Kedves Újdonsült Vegán

Translation by Eszter Kalóczkai. See more Hungarian translations of intersectional vegan essays by visiting their blog, Tudatos Vegán. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

Tartalmi figyelmeztetés: szóba kerül a szexizmus és a nemi erőszak

kép leírása: két félmeztelen, fehér, vékony, cisznemű nő, a testükre szaggatott vonalak vannak felfestve, és a testrészeik húsipari nevei, egyikük kezében tábla: “minden állatnak ugyanolyan részei vannak”
[kép leírása: két félmeztelen, fehér, vékony, cisznemű nő, a testükre szaggatott vonalak vannak felfestve, és a testrészeik húsipari nevei, egyikük kezében tábla: “minden állatnak ugyanolyan részei vannak”]

Kedves újdonsült vegán!

Kapaszkodj, mert kicsit döcögős lesz az utad. Amikor vegánná válsz, az először nagyon stresszes és sokkoló élmény lehet. Megtanulod, hogy mit egyél, mit vegyél, hogyan bánj a barátaiddal és a családtagjaiddal, és, hogy hogyan kezeld az intenzív haragot és szomorúságot, amit akkor érzel, amikor tudatosul benned a más állatok szenvedése. Ezek közül egyik sem lesz könnyű, de kérlek, ne add fel, mert minél tovább kitartasz, annál könnyebb lesz. Megígérem, hogy mindez teljesen normálissá fog válni, méghozzá hamarabb, mint gondolnád.

Valószínűleg meg fogod keresni a vegán közösséget, hogy segítsenek a váltásban, és rengeteg jóbarátot fogsz köztük találni, és rengeteget fogsz tőlük tanulni. Megnyugtat majd, hogy nem vagy egyedül, és, hogy vannak mások is, akik annyira szenvedélyesen meg szeretnék változtatni a világot, mint te.

Idővel viszont belátod majd, hogy vegánnak lenni egy dolog, de vegánnak lenni és nőként azonosítani magadat (1) teljesen más tészta. Ha épp párkapcsolatban élsz, lehet, hogy a párod ellenségesen fog reagálni a vegánná válásodra. Főként akkor, ha a társad férfiként azonosítja magát, a vegánságod kihívást jelent a férfiúi tekintélyére nézve. Lehet, hogy kijelenti, hogy sose tudnád őt megváltoztatni (akkor, is ha sose mondtál ilyet). Esetleg ragaszkodik hozzá, hogy főzz neki nem vegán ételeket, vagy menj vele nem vegán éttermekbe enni. Mivel nőként azonosítod magad, úgy érezheted, hogy nyomás nehezedik rád, hogy engedelmeskedj. A nőket kiskoruktól kezdve arra nevelik, hogy a férfiak érdekeit nézzék elsősorban. Ez nem jó, de így van – ne érezd magad rosszul, ha belemész.

Woman looking outraged as her male partner scoffs down a burger[kép leírása: egy fehér, szemüveges kopaszodó férfi egy hamburgerbe harap, mellette egy fehér vörös nő dühös arccal szóra nyitja a száját]

Ha nőként azonosítod magad, ne csodálkozz, ha a magukat férfiként azonosító barátaidban is ellenérzéseket vált ki a vegánságod. Például egy jószándékú Facebook-poszt, amiben emlékezteted az olvasóidat, hogy a nem emberi állatoknak is számít az életük, könnyen olyan reakciókat válthat ki a férfiakból, miszerint a.) túl érzelgős vagy, b.) túl nagypofájú vagy, c.)“meg vagy őrülve”. Az érzelmességet, a véleményednek hangot adást és a szellemi betegségeket mind a nőkkel azonosították a történelem során. A nőket könnyű semmibe venni ha túl nőiesek, vagy nem eléggé nőiesek. Évszázadokon át “hisztérikusnak” skatulyázták be a nőket, és intézetekbe zártak minket, hogy elhallgattassanak. Sokszor nem tudod, hogy viselkedj: ne legyél túl nyápic, de ugyanakkor azért figyelj a hangnemedre és ne legyél túl agresszív. Látni fogod, hogy lehetetlen nekik eleget tenni, úgyhogy inkább csak tedd, amit teszel, és ne törődj velük.

De a vegán nőként nem biztos, hogy itt véget érnek a nehézségeid. Ha úgy döntesz, hogy nem elég egyszerűen vegánnak lenned, és szeretnél aktivistaként is tenni az állatokért, valószínűleg még több férfiak által elkövetett agresszióval fogsz szembesülni. Mivel a vegán aktivisták többsége nő, ezért azt gondolhatod, hogy biztonságos hely neked. Sok szempontból persze az is, rengeteg női szolidaritással is találkozhatsz. Ugyanakkor a vegán mozgalom nagyon is a férfiak irányítása alatt áll. A férfiak vezetik a vegán aktivizmust – ők írják az elméletet, és ők döntik el, hogy milyen stratégia az elfogadható. Ők foglalják el a legtöbb helyet, és az ő hangjuk a leghangosabb.

Male-identified vegan leader gives talk with microphone

Ez a gyakorlatban azt jelenti, hogy sok nyomás fog rád nehezedni, hogy vagy csöndben, a színfalak mögött asszisztálj ezeknek a férfiaknak, vagy arra bátorítanak, hogy levetkőzz az egyes kampányok érdekében. Lehet, hogy nem kifejezetten a férfiak bíztatnak rá, hogy levetkőzz (a nők is sokszor részesek ebben), hanem a mozgalom patriarchális normái olyan környezetet teremtettek, ahol a nőktől elvárják, hogy szexuális tárgyak legyenek a “az állatok érdekében”. Talán elkezdesz arra gondolni, hogy mennyire “felszabadító”, hogy a jó ügy érdekében meztelen leszel. Ha ez jár az eszedben, akkor állj meg egy pillanatra, és gondold át! Jusson eszedbe, hogy csak vékony, fehér, cisznemű nőknek van megengedve, hogy az állatokért “felszabadítsák” magukat, és hogy a férfiakat szexuálisan felizgatni nem ugyanaz, mint izgatottá tenni őket a veganizmus ügyéért.Tapasztalaton alapuló kutatások tisztán mutatják, hogy a nők elnyomásának az alkalmazása nem állítja a befogadókat szembe az állatok elnyomásával.

Sajnos sokszor találkozhatsz nők felé irányuló szexuális zaklatással és erőszakkal a mozgalmon belül. Nem akarlak megijeszteni, de ez így van, és ezért előre figyelmeztetlek. Nem sokszor beszélnek erről, de valójában eléggé elterjedt. Ha nő vagy, ne hagyd, hogy ez elriasszon, csak arra emlékezz, hogy a nem emberi állatok társadalmi igazságáért küzdeni nem ugyanaz, mint mindenkinek a társadalmi igazságáért küzdeni. Tulajdonképpen azok a férfiak, akik hirdetik, hogy érdeklik őket a nők, színes bőrű emberek és más hátrányosabb embercsoportok jogai, nos, ezek a férfiak ugyanolyan veszélyesek, mint azok, akik nem is tettetik, hogy mindez érdekli őket. Ha te férfiként azonosítod magad, felszólítalak, hogy állj ki a nőkért, és tedd a vegán helyeket biztonságosabbá.

