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Carol Adams:
The Voices Never Heard

By Cassandra L. Holliday
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Great-great granddaughter of Minnie (Miner) Gary 

The snow is falling heavily, filling the bare, deforested land quicker than the human eye can sustain.  The pure crystallized flakes help illustrate the innocence often times concealed by others.  Particles cover up the truth that lies beneath and brings ignored facts to the surface.  Underneath these layers of snow lie piles of methane gas, carbon dioxide and pesticides.  These piles, like anything else, are absorbed into the soil, run off into bodies of water and are absorbed by the human body.  On top of the snow lie traces of innocent blood, and a clear steady pathway that leads into a brick factory.  The footprints are a vision of life, a life consumed by feeling, knowledge, and hope.  When one follows the footprints into the factory, it’s instinctive to swallow the fear and to witness the defining truth.  The animals within the factory are lined up side-by-side in narrow pens where they await their death.  The fear in their eyes cannot be ignored, and they can sense what is about to happen.  A man dressed in a blue jump suit, approaches each animal and with no shame or regret, violently inserts a long, sharp nail into the brain.  The animal collapses and falls into its own pool of blood.  Outside the factory, the snow still falls while all forms of life go about their business without a worry or wonder of what is happening inside.

Inside the factory, along a corner wall, stands a woman.  She is quiet.  She doesn’t move or speak, she only stands and watches in despair as if it is her own life that is being sacrificed for the pleasure of others.  After being violently manipulated, the animals are then moved to another section of the factory.  In this section the animals are cut into pieces and separated by parts.  On the left side of the room there is a pile of ribs.  On the right there are loin piles and in the center lie piles of rump.  It is at this instant that the quiet woman realizes something.  She cannot help but notice the metaphor.  The separation and violence that these animals go through has happened to her, and it is happening to women all over the world.  The quiet woman then thinks to herself. Wait a minute. I go through this same experience everyday.  Everyday I am judged and picked apart.  I have no voice to speak my opinion, for it is drained by the domination of others.  The environment, animals and women are dominated by a force that it is hard to defeat.  If only I spread the word.  If I inform our culture and help them understand the metaphor of what is taking place, then a movement can spread.  A movement full of new ideas, peace and life. After leaving the factory, the woman set a new path.  This woman would become known by the name of Carol Adams, one of the most intriguing feminists of all time. It was now her duty to create a path that would lead to a greater understanding and awareness of the concealed and unimaginable.  Adams’ path was going to voice every aspect in the world that is ignored.  She would see to it that everything gets a voice and the power to live freely.

Carol Adams is more than just a feminist, she is a woman with profound knowledge that other feminists generally don’t seek to explore.  She has written many books on the environment and animal + women’s rights. She uses her works to question what matters, what affects our culture, and what needs the most attention.  It is with her reflective ideas and thoughts that this world can benefit.  Adams states in an interview with Leah Bobal, “My hope is that we work toward a world without oppression and we do it with awareness that we are not the only species on the earth” (Bobal 7). Adams wants the world to be free of violence, brutality, and objectification.  People generally don’t take into consideration the lives being lost, the land that is being destroyed and the women being abused.  She is right by stating that society needs to quit acting as if “we are the only species on earth,” because we aren’t.

 If Adams’ words don’t seem believing to you just yet, consider my views as a new found believer in her theory.  If every human in this world took her words literally, then humanity would consist of more happiness, less violence, and better health.  The topics she proposes are clearly interconnected in various ways.  Think about this:  Sacred land is being deforested everyday, and diverse animal species are becoming extinct, while animals for consumption are being murdered.  The waste they leave behind affects our health and environment.  The violent ways in which these animals are murdered parallels a deep relationship to how woman are treated.  If these factors are taken away, then these problems wouldn’t exist.  Obviously society isn’t going to give in all at once.  We need to slowly approach each topic with an aim towards a better society.  It is going to take a movement.  A movement full of new ideas, knowledge, and awareness.  It needs to be strong, and it is going to take a great leader to exemplify these issues.

