Rape Analogy as Fast Food Advocacy

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay contains a frank discussion of rape analogy in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, including images that depict violence against women. There are also discussions of other forms of human suffering (like pedophilia and racism) that may be painful for some readers.

Fast Food Advocacy

In this essay, I want to quickly address some common responses to Vegan Feminist Network’s position on misogynistic imagery as a tactic in Nonhuman Animal rights. I believe much of the response reflects a commitment to sexism, but some also reflects a general ignorance to the impact that patriarchal ideology and a social environment of misogyny has on the activist imagination. The response also reflects a need to deflect discomfort, because these are tactics that have come to dominate our social movement space, and many have taken them for granted as acceptable and useful. Being made aware of participation in violence triggers cognitive dissonance, and it is a natural response to debate, deride, or deflect in order to protect a positive self-concept.

One of the most common responses we receive is an appeal to alternatives (the implication being that alternatives are either too difficult to imagine or simply do not exist). Activists may be sincere in their inquiries for alternatives to misogynistic tactics, but I believe this response is often engaged to derail the discussion. All activists know that there are certain lines that should not be crossed because they will be so offensive that they will hurt others and repel participants.1 We don’t want to cause hurt and we want to grow our movement, so analogies that go too far are inappropriate.

Man artificially inseminating a cow

Just today, this image was shared by A Well Fed World and Free From Harm. While no women are pictured, the analogy is implicit. Research into morally shocking imagery suggests that this approach can easily repel audiences. We can imagine how this response would be magnified by female audiences that are triggered by images of sexual assault and rape.

More and more activists in the movement recognize that slavery and Holocaust analogies are problematic. True, there are still some white-identified/non-Jewish persons clinging onto these analogies, but there are other analogies that I daresay no one would get behind. For instance, I think it is fair to say that everyone agrees that pedophilia analogies would go too far. A common analogy between women and other animals involves the violence of dairy production. Women are often depicted as being assaulted, beaten, and raped to make a point about what happens to cows. When women are targeted, there seems to be little objection. However, if activists were to produce and promote memes of children being sexually assaulted to raise awareness to dairy cows being violated, most would have to agree that this approach would be so triggering and hurtful, that it would be an act of violence and would put the movement in a bad light. Indeed, because the cows in the dairy industry are still babies and children themselves when they are hoisted onto the industry-termed “rape rack,” wouldn’t pedophilia analogies be more accurate than those that draw on violence against adult women?

But it isn’t about accuracy. It’s about swapping out one degraded and worthless body for another. As one reader pointed out, PETA’s foie gras campaign that positions women as the duck victim in advertisements and demonstrations across the world is illogical because ducks used in the industry are male. That doesn’t stop PETA from “telling it like it is.”

Woman at a dining table being forcefed by a man with a tube, she looks frightened Woman bound by rope face down on a dining table covered in her blood and vomit in an anti-foie gras demo PETA Founder Force-Fed Outside Fortnum&Manson Man standing over woman on her knees being choked by a feeding tube in an anti-foie gras demo Woman force fed with feeding tube, her mouth is stretched and bleeding Man standing over bound and kneeling woman, he is pushing her head down and forcefeeding her with a feeding tube, she looks scared

Indeed, a common response to misogynistic analogies is that “this is accurate; this is how it really is.” Vegan Feminist Network isn’t arguing against that, but we must be cognizant of media as a social construction. Media creators choose what story they want to tell and they seek to manipulate how audiences will interpret them. We live in a rape culture where violence against women is commonplace. The movement draws on this social reality to trigger a specific response. Patriarchal ideology may make many unconscious to this language they are using, but activists are not ignorant. No one (I hope) uses images of lynching or violence in nursing homes or mental institutions. No one uses images of humans with deadly diseases like cancer, AIDS, or ebola. All of these human experiences with violence and suffering could easily be enacted to make analogies about Nonhuman Animal exploitation. Fortunately, activists know better than to use them, because it is understood that they will be offensive and painful to the vulnerable groups whose experiences are appropriated. Except for women. The movement produces thousands of images and reenactments of women bloodied, bruised, assaulted, raped, dying and dead. Because women don’t count.

