The Chinese Doctor Who Advocated Tofu for the US War Effort

According to the Smithsonian, Benjamin Franklin, an inventor, gastronome, and “founding father” of the United States introduced tofu in the mid-18th century. Likely not having had any direct experience with the product himself, he only mentions it in a letter composed to a colleague. In the letter, he discusses his research of a Dominican friar’s account of Chinese cuisine with specific mention of “teu-fu” as an intriguing type of cheese.

One has to wonder why the huge population of Chinese immigrants might not be credited with this honor. The first wave began in 1815, and, surely, these folks would have brought knowledge of their own traditional foods. Unlike Franklin, they would have had a great familiarity with soy.

In any case, the efforts of a Chinese doctor can certainly be credited for an all-out campaign to introduce and popularize soy at the height of the first world war. The first Chinese woman to earn a medical degree in the US, Yamei Kin collaborated with the American government in its search for efficient and nutritious foodstuffs in a time of great scarcity.

Dr. Kin insisted that the US stood to greatly benefit from Chinese soy (and Chinese culture more broadly) and the many creative dishes it could render. She was also clear that the intense anti-Chinese sentiment of the era, coupled with imperialist stereotypes that characterized Asians as malnourished and weak, should be challenged. Indeed, she was quite aware that the diet of the Chinese nation had much to do with American nativism:

The chief reason why people can live so cheaply in China and yet produce for that nation a man [sic] power so tremendous that this country must pass an Exclusion act against them is that they eat beans instead of meat.

New York Times. 1917. “Woman Off to China as Government Agent to Study Soy Bean: Dr. Kin.” New York Times, June 10, p. 65.

Although she was raised in Japan and spent considerable time in the US, she was an ardent advocate of her native China. More specifically, she busied herself aiding girls and women of the country, making regular return trips in service to feminism.

Kin herself was not vegan, but she was certainly critical of meat and dairy. The world, she explained,

cannot very well afford to wait to grow animals in order to obtain the necessary percentage of protein. Waiting for an animal to become big enough to eat is a long proposition. First you feed grain to a cow, and, finally, you get a return in protein from milk and meat. A terribly high percentage of the energy is long in transit from grain to cow to a human being. […]

Instead of taking the long and expensive method of feeding grain to an animal until the animal is ready to be killed and eaten, in China we take a shortcut by eating the soy bean, which is protein, meat, and milk in itself.

New York Times. 1917. “Woman Off to China as Government Agent to Study Soy Bean: Dr. Kin.” New York Times, June 10, p. 65.

She sympathized a bit with the animals themselves. In an interview with St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine, she explains:

The trouble with vegetarians was that they expected us to eat such awful things. I’m not a vegetarian, but I must admit that I find great satisfaction in being able to sit down to most of my meals without facing the fact that I am eating slices of what was once a palpitating little animal, filled with the joy of life. I shouldn’t be surprised if the soy bean will save the lives of many American animals.

Kin developed tofu provisions for the war effort and successfully taste-tested them with soldiers. Unfortunately, logistical difficulties in procuring and transporting soy prevented its largescale adoption.

American experiments with soy as a potential savior of the nation’s nutrition would persist after the war. We also have George Washington Carver to thank for this. A scientist and food inventor who had been born into slavery, he is most often celebrated for popularizing the many ways to cook with peanuts. He did the very same with soybeans.

Tofu did not take off in American cuisine until the 1960s thanks to the hippie commune movement. Residents began making tofu (and soy milk) on-premises to feed the community. Some of these folks went on to start businesses as the commune movement came to an end and the back-to-the-land bohemians went back to their 9 to 5’s. The popularity of “natural foods” that persisted thereon catapulted soy into the American imagination, where it remains today.

It is a rocky love affair. Soy is increasingly vilified for its environmental impact, particularly when it is grown as a monoculture. However, the vast majority of soy that is produced today goes toward livestock feed, completely undermining the original vision of Kin and Carver. America’s hamburger culture, sadly, would come to prominence. The dream of a tofu nation populated by liberated animals and fortified humans would not fully materialize. Not yet, anyway.


