people with hints and thoughts on vegetarianism.

Vegetarianism does more than rebuke a meat-eating society; it rebukes a patriarchal society, since as we have seen meat eating is associated with male power. Colonialist British (male) Beefeaters are not viewed positively if you do not approve of eating beef, male control, or colonialism. Indeed, male dominance hedges no words in exclaiming against vegetarianism because of a suspected anti-male bias. In seeing the nothingness of meat, we strip it of its phallocentric meaning, and deny it any symbolic, patriarchal meaning that requires an absent referent. Stevens’s The Recovery of Culture simultaneously rebuked male dominance and meat eating.

The results of rebuking a meat-eating patriarchal world should not be minimized simply because of its perceived personal nature. Meat boycotts after World War II and in the 1970s were accomplished by individuals doing something together. In agreeing on what they would not purchase at grocery stores they forced the reduction of animals slaughtered for food. Though they were not motivated by ethical vegetarianism but by an attempt to gain consumer control, the effect they had was the same as if everyone became a vegetarian and individually acted according to that position. Indeed, it is of interest that women were more likely to observe the boycott than their husbands were.

Acknowledging the existence of the vegetarian quest helps place individual women’s actions within a context that can make sense of their decisions. From this context sensitive readings of novels and women’s lives arise. The model of the vegetarian quest provides opportunities for interpretation rather than distortion.

Vegetarian meaning and literary criticism

May the fairies be vegetarian!

 --—Judy Grahn, The Queen of Swords [33]

What does contemporary women’s fiction make of meat eating? There are times when the normative objectification of animals as edible bodies is displaced, eroded, disturbed, times when the texts of meat are overcome by feminist texts.

Vegetarianism is an act of the imagination. It reflects an ability to imagine alternatives to the texts of meat. Literary critics need to be alert to the ways in which vegetarianism appears in women’s novels. As identified in chapter 5, vegetarianism appears in fiction through allusion to previous vegetarian words; in characters in novels who recall historic vegetarians; through direct quotations from earlier vegetarian texts; and through language that identifies the functioning of the structure of the absent referent. When Barbara Christian tells us that Alice Walker’s novel Meridian echoes the title of “Jean Toomer’s prophetic poem about America, The Blue Meridian,” we may be led to ask, is the vegetarianism of Meridian’s best friend in the novel an echo of Jean Toomer’s vegetarianism?[34]

We can find in women’s writings descriptions of the vegetarian quest, meat as trope of women’s oppression, and the figuring of women’s autonomy through their adoption of vegetarianism. The implications of the inconsistencies of Pamela Smith in Ann Beattie’s Chilly Scenes of Winter may be explained by the connection between autonomous female activity and vegetarianism. Pamela is a vegetarian who eats chicken, a lesbian who sleeps with men. Does the former activity figure the loss of autonomy accomplished by the latter?[35]

In feminist writings, vegetarian issues can be found at the intersection of politics and spirituality; in fiction, this intersection is expressed through the politics of mythmaking. Many examples of women’s fiction which figure vegetarian issues do so in the context of new mythmaking. In the process of creating ourselves anew within a meaningful cosmology that reflects feminist values, vegetarianism appears. Thus, we see that those who control the stories, control memory and the future. This is an aspect of Aileen La Tourette’s Cry Wolf. [36] In the stories her narrator tells, feminist political consciousness incorporates animals and connections with the nonhuman world. Relationship with animals is embedded within a larger radical vision that examines women and the feminine look, God the Father, and anti-nuclear activity.

Feminist mythmaking that includes vegetarianism can be found as well in Judy Grahn’s The Queen of Swords, which features vegetarian fairies who reclaim the “beaten flesh” of Inanna, who had been beaten into a piece of meat. When writers call attention to story telling they indicate that mythmaking is a shared process in which the reader engages too. They offer a process of liberation for the readers from the grip of authoritarian authors as well as from the texts of meat.

Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit reveals the necessity of mythmaking in expressing the painful Bildungsroman of a young woman whose call to be an Evangelical preacher is cut short by the discovery of her lesbianism. The spiritual and psychic turmoil that erupts as she is banished from her home and her church is traced through a mythology of the power of a wizard. A wanderer who is vegetarian must disentangle herself from the hold the wizard has upon her. The wizard’s power is demonstrated by his familiarity with one of her favorite meals: aduki bean stew. The autonomy that is declared by her vegetarianism is threatened by the wizard’s claim to vegetarianism as well. In the parallel stories of her banishment from the church and the myth that tells of the control of the wizard, the hero must decide between allegiance, tradition, and meaning on the one hand, and maintaining the integrity of her own being on the other.[37]

Alice Thomas Ellis’s The Birds of the Air features the role of mythmaking in providing meaning to loss and resurrection. Mary is a woman mourning the death of her son Robin. She is at her mother’s home for Christmas. She imagines the story of an ancient feast that featured the reanimation of dead birds. The centerpiece for the ancient feast was a swan; within the swan “were concealed other birds, each containing one smaller. And at the very centre of all, where once had been the swan’s liver, was a wren’s egg, boiled.” Just as the master of the feast raised his knife to begin carving, the feast is interrupted by the appearance of a bedraggled stranger. One person assumes he is a holy person who lives “on nuts and berries and the roots that only such people know of.” She asks him to tell a story but he decides to show them a story instead. The wren’s egg rolls out of the swan, cracks open, and from it staggers a wren chick. The swan heaves and out came “a scorched, plucked, mutilated, part-melted coot.” The sauce is restored to the cows from whom it had been taken, they “lowed with astonishment as their udders filled instantly with warm milk faintly onion-flavoured.” All foods were restored to their natural state: almonds to almond trees; onions entombed in the earth; currants returned to grapes; honey back to the comb; flour to wheat. Birds wandered forth from the belly of the swan: a pigeon, a hen, a duck, a heron, a widgeon, a bustard, a crane. Finally, the swan discards the trappings of quince, gingerbread, and thyme and rises to the rafters. Mary is called back from her “day-dreaming,” as her mother refers to it, by the smell of burnt flesh. “ ‘Something’s caught,’ she said, wishing the turkey could unlatch the oven door, free itself [sic] like four-and-twenty blackbirds, rise like the phoenix and go and gobble in the garden, leaving the flesh-eaters to drink snow and eat chrysanthemums.” But she cannot because the birds of the air are all dead: the Christmas turkey, the swan, the son, Robin.[38]

In this mythmaking, the function of the absent referent is clarified through the idea of reanimated birds; birds who escape the fate of being meat. A bird’s body is less transformed by meat eating than that of cows or pigs or lambs. As one Pythagorean commented in 1825:

in a bird . . . you have the perfect frame before you that once contained a breathing life,—the wings with which it [sic] used to fly, the legs for hopping or perching on a tree, and the parts for eating and singing with—the head and the bill. Therefore, in eating a bird, you have the image before you of a once-living creature, and know that you are destroying it, with its functions.[39]

The resemblance between the live and dead bird challenges the structure of the absent referent because the living bird’s body continues to be a referent even in death. It is not absent until consumed. As a result, one aspect of contemporary women’s fiction is the image of the dead bird.

If the vegetarian quest identifies the nothingness of meat, in feminist novels the image of dead birds reveals the some-oneness of living beings. Signs of revelation of the connectedness of life, especially the role of birds in triggering the recognition, can be found in the writings of many women. Recall the numerous instances in which the issue of consumption or killing of birds has recurred in this book: the literal chickenmeat in the movie The Birds; the two-year-old who asks her philosopher father why they are eating a turkey, who surely wanted to live; the uneaten pheasant, dead of a heart attack; the confrontation at the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1907 over aigretted hats and eating chicken; the hundreds of birds killed in The Shooting Party. With these examples in mind, let us consider first a few historic writings that establish some of the issues that appear when we confront the image of dead birds. The presence of birds, especially chickens, clarifies the functioning of the absent referent in erasing animals’ lives.