Women are still at the bottom of the ladder. Violence against women is so commonplace, it is rarely even questioned as a painful subject in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. This is to be expected. In all social movements, women have been ignored, exploited, and left behind.2 The anti-slavery movement would not let women participate and intentionally excluded gender from campaigns to make legislative language more inclusive. The Civil Rights movement kept women in organizational roles and pushed men into the leadership positions.  The gay rights movement seriously underserved lesbians. The free-thinking/atheist movement soundly denies the need to recognize feminist issues. In all efforts to advance social justice, women have been made to take a back seat, never considered fully equal or worthy of rights. The feminist movement has been seeking to challenge this ideology since women were first ousted from anti-slavery efforts in the 1800s, but female activists continue to be framed as loudmouthed, unattractive, mentally unstable, feminazis. Just last month, Time Magazine listed the word “feminist” on their reader poll of words that should be banned. We’ve come a long way baby…but not nearly far enough.

Sexism is so normalized in our society that it has become invisible. You cannot turn on the television without being exposed to sexist remarks, jokes at women’s expense, sexual harassment, sexual objectification, and violent assault and rape of women. We are all exposed to a nonstop onslaught of sexist imagery in our society. It becomes as natural as the air we breathe. The bodies of women have always been sites of violence and domination, to the point where it becomes mundane and expected. So, when Vegan Feminist Network takes a stand against the encroachment of this violent imagery in Nonhuman Animal rights spaces, readers are understandably taken aback. They’ve never been made to think critically about the gender-based violence they have taken for granted as acceptable and normal for all of their lives.

Readers often respond with disbelief or with weak justifications, demanding a soundbite explanation as to why this behavior is problematic in two Facebook comments or less. The information is out there (as just one example, the Vegan Feminist Network website is chock full of free information), but few really want to learn more, because I suspect that few really care. This is the way it has always been done, women are easy targets, and women’s pain doesn’t matter (or matters less).

Kim Socha refers to these kinds of trans-species tactics as “fast food activism.” There is no concern with investigating why these analogies might be problematic, that is, why they may not work as a scientific matter, how the state of sexism is in our society influences interpretation, or how they impact women. Just like McDonalds, these analogies pull on the readily available language of violence against women and pump out advocacy cheaply and quickly irrespective of the hurt it causes to vulnerable groups and the damage done to society.

Woman hugging cow

Violence-free activism that brings attention to Nonhuman Animal exploitation and the intersectionality of oppression is not difficult to achieve.

There are tons of ways we can help other animals without resorting to this tokenizing approach. I’ve published hundreds of essays on this website and on my personal blog, The Academic Abolitionist Vegan, most of which are grounded in my research in social movement theory and social psychology, and all of which are freely available. There are also hundreds of books on effective social change available. There’s no excuse for allowing patriarchal norms and PETA’s influence to dictate our activism. We don’t need to hurt women to help animals. We do it because it is easy and because women don’t matter, and that is a problem.

 
Notes

1. There are a few exceptions, including Israeli group 269Life which, in addition to “reenacting” sexual assault and violence against women in public, also uses shackles, chains, and branding on humans in street demonstrations. PETA, too, has utilized graphic analogies of African slavery and the Holocaust.

2. This is not to say that women were not leaders and important players (in all movements there are important exceptions), but only to emphasize that movements act as microcosmic social systems and too often exclude women and ignore their interests.

Dr. Harper’s New Book, “Scars,” Brings Intersectional Theory to Life

I recently had the pleasure of reading Dr. Breeze Harper’s new fiction publication, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England and feel confident recommending the book for newcomers to intersectional theory, undergraduate students studying feminism, critical race, and other social justice issues, and seasoned advocates and scholars who might enjoy a fictional break that speaks to their interests. A trigger warning is in order because, as the title warns, Scars deals with many uncomfortable topics and visceral experiences, including racism, domestic violence, child molestation, and rape.

