Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat

Book review by Rachel Curit, 2014 Spring Intern

Defiant DaughtersDefiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat  compiled by Carol J Adams is a compilation of essays highlighting the intersectionality between different forms of oppression, such as speciesism, sexism, racism, and ableism. Each essay features one woman’s true story of how she came to both veganism and feminism, and how she incorporates these values into her life. Every woman’s story is unique and inspiring.

For example, in The Feminist-Vegan’s Dilemma, Colleen Martell highlights something many of us have faced at one point or another: the issue of whether or not to speak up about why we’re vegan. The big question Colleen keeps asking herself, as it relates to both her animal activism and her feminism, is “What are my goals as a feminist-vegan activist?”  Though she doesn’t arrive at a hard and fast answer, she does say in regards to the gender studies class that she teaches, “I know I’m not convincing every student in my classes to support feminism, but it’s enough for me that I’ve taught them to ask good questions about the world around them and to be critical of oversimplified answers. Maybe that’s the best I can do with animal rights as well.” (p. 84).

This was an important takeaway for me in terms of my own activism. Getting people to think deeper about who they’re eating and the moral implications that go along with that is all I can do. I can’t force veganism on anyone, but I can answer their questions with honesty and authenticity.

Another poignant essay was written by Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House. In Found Art, Found Hope she writes, “We, as a society, willingly and mindlessly accept that certain groups fall beneath others in this hierarchical system that just is. The poison just seeps in…Shrugging our shoulders and becoming complacent is not acceptable. In order to end this mind—this notion that ‘I’m better than you and therefore can do whatever I want to you’—we cannot just wait patiently. We need to fight.” (p. 206). This notion is what all oppression boils down to, the idea that one group of individuals is better than another for arbitrary reasons and therefore can exploit, dominate, eat, and/or use the other group to their own benefit. One of the fascinating points Jasmin makes is that to give up meat and other animal products is to give up our power over non-human animals. I’d never thought about veganism in those terms before, and it resonated with me deeply.

This book contains such a wealth of information that this review barely begins to scratch the surface. I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. You’ll likely find connections that you’d never thought of before and will be moved by each woman’s heartfelt, personal journey of accepting herself and discovering her own beliefs and convictions.