Úgy tűnik, a világ megváltoztatása bizony férfimunka. Ha nőként azonosítod magad, akkor valószínűleg ellenállásba fogsz ütközni, ha másként akarsz részt venni az eseményekben, mint a kávéfőzés, vagy a levetkőzés. De ennek nem kell így lennie. Ne hagyd el magad, maradj erős, hallasd a hangod, és követeld meg a tisztelelet. Ragaszkodj hozzá, hogy a vegánság pozitív, megerősítő élmény legyen. Ne hagyd, hogy egyeseknek az elnyomó mentalitása megakadályozzon a fontos munkában, amit elkezdtél. És ti, férfiak – mutassatok szolidaritást a nők iránt. Jól jön a segttségetek.

U.i. Ha színes bőrű nő vagy, akkor még tovább kihívásokkal kell szembenézned. Fehér nőként nem ismerem ezeknek a kihívásoknak a kiterjedését, de anni biztos, hogy a vegán mozgalom elég gonosz “színvak” hely tud lenni néha- Mindenképpen nézz rá a Sistah Vegan Project oldalára.

Corey Lee Wrenn, M.S., A.B.D. Ph.D. 

 

Lábjegyzetek

1. Ez a cikk a női élményről szól, beleértve a transz, interszex és genderqueer nőket is. Meg kell jegyeznünk viszont, hogy a transz, interszex vagy genderqueer vegánok további kihívásokkal találhatják magukat szemben a vegán mozgalmon belül.

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is an instructor of Sociology and graduate student at Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. In 2015, she was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.

From Domestic Violence in a Homophobic and Meat-Centric Country to Animal Rights Activist: Destroying the Hero Worship

Trigger Warning: Discusses sexual abuse, domestic violence, heterosexism, eating disorders, and suicide.

Destroying-the-Hero-Worship By Raffaella Ciavatta

Before I dive into this article I have to confess that writing it was not an easy decision. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a very long time but undressing myself before the eyes of people I’ve never seen, talked to or interacted with in any way can open the door to a lot of hatred. But it also opens the doors to all of you out there, who can relate to my experiences, and my hope is that you too, can turn violence into activism. This story is for you, brothers and sisters.

Pink flowery sheet set up as a tent with blankets and pillows insideI too have regarded women as prizes. I am no heroine. And for that I am sorry.

I was born and raised in Brazil, a tropical paradise, people say, where everyone is always partying, LGBTQ flags flapping on a hot breezy day, gunshots and pools of blood, a country which has as many steak houses as the U.S has Starbucks’ stores.

Growing up there was far from paradise. I discovered glimpses of my sexuality at a very early age, so young I’m not sure how old exactly I was but I’m going to estimate 5 years old. I remember this girl came to play with me and I took her to my bedroom. I loved to pretend I was camping so I used to make tents with my bed sheets. I invited her in. I kissed her. We touched each other.

About a year later, age 6 a man came to live with us. I’ve always had a talent to read people and I knew something about him was terrifying. I refused to call him father not because I was jealous that my mother was with someone but because I could smell the violence in him. I called him “Big Bee” (if you translate it from Portuguese), probably because I had been stung by bees before and I knew it hurt a lot.

Like most predators, he took some time to unveil his true self. Before that he had to gain our trust and approval, which he tried to get from me by buying me things, taking me to places I wanted to go, and by supposedly making my mother happy. I pretended to give him my trust but inside I was shaking.

Then the days when he would come home somewhat drunk started. At first it was because he had a bad day at work, long hours of art direction call for some whiskey. Those days started to get more frequent, the tone of his voice started to raise, his hands also started to raise. I put myself between him and my mother day and night, I begged him to stop, leave her alone. For some reason I knew I was immune to him. I didn’t fear for my life, I feared for my mother’s.

Every night I knew he was coming home because I could hear the revving sound of his car entering the garage. Sometimes I would hear it for minutes because he was too drunk to drive through it. I would never fall asleep before knowing he had arrived, even when it was very late and I secretly hoped he would die alone in a car crash. But he never did. He always came back.

Car headlights at night

He would come straight to my bedroom since my mom had started sleeping with me. Sometimes she would come out to talk to him. Inevitably I had to go out to stop him from beating her because he always did.

I studied a lot then, from 8am to 4pm. I loved school and I hated home. I never told anyone about what was happening at home. I became so hollow and cold I remember this one time I was looking at myself in the mirror, forcing myself to cry right before I went to school to see if one of my friends would notice so I could tell them what was going on. Not one single drop came out. I grinned and beared. It was almost relieving, to live this double life. In the eyes of the world I was just this kid, innocent and naive.

The drinking then started to happen at home. He would sit in his study, writing his pathetic poetry, pretending to be some kind of artist while quenching his thirst with a Johnny Walker bottle. He would fall asleep with his mouth open, in such deep sleep I imagined myself throwing all sort of disgusting things in it.

I have almost completely erased the 6 years of abuse from my mind without erasing the consequences of it, of course. But I vividly remember one night when I must have fallen asleep and I woke up to sounds heavy suffocation. I jumped out of bed. He was giving my mother a choke hold. My mother, someone who suffered from asthma, a choke hold. I jumped on him, I took him off her. I think this was also the same night when he had almost broken her wrist.

Leonardo Dicaprio, black and white image. He is young with shaggy spikey hair. Holding a large pair of plastic lips that read "kiss me"In anticipation of people saying I became gay because of an abusive male figure in my life, even though it’s a fact I was already attracted to girls before, I started to give boys more of my interest but let me point out, I was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio – androgyny anyone? I was reassured not all boys were abusive and violent but I knew I didn’t want to be with them.

Not long then my mother had a brain aneurysm, right in front of me. She told me she covered her face because she felt like her eye was coming out. She was identified with aneurysm pretty quickly. I told her it was going to be okay, but that she was going to look like Sigourney Weaver in the movie Alien – basically saying that she was going to have her head shaved, operated.

She survived. With no neurological damage. A true miracle if you ask me. It would all have been good if we hadn’t gone back home and it had taken another act of violence from him to finally dictate that we were leaving for good. I was in my pajamas.

Not surprisingly my sense of justice and determination to fight against injustices only grew bigger: the same way I felt it was my responsibility to protect my mother, I felt like it was my responsibility to also help others. “Trauma and activism appear to be in contradistinction—the former defined by exclusivity and concealment, being hidden and out-of-sight; and the latter by action, out-in-the-open, in public,” says Outspoken.

I had always been drawn to helping animals, cats and dogs for the most part, but insects, birds and fishes also. At age 15 I also thought I was helping women by getting involved in relationships in which women seemed to need my help with a specific issue: straight rebel girls who wanted to piss off their parents, girls who couldn’t feel anything at all, girls who were taking a break from their current relationship, later in life married women, women who were just as lost as me. I would immerse myself completely in them, ensuring that they were completely in love with me. It was almost like art for me, how they would put me up on a pedestal.

The cycle basically went down like this: get involved into a relationship with a woman who supposedly needed an issue resolved, be the heroine of the day, get bored because the “challenge” was finished, leave. A few things to point it out is that this cycle was very gradual. It was never about the sex, quite the opposite, I despised one night-stands. It was for me a narcissistic need for attention, to feel loved but to anticipate the inevitable destruction of that relationship and so be the one who leaves it first.

I would then start to destruct the relationship, usually by cheating. I have cheated on almost every single girlfriend I had and I had many – I will not get into detail of every individual since I don’t have the consent to share our story publicly. I had given them what I thought they wanted and it was time for them to be on their own. So I abandoned them. “If I could recover from all the atrocities I had gone through, they sure could recover from a breakup,” I told myself over and over again to justify my behaviour.