Although the concepts that shape the book are acute, Scars is an engaging read that both entertains and educates. The main character, Savannah (Savi), is a young college student that we can all look up to. As a poor white girl from Appalachia, I sat mostly silent in the classroom, absorbing what I was taught without question.  So, for me, Savi instantly becomes a hero of critical thinking as she challenges the white male normativity of the privileged world around her. She courageously speaks out against post-racial ideologies and the micro-aggressions of her more privileged peers, even when her friends and classmates resist. Savi is a little radical, and I love it.

Harper

Dr. Breeze Harper

But Savi isn’t a perfect superhero. She is certainly human, facing many structural barriers due to her race, class, and sexual orientation. Brave in some situations, she is scared and vulnerable in others. Her experience with racial slurs as a small child is heartbreaking. Her terrifying experience with a sexually aggressive customer alone in the gas station where she works brings chills. Her debilitating concern for her mother’s health and the constant burden of bills and cold temperatures reminds readers of the stark realities of difference in America.

There is also something to be said of the tension Savi faces in experiencing oppression. At times she is scrappy and outspoken, tackling challenges head on. Oftentimes, however, confrontation is pushed onto her and she feels quite helpless. We see this when she is engaged by her white male classmate who seeks Savi’s counsel in understanding his privilege, but we also see it with her struggle to come to grips with her lesbianism and the pressure to “come out” before she feels ready. Rarely does she feel comfortable admitting weakness and accepting help.

The book’s primary strength relies in its ability to carefully tackle the intricacies of oppression. Her best friend, who is hearing disabled, often engages his male privilege and abuses their friendship with near constant pressure for a relationship, seemingly unable to understand that no means no. Savi herself faces a considerable level of structural oppression, but she comes to recognize that she also maintains some degree of privilege as a human and as a Westerner. She learns that Coca-Cola is responsible for serious social and environmental injustices, but doesn’t want to give it up, so she creates rationalizations. Though she is lactose-intolerant, she continues to eat animal flesh and balks at the thought of giving up McDonald’s.

CocaColaInjusticeNone of the characters are perfect in understanding oppression; everyone is still learning. We see this in Savi’s heavy use of sexist and disableist language, the fetishization of animal bodies as food by most of the characters, and her vegan friend’s wool clothing. Oppression is never straight forward, and Scars helps readers to navigate these complicated concepts and relationships.

When all is said and done, Scars is not a doom-and-gloom story. Harper is careful to point out bright spots, altruism, and room for hope. There are characters that are willing to learn, and many individuals seek to disrupt violence in any way they can. Although there are definitely hierarchies of privilege, no character lives unburdened from some sort of systemic barrier or personal tragedy. Everyone has scars, but everyone has the potential to heal.

 

Giving “Real” Feminism a Bad Name

I'm making history, what's your excuse?

In this essay I will be addressing some common tools of dismissal utilized by those who adhere to sexism or otherwise seek to block feminism in Nonhuman Animal rights spaces (though, this essay has potential for general application to feminism in any space).

Those who are targeted as accomplice to sexist norms often retaliate by insisting that vegan feminists call out sexism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement to “get attention” or achieve some sort of personal gain or interest. In short, people like us do a disservice to “real” feminists; we give “real” feminism a bad name.

So, what is “real” feminism from this point of view? “Real” feminism means working to advance opportunities for women without challenging the privilege of those who stand to gain from a system of inequality. People of this persuasion are all for feminism . . . as long as it doesn’t question their own actions, their own privilege, and their own unearned opportunities and advantages. Unfortunately, feminism that sticks to the rules of proper ladylike behavior by politely asking for more without disrupting the system of male rule is not the type of feminism that is likely to create any meaningful advancements for women. It maintains women’s status as inferior and subservient.

Feminist icon Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency is often accused of using feminism for personal gain, evidenced in "Gamergate"

Feminist icon Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency is often accused of using feminism for personal gain, evidenced in the “Gamergate” scandal. She has been targeted by thousands of men (and some women) with misogynistic messages and death threats, including one promising to conduct the world’s largest school shooting at one of her scheduled talks.