Mary Church Terrell, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, suffragist, and author of A Colored Woman in a White World, had to abandon an attempt to raise chickens because she could not contemplate the idea of eating them. She sold them instead, and recalled that day: “While I was catching them and tying their feet I was weeping inwardly. They are my feathered children. I raised them.”[40] Beth Brant recalls her grandfather, who upon deciding to raise chickens for eggs and poultry gave them Mohawk names such as Atyo, which means brother-in-law. “But when it came time to kill the first hen, Grandpa couldn’t do it. Said it was killing one of the family. And didn’t Atyo look at him with those eyes, just like brother-in-law, and beg not to have its [sic] head chopped off?”[41]

Because of her closeness to peacocks, Flannery O’Connor encountered the meaning of the absent referent in dreams about them. “Lately I have had a recurrent dream,” she wrote. “I am five years old and a peacock. A photographer has been sent from New York and a long table is laid in celebration. The meal is to be an exceptional one: myself. I scream ‘Help! Help!’ and awaken.”[42]

Colette introduces us to the image of the dead bird, the dead, consumable—but will it be consumed?—bird:

Vial looked at them and so did I. Good indeed! A little rosy blood remained in the broken joints of the plucked and mutilated chickens, and you could see the shape of the wings, and the young scales covering the little legs that had only this morning enjoyed running and scratching. Why not cook a child, too? My tirade petered out and Vial said not a word. I sighed as I beat my sharp, unctuous sauce, but soon the aroma of the delicate flesh, dripping on the charcoal, would give me a yawning hunger. I think I may soon give up eating the flesh of animals; but not to-day.[43]

In Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, the narrator recognizes the similarity between a turkey and a baby. She looks at “the turkey, which resembles a trussed, headless baby. It has thrown off its disguise as a meal and has revealed itself to me for what it is, a large dead bird.”[44] She restores the absent referent. In Atwood’s Surfacing a dead heron represents purposeless killing and prompts thoughts about other senseless deaths. A dead bird figures in Alice Ellis’s more recent work, Unexplained Laughter. Within a story in which the problem of muteness is acutely represented—we are introduced to characters who cannot speak, will not speak, and cannot avoid speaking—the question of what to do with a road-killed pheasant arises. Lydia has invited a vegetarian, Betty, on holiday with her to her Welsh cottage. Betty’s vegetarianism, motivated by concerns about health and cruelty, yet continuously compromised by steak-and-kidney pies or sausages, carries less figurative importance than the role of the dead pheasant in focusing issues of flesh eating. The evening of a funeral, a friend arrives with the dead pheasant. Lydia decides to hang her in the kitchen for a week to allow for seasoning. Betty proposes burying her, “and Lydia did see what she meant, for human death was attended with such ritual and dispatch that for an instant it seemed cruelly perverse to deny something similar to this helpless creature.”[45] But Lydia quickly changes her mind and proposes burying the bones after the bird has been consumed.

Anne Tyler’s The Clock Winder exposes the functioning of the structure of the absent referent through the issue of consuming a turkey. One of the chapters is framed by the necessity for Elizabeth, who has been absorbed into the Emerson household as handyman, to kill a turkey for Thanksgiving. “Elizabeth stood by her window, flattening the rolled sleeves of her paint-shirt and wondering what she would do if it took more than one chop to kill the turkey. Or could she just refuse to do it at all? Say that she had turned vegetarian?”[46] Though she does not wish to kill a live turkey for Thanksgiving, she has no difficulty going to a supermarket and buying a dead turkey. The difference between killing a living turkey and buying a dead turkey is found in the structure of the absent referent.

The might-have-beenness of vegetarianism echoes in other Tyler novels so that the question arises, is “the vegetarian who is not” a talisman in her novels? Vegetarianism is something in the past or potentially in the future, but not in the present. For instance, The Accidental Tourist refers to a restaurant that might become vegetarian; in If Morning Ever Comes, the thinness of Ben Joe is attributed to a relapse into what had been his discarded vegetarianism; in The Tin Can Tree, Janie Rose, a young child tragically killed in an accident was a vegetarian.[47]

Can it be that literary consciousness is paradigmatic for vegetarian consciousness? A phenomenology of vegetarianism recapitulates the phenomenology of writing: of seizing language, of identifying gaps and silences. This vegetarian phenomenology includes identification with animals or animals’ fate; questions of articulation, of when to speak up or accept silence; of control of food choices; and of challenging patriarchal myths that approve of meat eating. As opposed to the brokenness and violence characteristic of the fall into patriarchal culture, vegetarianism in women’s writings signifies a different way of relating to the world. We are told that there is something metaphorically instructive about our relationship to animals. Feminist use of story telling often conveys the importance of this metaphorical relationship. This story telling suggests that as we consider the power for nuclear annihilation or for interpersonal cruelty based on rigid social mores, vegetarianism may point to a reordering of the patriarchal moral order.