Those relationships made me feel alive, made me feel like I was in charge. Between my self-destruction spiral with anorexia, a disease in which one disappears to be seen, bulimia nervosa (and very shortly with alcohol), my attempt of suicide, and my struggle with homophobia (Brazil has highest LGBTQ rate of murder in the world), from verbal to physical abuse, those relationships were something I had control of and I didn’t even have to feel guilty about it: it was consensual.

Image of fox that contains quote: "You become responsible forever for what you have tamed"

My favorite character in The Little Prince was the Fox, “People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” My mother, seeing my vicious patterns tried to warn about the consequences. But I did not want to take love advices from her. Not after everything she had put me through.

I left Brazil to come to the US in hopes to leave my demons behind. But they followed me. I became involved in LGBTQ activism, feeding the homeless and became involved again into helping cats and dogs. My good deeds were still taking place while I continued to treat women like trophies, to self-destruct and of course, I continued to eat the flesh and drink the secretions of non-human animals.

It was time to go back to therapy. I was 26 and I was still getting involved in relationships in which I was the heroine, bragging to my friends about my “adventures.”

In parallel I became the board director at a dog and cat rescue. It was then that I came to realize the hypocrisy into saving some animals but not all by watching slaughterhouse videos, today I recommend this one. Long story short, I went vegan overnight, and most importantly I became a vegan activist.

I knew I needed help. To understand why self-destruction was taking over my life and how I could end my relationship patterns. It was because of doctor Laura and over 1 year of intense therapy (this was followed by other years of therapy I had done) that I was able to identify my mechanisms and make sure my patterns were broken. It was not easy. It was painful, humiliating in many ways, but enlightening.

I am a product of a broken home, like Placebo would say. It is true that childhood trauma affects and changes someone forever:

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study is something that everybody needs to know about. It was done by Dr. Vince Felitti at Kaiser and Dr. Bob Anda at the CDC, and together, they asked 17,500 adults about their history of exposure to what they called “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs. Those include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; physical or emotional neglect; parental mental illness, substance dependence, incarceration; parental separation or divorce; or domestic violence. For every yes, you would get a point on your ACE score. And then what they did was they correlated these ACE scores against health outcomes.

What they found was striking. Two things: Number one, ACEs are incredibly common. Sixty-seven percent of the population had at least one ACE, and 12.6 percent, one in eight, had four or more ACEs. The second thing that they found was that there was a dose-response relationship between ACEs and health outcomes: the higher your ACE score, the worse your health outcomes. For a person with an ACE score of four or more, their relative risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was two and a half times that of someone with an ACE score of zero. For hepatitis, it was also two and a half times. For depression, it was four and a half times. For suicidality, it was twelve times. A person with an ACE score of seven or more had triple the lifetime risk of lung cancer and three and a half times the risk of ischemic heart disease, the number one killer in the United States of America. (Nadine Burke Harris 2014)

Do my destructive relationships have do with my past? Absolutely. But it does not excuse me or anyone else from seeking help. Multiple times if you have to. Our past cannot be used as an excuse to justify our actions.

Author stands at protest holding a poster of a pig that asks, "Will You Let Me Live?"

I overcame my personal trauma and transformed it into a catalyst for activism. It was most likely because of my trauma that fighting against injustices was so dear to me. However, as you have seen, I am no heroine. Despite my exhaustive dedication to Animal Rights and for that matter, to all forms of oppression, I have treated women like trophies. I have never been a predator, or engaged in any form of nonconsensual act but I have used those relationships as a way to feel empowered and then to self-destruct. I have also never shared anything about the women I was with publicly without their consent but I have disregarded the feelings of countless individuals.

What triggered me to write this article was the return to Facebook of Hugo Dominguez, former Direct Action Everywhere organizer, who has admitted to sex crimes. I see a few parallels between us, this is why I want to bring him into this story.

Hugo may have acknowledged his behaviour but he hasn’t actively and truly sought help. Someone who wants to get better will remove themselves from situations that will trigger the behavior again, and in his case his attention-seeking addiction is being fed by his latest return to Facebook.

I too have regarded women as prizes, so I know exactly where Hugo stands. I too have moved away from my country trying to escape my past, I too have taken a few months to reflect but those were band-aids on a hemorrhage. Overcoming a vicious behaviour takes time and commitment. It also includes giving time and space to the victims.

I have described my upbringing in detail to inspire others who have gone through childhood trauma to seek help. Consciously or unconsciously I have let my past dictate my present but we must use traumatic experiences to push us forward, to help us and others grow. I sincerely hope Hugo can.

We have seen the dangers of hero worship, so please, let’s destroy pedestals and let’s embrace one another on the same level.

 

Raffaella

Co-founder of Collectively Free, Raffaella Ciavatta is vegan animal liberation activist, art director, poet, photographer wanna-be, DJ in some past live and most importantly… a big dreamer who makes things happen.

Chère Nouvelle Vegane

Translation by Christophe Hendrickx. See more French translations of critical vegan essays by grassroots activists by visiting his blog, La Pilule Rouge. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexisme et violence sexuelle

Two young thin white PETA volunteers pose naked on a street corner with their bodies marked like meat cuts holding a PETA sign that asks viewers to go vegan
Chère Nouvelle Végane,

Prépare-toi, car un parcours mouvementé t’attend. Devenir vegane est, au début, une expérience très frustrante et traumatisante. Tu devras apprendre à manger autrement, ce que tu peux acheter ou non, comment gérer tes amis et ta famille, et comment gérer les sentiments intenses de colère et de tristesse qui viennent lorsque l’on ouvre son esprit et son cœur à la souffrance des autres. Rien de tout cela ne sera facile, mais, je te prie de ne pas abandonner, car cela deviendra vraiment plus facile au fur et à mesure de ton parcours. Cela deviendra normal et habituel avant que tu ne le réalises, je le promets.

Tu te tourneras probablement vers la communauté vegane pour t’aider lors de cette transition. Tu te feras beaucoup d’amis formidables et tu apprendras beaucoup des autres. Tu ressentiras un grand sentiment de paix en sachant que tu n’es pas seule et qu’il existe d’autres personnes qui sont aussi passionnées que toi pour changer le monde.

Par la suite, cependant, tu pourrais commencer à réaliser qu’être vegane est une chose, mais qu’être vegane et s’identifier1 comme une femme est tout autre chose. Si tu es en couple, tu pourrais t’apercevoir que ton/ta partenaire est hostile par rapport à ton choix. Surtout si ton partenaire s’identifie comme un homme, ta présence vegane pourrait présenter une remise en question de son autorité masculine. Il pourrait insister sur le fait que tu ne pourras jamais le changer (même si tu n’as jamais mentionné quoi que ce soit à ce sujet !). Il pourrait insister à ce que tu prépares des plats non-vegans, ou que tu l’accompagnes dans des restaurants non-vegans. En tant que femme, tu pourrais ressentir une pression importante à concéder cela. On apprend très tôt aux femmes que les intérêts des hommes passent en premier. C’est nul, mais c’est comme ça. Ne te sens pas mal si c’est le cas.

Woman looking outraged as her male partner scoffs down a burger

Si tu t’identifies en tant que femme, tu pourrais réaliser que tes amis s’identifiant comme des hommes sont également rebutés par ton véganisme. Par exemple, un post Facebook bien intentionné qui rappelle à tes lecteurs que les animaux non-humains comptent aussi, pourrait ennuyer des hommes qui sont prompts à répondre par des commentaires te décrivant comme quelqu’un de a) trop sentimentale ; b) grande gueule ; ou c) « folle ». La sensiblerie, le franc-parler, et la maladie mentale sont toutes des caractéristiques hautement sexuées. Les femmes sont vite rejetées comme étant soit trop féminines, soit pas assez féminines. Pendant des siècles, nous les femmes avons été stéréotypées comme étant « hystériques » et de là institutionnalisées pour nous contrôler et nous faire taire. Tu te trouveras souvent entre le marteau et l’enclume : ne sois pas trop sentimentale, mais, en même temps, surveille ton ton et ne sois pas trop agressive. Tu réaliseras qu’il est quasiment impossible de leur faire plaisir, et je suggère que tu continues simplement à continuer ce que tu faisais.