The abolitionist faction of Nonhuman Animal rights is perhaps one of the most sexist in the movement.1 Maybe not as bad as PETA’s outright sexist tactics which aggravate a culture of violence against women, but just as insidious because this faction cleverly masks itself behind post-sexist ideologies and the veneer of intersectionality. Prominent abolitionists often accuse Vegan Feminist Network contributors of using feminist critique to dishonestly shut down their approaches. These are approaches we identify as fundamentally uncritical and privileged, approaches that are doing real hurt to real people.  Simply slapping a label of intersectionality on outreach does not guarantee adequate comprehension or successful implementation. In too many cases, it appears that the label is used to protect privilege and deflect critical reflection on effective, non-violent activism.

A strong indication that someone is actively engaging in sexism is the nasty employment of gendered, derailing tropes that frame feminists as gossiping troublemakers seeking attention/personal gain/cheap shots. This is a sexist response that works to protect a violent social system because it obscures the validity of the feminist argument by ostracizing or attacking the character of the messenger in a gendered manner. For centuries, women have been stereotyped as greedy, untrustworthy gossipers, so it is all too easy for these labels to be applied to feminists. The unfortunate reality is that most people will believe the labels because society both hates and distrusts women: using sexist tropes to deflect feminist critique is very effective. Again, this has relevance beyond the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. It is a standard, sexist deflection of feminist thought. The same response is used to dismiss Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency (celebrity feminist in the gaming world) and Rebecca Watson of Skepchick (iconic feminist of atheist spaces). If a woman is speaking, the default is to dismiss her, not believe her, or presume her ignorant or up to no good. This is one reason why the contributors to this website rely on screen captures: women will always be accused of lying and deceit in a misogynist world, so we put the perpetrator’s own words on display. We let them speak for themselves.

Feminist Rebecca Watson began criticizing sexism in the atheist movement, and has become the target of serious harassment, with many accusing her of profiteering and manufacturing sexism where it does not exist.

Feminist Rebecca Watson began criticizing sexism in the atheist movement and soon became the target of serious harassment, with many (including the famous Richard Dawkins) accusing her of profiteering and manufacturing sexism where it does not exist. The man pictured is PJ Myers, an outspoken male ally.

Suggesting that feminists are just a bunch of troublemakers is in of itself evidence of serious sexism. Make no mistake, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is deeply sexist, and at times, very misogynistic (for those unfamiliar with these trends, please take the time to browse our previous essays and recommended readings). The idea that any feminist would challenge misogyny for fun or personal gain is nothing short of ridiculous and offensive–no woman enjoys retaliation from privileged persons upset by feminist critique. This is one reason why so few women (and men) are vocal about the sexism and misogyny that runs rampant in the movement. It is the proverbial elephant in the room. No one wants to speak out about it because it will result in a tirade of punishment.

It isn’t fun work. Every single day, contributors to Vegan Feminist Network deal with angry racists, classists, and men and their female supporters who insist we should have been aborted, that we are fascists, that we are despicable or disgusting, that we are “moronic/idiotic/stupid” or otherwise mentally ill,2 that we are divisive, that we are man-haters, etc. This happens Every. Day. Ironically, when we block or ignore these comments and emails, we’re then accused of censorship. It is common for some to pull on sexist expectations that women nurture men’s contributions by listening to them and entitling them platform (it is an expected privilege that men’s/whites’/higher classed persons’ opinions are always needed, relevant, and important and that they should be allowed to take up space, even where they are not welcome).  Some pull on sexist expectations that women “teach” them, instead of taking the initiative to read and learn without exploiting women to do the work for them. It is as though our website resources and Facebook activities aren’t enough. Indeed, nothing is ever enough as long as male/white/class privilege is at stake.

Screenshot_2014-11-12-12-50-24~2

Casey is correct to point out that sexist character attacks and offensive measures are more common than genuine concern for deconstructing inequality in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement.