Corey Lee Wrenn

Dr. Wrenn is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She is the co-founder of the International Association of Vegan Sociologists. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and is a member of the Research Advisory Council of The Vegan Society. She has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute and has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Environmental Values, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis.

She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016), Piecemeal Protest: Animal Rights in the Age of Nonprofits (University of Michigan Press 2019), and Animals in Irish Society: Interspecies Oppression and Vegan Liberation in Britain’s First Colony (State University of New York Press 2021).

Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

Gender and Victorian Animal Advocacy

Although the nonhuman animal rights movement in the West is frequently framed by activists and remembered by historians as gender-neutral, Donald’s (2020) Women against Cruelty (which examines meeting notes and campaigning documents reaching back to the movement’s founding in the early 19th century) demonstrates just the opposite. Women’s affinity for anti-speciesist activism within the context of a prevailing sexism which pitted all female pursuits as lesser-than would prove a difficult hurdle to surmount with regard to social movement resonance. This is not to reify or reduce women’s contributions. Women against Cruelty catalogs a diversity of feminine and feminist approaches to advancing the interests of nonhuman animals: some religious, some scientific, and some intersectional. Many women favored educational outreach, while others relied on rational debate, shocking images, direct intervention, and legal resistance.

Donald showed that women’s efforts in some ways discredited the movement through feminine associations, but, in other ways, women also buoyed it with their consistent and energetic support. Women, it is clear, existed as the movement’s foundation, providing critical insight, labor, donations, and tactical innovations. As Donald uncovers, women consistently made up the majority of various organizations’ memberships as well. However, the strict gender norms of Victorian Britain ensured that their desire to participate in the public affairs of anti-speciesism would be difficult to reconcile with their expected domestic role as caretakers (and their supposed natural affinity to other animals, a connection that many women saw as a strength but many men saw as a reason to discredit them). The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), for instance, routinely confined women’s participation and restricted their leadership in campaigning.

To an extent, the tension between feminine and masculine social spheres actually reflected a tension between religiosity and the changing mores of the Industrial Revolution. Activism of the 18th and early 19th centuries was imbued with Biblical doctrine, but adherence to this approach would diverge under the growing influence of capitalism. Women, responsible as they were for upholding society’s morals, became agents of a romanticized Christian vision of equality and compassion, while men, privileged with the duty to advance society through industry and politics, became immediate opponents given the importance of speciesism (and other forms of domination) to this agenda. Thus, on one level, women and girls policed speciesist cruelty, but, on another, they also came to police the unchecked power of men who increasingly pushed the boundaries of social order through conquest, colonialism, and science. The treatment of nonhuman animals, in other words, came to symbolize the uncomfortable and monumental transition into modernity.

Read the full review here.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and is a member of the Research Advisory Council of The Vegan Society. She has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute and has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Environmental Values, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

Queer Appalachia and Vegan Activism


Photo Credit: Raymond Troumbly

By Z. Zane McNeill

People always assume that growing up queer in West Virginia was difficult, but I always tell them that I was bullied more for being vegan than being LGBTQIA+. I went vegetarian around the same time I realized that I had a crush on my best friend who was a girl. She was vegetarian too, and I was head over heels for her.  At 14, I went vegan after learning more about factory farming and the suffering that is connected to dairy and egg production. In high school and early college, influenced by Carol Adams, Josephine Donovan, and Alice Walker, I was an adamant believer that in order to be a feminist I needed to be vegan. This later extended to queer liberation as intrinsically intertwined with animal liberation.

In my early 20s, I found queer community in Appalachia thanks to the zine, artist, and activist project Queer Appalachia. Through their social media accounts, I found other queer southern projects that I  discovered, and subsequently collaborated and contributed to, like Bible Belt Queers, a community book project led by and for Southern queers, and Queering the Mountain, an art exhibition highlighting the work of Appalachian queers.  Inspired by these, I eventually started my own zine project called Marx in the Mountains, have been working on a community book project on queer(ing) Appalachia, and have recently released a collection highlighting queer vegan voices around the world under Sanctuary Publishers, a resource activism focused vegan book publisher.

