Dairy, PMS, & Kyriarchy

by jdavidcharles

If you haven’t seen it, prepare yourself for one of the most offensive ad campaigns of your life. I needn’t go into why this is so offensive on so many levels here. The fact that milk “helps” PMS is sketchy at best, if not blatantly wrong, (in fact, supposedly, its calcium that does, which, heads up, milk isn’t such a great source of anyway). But that isn’t really my concern right now. My point is that oppression bleeds into oppression–after all, dairy advertising being abusive towards other “minority” (when there is one USDA approved beef cattle for every three persons in the US alone, one wonders if this is a minority) groups is nothing new.

Kyriarchy is co-existent–it appears between people, it’s relational. Because of this, certain relationships can liturgize people into becoming comfortable with certain structures and thus relating to others in a certain way. Regardless of if you think veganism is an essential lifestyle or not, it is obvious that the dairy system as it is in America today is founded on abuse (viewer discretion is advised as regards the video links). Abuse is not an exception to forcing a creature against its will to lactate for you, it’s its condition. In order to milk a cow effectively (to get the most “product”) there is a host of abuses, ranging from forced insemination (which, by most definitions, is called rape) to the forced seperation of mothers from their calves (you know, kidnapping).

At some point one has to ask not just “is this a nice thing to do to cows?” (SPOILER ALERT: NO IT ISN’T) but “is this a nice thing to do to dairy workers and consumers?” What does this sort of system do to the behavious of the creatures at the so-called “top” of the kyriarchy? Just watch a few videos of abuse (the male calling a mother cow “b*tch” as he smashes her head with a sledge hammer is an all-too-obvious example) and see how the participating parties interact. Treating the cow very consciously as a mother, as a female of her species, and then abusing that particular female verbally and in a physically violent way, makes one wonder how this impacts the abuser’s view and interaction with mothers, females, “animals,” etc, in hir life. In other words, even if you think that the bizarre metaphysical conception of “the animal” means certain species warrant our rank exploitation and abuse of it, one has to ask if we warrant becoming abusers.

Kyriarchy means oppression is never neat. Everyone is always a master and always a slave. I think here of Lennon’s didactic albeit catchy song Woman is the N*gger of the World. Everyone has hir rights in the hands of other people. This does not mean kyriarchy is flat or symmetric–the abuse the transgender woman by the ciscentrist white, male, homosexual is very different than the abuse he faces from the homophobic disabled Jewish woman that is different from the abuse she faces from the ablest Latino adolescent etc etc. It’s all asymmetric. But it seems to me it’s always wrong for the person at the “top” to be at the “top.” Authoritative oppression is wrong (in part) because no one ever should have that kind of authority. Even if you think someone deserves that kind of abuse (the cow) for some end which justifies it (dairy products) no one (the dairy farmer, the shipping companies, the distributers, grocery stores, consumers) should be comfortable with having the authority to do it.

Because kyriarchy is never neat oppression bleeds into other oppression. Of course dairy farmers make sexist, ciscentrist, homophobic advertising campaigns. They needn’t de facto, not everyone who supports the abuse of cows necesarrily abuses women, but it comes as no surprise that the kind of person who abuses cows also abuses women and is homophobic as seen through ads like the milk “cures” PMS campaign. The Got Milk advertising campaign assumes that the kind of person who supports dairy production is also inevitably male, heterosexual, and thinks that PMS turns their respective monogomous female sexual partner into an illogical raging “animal.” Is the latter really all that surprising given that dairy production as such presupposes so much abuse? Oppression bleeds into oppression–not necesarrily, not by some metaphysical or divine mandate, but tendentially. As long as companies abuse creatures (and workers) for a product and its financial success, this will catechize those involved into a behaviour of viewing abuse as, at least in some cases, acceptable.