Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Twenty facts about the 20th Anniversary Edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat

1. It took fifteen years to write.

2. It’s been published in China, Japan, Korea, and Germany. I’d love to see French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch editions.

3. Consolidated, an industrial rock group of the 1990s, created a song “The Sexual Politics of Meat.” They used a tape of me reading from the book. You can hear a part of it on the video celebrating the release of the 20th anniversary edition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU2VkRpXSUo

4. It is informed by my years of social justice activism against domestic violence, racism, and poverty and for farm workers, integrated housing, and peace. I needed those years to ferment the ideas, to learn from activism, and to read tons of books.

5. It won 1990 Continuum Women’s Studies Award. The following year, one of my closest friends, Mary E. Hunt won it! Sadly, the award is no longer given.

6. When The Sexual Politics of Meat was unveiled at the Modern Language Association in December 1999, it generated so much excitement that the Continuum booth was mobbed. Years later, the representative from Harper & Row, whose booth was next to Continuum’s, still talked about it.

7. Readers of The Sexual Politics of Meat are an incredibly diverse, wonderfully engaged group of people.

8. Right wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh loved to hate it. I thought, “gee, if they agreed with me, I’d really be in trouble!”

9. Law and Order SVU used ideas from The Sexual Politics of Meat (and its slide show) in a recent episode on “Beef.” Of course! Because as the fictional me says on their show, “Meat eating and patriarchy go hand in hand.”

10. Just two weeks after the book appeared, someone sent me an image proving the claims in the book. Since then, I’ve received hundreds of images. I plan on giving them to an archive.

11. Twenty-three years ago, while reading Margaret Homans’ Bearing the Word, I encountered the idea of the absent referent. I realized “that is what animals are.” Upon waking the next day, I knew, “and that is what women are, too.”

12. There were at least four different drafts to the book before I had my breakthrough in May 1987 and figured out how to organize the book.

13. When my children were five and one, a friend gave them t-shirts that said, “My mommy wrote The Sexual Politics of Meat.”

14. The Sexual Politics of Meat has never been out of print in twenty years.

15. Nellie McKay wrote the foreword to the twentieth anniversary edition.

16. I like to call The Sexual Politics of Meat the “mother” of Lantern Books, because Martin Rowe and Gene Gollogly, the founders of Lantern Books, first met each other after Martin wrote a letter to Continuum congratulating them on publishing The Sexual Politics of Meat.

17. It was banned by an Oklahoma library and (temporarily) stopped by Customs officials from entering Canada for being “pornographic”; if only it had been banned in a few more places, maybe progressive meat eaters might have taken up its cause, and its message!

18. It changes people’s lives. I know; it began by changing mine.

19. I couldn’t have done it without libraries and librarians.

20. The Twentieth Anniversary Edition is now available! Ask your local independent bookstore to stock it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Engaging the sexual politics of meat

Next month, the 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat will be published. Since it's first publication 20 years ago, I have received some amazing letters from readers. I have been very touched and moved and astonished by what people have said and how they have described how the book changed their lives. This weekend, I received the following letter. I loved everything about it and asked for permission to share it:

"Dear Carol

I am writing to say thank you to you for writing all your amazing books and being such a wonderful role model, thought provoker and author.

My daughter who is 17 was introduced to your "Sexual Politics of Meat" 2 years ago by her English extension teacher at school. Since then her "Carol J Adams Library" has expanded to include many of your books. She still anxiously awaits her ordered 20th Anniversary edition which seems to be very delayed in the ordering process, much to her dismay!!

Both she and I are vegetarians (she has recently decided to become a vegan) with a feminist slant to life. How inspiring for her to have found in you an intelligent role model who LOVES everything she does - reading, books, writing, cooking, language, vegetarianism and more recently veganism, feminism, exploring and expressing ideas and beliefs, standing up for one's beliefs, integrating veganism into your eveyday belief system...... even Jane Austen!! Our home is now adorned with lovely "Carol J Adams" quotes which brings you further into our everyday lives.

She is a fabulous cook and tries your recipes as well as many vegan blog recipes. Discussions in the kitchen frequently start from "Mum, Carol J Adams says........" and off we go. It is lovely and I want to thank you for being such a powerful influence. The power feels of calmness and good intent and freedom not of control and greed.