People who weren’t raised in this part of the world tend to not fully understand the way in which Appalachia is not simply a place. ‘Appalachia’ is in and of itself a contested definition. Appalachia is a space containing around 25 million people, or around 8% of the US population. It stretches through thirteen states following the Appalachian mountain range from New York to Alabama. Beyond a stretch of land, it is an area historically comprised of marginalized people—Indigenous folk, immigrants working for the coal companies, and other impoverished people tied into a form of serfdom in late-stage capitalism. In What You’re Getting Wrong About Appalachia, Elizabeth Catte explains that Appalachia is “a political construction, a vast geographic region, and a spot that occupies an unparalleled place in our cultural imagination.”[1] She herself is hesitant to label the concept of Appalachian identity and usually works with those who self-identify as Appalachian instead, as historically who self-identify as Appalachian instead, considering that, historically, who counted as Appalachian was decided by those in power or with massive amounts of capital. It is more than a geographic region—it is an environmental space with a history of toxicity from natural resource extraction, a cultural construction fashioned by conservatives to support revisionist arguments of what ‘America’ is and what bodies represent ‘America’, and a politically contested space that pushes disadvantaged voices to the margins.

When I was growing up in Appalachia, I was mostly bored but managed to pick up activism from my family. My stepfather was a well-traveled kayaker, and my mother was an HIV+ advocate in West Virginia.  They were both schoolteachers, and I was lucky to grow up in the fun environment of music and books. However, to the dismay of the stepfather, I was more interested in reading Twilight than Marx. During the invasion of Iraq, my parents brought me with them to protests. The military practiced their maneuvers over our town, so my stepfather mowed a peace sign into our backyard. He delighted in knowing military pilots would gaze upon his anti-war protest while they performed their exercises. Both of my parents had a lot of gay friends and I was raised in the queer punk and art scenes in Morgantown—an environment a lot of people would be surprised existed in the mountains. Truthfully, growing up queer in West Virginia shaped my identity and understanding of self. I don’t feel the same way about my gender or sexuality as someone from the city might.

Coming to terms with being queer and coming out was awkward, but that was really it. In high school, when I came out as bi, I didn’t face discrimination—but people loved throwing their cafeteria food at me, showing me frogs they dissected, and stepping on bugs in front of me once they realized I was also vegan. At the same time, however, my friends and I had a Vegetarian Awareness Club and got a two-page spread in the yearbook. So, I would say that growing up vegan and queer in Appalachia was a weirdly empowering and isolating experience that informed my work in various animal welfare NGOs and queer grassroots organizing. My day-to-day life was continuously impacted by poverty, lack of transportation, and devastation by corporate greed. An area gutted by addiction, natural resource extraction, and neoliberalism left shadows on my friends’ faces and cuts on their arms. A lack of employment opportunities pushed the privileged out of the state to the cities, further pushing the marginalized into their homes with needles and pills. Being queer only makes sense to me with this as a backdrop. Constant violence has seemingly queered us all who are “from around here”.

I have seen progress as the years have passed, which is exciting in itself. In 2017,  Queer Appalachia released the zine Electric Dirt, and since its release, a community of LGBTQIA+ folks from Appalachia, the South, and the Rust Belt has sprung up around it fighting to show that the discourse surrounding Appalachia leaves queer, Indigenous, Black, POC, femme, and leftist voices out. Queer challenges normative generalizations about the culture of Appalachia and explores how queer folks define themselves and the region “within the intersections of coal mines and class, race and religion, food justice and colonialism.” Queer Appalachia, as an overarching work, has benefitted the marginalized folk of Appalachia, giving a wide-ranging audience to those too often denied a platform. Yet, despite this progress, I still felt alienated by some of the content produced by the LGBTIQA+ Southern and Appalachian community. I was disappointed that collectives focused on the intersections between queer life, the opioid epidemic, the carceral system, Indigenous and Black liberation, and leftist organizing but did not also embrace animal welfare and veganism. This continued to shadow my experiences growing up queer and vegan.