In order to fully understand and take part in Carol Adams’ interconnected movement, one must first understand why feminism matters to society.  Beate Littig, author of Feminist Perspectives on Environment and Society, states,

Many would agree that, at the very least, a feminist is someone who holds that women suffer discrimination because of their sex, they have specific needs which remain negated and unsatisfied, and that the satisfaction of these needs would require a radical change (some would say a revolution even) in the social, economic and political order. (7)

Littig, along with Adams, knows that a movement is needed; she even suggests a “revolution.” (Littig 7) Two educated females are both agreeing that something needs to be done.  These requests women are asking for can’t be ignored any longer.  They are both feminists who want to stretch the voice of all the beings that are dominated.  They want to make all voices equal, so that ideas and thoughts can be shared as one.  They want to end sexual violence, while promoting sexual choice and freedom, and they want everything to have a chance of privilege and respect.  However, most of all they want to restructure society.  With Adams as a new feminist leader directing this movement, she shows our culture three very important things that mater.  In Adams’ book Neither Man nor Beast she states, “Three considerations suggest, instead, that the concerns of environmentalism, animal-defense theory and particularly ecofeminism, can and ought to be brought together” (129). In no important order these issues must be addressed. If attention is spent in these areas as Adams suggests, then a better awareness of what society is doing wrong can be found and acted upon accordingly.  It is her duty to teach society these unknown issues that linger around everyday, and it is society’s duty to listen to what she has to say.   So, from this point on we will now begin to justify the importance of her three most important topics, discuss why they matter, and how they affect society.  With many authoritative scholars backing up her claims, we will now be able to add proof that something needs to be done.

First, let us revisit the factory.  We must go back to this awful place and take a look underneath the snow.  Let your eyes and minds wander around the bare land as your brains soak up the often times unseen.  The environment you picture probably isn’t as perfect as you once thought.  However, these negative images are required in order to understand the need for change.  Through Carol Adams’ insight we will now begin to shovel down to the core concepts of the environment and the importance it provides.

  So, now that you have a brief understanding on Adams and feminism, let’s begin with the first topic she views as a concern.  One of Adams’ most important issues corresponds with the term “ecofeminism.”  It is simply two words brought together to represent that women’s rights are related to the sacred environment.  The term also implies that women and other non-human beings are dominated and the cause of this equals great environmental and sociological destruction.  Karen Warren, author of Ecofeminist Philosophy, states “As a political movement, ecological feminism began in the 1970s.  French feminist Francoise d’ Eaubonne coined the term ‘ecological feminism’ in 1974 to call attention to women’s potential to bring about an ecological revolution” (21).  With an “ecological revolution” women were now getting the freedom to speak.  Their voices would now be heard, and their ideas could now be introduced.  Bringing ecology and feminism together provides a building block for a feminist movement.  The earth is being raped everyday, and women are familiar with this concept.  Women know how it feels to be taken for granted, so it makes sense that we listen to what feminists have to say, and it makes sense to bring in a feminist perspective into this devastating situation.   Our earth is manipulated, and there is nothing we can do to take back this destruction.  We can only prevent it, once we realize what is happening.  In her book Ecofeminism and the Sacred Adams quotes,

Our thoughts must be on how to restore to the Earth its dignity as a living being; how to stop raping and plundering it as a matter of course…we should only be allowed to destroy only what we ourselves can re-create.  We cannot re-create this world.  We cannot re-create ‘wilderness.’  We cannot even, truly, re-create ourselves.  Only our behavior can we re-create, or create anew. (ES ii)

There is only one earth, one land.  Once it is gone, it is gone for good.   So, take on a feminist perspective, and look at what is happening around you.   Notice that the ecological movement was brought about to integrate females into certain areas at the universal level as well as a more narrow level.  If we look at the environment at a global level with more open, broader minds, then something productive can occur.  In Ecofeminism and the Sacred Adams writes,

Currently we live among, and support in various ways, ecological destructive dynamics of vast proportions.  Most environmental scientists agree that there is still time to reduce and halt the damage-but not a great deal of time, perhaps a decade or two.  If we were to become seriously committed to allowing an ecologically healthy existence for the Great Family of All Beings and our progeny, we would focus our collective energy and attention (…). (263)

Adams is basically stating that if society wants to see a change, it needs to occur now before it is too late.  In order to maintain a “healthy existence,” society needs to center more concern on issues such as the environment.  The environment around us is important.  Whenever our land is used for animal factories, many things begin to suffer.  Global warming is occurring because of the endless piles of manure found on earth’s surface; the gases trap heat from leaving the atmosphere. Humans are contaminated with numerous amounts of chemicals and pesticides that are related to cancer and other health related issues.  Jeremy Rifkin, author of Beyond Beef states, “…new studies are connecting red meat consumption to colon cancer, the number two leading cause of death in the United States…scientists are also beginning to link red meat consumption  to breast cancer” (Rifkin 172). The destruction of rain forests in another dramatic factor that affects the way we live.  These rain forests are being torn down everyday so animals can graze on this precious land. 

