Eat or Be Eaten: A Feminist Phenomenology of Women as Food

Emily R. Douglas


This paper focuses around women in the food chain, not in terms of agriculture and development, but as food ourselves. I start from the work of Eva-Maria Simms and Val Plumwood, who examine being eaten by non-human animals, and by human infants and fetuses. I use Simms’s and Plumwood’s examples to argue that in viewing our human selves as edible creatures, we not only distance ourselves from the role of "eater" in the masculinist domination framework but reject and break down the very dichotomy of eater/eaten, predator/prey, diner/dinner. Through the work of Maurice-Merleau Ponty, I argue that our being edible is the obverse of our being consumers: it is this fact which is proven or fulfilled when the consumer is consumed. I then suggest that seeing ourselves as edible is both a call to a greater onto-ecological understanding and to a new understanding of the life/death/life cycle: as an asymmetrical yet symbiotic relationship between organic, decaying, and nourishing bodies.

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