For a feminist-vegetarian reading of the vegetarian body

To be a feminist, one has first to become one . . . Feminists are not aware of different things than other people; they are aware of the same things differently. Feminist consciousness, it might be ventured, turns a “fact” into a “contradiction.”

 --—Sandra Lee Bartky[48]

We cannot tell the truth about women’s lives if we do not take seriously those dietary choices which were at odds with dominant culture. Vegetarianism spoke to women. They would not have adopted it, maintained it, proselytized for it, if vegetarianism were not a positive influence on their lives. This is a historical fact that needs to be accepted and then responded to by scholars studying women’s lives and texts.

Vegetarian women’s activism and their writings have been absorbed into the literary and historical feminist canon without noticing that they are saying and doing something different when it comes to meat eating. The numerous individual feminists who became vegetarians—from the Grimké sisters to Frances Willard, Clara Barton, Annie Besant, Matilda Joslyn Gage, May Wright Sewall, and Mary Walker—evidence a pattern of challenging patriarchal culture not only because it rendered women absent but also because it rendered animals absent. As women expressed and explored their own subjectivity, animals were released from the object category in which patriarchal culture had placed them. Consequently women writers such as Maxine Kumin, Alice Walker, Brigid Brophy, and Maureen Duffy actively articulate animal rights positions. In this same vein we ask, what has been the literary effect on Alexis DeVeaux, poet, playwright, and novelist, who acknowledges that along with having her first play produced, winning the Black Creation Literary Contest, and witnessing the immensity of poverty in Haiti, giving up meat was one of the seven transformative turning points in her career and life?[49]

Clearly, the reasons vegetarianism spoke to women and how they responded to it require close examination. What did feminist-vegetarians see themselves as doing? What compromises were they willing to accept? Feeding meat to a family like Gloria Steinem’s vegetarian grandmother? Was it necessary for her to suppress feelings of disgust at the serving of meat? How do people live with the consequences of their dietary choices? How many authors and activists were vegetarians or included vegetarianism in their writings? What sort of vegetarian-feminist network existed? And what did meat-eating feminists think of it? We know, for instance, that Susan B. Anthony rushed to devour a steak in New York City after two days with some vegetarians.

Many historians and literary critics may metaphorically rush to devour a steak because meat eating makes sense within our dominant culture. But what is needed in developing a feminist-vegetarian critical theory is sensitivity to literary and historical meanings that differ from traditional interpretations. Any activity that counters prevailing custom requires innovation, persistence, and motivation.

In Surfacing, Margaret Atwood offers this observation about eating animals: “The animals die that we may live, they are substitute people. . . . And we eat them, out of cans or otherwise; we are eaters of death, dead Christ-flesh resurrecting inside us, granting us life.”[50] Vegetarian activities counter patriarchal consumption and challenge the consumption of death. Feminist-vegetarian activity declares that an alternative worldview exists, one which celebrates life rather than consuming death; one which does not rely on resurrected animals but empowered people.



[1] “Astell abstained from meat frequently—certainly more often than her fellow Londoners,” according to her biographer Ruth Perry in The Celebrated Mary Astell: An Early English Feminist (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 286.

[2] Sarah Scott, A Description of Millenium Hall (London, 1762; New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1974), p. 20.

[3] Isobel Rae, The Strange Story of Dr. James Barry: Army Surgeon, Inspector-General of Hospitals, Discovered on death to be a Woman (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1958), p. 93.