We here at Vegan Feminist Network find oppression problematic, we find the sexist response to our feminist work problematic, and we want to put an end to it. Doing so is not attention-seeking, it is social justice in action. Some parting words of advice:  When an individual or group suggests that a feminist uses feminist critique to start trouble, there is a good chance that they are indeed engaging sexism and have something to hide (or protect). If derailers truly care about “real” feminism, perhaps they might spend less time demonizing feminists and more time learning about how they can be a positive force in social change.

Believe women.

 

Notes

1. Important exceptions include The Abolitionist Vegan Society, Vegan Information Project, and the Food Empowerment Project.

2. These disableist responses by prominent abolitionists offer further evidence that abolitionism has largely failed to put “intersectionality” successfully into practice

Shouldn’t My Word be Enough Evidence? Vegan Rapists in Sweden

 

Ludvig Lindström

Ludvig Lindström, administrator for Swedish vegan dating site, VegoSinglar. Photo credit: Global Happiness Organization.

Editor’s Note

One of our Swedish readers passed on a very serious and disturbing incident taking place on the Facebook-based Swedish vegan dating site known as VegoSinglar. The site is administrated by Ludvig Lindström, a highly influential and trend-setting vegan in Europe who is, ironically, chairperson for the Global Happiness Organization. Apparently there is a male member of VegoSinglar with an active police report who has been accused of raping a woman he met through the site. Lindström appears to be protecting the perpetrator’s right to participate in the group and accuses the victim of either lying or not taking proper precautions. Based on his statements below, he seems to insist that the onus is on women to protect themselves and that rape is just a fact of life.  According to a statement made by another informant who knows him personally, Lindström himself allegedly has a reputation for manipulating women. The following essay is presented by Bec, another Swedish reader who graciously translated the screencaptures that were sent to me.

It should go without saying that this essay comes with a serious trigger warning, as the level of victim-blaming, rape apologism, and misogyny displayed in the translated statements are likely to be extremely triggering to survivors of rape and assault, people close to those who have been victimized, and women in general who are all too conscious of the distrust and hatred society wields against female-identified persons.

I want to extend a special thank you to our Swedish community. We had many, many people of all genders report information and offer to translate. Because we are not fluent ourselves and are thus unable to read and follow the story first-hand, but also because the thread is very fast-paced, we may have excluded important or more timely information.  Vegan Feminist Network is not responsible for any mistranslations. As of this writing, our original informant reports that Lindström has banned at least 50 persons from the group who claim to have been abused or who are in support of the survivor. Meanwhile, the survivor continues to be harassed by other members and is currently being accused of seeking revenge or being mentally ill. We cover this story to draw attention to problematic male privilege as both a source of violence and a tool of silence in our community.

- Corey Wrenn

Vegan Sweden

10% of Swedes are vegan or vegetarian.

Sweden. Often thought of as an international utopia for the marginalized; a country responsible for the lowest gender pay gap in the world, universal health care, free education, rich with resources, industry and welfare.

Parliamentary candidate Gudrun Schyman recently led the Feminist Initiative party to enormous success in Sweden, falling short only 4% of the threshold required to win seats in parliament. The party is continually growing, making gender equality a dominant political issue that all political organizations have to address. With parties like FI having strong support in the big cities – Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Uppsala – the smaller regions, however, show more sympathy with the conservative right. And so, although successful and thought-provoking in some areas, Sweden has a long way to go.

However, as one of the most opportunity-filled countries for women internationally, it is frustrating to hear that women are not provided a safe space within a dating platform like “Vegosinglar”: a Facebook group that connects vegan singles around Sweden.

Lindström nude in a chair covered with fruit and vegetables

Lindström was named Europe’s “Sexiest Vegetarian” in 2009. Photo credit: Expressen.se

To make the story short, a man within the group was accused of rape by the survivor, who is also a member of the group. After lengthy online discussions flooded with hundreds of comments involving the survivor herself, the group administrator decided to remove the discussions. He furthermore wants to keep the identity of the accused secret, and talked to the police who condemn defamation as a serious issue. Not only has he not yet banned the accused perpetrator, he stated he will only do it “when he gets a copy of the police report.”