Male-identified vegan leader gives talk with microphoneMais tes combats en tant que femme végane pourraient ne pas s’arrêter là. Si tu décides qu’être vegane n’est pas assez et que tu veux t’impliquer dans l’activisme, tu feras à nouveau face à plus de violence masculine. L’activisme vegan est dominé par les femmes en termes de nombres, donc tu pourrais t’imaginer que c’est un espace sûr pour toi. De nombreuses manières, ça l’est. Tu trouveras de la solidarité féminine. En revanche, le mouvement vegan est fortement contrôlé par les hommes. Les hommes mènent l’activisme vegan – ils créent la théorie et ils définissent les tactiques qui sont acceptables. Ils occupent majoritairement la scène et leur voix sont les plus fortes.

Ce que cela veut dire c’est que tu ressentiras beaucoup de pression pour aider les autres animaux en ayant un rôle discret en coulisses en soutien de ces hommes. Tu pourrais aussi être encouragée à enlever tes vêtements pour certaines campagnes. Ce ne seront peut-être pas directement les hommes qui te diront de les enlever (les femmes t’encourageront aussi), mais les normes patriarcales du mouvement ont créé un environnement dans lequel on attend tout simplement des femmes qu’elles deviennent des objets sexuels « pour les animaux ». Tu pourrais commencer à penser que se déshabiller pour la cause est « libérateur ». Si tu commences à penser cela, wow, stop. Détrompe-toi. Songe également au fait que seules les femmes minces, blanches, cis sont autorisées à « s’émanciper » pour les autres animaux, et que réveiller les hommes sexuellement n’est pas réveiller les hommes sur le véganisme. Les recherches empiriques indiquent que faciliter l’oppression des femmes ne remet pas en cause l’oppression d’autres animaux.

Tu trouveras également beaucoup d’harcèlement et de violence sexuelle envers les femmes dans le mouvement vegan. Je ne veux pas te faire peur, mais c’est la vérité, et tu devrais être prévenue. C’est quelque chose dont on parle peu, mais c’est plutôt monnaie courante. Si tu es une femme, ne laisse pas cela te dissuader : rappelle-toi simplement que l’engagement pour la justice sociale pour les animaux non-humains ne se traduit pas nécessairement en un engagement pour la justice sociale pour tous. Vraiment, ces hommes qui insistent sur le fait qu’ils se soucient des droits et du bien-être des femmes, des personnes de couleur, et autres groupes humains désavantagés tendent à être tout aussi dangereux que ceux qui ne prennent pas la peine de s’en soucier. Si tu t’identifies comme un homme, je t’implore de travailler pour rendre les espaces militants plus sûrs.

Malheureusement, le travail du changement du monde est le travail des hommes. Si tu t’identifies comme femme, il est probable que tu rencontres de la résistance si tu souhaites participer à la sensibilisation au véganisme de façon plus significative qu’en faisant le café ou en te déshabillant. Cela ne doit pas se passer comme ça. Essaye de ne pas te perdre. Reste forte, prend la parole, et demande à être respectée. Insiste pour que le véganisme soit une expérience positive et ferme. Ne laisse pas les mentalités oppressives de certains t’empêcher de faire le travail important que tu avais prévu. Et messieurs, soyez s’il-vous-plaît solidaires des femmes. Un peu d’aide ne ferait pas de mal.

P.S. Si tu es une femme de couleur, c’est un ensemble supplémentaire de défis. En tant que femme blanche, je ne peux pas parler en profondeur de ces défis, mais je peux te dire que le mouvement vegan peut être un endroit vraiment désagréable par moments. Jette absolument un oeil au Projet Sistah Vegan!

– Corey Lee Wrenn, M.S., A.B.D. Ph.D.

Notes:

1. Cet article parle de l’expérience féminine, qui peut inclure celle des femmes trans, femmes intersexuées, et femmes gender-queers. Il faut prendre en compte le fait que les veganes trans, intersexuées, et gender-queers font face à un nombre supplémentaire de défis dans le mouvement.

This piece was originally submitted to an advocacy anthology designed to introduce new vegans to the movement, but did not make the final cut. For more information on sexism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, please stay tuned for my forthcoming release, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory to be published by Palgrave Macmillan later this year. Please also see my publication with the Journal of Gender Studies, “The Role of Professionalization Regarding Female Exploitation in the Nonhuman Animal Rights Movement and my essay for The Feminist Wire, “Gender Policing the Vegan Woman.”

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is an instructor of Sociology and graduate student at Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. In 2015, she was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.

Dear New Vegan

TRIGGER WARNING: Discusses sexism and sexual violence.

Two young thin white PETA volunteers pose naked on a street corner with their bodies marked like meat cuts holding a PETA sign that asks viewers to go vegan

Dear New Vegan,

Brace yourself, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Becoming vegan is, at first, a very frustrating and traumatizing experience. You will have to learn what to eat, what to buy, how to deal with friends and family, and how to manage the intense feelings of anger and sadness that come with opening your mind and heart to the suffering of others. None of this is going to be easy, but, please don’t give up, because it will definitely get easier the longer you stick with it. It will become normal and habitual before you know it, I promise.

You will probably reach out to the vegan community to help you through this transition. You will make lots of great friends and learn a lot from others. You will find great peace in knowing you are not alone and that other folks are out there who are just as passionate as you are about changing the world.

Eventually, however, you may start to realize that being vegan is one thing, but being vegan and female-identified1 is another one altogether. If you are in a relationship, you may find your partner is hostile to your choice. Especially if your partner is male-identified, your vegan presence may present a challenge to his masculine authority. He may insist that you can never change him (even if you never mentioned any intention of doing so!). He may insist that you cook non-vegan meals, or join him in non-vegan restaurants. As a self-identified woman, you may feel considerable pressure to concede. Women are groomed from early on to put the interests of men first. It stinks, but that’s how it is. Don’t feel bad if you do.

Woman looking outraged as her male partner scoffs down a burger

If you are a self-identified woman, you may find that male-identified friends are turned off to your veganism as well. For example, a well-meant Facebook post that reminds your readers that Nonhuman Animals matter, too, may aggravate men who are quick to respond with comments about how you’re a) too sentimental; b) loudmouthed; or c) “crazy.” Emotionality, outspokenness, and mental illness are all highly gendered characteristics. Women are easily dismissed for being either too feminine, or not feminine enough. For centuries, we women have been stereotyped as “hysterical” and subsequently institutionalized to control us and shut us up. You’ll often find yourself between a rock and a hard place: don’t be too sappy, but at the same time, watch your tone and don’t be too aggressive. You’ll find they’re pretty much impossible to please, and I suggest you just keep doing what you do.

Male-identified vegan leader gives talk with microphoneBut your struggles as a vegan woman might not end there. If you decide that simply being vegan isn’t enough and that you want to get involved with activism, you are going to come up against more male violence. Vegan activism is dominated by women as far as the numbers go, so you may think it’s a safe space for you. In many ways, it is. You will find female solidarity. On the other hand, the vegan movement is very much controlled by men. Men lead vegan activism—they create the theory and they define what tactics are acceptable. They take up the most space and their voices are loudest.

