“The meatball’s dead,” my step dad called through the window to my mom.
“Really? Are there any marks?” she said.
“Not that I can see.”
“Was it in the coop?” mom asked.
That’s when I realized that they weren’t talking about meatballs.
“What’s dead?” I asked.
Mom was still looking out the window.
“It looks stiff,” she said. “What are you doing to do with it?”
“I’ll check the liver first,” he said.
“Meat ball?” I asked.
Mom finally looked over. “The meat bird. Not meatball. They messed up our chick order this year, and they only sent us one meat bird.”
Each year, my parents put a chicken order in. They order some laying hens—strong colorful chickens like the kind that are be painted on porcelain plates at your aunt’s house—and some meat birds—the more traditional Easter looking chicks, yellow and fluffy. As the meat birds age, they become gargantuan and ungainly. Their feathers fall out and their pink skin is exposed. Their breasts are hugs and they become more spherical than chicken shaped.
“They aren’t bred to last long,” mom added. True. They’re bred to be fat in the right places and to have easy to pluck feathers.
Because the order got messed up, the one meat bird this year got extra attention. It also served as a stark contrast between the speckled gray, black, brown, and orange birds. It was a balding boat of a bird, wandering around, the ugly meaty duckling. Laying hens versus Meat Bird.
“Was it diseased?” I asked.
Mom shrugged. Life and death on the farm.
I wanted to ask if they were going to still eat it. But that seemed stupid. Even if the meat bird’s organs failed due to a congenital defect, it was still probably better than the most expensive meat I could buy in New York. This was a bird who’d eaten Vermont blueberries, bugs, and all the rich compost my parent’s generated. It is, after all, a meat bird.
I still felt bad for it. Even though it was just a chicken, being known as a “meat bird” probably wasn’t a great way to go around life. It’s a title with it’s doom wrapped into it. Or maybe I just feel this way because I’m sentimental and have been thinking about the power of labels recently.
Alexander Acosta stepped down this past week after an outcry regarding his involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal. R. Kelly was arrested that same week in Chicago. Seems that the chickens are coming home to roost. And it’s a good thing—these men have been roaming around for too long doing whatever they want to whomever they want. They’re no meat birds—I’d call them predator men. Or maybe some other worse combination of noun plus noun…rapist men? Slaver men. Or maybe the right name for such a person is pedophile man?
In the coverage of these events, several sources have called Kelly and Epstein’s victims “underage women.” Some haven’t. But I’ve seen more than one headline about “Epstein/Kelly accused of imprisoning underage women.” Or, in Epstein’s case, “trafficking underage women.”
Just a reminder: underage women = girls = children
When we call them “underage women,” the language diminishes and obscures the nature of the crime. Not that it is okay to sexual assault/imprison/manipulate anyone, but our culture is particularly disgusted by pedophiles. But this disgust doesn’t carry over to all children. In fact, there an American obsession with “barely legal” girls, as if girls who have their periods are no longer girls, but immediate women and are on the sexual market.
It looks like this:
Girls = age 0-10/11 (Flowery dresses, bows, innocent—any sexualization of them is deplorable or at least questionable)
Underage women = 10/11-17.9 (menstruating and therefore, on the market. But not legally because the law says 18. But didn’t men used to marry twelve-year-olds in the olden days? Seems like modern prudence more than a valid law).
Women = 18-40 (Legal Meat Birds)
Invisible women = above 40 (unless they are MILFs or Cougars—if this were in 17th century, this would be the prime age for burning them at the stake as a witch).
When it comes to women, there seems to be a perception that as soon as women get their periods, they are ready for sexual encounters. From that moment, they stop being children and suddenly become “underage women.” To me, it’s as if by calling them this, we are implying that they are sexually mature enough to make rape okay. Or at least more okay than your standard pedophilia. There’s real pedophilia (Real children, in the case of girls, no periods).
“Underage men” sounds ridiculous—I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that term in any context.
When girls get their periods, family members (mostly female) will sometimes exclaim, “You’re a woman now!” But I was 11 and I definitely wasn’t. I was still a child. And when we call children victims “underage women,” it seems, almost like “Meat Bird,” that we are blaming the crime on their identity. It is an intentional term, and when you see it, you should look out for it. The terms is there to subliminally convince you that it’s not as bad as it looks. The meat bird died. It was going to die anyway. The underage woman was raped. Her body was supposedly ready for it, so it’s not as bad.
Again, the equation:
underage women = girls = children
Use to decode.