Screencap of admin notice regarding rape allegations

Translation

Ludvig Lindström:

Regarding the accusation around a rape:

So it has been alleged that a member in this group raped another member. There has also been a counter-suit (from this person who was accused of rape, who claims the police did NOT get a complaint against him) for libel.

After a very heated discussion in a thread in the group I have talked to the police about what is best to do in this case.

The police thinks that I have acted in the right way. I have urged people not to disclose the identity of the accused perpetrator. I also have removed the posts and the people who started the accusations, as it can lead to slander both for me as an administrator and the person who started the thread.

Furthermore, the police think that it is serious that people accuse the alleged perpetrator, even though he is not yet convicted. They think it is reasonable that both parties stay quiet temporarily, because both are suspects of crime. I previously only wanted to ban the one who is accused of this serious crime, if I get a copy of the police report (which I have not received).

Now I wonder what you think about this? Should we go along with the police decisions or is there a better solution? We have to find a way to solve this so that we can avoid all the anger and heated discussions in the future.

The survivor, rightfully, asks “isn’t my word enough evidence?” Group members go on to provide tips on when/where to meet with a stranger; advice which is congratulated by the administrator as the first “constructive” comment. Other contributions include theories like “we are creating the problem by talking about it” and “the accuser (instead of the admin) should be responsible for reporting the perpetrator.”

Image 3

Translation

Survivor: (Name omitted to prevent further victim-blaming)

I just want to say that I hope all of you are careful when you meet other singles. Sometimes there’s a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing who is damn good at talking you down. I wish that no one will get hurt in any way. You are all too valuable for that! <3

Survivor:

No. I will not include an image of my police report. Shouldn’t my word be enough evidence, it’s only you doubters and the victim-blamers who lose, what reason would I have to lie and make something like this up?

Nathalie Heed Torstensson:

Since when it is sufficient to point fingers when a crime has been committed? I do not think you’re lying! I hope so too, but given that words are not enough for the police, it’s just logical that it is not enough on the Internet, of all damn places?

Survivor:

I will not change my mind regarding the issue of sharing an image of my police report.

Nathalie Heed Torstensson:

No it is your decision. It does not particularly affect me much. But then you can not really blame the admin either.

Survivor:

Why do I have to do something like that in order to “please” some individuals, while it feels gross towards myself? Invalid comments don’t change my mind whatsoever.

Where do I start… In these many threads, women are reduced not only to victims of abuse but also accused of being at fault and given the burden of responsibility to resolve the situation. Amnesty International has been criticizing Sweden for its low conviction rates when it comes to rape. In 2007, only 13% of that years’ 3,535 rape crimes were reported, which resulted in legal proceedings and only 216 persons (6%) were convicted. Sex crimes have gradually been increasing and Swedish rapists have enjoyed impunity.

Image 2

Translation

Elin Nilsson:

The world is tough and I’m sorry it happened, I myself have experienced forced sex, sexual assault etc. It’s not just guys who abuse women, violence between women is steadily increasing (I have been exposed to it). Remember that even if the group is closed, everything you do is still online publicly, even personal messages.

This applies to all genders; if you meet a new person, do so in a public place during the day and possibly bring a friend. Do not go off alone the first time you meet, text the registration number of the car to a friend and tell them that if they do not hear from you within x number of hours, something must have happened and so on, and so on.

Ludvig Lindström:

Good tips Elin Nilsson! Finally some constructiveness.

A woman has to go to the police to be taken seriously, whereas a man can simply refuse the allegation and be treated better than the accuser. Comments like “I believe you, but I want to see a police report” alienate women and put them at fault for the crime committed. It supports the “boys will be boys, so girls must take care” attitude and normalizes unwanted male attention. Women are not guilty for violence committed by men on our body, mind, and spirit.