What this means is that you are going to feel a lot of pressure to help other animals by taking a quiet role behind the scenes in support of these men. You may also be encouraged to take your clothes off for some campaigns. It may not be men directly telling you to get naked (women are in on it, too), but the patriarchal norms of the movement have created an environment where women are simply expected to become sex objects “for the animals.” You might start to think that getting naked for the cause is “liberating.” If you start thinking that, woah, stop. Think again. Consider also that only thin, white, cis women are allowed to “empower” themselves for other animals, and that turning men on sexually is not the same as turning men on to veganism. Empirical research shows that facilitating the oppression of women does not challenge the oppression of other animals.

You will also find a lot of sexual harassment and violence against women in the vegan movement. I don’t mean to scare you off, but it’s true, and you should be warned. It’s something that isn’t talked about a lot, but it’s actually quite common. If you are a woman, don’t let this deter you; just remember that commitment to social justice for Nonhuman Animals does not necessarily translate to a commitment to social justice for all. Really, those men who insist they care about the rights and wellbeing of women, people of color, and other disadvantaged human groups tend to be just as dangerous as those who don’t purport to care at all. If you identify as a man, I implore you to step up and work to make advocacy spaces safer.

Sadly, the work of changing the world is men’s work. If you are female-identified, you are likely to meet resistance if you want to participate in vegan outreach in ways more meaningful than making the coffee or stripping. It doesn’t have to be that way. Try not to lose yourself. Stay strong, demand voice, and demand that you be respected. Insist that veganism be a positive and affirming experience. Do not let the oppressive mentalities of some prevent you from doing the important work you’ve set out to do. And men, please stand with women in solidarity. We could use your help.

P.S. If you are a woman of color, that’s a whole extra set of challenges. As a white woman myself, I can’t speak to the depth of these challenges, but I can tell you that the vegan movement can be a really nasty “color blind” place at times. Definitely check out the Sistah Vegan Project!

– Corey Lee Wrenn, M.S., A.B.D. Ph.D.

Notes:

1. This piece speaks to the female experience, which may include that of trans women, intersex women, and gender-queer women. It should be acknowledged that trans, intersex, and gender-queer vegans have a number of additional challenges faced by the movement.

This piece was originally submitted to an advocacy anthology designed to introduce new vegans to the movement, but did not make the final cut. For more information on sexism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, please stay tuned for my forthcoming release, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory to be published by Palgrave Macmillan later this year. Please also see my publication with the Journal of Gender Studies, “The Role of Professionalization Regarding Female Exploitation in the Nonhuman Animal Rights Movement and my essay for The Feminist Wire, “Gender Policing the Vegan Woman.”

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is an instructor of Sociology and graduate student at Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. In 2015, she was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.

PETA Sexualizes Woman’s Death in Canine Heat Exhaustion Campaign

Trigger Warning: Post contains misogynistic audience responses to campaign discussed. Also contains discussion of violence against women (specifically abduction and murder).

Not Safe for Work: Post contains misogynistic audience responses that utilize vulgar language.

Elisabetta Canalis in low cut tank top sweaty and passed out in the front seat of a car

By Corey Lee Wrenn, M.S., A.B.D. Ph.D.

With summer upon us, leading animal welfare organization PETA has been drawing attention to the dangers of locking dogs in cars with a commercial featuring model Elisabetta Canalis dying of heat stroke. PETA’s promotional website graphically describes Canalis’s death, calling it a “scorcher”:

As the car heats up, Elisabetta experiences the agonizing symptoms of heatstroke. As panic and anxiety set in, Elisabetta’s condition deteriorates rapidly with the addition of excessive thirst, lethargy, lack of coordination, and a rapid heartbeat. Scared and alone, she desperately attempts to escape the car, which is quickly heating up like an oven.

Essentially, the video shows a scantily clad Italian supermodel locked in a car against her will where she suffers and dies. PETA exclaims: “Italian supermodel Elisabetta Canalis knows what it means to be hot!”

Nowhere in the commercial or on the promotional page is a dog ever shown. At all points, the “dog” referred to is the woman. Even the tip sheet listing appropriate actions for dogs found locked in cars shows an image of Canalis dead in the front seat.

PETA flyer for canines in cars: "If you see a dog locked inside a hot car: 1. Quickly take down the car's make, model, color, and license number, and have the owner paged in the nearest buildings. 2. Call local humane authorities or the police immediately; don't hesitate to call 911 if the animal is in distress. 3. Don't leave the scene until the situation has been resolved. 4. If you can't find the owner, the authorities are unresponsive or too slow, and the dog's life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back up your assessment, and take steps to remove the suffering animal from the car. 5. Wait for the authorities to arrive.

PETA defends the sexualization of this woman’s violent death because “sexy celebs” attract more viewers.

Twitter user asks PETA, "Can you explain why you chose a young, scantily clad model? Why you chose to maek her suffering and death sexy?" PETA responds: "Sexy celeb starred in vid so we'd reach more pple. 420k on YouTube have gotten important message thanks 2 Elisabetta Canalis"

If attracting more viewers is the goal, it’s certainly working. But if educating the public on Nonhuman Animal issues is the intent, the message seems to be lost on many. For example, the top two comments on the commercial’s Youtube page read: “Again, PETA has to resort to over sexualization in order to get their message across” and “Wouldn’t have happened, if she stayed in the kitchen.”

PETA-Summer-Scorcher-Top-Comments

Similar comments characterize the public’s response:

dog damn! I have never realized how sexy it was to let a dog closed in a car for a few minutes!!!

I want to get trapped whit (sic) that dog in the worst summer day god ever create (sic) if you dont (sic) mind.

i think this video is a great lesson to all women everywhere on the dangers of leaving the kitchen.

yay im going to do this to females, thank you peta for the idea

Women=dogs

mmm let me get in that car too n heat thangs up a bit more /licks lips

I bet this ad would have been cooler if she de-robed!

This did not teach me or change my mind on anything about animals…just made me want to fap it

never leave ur bitches in the car…got it…

This video has backfired in 2 ways: 1, I now regard women as dogs, 2, now I have a heat exhaustion fetish

And yet PETA insists the model is sexy, not her suffering and death. The point of the video, it reassures, is to “show how wrong it is to lock a living being in a car.”

Twitter user to PETA: "This advertisement draws heavily on imagery of violence against women, and you sexualized it. I believe it was intentional. PETA responds: "Sry u feel that way, that wasn't the point of the video. There was no violence, other than the extreme heat in the car."

More likely, the point of this video is to exploit sexualized violence against women to bring attention to PETA. Depicting a panicked woman locked in a car against her will is drawing on imagery of kidnapping, rape, and murder, an all too common occurrence for women. I can’t even say I’m convinced this is intended to draw attention to dogs when dogs are completely absent from the campaign.

Elisabetta Canalis PETA Car

PETA’s intentions may be good, but its facilitation of rape culture is unmistakable. A lot of money and time goes into advertising campaigns—these images were intentionally chosen to trigger particular cultural knowledges. It is not an accident it chose a “sexy” woman pounding on the windows in a desperate attempt to escape as she dies trapped in a car. The sexualization of rape and violence against women is a cultural norm, it’s something we respond to.

But aggravating violence against woman is not a valid justification for advocating on behalf of dogs or other animals. As evidenced in the viewers’ responses, trivializing the oppression of women to challenge the oppression of other vulnerable groups is not effective. People tune in for sexy misogyny, and exactly what they get.

