Thursday, November 4, 2010

Poetry Podcast: "Eat rice and have faith in women" by Fran Winant (b. 1943)

Listen to the poem here:

About the poem:

I found excerpts from this poem in Carol Adams' book, "The Sexual Politics of Meat."

In the book, Adams discusses how meat consumption perpetuates the exploitation and violent treatment of animals and -- by extension -- perpetuates a similar violent exploitation of women.

If you think this is a stretch, think about this:

Have you been referred to -- or heard of other women referred to -- as a "piece of meat" or a "piece of ass?"

Well, then you can start to make the connections between these oppressions.
As a postmodern feminist, Adams examines language. She specifically addresses the concept of the "absent referent" whereby -- through language -- women and animals are stripped of their living essence and become simply a benign piece of flesh.

By taking the living being out of the meat -- so we don't have to think about the fact that it was once a living, breathing earthling -- it makes meat consumption -- along with the exploitation and violence associated with it -- an acceptable, normal, natural activity.

The same applies to women. Through language they are cheapened and commoditized just like the animals and -- by extension -- violence against women becomes legitimized.

In the context of Adams' book, the poem "Eat rice and trust in women" speaks to adopting a kinder lifestyle that does not perpetuate violence, oppression and exploitation. Part of the way to make this happen is to eliminate -- as much as possible -- the meat consumption that fuels the cycle by eating rice.

This poem also advocates sisterhood and the way women should treat one another. It is so easy to become like the woman in the poem who is "too busy" for others and adopts a selfish attitude as a defense mechanism.

But, if we are not there for one another, if we do not teach and support one another, building up instead of tearing down -- how will we truly affect change? How will we ever begin to shake the foundation of the patriarchal systems that bind us and uphold the status quo?
Nothing will change until women begin to nurture one another instead of harboring spite and petty jealousies.

It is only then that we will be able to "have faith in women."

About the poet:

According to

"Poet, painter and activist Fran Winant was one of the early participants in the Stonewall-inspired gay rights movements of the 1970's. Through her poetry and visual art, she helped define the role and sensibility of lesbians in the contexts of gay liberation and radical feminism, especially during the 1970s and early 1980s.

"Winant had a natural affinity for the convictions driving the gay and feminist consciousness-raising efforts of the 1970s. She had been writing poetry since childhood, but had been unable to share her deepest desires. To express her feelings about women, and keep her classmates from discovering them, she invented a secret language, which she describes as 'a metaphor for an inner language of the socially inexpressible.' The new political fervor of the 1970s afforded a long-awaited opportunity for Winant to speak out.

"A member of the Feminist Lesbian Art collective (FLAC,) Winant began exhibiting her paintings in 1974 ...

"The secret language she invented in childhood, a blend of math and Greek-like symbols, is often worked into the backgrounds of her paintings. Her passion for animals is inextricably linked to her feelings about how gay men and lesbians are denied full humanity in society that allows the 'murder' of less visible, and therefore unprivileged species."

Related links:

Carol Adams' website

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