Rifkin writes “… a four-square-mile section of rain forest contains as many as 1,500 species of flowering plants, and as many as 750 species of trees…125 mammal species, 400 species of birds, 100 of reptiles, 60 of amphibians, and 150 of butterflies” (197).  These rain forests contain so many diverse animal species, and they are being destroyed by the carelessness of mankind.  Think about all the different species not yet discovered in the rainforests, and know that we may never get to notice their diverse life. The rain forests “are home to millions of species; perhaps as much as a fifth of all life on earth” (Rifkin 197).  We need to acknowledge our surroundings and help resolve this issue.   Society is responsible for these negative habits that arise everyday.  Adams feels that every second available on this earth is vital.  Every second we have the chance to do something.  These devastating components influence the future of every creature on earth, and the distressing part is that it is preventable.   Everything is affected by the destruction of the environment.  We need to come together as a whole and realize that earth’s beautiful nature will truly blossom again if direct attention is drawn to its thriving wonders and vitality.

To understand Adams’ personal insight on the environment, we must place ourselves in the shoes of a feminist thinker, and take everything in with open minds.  Nature bears life.  It is the mother of all beings.  Females also provide existence and are the mothers of all human life.  So, it is plausible to suggest that females and nature are interwoven.  It is a female’s instinct to protect other life as they do their own, and it is female’s that have started this movement.  Feminists are trying to push the idea that everything should be created equal to ignite the great possibilities for the future. If we plan on seeing the future, one must stop and take a look outside.  Notice the trees located in fields full of abundant life.  These trees provide a home for creatures, and they are being torn down by the thousands every day to provide jails, and slaughterhouses for animals such as cattle, pigs and chicken.   Life is being undervalued by these regular rituals that are taking place.  This life that is taken for granted has a purpose, and it is time to recognize what that is.  Nature and the environment provide a healing remedy; they provide us with worth, and they are what keep us alive.  Society needs to come and realize that humans are part of this interconnected living web and not the dominating force.  They are a piece of this sacred earth, not the entire whole.  Adams states, “…enjoy life…make a difference and see it as an opportunity to do the least harm possible…feel relaxed…buy books you believe in and give them as gifts. Spread the word” (Bobal 7).  We need to do our part, and give back to the earth.  Give back for all the life it has provided us with by “spreading the word,” and treat the environment as it deserves.  Give it equality, opportunity, and a voice. Only when this society forms a bond between the unequal and the dominating, and when we do our part, nature will bloom once again.

So, we now have a narrow concept on the importance of the environment through feminist eyes.  Now let’s take a look at two other aspects that play a major role in American society.  We must again revisit the factory, but this time we are going to venture inside.  Remember the quiet woman standing in the corner?  Remember the metaphor she noticed, and her determination to inform society of what is happening?  It was indeed Carol Adams used as this symbolic representation, and the metaphor described how women and animals are both raped by a dominating force.  These two topics, including the environment, are connected in an awful way, and it is time to address this. So, let’s now discuss the significant connection between women and animals within our society.  Prepare yourself to open your mind and notice the metaphors.  Let your mind overflow with the information needed to take a stand.

According to Carol Adams, what exactly is wrong with the scene noticed inside the factory?  What Adams suggests is that the majority of life on this earth is created unequal, such as animals, environment and women, and they are separated by some other form of existence.  Let’s clarify exactly what Adams’ is stating.  Adams speaks about the butchering and rape of animals and women.  She explains a deep parallel between these two aspects that Americans normally wouldn’t view as connected.  In her book Neither Man nor Beast Adams states, “If women are ontologized as sexual beings…animals are ontologized as carriers as flesh” (101).  This direct quote is what grabs my attention.  Sure, one generally looks at a cow and pig and visualizes beef and ham, rather than a living, breathing being.  It is normal for society to do such things.  It is stamped in many brains to look at what is being eaten as food, rather than a once breathing and living being.  However, why is it that women are generally looked at as sexual beings?  Why are they torn apart by body sections and not looked at as human?  Men generally notice certain aspects such as the breasts, buttocks, thighs, etc.  Women are viewed just how animals are viewed.   The metaphor is right there. Women are being consumed, maybe not literally, but the connection is pretty close.

Do you ever notice the way in which women say, “I felt like a piece of meat”?  These words are often times said after a woman is raped, abused or whistled at.  Men are generally treating women like inanimate objects.   These words are referred to many times, and society isn’t realizing the metaphor that is being produced.  Meat has no feeling.  Meat is what is left after an animal has been drained of life.  So, are women saying they feel like a piece of meat, because their life has been drained? Because no matter what, their voice is always overheard?  Is there some deep connection that society is ignoring? Adams states in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat  “In addition to, just as the slaughterhouse treats animals and its workers as inert, unthinking, unfeeling objects, so too rape in rape are women treated as inert objects, with no attention paid to there feelings or needs” (54).  These women then feel used for a certain purpose as if they are being consumed.  These women just like the animals “have been penetrated, violated, prepared for market against their will” (SPM 54).  Both are being dominated by a force of power by others.  It is a silent domination, and that is why it so successful in its endeavors.  In the beginning of the scene the animals inside of the factory were kept hidden from the outside world.  They were kept behind closed doors.  In a sense a woman’s feelings and voice are locked up just as these animals.  Women seek these metaphors and notice the inequality.  They are too a product of the animal world.  Feminists believe that society needs to open up their minds; however, we first must understand why minds are still closed and the motive behind it.