 

This essay originally appeared on Feminspire on May 28, 2013.

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is an instructor of Sociology and graduate student at Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. In 2015, she was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.

Of Breeders, MOOs and Overpopulation: Eugenics in the Animal Rights Movement

Trigger Warning: Post contains potentially upsetting discussion of eugenics, forced sterilization and racially insensitive commentary from the white-centric Nonhuman Animal rights community. Also references sexist, classist, and ableist positions that are responsible for considerable structural harm to vulnerable demographics.
Large crowd of people

By: Dr. C. Michele Martindill

Stories about overpopulation appear so often in the news and op-ed essays they are barely gets a second glance. Overpopulation is blamed for all the ills of the social world, everything from obvious social problems such as poverty and hunger to less known concerns such as climate change and deforestation of the planet. Rarely is the concept of overpopulation questioned or defined beyond citing the overall population of planet earth or particular nation states. It is easy enough to find the figures—earth now has an estimated population of 7,318,275,998 as of this writing (Current World Population, 2015) and the United States has an estimated population of 324,907,247. Whenever news stories question how to dispose of the vast amounts of garbage generated by such numbers or to address an environmental hazard such as carbon emissions the first thought is to reduce the population that is destroying the planet. Sociologist David L. Altheide, author of Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis (2002), argues that such stories are morality plays that unfold in “news reports, reality TV shows,…and documentaries,…it is the world of predators and prey, criminals and citizens,…Stories tend to be told from the perspective (voice) of the victim or criminal justice agents; seldom do we see or hear the accused outside of a prescribed role, for example, in handcuffs (193).” In many respects overpopulation is a morality play, pitting the dominant elite white culture against Persons of Color, women and anyone living in poverty, those who are handcuffed.

Vegans are divided in their response to overpopulation stories, but they seem to agree something must be done to save the planet and the lives of animals. Some vegans are vocal in their belief that if the human population was reduced or even eliminated then animals would no longer be slaughtered for consumer products, and the environment would heal. In an effort to counter overpopulation scare tactics, there are other vegans who quickly assert how livestock production contributes to water pollution, desertification of the land, displacement of Native populations and carbon emissions, but they become mired in point-counterpoint debates over environmental science, giving scant attention to the human groups most affected by the overpopulation morality play. They suggest the solution is more education and accessible birth control so that women can make better choices and stop having such large families. The problem in each instance is the absence of critical thought regarding the use of the term overpopulation. Specifically, as long as the vegan animal rights movement frames the discussion about human procreation as a choice argument grounded in pseudo-concern for the fate of the planet and economics, the movement ignores a far more serious threat and deep contradiction to veganism: the advancement of eugenics, the belief that the human gene pool can and should be improved through selective procreation and forced sterilization.

Any overpopulation claim that fails to address eugenics and simply demands that humans have to stop procreating because the planet and its resources are threatened is nothing more than a pseudo concern for the planet, a concern meant to disguise racism, classism and sexism. Overpopulation is a socially constructed concept with a long history of being promoted by the white man cis gendered elite scientists and corporations of the world. Stripped of polysyllabic terminology and statistical arguments about environmental damage, overpopulation is nothing more than a nameless, faceless scare tactic. Its aim is to objectify the so-called unruly masses, to deny them their rights, and to glorify the wealthy elite by encouraging them to procreate and populate the world with their precious gene pool. Those who assert that no one should procreate regardless of social status still fail to acknowledge the sexism and racism of such a demand.

Cartoon with oil well exploding with people, reads, "The well is dry, but we've got a gusher of new customers"

Certainly there is an element of truth to the overpopulationist propaganda, e.g. climate change is real, but it has little to do with the number of humans on the planet and everything to do with the overpopulation of cattle (McKnight, 2014). Oil spills, deforestation and global poverty are not the result of overpopulation; rather, they can be directly linked to corporate greed, capitalism that regards the earth as nothing more than an endless supply of materials for consumer goods and the military-industrial complex that values war over investing in real peace keeping efforts such as feeding the hungry. Arguments against these and other overpopulationist claims can be refuted statistic by statistic, but such debate will do nothing to reframe the issues in a way that accentuates the hidden agenda of overpopulationists—their racism, sexism, ableism and classism. Any future dialogues need to focus on individualism, social darwinism and eugenics, the ideologies that underpin the entire overpopulation perspective.

The rift between overpopulationists and social justice advocates both within and outside of the vegan movement is growing, thanks in large part to the hatred of humans so frequently espoused by animal rights leaders such as Gary Yourofsky and his loyal followers. Off-hand comments about humans not deserving to live because they are responsible for all of the suffering brought on other animals are expressions of the overpopulationist dogma and based in individualism. In order to understand how social darwinism and eugenics work it is necessary to first look at the concept of individualism (see Note 1).

Individualism is the belief that each person is only responsible for their own self and will receive rewards—wealth, salaries, social position, education, access to medical care—based on individual merit. This belief system is used to support capitalism and to keep the working class motivated while performing mundane tasks in dead end jobs. As long as workers believe if they work hard enough they can rise in social class and accumulate wealth, they will continue to show up for work, not complain about working conditions and tell anyone who will listen that the company owners are heroes. Those who do not succeed are easily dismissed as individuals who did not work hard enough or long enough; it is their own fault for being failures. After all, the evolution of society can be summed up as survival of the fittest, just like in nature, right? Well, no.

Ever since the work on evolutionary theory by Charles Darwin became known there have been attempts to identify patterns of evolution in society similar to those found in plants and other animals. Policy makers have long thought it obvious that those living in poverty or with mental health problems were not as evolved as the wealthy elite class. Such a belief depends on a misinterpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution. While Darwin was interested in how plants, for instance, adapted to a changing environment and described the process as natural selection (not to be confused with artificial selective breeding), he also observed how such processes occurred slowly and could not be seen in any one generation. He did not initially see the processes as some sort competition in which only the fittest survived or were rewarded in some way by nature. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) is credited with coining the term survival of the fittest in relation to society, and then Darwin later used the term to refer to local, immediate adaptations to a given environment. As time passed, Darwin’s theory became equated solely with survival of the fittest rather than natural selection, and sociologists tagged the phrase survival of the fittest as social darwinism, usually used as a pejorative term. Sociologists were pitted against politically conservative policy makers who were trying to justify discriminatory legislation by claiming only the fittest humans should survive. Social darwinism—a pseudo-scientific claim—thus became the rationalization for individualism and the social policies that were based on individualism.

Darwin

Individualism also decries charity as unnecessary for the lower classes since they are responsible for the consequences of their own laziness, for financial troubles and for having big families or too many children. While capitalism depends on having a ready supply of workers willing to accept low pay and to sing the praises of the economic system that entraps them, capitalism bears no responsibility for the hardships related to poverty. What a perfect economic system!! The wealthy elite exploit the workers, cast aside the humans deemed unfit and manage to get the exploited masses to defend the entire system by keeping the hope alive that anyone can achieve THE AMERICAN DREAM!!

This whole notion of individualism or the American Dream, which is now a global belief system, can be seen throughout the industrialization and modernization of the States. Eugenics, the belief and related practices that any animal population, including the human population, can be genetically improved through controlled reproduction, dates back centuries, but became closely linked to individualism in the 19th century. Scientists who promoted eugenics or the eugenics movement of the 20th century were at first interested in controlled reproduction as a way to eliminate mental illness and other hereditary diseases. After all, if scientist Gregor Mendel could trace patterns of inheritance in pea plants in 1865, later scientists reasoned similar patterns might be traced in humans. Eugenics was the cornerstone of the Immigration Restriction League which was founded in 1894 to prevent those of certain races who might contaminate the superior American gene pool from entering the country. Literacy tests were proposed as early as 1897 to help identify inferior immigrants. In 1910 Charles Davenport founded the Eugenics Record Office and within the next twenty years the goal of the organization became preventing unfit humans from having any children.