Our young women need mentors/ role models such as yourself to be guided by.

Thank you for so positively impacting my daughter's life and thereby my own.

I hope we hear if you ever come to Australia to present as I know we will be there!!

Wishing you health and contentment."

The letter was signed by her mother. What a wonderfully supportive person she is! Let's say a cheer for all parents and partners who embrace the changes that come along with being a feminist-vegan!

I am thankful my books have had such a powerful impact. I see writing as being in dialogue with readers. I have been most fortunate that my readers respond by being in dialogue with me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Remembering Mary Daly

The first time Mary Daly came for dinner – it was the fall of 1974 – she brought a wine whose symbol was a black cat. A small plastic black cat hung from around the wine bottle’s neck. That night I put it on my dresser top, and it is still there this morning, 35 and 1/2 years later.

Of course she brought a black cat. Mary Daly recognized the negation that traditionally happened to women and anyone associated with them (black cats and their association with women witches). Mary considered this a reversal and her writings expose many examples of such reversals. What Mary didn’t know as she handed me the wine but she was fascinated to learn was that two of my ancestors had been killed as witches at Salem in the seventeenth century.

Of course Mary would join one of her feminist students for a vegetarian dinner. She was interested in what we thought, what we read, how we lived.  In Beyond God the Father, she rocked that formerly secure world of patriarchal religion with insights that spill out on every page. After it came out in 1973, it became a book I read over and over again because I didn’t really get it all the first time through. So many things were being shaken up! In that book, she says, “Feminism is not merely an issue but rather a new mode of being.” Together with other feminists, in her classes, or over dinners, or planning a grand protest at Boston College when she was denied full professorship, we explored this new mode of being.

Mary Daly introduced the word “ecofeminism” to me that same fall of 1974 in her Feminist Ethics class. This morning I also looked over notes from one of her classes, where she has been taking the ideas in Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineasand making them her own. She was identifying the deadly sins of the fathers: processions – reification of the process, stunting of female becoming. Daughters are not divine. Male pride twists female pride into vanity, shame. Life-giving blood dirty  [i.e.., menstruation and when giving birth]; death-blood from war, fights, games, worshipful.

Mary knew the art of discourse. She would begin an article with a statement like “I don’t need to tell you that one hundred percent of the priests and bishops who oppose abortion are men and one hundred percent of the people getting abortions are women.” And so she did tell us, and we still need to be reminded of that.

Mary exposed the reversals that had become accepted as “truths” or givens in our society. In the Wickedary, she provides these examples of reversals or inversions: “a: the absurd story of Eve’s birth from Adam b: the belief that man is superior to animals c: the worship of male divinity d: the belief that the Radical Feminist world view is ‘narrow’ and/or ‘dated.’" In celebrating the black cat, as in many things she did and wrote, Mary was reversing the reversals.

When I proposed writing my paper in her feminist ethics class on the connection between “feminism and vegetarianism,” she encouraged me. The roots of all my work on The Sexual Politics of Meat began then, 35 years ago. Why is meat, which is dead, associated with men and so highly valued? Why are vegetables, associated with the feminine, as well as a “vegetative state,” always being put down? And so I began my own work at reversing the reversal.

She gave me the intellectual space to explore these wild ideas. To her, nothing was too “wild.” She let us discover what is there when we have removed the layers of lies and distortions that the reversals have created. She was a visionary, a brilliant thinker and writer, and she was also generous.

She provided a model for critiquing dominant culture. Here’s my journal entry from Mary 4, 1976: “For my frustration about not finding readiliy accessible information about fem[insists] who were veg. in the past—write an article on Veg. and Fem Historiography use Mary’s analyses from B[eyond] G[od] t[he] F[ather]: how people don’t take seriously thru trivialization, erasure.”

Mary Daly was a radical feminist philosopher (theologian couldn’t encompass all that she was accomplishing); she was proud and modeled pride; why should women be deferential? In one of her Feminist Ethics classes, Mary said “Women’s anger is creative.”

Has the world changed as much as we would like to think since the thunderous insights of Beyond God the Father? With right wing religious leaders and Catholic priests dictating the abortion policy of health care, we have a Taliban-like influence stalking our land. Read Mary Daly to understand our world.

“Feminism is not merely an issue but rather a new mode of being.” Mary, courageous and imaginative and resolute and visionary, showed us this.