[4] “Her personal needs had never been extravagant and were modest during her declining years. She no longer traveled, spent most of her time in her house, her garden or in solitary walks in the woods, and ate her frugal vegetarian meals alone in her room.” H. F. Peters, My Sister, My Spouse: A Biography of Lou Andreas-Salome (New York: Norton & Co., 1962), p. 296.

[5] Flora T. Neff, Letter to the Editor, The Vegetarian Magazine 10, no. 12 (April 1907), pp. 16–17.

[6] Shafts 1, no. 3 (November 19, 1892).

[7] Brigid Brophy, “Women,” Don’t Never Forget: Collected Views and Reviews (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966), p. 38.

[8] Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 4, 1883–1900 (Indianapolis: The Hollenbeck Press, 1902, New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1969), p. 245.

[9] Margaret Mead, Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years (New York: William Morrow & Co., New York: Touchstone Books, 1972), p. 25.

[10] Shafts 1, no. 3 (November 19,1892), p. 41. It is worth noting that Annie Besant, whose husband beat her, went on to become an ardent anti-vivisectionist and vegetarian.

[11] Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Relgion (Cambridge University Press, 1903, 1922, New York: Arno Press, 1975), pp. 94, 149.

[12] See Elizabeth Gould Davis, The First Sex (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1971, Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1972) and Evelyn Reed, Women’s Evolution: from matriarchal clan to patriarchal family (New York: Pathfinder Press, Inc., 1975).

[13] Interview with Jessie Haver Butler in Sherna Gluck, ed., From Parlor to Prison: Five American Suffragists Talk about Their Lives: An Oral History (New York: Vintage Books, 1976), p. 65.

[14] Excerpt from White’s letter to Bro. and Sister Lockwood, September 14, 1864 in Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 203. According to Numbers, White frequented Jackson’s institute until she received messages while in trance, which adhered closely to Jackson’s principles, and began to invoke a vegetarian diet as divinely ordained for Seventh Day Adventists.

[15] Ishbel Ross, Angel of the Battlefield (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956), p. 128.

[16] “As late in the fall I had a bad cold and a general feeling of depression, I decided to go to the Dansville Sanatorium.. . . I was there six weeks and tried all the rubbings, pinchings, steamings, the Swedish movements of the arms, hands, legs, feet; dieting, massage, electricity, and soon felt like a new being.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton as Revealed in Her Letters, Diary and Reminiscences, vol. 1, ed. Theodore Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch (1922, New York: Arno Press Reprint, 1969), p. 322.

[17] Gloria Steinem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983, reprint New York: New American Library, 1986), p. 163.

[18] See Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom: The Story of the Militant American Suffragist Movement (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920, reprint New York: Shocken Books, 1976), p. 148.

[19] James C. Jackson, How to Treat the Sick without Medicine (Dansville, NY: Austin, Jackson & Co., 1870), p. 235.

[20] In an interesting twist on this connection, Malcolm Muggeridge suggests that Samuel Butler attacks vegetarianism in Erewhon to compensate for his own homosexuality. Interview with Malcolm Muggeridge in Rynn Berry, Jr., The Vegetarians (Brookline, MA: Autumn Press, 1979), p. 94.

[21] Blanche Cook, “The Historical Denial of Lesbianism,” Radical History Review 20 (1979), p. 63.

[22] Anna Mary Wells, Miss Marks and Miss Woolley (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1978), p. 107. Regarding vegetarianism in their relationship see also Susan E. Cayleff, Wash and Be Healed: The Water-Cure Movement and Women’s Health (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987), p. 153.

[23] Mary Alden Hopkins, “Why I Earn My Own Living,” in These Modern Women: Autobiographical Essays from the Twenties, ed. Elaine Showalter (Old Westbury: The Feminist Press, 1978), p. 44.

[24] Alice Park to Agnes Ryan and Henry Bailey Stevens, Agnes Ryan Collection, May 1, 1922, December 31, 1936, and February 5, 1941. Box 5, file nos. 62, 66.

[25] Carol Christ, Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest (Boston: Beacon Press, 1980, 1986).

[26] Curtis Cate, George Sand: A Biography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1975), p. 204.

[27] Barbara Cook, “The Awakening,” The Animals’ Agenda 5, no. 8 (November 1985), pp. 30–31.