In Appalachia, corporations see people as expendable, just as nonhumans are seen as objects to be used. I felt strongly about the work of scholar-activists like Dr. Breeze Harper, Adams, Julia Feliz Brueck, and Aph and Syl Ko who have illustrated that nonhuman oppression is inherently intertwined with our own. Specifically, Feliz Brueck coined the term ‘consistent anti-oppression’ to describe how marginalizations are inherently connected and should be equally fought against, which makes sense to me.

Fueled by this framework, I approached Feliz Brueck, who also runs Sanctuary Publishers, about an anthology that would invite folks who identified at LGBTQIA+ and vegan to meditate on how their identities intersect, how being LGBTQIA+ affects their vegan activism, and what they would like to say to non-vegan LGBTQIA+ folk. The end result, which was recently released, was a book project that includes over 25 contributors—activists, scholars, artists, and writers who identify as LBTQIA+ and vegan—who explored the interconnections between social justice groups, building bridges between movements, and dismantling hierarchies between oppressed groups through consistent anti-oppression in this volume. In the book, known activists like Jasmin Singer speak about their initial work with AIDS Awareness, while scholar Margaret Robinson discusses how veganism ties into her decolonization as a two-spirit person, and Shiri Eisner speaks to her journey of coming out as a bisexual, genderqueer Mizrahi vegan. However, the focus is not on known activists, and that’s what makes this book and the work of Sanctuary Publishers different. Voices often denied a platform are able to have one if they choose to in written form.

Growing up queer and vegan in Appalachia was an experience that challenged metronormative stereotypes—happily queer in the holler, organizing Earthlings showings in West Virginia, and going on queer dates to a vegan-friendly co-op. Yet, I find a special kind of comfort knowing that those in other parts of the world from different cultures and life journeys understood me in a way that I had not felt before. Since embarking on the road to publish the queer vegan anthology, I found myself validated in both these identities—being vegan and queer—and in recognizing that they were always inherently connected to me, and that being vegan has informed my queer activism and vice versa. Queer vegans across the globe share this sentiment, perhaps because we have historically faced an otherization that has led to our own violence and marginalization.

I hope that vegans recognize the importance of embracing a veganism that is consistently against all oppression in an effort to ensure we recognize that the movement has work to do regarding how we avoid marginalization of others at the expense of nonhumans. I also hope that non-vegan LGBTQIA+ folks, especially my friends in the queer Appalachian community, recognize that our marginalization extends to others through our daily choices, and that in order to fight for our queer liberation, we must also fight for nonhuman animal rights.

[1] Catte, Elizabeth. What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia. Cleveland, OH: Belt Publishing, 2018, 10.


Zane McNeill is an independent scholar-activist from Appalachia. Their newly published book Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression edited by themselves and Julia Feliz Brueck explores the interconnections between social justice groups in order to consistently and effectively achieve liberation for all.

You can read more on intersections of queer activism and veganism in Queer and Trans Voices, available for purchase through Amazon website or Sanctuary Publishers Instagram.

Can Choice Feminism Advance Vegan Politics?

C. Lou Hamilton, Veganism Sex and Politics: Tales of Danger and Pleasure. HammerOn Press, 2019.

Hamilton’s Veganism, Sex and Politics offers an approachable feminist spin on modern veganism in the West while tackling the difficult conundrums and compromises sometimes associated with vegan-living in a non-vegan world. The book is aimed at non-vegans who may be sceptical of the white bourgeoisie veganism which is stereotypically depicted in the media, but it also speaks to seasoned vegans who may lack familiarity with critical feminist perspectives as they relate to relationships with food, consumption, and nonhuman animals. To that end, environmental debates, the limits of organic and “humane” production, white-centrism in vegan activism, and the reluctant reliance on speciesism in disabled and queer communities are analysed in Hamilton’s blend of autobiographical musings and theoretical explorations.

