By Patricia Lee Sharpe
The article promotes kindness to the animals we eat, but it perpetuates a pathetically outdated human stereotype. Read the following quotes and see what they share:
The first official Proposition 2 video...shows the grisly inner workings of slaughterhouses and other factory-farming operations. By contract, the Humane Society’s brightly-colored animated video features a Babe-like pig signing Proposition 2-related lyrics to the Stevie Wonder song “Superstition” and dancing through barns, releasing pigs, chickens and calves from their cages. It’s the kind of short video you could forward without worrying about its appropriateness, to your grandmother, to your P.T.A. president, to your congregation, to anyone under the redefined big tent of farm-animal welfare.
“We aren’t a bunch of little old ladies in tennis shoes,” [Humane Society President Wayne] Pacelle says, paraphrasing his mentor Cleveland Armory, an animal rights activist. “We have cleats on.”
Old ladies in tennis shoes? What on earth does that mean in the year 2008? Everyone with good sense wears some descendant of the old tennis shoe as often as possible. Kids. Athletes. Men. Women. Middle-aged and young as well as old. Fashion slaves may allow themselves to be coaxed into toe-crushing stilettos, but no one who has to walk or stand for more than a moment can endure them. Might as well go whole hog and bind a woman’s feet as they used to do in China.
And speaking of whole hog, the notion that grandmothers generally are soft-headed, slightly-addled bundles of sentimental sweetness who must be protected from ugly realities is also more than a little ludicrous and insulting. The population of grandmothers starts with women in their thirties and the age range marches right on up to those who are over a hundred years old. Notice I do not say “a hundred years young.” That would be an insult to women who celebrate every year they have lived, loved and learned—and who are increasingly and strongly protesting the use of that condescending phrase whenever it’s so insultingly bestowed. (Smarmy physicians, take note!)
For that matter, would you expect the P.T.A. presidents of most schools to be as reality-averse as that stereotypical granny from neverneverland? And how about the leaders of those congregations who send their flock into battle with pictures of dead foetuses? They would hardly blanch at pix of a little cruelty in the stockyard.
Editors, take note. When phrases that are not only sexist but ageist make a gratuitous appearance, as they do here, it’s time to press delete.