So, why are minds still closed, and why are we not noticing as much change as we should? A lot of Americans are believers of Jesus Christ and may read the Bible.  The Bible for a lot of Americans is used to base decisions, so this verse might explain why American minds lack that urge to open up towards feminism.  In the King James Bible it states, “…Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1.28).  According to these beliefs, there is a dominating force that overpowers all creatures on this earth, and it is implying that men have this domination.  It is now easy to understand why this thinking in American is programmed.  How can one feminist open up the desensitized minds of individuals in order to create equality?  How can she go along with the norm of religion and still persuade Americans that what is going on is wrong?  Adams states, “We must resist doing something we have been taught to do” (NMB 198).  In this case, we have been taught that domination is normal. If you have brief background knowledge on the Bible, you will notice that in the past, slavery was acceptable, but we began a movement towards freedom, and it happened.  It was because voices were heard.  Everything is meant to be equal.  We teach young children the values of equality in early life, yet we lose touch with the meaning as we age.  People’s minds are meant for change.  We learn lessons every day in life that we value, and they change us to be who we are now.

So, why is inequality a consistent problem still?  To provide proof that women are still unequal consider these statistics.  In Sociology The Basics John Macionis quotes, “In 2001, the median earnings for women working full time were $29,215, whereas men working full time earned $38, 275.  This means that, for every working dollar earned by men, women earned about 76 cents” (254). Our country discriminates against women, but why?  A woman working the same hours, with the same degree, makes less money then a man.  Why is our country still noticing these differences? It is happening because discrimination is silenced. Generally, any thought that is non-male is considered inferior, and this thinking is still pervasive in current society. You can see it everywhere you turn your head. Women deserve equality just as the precious land and the precious creatures that roam this land with us.  With women as the spokespeople of this movement, they can bring the hidden into view and execute the metaphors in society.

After noticing all these problems lingering around in the world, we need to move forward, and notice the possibilities of the future. We can change all these problems, once we change our attitudes. The only factor of change is to open the mind.  Notice what’s happening around you.  Notice the metaphors and the meanings.  Carol Adams isn’t suggesting that animals and the environment should get the right to vote.  She is suggesting plain and simple that they deserve a voice, everything has the right to live freely, just as humans.  We are all in this world together, humans and non-humans.  If all voices in the world came together as one, this world just might be a better place to live.  Females can speak on behalf of non-humans because their connection is very close.  We can’t solve war in one day, or world hunger in a week, but we can solve equality right now; it only takes an open mind.  So, give everything the voice it deserves, and a change will start to take place.  We need to look into the future of this sacred earth and into the future benefits of complete equality.  One undoubtedly must establish determination to conquer all that is unequal in this land of the free.

 In the future, minds will open after Adams’ movement spreads.  We will begin to notice major changes.  The same factory Adams visited in the beginning will not appear to be the same.  This is what you’ll see: The snow is no longer there covering up the devastating truth, for the truth was brought to the surface just as proposed.  Pure, green grass is emerging from the once bloody, beaten, contaminated land.  Trees are slowly beginning to flourish this once vacant field in every corner and abundant life is reproducing.  If you look past the thriving beautiful landscape you will notice the remains of the brick factory.  This factory is there to represent the past, a past full of torture and despair.  For no one can forget the past, because the past helped to lead us to where we are today.  If you look closer at this factory you will notice a boarded up entrance.  This entrance was once the beginning of death.  This entrance is the very entrance Carol Adams departed through with her new ideas and determination.  She exited to begin a new life, a new life for this sacred land, sacred animals and for the unfair treatment against women.  The factory’s purpose with Adams and towards new life is now fulfilled. The earth now has a voice, and it is now respected.  Women are seen as equal and there is no base of inequality.  Animals now have a voice and a right of life.  The bright sun fills the sky, and rays beam down upon this new, fresh, beautiful earth.  Because of one woman’s voice, one movement and open minds, an equal empowered society finally has the chance to enjoy a utopian world.


Copyright © 2005 Cassandra L. Holiday. Published with permission.