At times, however, this critique pays only lip service to leading theory without substantially engaging it. For instance, while Hamilton rehashes the discourse on “dreaded comparisons,” repeating the arguments already well-articulated by Kim Socha (2013), Breeze Harper (2010), and Lee Hall (2010) with regard to resisting the highly problematic tradition in the vegan movement of comparing the institutionalized violence against animals to that which is also imposed on Africans under slavery and Jews under Nazi persecution, Hamilton stops short of extending this critique to the systematic exploitation of women. Hamilton only briefly refers to the work of Carol Adams (2000) with an unsubstantiated suggestion that her “anti-pornography feminism” obscures women’s agency and satisfaction with sex work.

Thus “choice feminism” (the reduction of collective struggle into a buffet of consumer and lifestyle options from which each individual may pick and choose) is introduced to reframe widespread violence against women as either a) blown out of proportion by Adams and her ilk or b) inaccurate given that women “choose” to work in prostitution and pornography. Adams’ theory, furthermore, is described as a disrespectful and clumsy attempt at intersectionality given that women supposedly participate freely in and benefit from Western sexual politics unlike Nonhuman Animals in their respective spaces of oppression. Such a provocative claim would require greater engagement with Adams’ work as well as some scientific evidence, as, firstly, the majority of women (and girls) enter sex work out of economic duress or active pimping and, secondly, sex slavery remains a leading form of bondage globally (Jeffreys 2009). Sex work and sex slavery, for that matter, are the most dangerous fields of “employment” with exceedingly high levels of threat, injury, and death.

Celebrating the agency of a small percentage of persons who enter and remain in the sex industry of their own free will obscures culturally normative misogyny (as well as heterosexism and cis-sexism as LGBT minorities are disproportionately represented in this industry). With regard to vegan politics, choice feminism’s campaign to legalize and normalize prostitution makes for an awkward analogy for other animals. How Hamilton can suggest that institutionalised speciesism should not (or could not) be regulated and reformed to liberate nonhumans while also failing to extend that same logic to women and girls is puzzling and unconvincing. Both sexism and speciesism rely on the pleasurable consumption of feminized and oppressed bodies by the patriarchal dominant class.

Hamilton’s pro-prostitution position likely stems from their commitment to queer politics which, while arguably problematic when used to protect and legitimize male entitlement to feminized bodies, do hold relevance in challenging hetero-patriarchal society’s stigmatization of feminine and queer sexuality and its desire to control bodies deemed “other.” To that end, Hamilton provides and interesting analysis of “fur” and “leather” in the LGBT community. Both products are shaped by class, gender, and colonial relations, making their disruption difficult, but Hamilton suggests a re-envisioning through vegan alternatives which pay homage to nonhuman identities and difference.

Although Hamilton seeks life-affirming species-inclusive alternatives in these cases, their presentation of disability politics is decidedly human-first. In the feminist tradition of challenging androcentric scientific authority, Hamilton encourages those living with disability and illness to become their own experts and engage in speciesism at their own level of comfort. True, the science as an institution has been a source of considerable oppression for marginalized groups and agency over one’s own body and well-being is critical, but Hamilton’s prescription risks fanning scientific distrust to the point of recklessness (particularly in light of the success of the anti-vaccination movement). Further, by encouraging individuals to become their own medical expert and self-experiment with the consumption of other animals, veganism seems to dissipate into a postmodern soup of individual subjectivity and increasing uselessness as a form of political resistance. Given the normative attitudes of cynicism and apathy in the Western vegan movement toward science, Hamilton’s position, while geared toward affirming the individual experience with disability, may be a precarious one.

Hamilton evidently adopts the myth promulgated by professionalized Nonhuman Animal rights organizations that vegans somehow ascribe to an unrealistic level of purity. This strawperson argument, however, lacks validity. In the age of competitive nonprofitization in the social movement arena, the pure vegan stereotype is engaged to legitimize the compromised approaches to animal advocacy (namely, reforming speciesist industries or promoting reducitarianism). These soft tactics are effective for fundraising but run counter to veganism’s political aims of total liberation, thus necessitating some semantical negotiations and vegan stigmatization (Wrenn 2019a). Few, if any, vegans expect faultlessness, and, indeed, The Vegan Society has always, from its founding, emphasized practicality over perfection (Wrenn 2019b). In the case of disability and illness, no one would reasonably expect patients to become martyrs and forgo treatments developed through vivisection or medications containing trace amounts of animal products.

