Academic journal article Journal of Thought

It IS about Chicken: Chick-Fil-A, Posthumanist Intersectionality, and Gastro-Aesthetic Pedagogy

Academic journal article Journal of Thought

It IS about Chicken: Chick-Fil-A, Posthumanist Intersectionality, and Gastro-Aesthetic Pedagogy

Article excerpt

Dan Cathy, CEO of the fast-food chain, Chick-fil-A, came under fire in 2012 for his public support of "traditional" marriage. (1) His comments generated immediate backlash from the LGBTQA community, and a heated ideological divide ensued between supporters of (exclusively) traditional marriage and supporters of same-sex marriage. Across the nation, thousands of loyal consumers waited hours in line at Cathy's chains on August 1,2012--"Chick-fil-AAppreciation Day"--to buy chicken sandwiches. Meanwhile, advocates for marriage equality, exclaiming "this is not about chicken!" protested the restaurant through public demonstrations of compassion and acceptance during "Chick-fil-A Kiss-ins." It was heartwarming to see the protesters come together nationwide to denounce heteronormativity. Such acts of compassionate protest are very necessary and important, but from the point of view articulated in this essay, they were inadequate because not the slightest concern was expressed for the voiceless, powerless animals born into the abhorrent world that is the global meat industry. Even in light of the media attention this case drew, the billions of sentient birds who are subjected to the unimaginable cruelty of modern factory farming and industrial slaughtering remained invisible. As both friends and foes of Chick-fil-A turned to social media, they single-mindedly focused on humans while ignoring the animals whose flesh comprises the almost 300 million chicken sandwiches Chick-fil-A serves annually. (2) As a contribution to the bourgeoning literature exploring the role of nonhuman beings in educational contexts (DeLeon, 2011; Dolby, 2012; Kahn, 2008; Pederson, 2009; & Rowe, 2009, 2011, 2012), this essay does not take animals for granted and attempts to rethink the Chick-fil-A controversy through the framework of posthumanism (Wolfe, 2010). (3)

Chick-fil-A is related to several areas of interest for scholars who study commercialism in education (Boyles, 2008; Molnar et al., 2013; & Norris, 2011). Food is a primary way corporations infiltrate educational institutions; they maintain a presence through school lunch, food services, advertising, vending machines, sponsorships, and curricular programs. The problems of this particular fast-food chain are much more insidious than serving fatty, unhealthy, greasy fast-food to school children (though we should not overlook the deadly effects of such food). Deron Boyles (2005) has provided a critical analysis of Chick-fil-A's partnership with schools. Chick-fil-Amarkets its conservative Christian, corporate fast-food agenda by way of the "character education" curriculum, "Core Essentials." Boyles finds that Core Essentials is essentially "a program funded by a fundamentalist Christian whose company uses kids meals' as a bribe for behaving in docile, disempowered, uncritical ways" (p. 55). While the program claims to impart values such as "courage," "honesty" and "respect," students are in no way encouraged to contemplate the honesty of the program, the values or motives of a company that profits from serving a fast-food diet to children, or the broader effects of corporate encroachment on public education. Food corporations like Chick-fil-A provide revenue for some school districts, but they are also part and parcel of the neoliberalization of the public sphere, undermining equity, health, political participation, and democratic education (Apple, 2001; Boyles, 2008; Norris, 2011; & VanderSchee, 2004). It seems, then, there is plenty reason to further scrutinize this case, but as important as these areas of concern are for education, my interest lies in extending the framework of criticality beyond the schoolhouse. This essay is ultimately not just about a single controversy over marriage equality, nor is it just about corporate fast-food in schools; it is about these issues but also much more. The Chick-fil-A case provides a launching point for a critical conversation of the parallels between human and animal exploitation. …

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