In a space where animal liberation, compassion and ethics are essential, the response to the survivor’s story have been appalling. It is the survivor’s decision whether or not she wants to go to the police or even file a police report. Nobody has the right or privilege to ask to see that. As a community, especially a vegan dating community, the group has the responsibility of creating a safe space for women. The entire discussion within Vegosinglar has degraded the survivor and promoted rape and abuse. When a member writes “I don’t condone rape, let’s get along with our lives and forget the problem”, this member clearly does not understand the systematic oppression that women face. There is abuse and aggression towards every gender, yes, but men do not fear violence like women do. Men have been taught and reinforced through society to take up space, dominate and assert themselves.

Marginalization against women is invisible unless we speak up and support safe spaces for women as a community. The police and the government can only do so much, the majority of rape allegations are not taken seriously. It is our responsibility as a vegan community to address the issue and side with the survivor, who has had to summon up a great amount of courage to voice the crime in the first place.

If our mission statement is to abolish oppression against sentient life, we must extend it to all marginalized groups. It is not only our privilege, but our responsibility to upset rape culture to ensure that survivors of rape will not be accused of slander.

 Written by Bec

Concluding Comments

Vegan Feminist Network does not deny that rape and sexual assault also impacts boys and men, but it would be a mistake to suggest that this violence matches levels experienced by women. 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped by a man at least once in her lifetime. Despite these realities, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement has a long track record of victim-blaming women and protecting known male perpetrators in our movement. This is violence that we reject.

For that matter, victim-blaming is illogical. Just as we would not tell Nonhuman Animals to “protect themelves” or “steer clear of humans,” we should not say the same to women. To do so trivializes the structural oppression that makes a vulnerable group’s ability to take personal responsibility for their own protection difficult, if not impossible.  Vegans don’t put the blame on other animals to avoid human violence in an anthroparchy, so vegans should not put the blame on women to avoid male violence in a patriarchy. To do so individualizes what is essentially a structural problem.  It also creates a toxic atmosphere that revictimizes survivors and protects rapists.

Disclaimer

Vegan Feminist Network has no first-hand knowledge of any illegal action undertaken by any person involved in this story. This post speaks only to second-hand reports of allegations and translations given to us by volunteers who wish to remain anonymous.

Torturing Women: As Long as it’s Not Animal Tested

Trigger Warning: Contains comments that dismiss misogyny and a picture of a woman in pain.

Not Safe for work:  Contains a partially nude image of a woman.

Woman used in LUSH demo pictured with cords attached to her head, she is gagged and wearing a nude suit

LUSH hosted a public street demonstration using a woman in a nude bodysuit to portray scenes of vivisection. She endured 10 hours of simulated torture at the hands of a man.

As a followup to an earlier essay that deconstructed the problematic nature of the “nonhumans first”/”as long as it’s vegan” ideology, I present another example evidenced in an Irish grassroots group’s promotion of LUSH products on World Vegan Day, even though LUSH has been known to regularly engage misogynistic tactics to scare or shame women into buying their products.  Cork Vegans announced that the group would be leafleting outside the LUSH store and accepting donations from LUSH for every “Charity Pot” lotion product that is purchased.

Please email for transcript of image CorkLUSH2I will let the above screen capture speak to the importance of criticizing LUSH Cosmetics.  While the moderator did not delete the thread, neither did the moderator address the criticisms or grant them serious validity. Instead, the inaccurate, “men, too!” argument was used, as was the pro-patriarchy position, “Women choose to do it,” two fast and easy ways to dismiss a feminist argument and maintain the harmful status quo.  When the admin exclaims that they are, “very grateful that their products are not animal tested,” they also pull on the “nonhumans first” rhetoric that obscures the entangled relationship of human-nonhuman oppression.

LUSH employee wearing nothing but an apron as part of an advertising campaign

LUSH often holds advertising campaigns with their largely female staff made to work in the nude.

As far as I know, Cork Vegans proceeded as planned and raised a good chunk of change for their group, while also spotting LUSH some free advertising. Meanwhile, the disconnect between the oppression of women and the oppression of other animals remains as persistent as ever. Incidentally, LUSH is anything but a vegan company, with most of their products containing ingredients sourced from Nonhuman Animals. Vegan groups promoting LUSH are not only inadvertently promoting misogyny, but systemic violence against other animals as well.