[28] Agnes Ryan, “The Heart to Sing, an Autobiography,” unpublished manuscript, Agnes Ryan Collection, p. 309. Further quotations are from pp. 311–16.

[29] “Some Reminiscences of Henry Bailey Stevens,” Vegetarian World 4 (1975), p. 6. That Stevens so vividly recalls an experience 58 years after the fact confirms it as a revelatory one for both of them, even if the details conflict.

[30] Marge Piercy, Small Changes (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Crest Book, 1972), p. 41.

[31] Vegetarian Magazine 9, no. 10 (August 1905), p. 174.

[32] See my discussion of Stevens’s The Recovery of Culture in chapter 7.

[33] Judy Grahn, The Queen of Swords (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987), p. 78.

[34] Barbara Christian, Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892–1976 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980), p. 207. Alice Walker, Meridian (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976, New York: Washington Square Press, 1977). David Levering Lewis in When Harlem Was in Vogue refers to Toomer’s vegetarianism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981, New York: Vintage Books, 1982), p. 63.

[35] Ann Beattie, Chilly Scenes of Winter (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976).

[36] Aileen La Tourette, Cry Wof (London: Virago Press, 1986).

[37] Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are not the Only Fruit (New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1985, 1987).

[38] Alice Thomas Ellis, The Birds of the Air (New York: The Viking Press, 1981), pp. 90–98.

[39] T. H., “Pythagorean Objections Against Animal Food,” London Magazine (November 1825), p. 382.

[40] Cited in Dorothy Sterling, Black Foremothers: Three Lives (Old Westbury, NY: The Feminist Press, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1979), p. 151. Consider Alice Walker’s description of a similar insight: “One day, I was walking across the road with my daughter and my companion. It was raining and we were trying to get home. I looked down and there was this chicken with her little babies. They were trying to get home too. It was one of those times feminists refer to as a ‘click.’ Well, this was one of those human animal-to-nonhuman animal clicks, where it just seemed so clear to me how one we are. I was a mother. She was a mother.” Ellen Bring, “Moving towards Coexistence: An Interview with Alice Walker,” Animals’ Agenda 8, no. 3 (April 1988), pp. 8–9.

[41] Beth Brant, (Degonwadonti) Mohawk Trail (Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1985), p. 27. They did eat the chickenmeat when the chickens died of natural causes.

[42] Flannery O’Connor, “The King of the Birds,” in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, ed. Sally and Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1957, 1970), p. 20.

[43] Colette, Break of Day (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, Inc., 1961, New York: Ballantine Books, 1983), pp. 28–29. A similar experience accounts for Cloris Leachman’s vegetarianism. In an interview she was asked, “I’ve read that you had a revelation while you were rinsing a chicken under the faucet: it suddenly occurred to you that what you were doing wasn’t very different from bathing a baby.” Leachman replied, “I had a new born baby, and it was exactly the same experience, yes.” Interview with Cloris Leachman in Rynn Berry, Jr., The Vegetarians, p. 17.

[44] Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye (New York: Doubleday, 1989), pp. 138–39.

[45] Alice Ellis, Unexplained Laughter (London: Duckworth, 1985), p. 76.

[46] Anne Tyler, The Clock Winder (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1972), p. 35.

[47] Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist (1985, New York: Berkley Books, 1986); If Morning Ever Comes (1964, New York: Berkley Books, 1986); The Tin Can Tree (1965, New York: Berkley Books, 1986).

[48] Sandra Lee Bartky, “Toward a Phenomenology of Feminist Consciousness,” in Feminism and Philosophy, ed. by Mary Vetterling-Braggin, Frederick A. Elliston, and Jane English, (Totowa, New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams & Co.), pp. 22, 26.

[49] Referred to in the introduction to Alexis DeVeaux, “The Riddles of Egypt Brownstone,” in Midnight Birds: Stories of Contemporary Black Women Writers, ed. Mary Helen Washington (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1980), p. 16.

[50] Margaret Atwood, Surfacing (New York: Simon and Schuster, New York: Popular Library, 1972), p. 165.