As such, Hamilton’s repeated beleaguering of veganism has the cumulative effect of decentering Nonhuman Animals, particularly in their effort to validate each person’s individual desire, comfort, choice, and ultimately human privilege of determining what counts as “practical.” To this point, it would be useful if Hamilton had extended their analysis beyond feminist theory and applied social movement theory to introduce much-needed evidence-based social science on movement identity politics and effective mobilization. At the very least, more clearly acknowledging how their own take on veganism is far from the widely-embraced or authoritative position would have brought greater credibility and consistency to Veganism, Sex and Politics. Vegan feminism is more of a matter of personal opinion, individual spin, and choice. The celebration of difference, agency, and pleasure-seeking must be matched with a commitment to solidarity, collective struggle, and some degree of sacrifice. Unfortunately, Hamilton’s anthropocentric narrative hesitates on how to effectively negotiate human diversity politics with the interests of other animals.

References

Adams, C. (2000). The sexual politics of meat. New York: Continuum.

Hall, L. (2010). On their own terms: bringing animal-rights philosophy down to earth. Darien: Nectar Bat Press.

Harper, B. (2010). Sistah vegan. Brooklyn: Lantern.

Jeffreys, S. (2009). The industrial vagina: the political economy of the global sex trade. New York: Routledge.

Socha, K. (2013). The ‘dreaded comparisons’ and speciesism: leveling the hierarchy of suffering. In K. Socha and S. Blum (Eds.), Confronting animal exploitation (223-240). Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Wrenn, C. (2016). A rational approach to animal rights. London: Palgrave.

Wrenn, C. (2019a). Piecemeal protest: Animal rights in the age of nonprofits. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Wrenn, C. (2019b). From seed to fruition: a political history of The Vegan Society. Food and foodways 27(3), 190-210.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and is a member of the Research Advisory Council of The Vegan Society. She has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute and has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Environmental Values, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

Why Food Justice is a Feminist Issue

In an interview with Alternet’sHere’s Why Our Food Systems are a Central Feminist Issue,” I was asked to elaborate on women’s contributions to critical food justice and how current sexual politics inhibit or even invisiblize women’s contributions today.

Both the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and the environmental movement, I note, were established by women who strategically employed stereotypes about women’s proper role in nurturing and caring. This strategy was necessary to gain access to the public sphere in an era in which women were expected to remain inside the home and well outside of politics.

Unfortunately, this feminization persists in modern food justice efforts. Sociological and psychological research supports that environmental and vegan campaigns and products are less likely to find male support simply due to this feminization. This gender divide translates into a serious barrier to success given that men’s recognition is necessary for a movement to gain legitimacy in a patriarchal society.

Rather than celebrate women’s contributions to anti-speciesist efforts, the vegan movement has opted to elevate men in campaigning and leadership. This, to me, is indicative of intersectional failure. Patriarchal bargains are unlikely to liberate Nonhuman Animals given the historical relationship between sexism and speciesism:

… the fact that men have to be involved to bring legitimacy to a cause demonstrates that we still haven’t come to terms with the underlying ideological roots to oppression.

Readers can access the entire interview here.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Corey Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology and past Director of Gender Studies (2016-2018) with Monmouth University. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016). Subscribe to Dr. Wrenn’s newsletter for research updates.

Is This What Vegan Looks Like?

In the June 2018 issue of Women’s Health UK, I was interviewed on the prevailing stereotype of angry vegans that has dominated British media in recent months. In the article, I clarify that, although most animal rights activists and vegans are women, patriarchal norms endemic to society and social movements push men (especially hegemonic ones) to the spotlight. It’s not an especially fair portrayal and neither is it representative:

Whereas women, who are well aware that their emotionality will be framed as “hysterical,” tend to focus more on mediation, education and community-building. It’s tragic that long-standing peaceful leaders in the vegan movement are suddenly being held accountable for the actions of an extreme few.

Readers can access the entire interview here.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and served as Director of Gender Studies with a New Jersey liberal arts college 2016-2018. She also served as council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association and was elected chair in 2018. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.