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Killing "Without Qualms" Does Not a Feminist Hero Make
by Stephanie Ernst
Published March 06, 2009 @ 12:21AM PST on

A post over at Feministing yesterday left me sputtering at my computer screen. Granted, Feministing is a site focused on feminist issues, (GC notes: a THIRD WAVE feminist site which many feminist think reactionary) not animal rights, and as far as I know, real discussions of animal rights don't often if ever come up there (though angry responses to sexist PETA ads are common).

But I expect better of any site that is supposed to be promoting progressive values and challenging patriarchy than what we got on Thursday: a celebration of a late bullfighter for her violent "work" as a bullfighter (i.e., her work as a killer of animals for fun and money, via one of the most barbaric, inexcusable practices humans have come up with).


Conchita Cintrón, who died recently at 86, very well may have been a lovely woman in many respects--I don't know, and I won't pass judgment--and it's possible that by the end of her life, she even regretted all the killing she did as a young woman; I can't say. But however lovely she may have been in however many areas of her long life, I'm horrified to see a feminist blogger put her up on a pedestal as a "hero" because she broke into the previously male practice of tortuously killing bulls in the 1940s and because she was considered an "international star" and "prodigy" in the bullring.

Ms. Martin of Feministing writes, "Conchita Cintrón is a hero for any of us forging our own identity, our own work, in male-dominated spaces. She reminds us to depend on our strength--not just of brawn, but of brains and heart--while fighting all the metaphorical bulls (sexist dickheads, economic depression, objectification etc.) in our midst. Ole to that! RIP Conchita."
GC notes: What crap! Bet she would not say a thing about the heroic female soldiers fighting for democracy in Afghanistan; opening battered women shelters and schools for girls. No her hero is some female killer for sport. This is what I mean about the 3rd wave/puddle)

Um, no. If someone wants to claim Cintrón as her personal hero as a result of Cintrón's killing career, have at it, but she's not automatically "a hero for any of us forging our own identity . . . in male-dominated spaces." There are some male-dominated spaces in which I'm perfectly OK never seeing women make breakthroughs. Just as I wouldn't celebrate a "skilled" female rapist for breaking into that male-dominated area or celebrate a woman presiding over genocide or war, I also won't celebrate a woman's breakthrough into the vicious practice of killing bulls for fun and money.

Further, how does Cintrón, through her killing, remind us "to depend on our strength . . . of brains and heart"? Where is the heart and intelligence in what she did? How can we celebrate the fact that she killed "without qualms," needlessly and for profit, and then attribute to her strength of heart for that act?

If she had walked into that ring and taken on the men killing animals for enjoyment--if she had stood up and said to the bullfighters and to the audience, "This is not right"--I would call that brave, absolutely, and I would celebrate her. I will not, however, romanticize her violent killing of provoked and terrified animals. I will not agree that every time a woman breaks into a "male-dominated space," it is an automatic victory for women. There are things that men do and have done over time that I do not wish to celebrate, that I do not wish to emulate.

I was blown away by the obituary too, Ms. Martin--I was blown away by, for example, the reported 750 bulls Cintrón killed and by this:

When her autobiography, “Memoirs of a Bullfighter,” was published in 1968, an article in Vogue described how she got used to the idea of killing by practicing at a slaughterhouse, for days on end jabbing in vain at doomed oxen with a dagger.

“Day after day, sick at the gore, she went back to stab at more animals who bellowed and did not die,” the Vogue reporter, Robert Daley, wrote. “A friend told her she was closing her eyes with each stroke and thus missing the vital spinal gap behind the horns; she hated the idea of killing as much as that. She determined to kill that day’s six oxen with six strokes, keeping her eyes open, or give up bullfighting. She killed them each instantly, painlessly, and returned to Lima, singing.”

I'll refrain from commenting on the absurdity of "painlessly" in that last sentence.

Finally, I will say that I was dismayed by the Feministing post even before Ms. Martin got to the point where she was praising Cintrón's killing career. Why? Because of this: "I'm not a big bull fight fan (spearing animals=sad to these wimpy urban eyes)." Try it this way: "I'm not a big domestic violence fan (punching women's faces=sad to these wimpy, bleeding-heart, urban eyes)."

Opposition to needless violence is not wimpy. And the taunting, terrifying, spearing, and killing of animals for fun should be sad for everyone. Compassion is not a sign of weakness, not in men and not in women, and compassion is not unique to either the urban or the rural; nor is true strength.

And compassion for animals--who are the greatest victims of the patriarchal system--should have a place in strong feminism.

by Stephanie Ernst
Stephanie is a vegan, a tree hugger, a freelance editor and writer, and an animal rights advocate. She lives in St. Louis with a motley pack of three dogs and two cats as well as the world's most adorable foster pit bull.
For more on bullfighting, see information from In Defense of Animals and SHARK. Depending on how good your Spanish is, you may also be interested in Igualdad Animal's information (the English-language site Animal Equality does not yet include a translation of this section).

Bull Fighting Protest


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