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As in The Edible Woman, we see an identification with nonhuman animal victims by a woman, but in the end it is necessary that she rejects this identification in order to return to reality and to survive. She focuses her energy on growing vegetables and feels sympathetic to the farm animals whom her husband and other farmers kill. Once she tells her husband that she wants a child, she eats the dead lamb who had loved her and finds his flesh delicious.


It seems that it is not the extensive and needlessly cruel acts done to nonhuman animals in the course of the narrative. It is not the chickens running around with their heads cut off, gushing blood. It is not the trusting lamb lured by his surrogate human-mother to be slaughtered by the men.

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And it is not the cows who are named and then eaten by the human family, to the delight of the man and boys, to the discomfort of the woman. The moral disorder is this story is this womanly discomfort itself, this human female identification with nonhuman animals, which violates accepted masculine moral norms and must eventually be resolved through maternity. As in The Edible Woman, the story concludes with a woman eating a slaughtered animal, and liking it, as the men have done all along. As in Surfacing, concern for a nonhuman animal and revulsion for butchery turns out to be longing for a future or lost child.

As Atwood argues in Survival, interspecies affection is in fact displaced human love—love for nonhuman animals arises when love for a man or a human child is failing or absent: it fills a gap or a lack and remains anthropocentric. Various kinds of delusion that, for Atwood, seem to particularly afflict women—delusion that one is a victim, delusion that a fetus is an animal or that an animal is a child—result in vegetarianism, and vegetarianism is just a quick slide from insanity. However the coining of a new eating disorder, orthorexia nervosa, suggests that vegetarianism continues to be pathologized.

Eating Disorder societies and journals have also accepted the diagnosis: an article on orthorexia has been published in the Journal of Eating [and] Weight Disorders, and a handout has been prepared by the National Eating Disorders Association for use by doctors treating orthorexia in their patients. The disorder has also received largely uncritical attention by prominent media organizations such as The Guardian, The Observer, and the BBC, to name only a few.

Of course, vegetarians and vegans are not always perceived as fun, particularly when they are criticizing the eating habits of meat-eaters. They are very likely to reject a meal prepared with love or otherwise by someone else, if that meal is, say, a turkey dinner. By definition vegetarians and vegans eliminate entire food groups from their diet, whether meat or eggs and dairy. An ethical vegetarian or vegan who believes eating animals is wrong will necessarily be critical of others who eat animals and animal products, and will very likely feel good or at least better about herself for not doing so.

Likewise, she will feel guilty if she lapses back into eating meat, eggs or dairy, or fails to live up to her ethical convictions. By definition a vegetarian or vegan who was raised eating animals and animal products will skip foods she once enjoyed. An ethical vegetarian or vegan whose dietary choices are based on deeply held ethical beliefs will very likely not want to attend events where animals are being cooked and eaten, such as barbeques, much as a feminist will likely not want to attend an outing to the strip club.

Vegetarianism and veganism as ethical and political positions are thus socially isolating, much like other ethical and political stances, and may result in a reduced quality of life for the human if the oppression she resists is widespread. Bratman confesses in his BeyondVeg article that he is a former orthorexic himself. They must also become more flexible and less dogmatic with their eating. We are called upon to be vigilant in our role as detectors and policers of abnormalcy.

According to a study commissioned by Vegetarian Times, 68 percent of vegetarians are female and only 32 percent are male. Single women in particular are likely to be vegetarian, as many women lapse back into meat-eating when they enter a stable relationship with a man who eats meat; often this is because women are expected to prepare meals with meat for their male partners or there is marital and familial pressure to cook meat for their children.

Because of the gendered nature of vegetarianism, pathologizing this diet and pathologizing compassion for nonhuman animals more generally has gendered implications. On the one hand, more women than men will be pathologized.

Appetites for Thought

On the other hand, it is likely that men who take on the identity of vegetarian or vegan, and who are compassionate towards nonhuman animals, will be more pathologized than women given that they are flouting gender norms as well as more general societal norms. If this is so, the pathologization of vegetarianism is comparable to masochism, which is more common in women but, and consequently, is more prone to be considered a serious pathology in men.

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Because anorexia nervosa is strongly associated with women, the choice of orthorexia nervosa as the name for a new eating disorder, which resonates with the better known eating disorder, also genders it feminine. The latter, like Marian McAlpin in The Edible Woman, feared that remaining vegetarian might cost him his relationship.

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Also like Marian, he goes to great lengths to hide his vegetarianism socially. A woman acquaintance told me that she had been vegetarian until she went through a period of depression and a doctor, upon hearing that she was vegetarian and without asking further questions about her life or inquiring into how she meets her nutritional needs, assured her that her diet was the cause of her mental health problems and that the only way for her to not be depressed was to eat meat.

So she began to eat meat again. As Foucault has demonstrated with respect to the psychiatrization of sexuality, this story—like the case of the orthorexia nervosa diagnosis—suggests that with respect to alimentary norms as well, doctors may exploit medical diplomas to pass off their own mores for science, and this is facilitated by the way that pathology has been conflated with abnormality in psychiatric discourses and more generally in our culture, as seen in the writings of Margaret Atwood.

The hypothesis I have explored in this paper is that at least one reason why more people are not vegetarian—despite what we know and deplore about the living and dying conditions of animals in factory farms and factory slaughterhouses, and despite what we know and deplore about the impact of the animal agriculture industry on the environment—is that, like Marian McAlpin, they fear being abnormal.

She has a Ph. Her research interests include twentieth-century French philosophy, philosophy of sexuality, feminist philosophy, philosophy of food and animal ethics. She is currently working on two book monographs, titled Bucolic Pleasures?

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E-mail: chloe. New York and London: Continuum. Atwood, M. The Edible Woman. Toronto: Random House.

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Princeton University Press. Bratman, S. Beyond Vegetarianism www. Comninou, M. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Food, Morals and Meaning: The pleasure and anxiety of eating. New York and London: Routledge. Donini, L. Vol 9 June : Foucault, M. New York: Picador. Freud, S. Heyes, C. Meredith Jones and Suzanne Boccalatte. Sydney: Boccalatte Press. Hill, A. Kukla, R. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Kratina, K. Manton, C. Fed Up: Women and Food in America. Connecticut and London: Bergin and Garvey. McCandless, D. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Simms, E. Available online at ScienceDirect www. Related Papers.

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Foucault and the Ethics of Eating. By Chloe Taylor. By Elizabeth Cherry and Kathryn Asher. A Queer Vegan Manifesto. Book will arrive in about weeks. Please allow another 2 weeks for shipping outside Estonia. For Libraries. Larger Image. Keywords: Food Thought and thinking Mind and body. Description Table of Contents Author Biography Goodreads reviews Appetites for Thought offers up a formidable intellectual challenge: can we better understand the concepts of philosophers from their culinary choices?

Tracing the food obsessions of philosophers from Diogenes to Sartre, Michel Onfray - a philosopher himself - considers how their ideas relate to their diets. Would Diogenes have been an opponent of civilization without his taste for raw octopus? Would Rousseau have been such a proponent of frugality if his daily menu had included more than dairy products?