By the late 1920s forced sterilization of those deemed unfit was widely accepted and laws based on a 1914 model statute were passed:

Advocacy in favor of sterilization was one of Harry Laughlin’s first major projects at the Eugenics Record Office. In 1914, he published a Model Eugenical Sterilization Law that proposed to authorize sterilization of the “socially inadequate” – people supported in institutions or “maintained wholly or in part by public expense. The law encompassed the “feebleminded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf; deformed; and dependent” – including “orphans, ne’er-do-wells, tramps, the homeless and paupers.” By the time the Model Law was published in 1914, twelve states had enacted sterilization laws (Lombardo, n.d.).

It is estimated that between the early 1900s and the mid-1970s over 60,000 people were involuntarily sterilized. Women were the main victims of forced sterilization, and at first many who were sterilized were already committed to mental institutions and labelled imbeciles. As sterilization became the norm, some victims were taken from their homes and reasons for sterilization included pregnancy while unmarried, general promiscuity, having a sexually transmitted disease or being a pauper. The reasoning by the thirty-three states with forced sterilization laws was that it was a way to prevent people from becoming a burden on society, especially if they had to be housed in a state run mental institution, receive some kind of public aid or be held in prisons. Also, at this time in history more and more immigrants were arriving in U.S. cities and they were being blamed for the rise in crime and poverty. Eugenics was heralded as a solution by medical professionals and city officials alike (Norrgard, 2008).

The majority of the country is shaded to indicate presence of laws

It is an understatement to say racism and eugenics are historically and inextricably linked. Throughout the eugenics movement Black women were regarded as responsible for passing traits to their daughters that would lead to a future of doom, lives of “poverty, delinquency, and despair (Sebring, 2007).”

During the 1950s in the US South white women faced economic, legal, and medical obstacles to their access to reproductive services such as contraceptives and sterilization procedures. During this same time family planning initiatives targeted women of color (particularly black women) encouraging the use of contraceptives and sterilizations in the interest of reducing the growth of the black population. Family planning initiatives were politically espoused by conservatives such as Strom Thurmond, as a racialized form population control in the interest of limiting black voter strength in the US South. State funding for family planning clinics frequently received popular support when associated with women of color, though the same was not true when associated with white women. Or, in the words of Louisiana judge Leander Perez, “The best way to hate a nigger is to hate him before he is born.” (Sebring, 2007)

Who were the women who were involuntarily sterilized? The overpopulationists have managed to objectify them as populations, robbing them of their names, faces and voices in the process. Efforts to compensate victims were and continue to be met with disdain as well as arguments that the state funds are better spent elsewhere. Such was the case in North Carolina until 2013 when the victims were awarded $10 million dollars after a prolonged battle with legislators. Elaine Riddick is one of the victims.

Elaine Riddick and Son

Riddick and Son

Elaine Riddick was raped and impregnated at 13 years old and, after giving birth to her baby boy Tony, she was sterilized against her will. Afterward, she lived for years in shame, but had something to prove.

“People need to know that injustice was done towards them and they need to be compensated for that,” said Riddick,…

Riddick has been a formidable advocate for her fellow victims, pressing North Carolina to make amends. But multiple attempts at compensation have not come to fruition.

On Thursday Riddick said she was amazed to learn of North Carolina’s plans to compensate victims.

“I tip my hat to North Carolina, finally they came to their senses and decided to do what’s right,” she said.

Still, Riddick added, the money isn’t enough.

“You can’t put a price on someone taking your womb or castrating you, it’s humiliating,” Riddick said (Naggiar, 2013).

It was not until after WWII that forced sterilization began to fall out of favor with proponents in the United States. People learned that Laughlin’s Model Sterilization Law was the inspiration for the law adopted by Nazi Germany in 1933, a law that legally sanctioned the sterilization of over 350,000 people. Laughlin was even awarded an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1936 for his work in “the science of racial cleansing” (Lombardo P. A., 2008). So, it was not the racism of sterilizing Black women that launched the move to halt the sterilizations, nor was it forced sterilizations of girls as young as ten. Furthermore, the laws were not changed based on the lack of informed consent. No. The laws were not challenged until it became embarrassing to be associated with the genocide carried out by the Nazis, a genocide that ran concurrently with a genocide of POC in the states.

Eugenics and forced sterilization remain in the news today. In 2013 it was revealed that 148 women prisoners in California were denied their right to informed consent and sterilized between 2006 and 2010. On September 25, 2014 California passed Senate Bill 1135 to “prohibit sterilization for the purpose of birth control of an individual under the control of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or a county correctional facility… (Senate Bill No. 1135, 2014).”

In September of 2014 the vice chairperson of the Arizona Republican Party and former state senator resigned his position after making comments about the sterilization of Medicaid recipients:

“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” Russell Pearce said on his radio show, according to a transcript from the Arizona Republic. “Then we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job (McDonough, 2014).”

Similar stories continue to be reported from around the world, including comments by self-described vegans. A recent Facebook discussion among vegans on the topic of over-population shows how someone in a position of privilege can become defensive at the mere suggestion of racism in the language they use to discuss procreation:

Commenter #1: I am always skeptical around blanket statements about procreation. For too long it’s been a form of racism to talk about POC women as “breeders” or “welfare queens.” Demands to end procreation also come from a classist perspective in that rural white women and POC women have been targets, including decades of pressure to be sterilized or in some cases being sterilized without consent. Which leads to the observation that arguments against procreation contribute to sexism when they silence the voices of women. Yes, women should have access to information about birth control and adoption, but not at the expense of a patriarchal society doing so simply to perpetuate patriarchal values. What we’re really talking about here is the need to realize how corporatism and capitalism combine to create all of these products that are destroying the environment and marketing them to the point people think they can’t live without them. It’s not procreation that is the issue, but rather how consumption is promoted as a way of life

Commenter #2: Everyone should stop breeding imo. Every color, rich or poor. Birth control should be free & always available worldwide imo.

Commenter #1: …did I really just read these words? ” Everyone should stop breeding imo. Every color, rich or poor. Birth control should be free & always available worldwide imo.” I’ll play nice and ask: Why in your opinion should everyone stop “breeding”? Also, the word “breeding/ers” is problematic in terms of socially reproducing racism.

Commenter #2: The world is severely overpopulated period. We need to give it a rest. Too many ppl too many unnecessary selfish problems. Breed means procreate nothing racist. [emphasis added]

It is common to find the words breeders and moos used among certain vegan overpopulationist factions in reference to women who give birth to children, and there can be little doubt those terms are both racially charged and sexist.

Banana Girl Freelee, a self-described vegan, uses similar racist, sexist and classist language in a recent YouTube video:

We need drastic action or else we’re goin’ down the shitter and we’re takin’ the rest of the species with us. We’re destroying all the other species, including ourselves. So obviously the load needs to be lightened on Mother Nature. We need to stop draining the f*cking resources until they’re all gone and so here’s what I propose: is that people have a test. They need a license, a permit before they procreate, before they have children. They need to pass a test…So, what does that test consist of?…They definitely need to have a stable income so they can actually look after children…have money in the bank that’s for sure (vegan, 2015).