Nazi Cake: As Long as It’s Vegan

Trigger Warning:  Dismissal of racism that may be painful for some readers.

Owner of "Cakes 'n' Treats Vegan Coffeeshop" poses in front of her store

There is an unfortunate tendency in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement to disregard human suffering as long as it is supposedly in the service of veganism.  This approach is extremely illogical for a movement that seeks to end oppression. For one, hoping to end nonhuman oppression by aggravating human oppression is simply hypocritical. We cannot work for peace by engaging violence.  Secondly, as evidenced in the research of Dr. Breeze Harper and Dr. David Nibert, human oppression and nonhuman oppression are heavily entangled. That is, you cannot separate the two and work against one and not the other. It doesn’t work because human and nonhuman oppression support and influence each other. Sadly, I have seen oppressive logic (“Nonhumans first” or “as long as it’s vegan”) engaged by a variety of grassroots groups and non-profits, abolitionist and welfarist alike.

There is a vegan cupcake shop in London that is well known to have ties to neo-Nazism and is under active boycott.  This has been covered by several media sources, including Vice, Libcom.org, and London Antifacists. The store is located in an area that is known to host white-power subcultures. From what I can gather, the woman running the store may not herself be a neo-Nazi, but she has many Facebook friends who are, and she is (or was) dating a man who does socialize with Italian facist gangs.  The woman herself denies the allegations of her affiliations and claims that she is being targeted by a jilted ex or someone with a personal vedetta.  Given the reality of patriarchy and violence against women, I am inclined to believe her. She has been receiving threats and hate mail since the allegations surfaced, and feminists are all too aware that men (and many women) will jump at the chance to demonize, harass, and attack women.  However, the purpose of this essay is not to determine guilt, but rather to highlight some problematic responses from vegans who promote the store, while simultaneously denouncing any critical discussion of the store’s alleged Nazi ties. As long as it’s vegan.

Facebook page, What FAT Vegans Eat, promoted the cake shop, making at least one reader uncomfortable. Shona passed on a screencap of the dialogue before it was deleted by the page:

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Cakes ‘n’ Treats Vegan Coffeeshop is known to have neo-Nazi ties, is under active boycott, and What Fat Vegans Eat moderators respond to criticisms with appeals to depoliticized veganism. In so many words, Nazi cake is okay as long as it’s vegan.  Judith Barnes responds:

Your comments about the company are the same as someone’s comments about food that comes from any other company who’s practices you don’t agree with.  The rule is if it’s vegan it’s okay. The cake is vegan. That’s all we care about.

Nicki Teager writes:

This page isn’t for ethics, debate or anything else, whether it is merely informing or not. If it’s vegan it’s fine to post here.

Catherine McLaughlin Burt:

Using the group to promote a boycott is hijacking the purpose of the group. And saying that we support nazism if we don’t go along with what is being said is nothing more than bullying.

It is difficult for me to understand how, one, neo-Nazi baking can ever be considered vegan, and, two, why a vegan group would want to divorce itself from ethics.  Veganism is a matter of ethics. Discussing racism (or any other form of human oppression) is not “hijacking.”  When anti-oppression activists speak up against violence, they are often silenced with claims that this is neither the time nor the place.  I have seen similar silencing tactics used on women who have experienced sexism in the movement. Rather than engaging the criticism, the women were simply accused of “trolling” and using the page as a “soapbox.”

These uncritical and passively violent stances reflect the white-normativity of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. I can’t imagine that these criticisms would be characterized as derailments if the movement was led by persons of color, for instance. The damage that neo-Nazi alliances would cause to vulnerable communities would be self-evident.  White privilege distances white-identified activists from the lived reality of racism, ethnocentrism, and white power facism that really hurts real people.  Many activists are puzzled as to why so few people of color are interested in participating in the movement, but the answer lies in active dismissal of racial oppression that veganism abets.