Freelee Banana GirlAt a time when voting rights for Persons of Color are being challenged with voter identification laws and literacy tests, it is not surprising to find the script for the overpopulation morality play includes a test for the right to procreate.

Ironically, members of the upper class are encouraged to have as many children as they want, as shown in a recent story about how large families are now “the ultimate status symbol” among wealthy women from New York City’s Upper East Side. Wendy Martin, Ph.D., author of Primates of Park Avenue, is quoted as saying:

When you think about it, it’s logical that a big family equals a big status symbol: It’s expensive to raise kids anywhere, and especially in New York City, where full-time nannies, private school, and summer camp are standard expenses. In the US, the average cost of raising a child is $245,340, according to a recent government report. But that figure more than doubles — to $540,514 — when that child is being raised in Manhattan (Zeveloff, 2015).

Thin white women in a park tending to childrenClearly, as long as the interests of the upper class are at stake, they must be defended and presented in a way consistent with individualism, with the notion that they earned the right to have as many children as they want and can afford. There are no suggestions that the wealthy need more education about birth control, nor is there any implication that they somehow are not smart enough to understand how large family size must surely lead to poverty. And what about all of those scarce resources that these children will consume over the course of their lifetimes? All is well as long as they can afford the steaks, fur coats, servants and fancy cars that burn an exorbitant amount of fossil fuel? Population expert Fred Pearce argues that rising consumption is the real problem, not overpopulation:

“Rising consumption today far outstrips the rising head count as a threat to the planet,” Mr. Pearce wrote in Prospect, a British magazine, in 2010. “And most of the extra consumption has been in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population, while most of the remaining population growth is in countries with a very small impact on the planet.”

“Let’s look at carbon dioxide emissions, the biggest current concern because of climate change,” he continued. “The world’s richest half billion people — that’s about 7 percent of the global population — are responsible for half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, the poorest 50 percent of the population are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions (Haberman, 2015).

Maybe the time has come for vegans who double as overpopulationists to think critically about whether they want to continue supporting a racist, sexist and classist ideology or consider how consumerism and consumption impact planetary resources.

Even if all the eugenics laws in the world are struck from the books, the ideology of individualism and the American Dream will continue to drive our social world and a large segment of the vegan movement. It is far easier to hate all humans for what they are doing to other animals than it is to examine how we all participate in systems of oppression. Go ahead and blame oppressed and exploited humans for speciesism, for rampant consumerism and for being selfish. Individualism tells us we have no responsibility for other humans, so why not hate them and objectify them? Know this one thing and know it well: We all serve the interests of the white man dominated elite class as long as we do not take the responsibility to challenge the racism, sexism and classism of the overpopulation myth. As long as we are preoccupied with directing hate toward other humans, we will not be demanding accountability from the capitalist leaders and major corporations that are responsible for environmental degradation, the murder and torture of animals for profit, the formation of the school to prison pipeline and the growth of the military-industrial complex.

Being against eugenics is NOT taking anything away from working for the animals or ending the oppression of other animals. BUT ending speciesism will not end the hatred of humans for other humans, the bigotry directed toward Persons of Color or the ideology of individualism that tells everyone to turn their backs on those deemed unworthy. The ultimate manifestation of speciesism occurs whenever humans objectify and dehumanize other humans by denying them their rights while at the same time claiming they are anti-speciesist because they think the rights of all animals must be respected. What a contradiction in terms!! Humans will work to universally grant rights to other animals and simultaneously direct hatred and blame toward other humans, toward breeders and MOOs, unless every effort is made to expose the overpopulation morality play for what it is: unadulterated bigotry.

The words of writer and animal rights activist Christopher Sebastian (personal communication, 2015) offer an eloquent summary of how individualism works and how deeply racism strikes in the animal rights movement:

Animal Rights Friends:

How come when I am talking about human privilege, most of my vegan friends understand I’m talking about living in a society structured to advantage humans…where humans are granted greater levels of access based on arbitrary biological distinctions outside of their control? Indeed, they’re even quick to abdicate such privilege and discuss ways in which we need to alter our society for greater levels of inclusion and sensitivity to our nonhuman animal brothers and sisters.

But when I start talking about how white privilege disenfranchises people of color in the same way, it’s a goddamn showcase showdown. Suddenly, my white vegan friends are quick to point out how they worked hard and sometimes they experienced adversity. None of this matters!!! You still hold power in a structure dominated by and cultivated to center whiteness. Some days, I’m just so damn tired of having to talk about this. But seriously, can we not make a space to understand how life operates differently for POC animal rights activists and allies? Damn.

 

Note 1: Individualism is not to be confused with individuality. The former is an ideology that supports capitalism; the latter refers to someone’s personal preferences and tastes.

References

Altheide, D. L. (2002). Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.

Current World Population. (2015, May 31). Retrieved from Worldmeters: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

Haberman, C. (2015, May 31). The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/01/us/the-unrealized-horrors-of-population-explosion.html?_r=0

Lombardo, P. A. (2008). Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buck v Bell. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lombardo, P. (n.d.). Eugenic Sterilization Laws. Retrieved from Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement: http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/essay8text.html

McDonough, K. (2014, September 15). Arizona GOPer quits after disgusting comment — but there’s a catch . Retrieved from SALON: http://www.salon.com/2014/09/15/arizona_goper_quits_after_disgusting_comment_but_theres_a_catch/

McDonough, K. (2014, September 15). Arizona GOPer quits after disgusting comment–but there’s a catch. Retrieved from SALON: http://www.salon.com/2014/09/15/arizona_goper_quits_after_disgusting_comment_but_theres_a_catch/

McKnight, T. (2014, August 4). Want to have a real impact on climate change? Then become a vegetarian. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/04/climate-change-impact-vegetarian

Naggiar, S. (2013, July 29). Victims of forced sterilization to receive $10 million from North Carolina. Retrieved from the Grio: http://thegrio.com/2013/07/29/victims-of-forced-sterilization-to-receive-10-million-from-north-carolina/

Norrgard, K. P. (2008). Human Testing, the Eugneics Movement, and IRBs. Retrieved from

Scitable A Collaborative Learning Space for Science: http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/Human-Testing-the-Eugenics-Movement-and-IRBs-724

Sebring, S. (2007, November 19). sterilization — black women. Retrieved from mississippi appendectomy, a developing online archive of information about women of color and coercive sterilization: https://mississippiappendectomy.wordpress.com/2007/11/19/black-women-in-the-1960s-and-1970s/

Senate Bill No. 1135. (2014, September 14). Retrieved from California Legislative Information: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB1135

vegan, p. a. (2015, May 14). Why “overpopulation” isn’t the real problem (Freelee response). Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nulTqmHH7eg&feature=youtu.be

Zeveloff, J. (2015, May 25). The ultimate status symbol for millionaire moms on New York’s Upper East Side is not what you’d expect. Retrieved from Yahoo! Finance: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/ultimate-status-symbol-among-millionaire-164732256.html

 

Michele Spino MartindillDr. Martindill earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Missouri and taught there in the Sociology Department, the Peace Studies Program and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Her areas of emphasis include political sociology, organizations and work, and social inequalities. Dr. Martindill’s dissertation focuses on the no-kill shelter social movement and is based on ethnographic research conducted during several years of working in an animal shelter. She is vegan, a feminist and is currently interested in the stories women tell through their needlework, including crochet, counted cross stitch and quilting. It is important to note that Dr. Martindill consistently uses her academic title in order to inspire women and members of other marginalized groups to pursue their dreams no matter what challenges those dreams may entail, and certainly one of her goals is to see more women in academia.