Vegan Bros: The Way to a Meat-Eater’s Heart is Through His Vagina

Content Warning: Sexism and trans-antagonismMeme produced by Vegan Bros which reads: "The Way to a Man's Heart is Through His Stomach: Unless He Eats Meat, Then It's Through His Vagina!"

There are a number of things wrong with Vegan Bros (a weight-loss business that banks on sizeism, thin-privilege, and fat-shaming to sell products and programs), but their recently published vagina burger meme really takes the cake.

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Posted on the Vegan Bros Facebook page on November 22nd, 2015, the meme reads:

THE WAY TO A MAN’S HEART IS THROUGH HIS STOMACH…UNLESS HE EATS MEAT, THEN IT’S THROUGH HIS VAGINA!

In addition to being extremely misogynistic, the meme is also trans-antagonistic. According to Vegan Bros, to have a vagina is to be lesser and/or to be a man with a vagina is to be lesser.1

The Abolitionist Vegan Society agrees, strongly condemning the message. Vegan Bros responded with pleasure at the offense it caused, citing it as “validation” for their cause:

When the Abolitionist Vegan Society hates on your post you know you’re doing something right.

Recent essays posted on the Vegan Bros website mirror this violent rhetoric. For instance, one post that declares animal ingredients in man-friendly products like beer are actually vegan (as though thousands of vegan-friendly beers were not readily available). Those who disagree with their patriarchal entitlements are referred to as a “piece of shit.”2

Vegan Bros sitting in a bar

Vegan Bros

As Cheryl Abbate has discussed in an earlier essay with Vegan Feminist Network, the promotion of masculinity and “real manhood” in vegan spaces inevitably upholds violent gender norms and attitudes associated with masculinity and patriarchal rule:

Let us recall what the message of animal liberation entails: one of the goals of the animal liberation movement involves challenging the model of dominance by rethinking why we give privilege to and admire “dominant” or “stronger” beings. Yet, when organizations use bodybuilders to sell the vegan message, they send the opposite, dangerous message: masculinity is preferable to the feminine and there is a hierarchy where the masculine reign and dominate at the top.

Not only does this idea endanger women, but the idea that there is a dichotomy between the masculine and feminine disadvantages animals, since animals are identified as part of “nature”- and nature is in turn identified with the feminine.

Indeed, Vegan Bros bills itself as “[ . . . ] a movement dedicated to raising up an army of fit, sexy vegan soldiers [ . . .], making the language of domination, force, and anti-femininity part of its brand.

I am skeptical that there is room for masculinity in the vegan world we seek. Masculinity relies on hierarchy and violence, and is thus deeply counter-intuitive to our goals.3

In the comments following the publication of the meme, Vegan Bros sought to clarify their intentions and wrote: “Most feminist vegans understand what we are doing with this post.”  Yes. I understand very well. I know bigotry when I see it.

 

Notes:
1. Women and female body parts are regularly used throughout the website to degrade and humiliate a presumably male audience. For example, in a post about Thanksgiving, Vegan Bros infers that being vegan is “badass”: “Extending your circle of empathy and compassion is [not] for pussies.”

2. Ableism is also regularly utilized, with detractors labeled “fucking stupid.

3. Male-identified Professor Gary Francione has chimed in to position my feminist “complaining” as “idiotic”:

"I certainly do not agree with people who complain that anyone who does not think they're just 'awesome" are sexist/racist/evil, etc.; indeed, I think that is very harmful in various ways. And I agree that it is beyond idiotic to claim that the use of "Bros" per se is inherently sexist."

“I certainly do not agree with people who complain that anyone who does not think they’re just ‘awesome’ are sexist/racist/evil, etc.; indeed, I think that is very harmful in various ways. And I agree that it is beyond idiotic to claim that the use of ‘Bros’ per se is inherently sexist.”

 


Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with 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. She was awarded the 2016 Exemplary Diversity Scholar 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 (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

“The AK47 I Have Sitting Conveniently Beside My Coffee Machine”: Benevolent Sexism and Veganism

Content Warning: Contains sexist and ableist language in addition to threats of violence.

Photo of owner from White Moose Cafe Facebook page. Caption reads, "If you do happen to see Paul in the café, it is strongly advised that you do not approach him with any complaints. This is in the interest of your own safety, as well as the safety of others around you."

Photo of owner from White Moose Cafe Facebook page, Paul Stenson. Caption reads, “If you do happen to see Paul in the café, it is strongly advised that you do not approach him with any complaints. This is in the interest of your own safety, as well as the safety of others around you.”

What happens when a seemingly “vegan-friendly” restaurant gets a reaction it doesn’t want?

Apparently vegans can’t take a joke. Or at least that’s what the owner of Dublin-based restaurant Paul Stenson envisions as he grapples with a torrent of customer backlash.

The cafe reportedly published some snarky comments about vegans, only to experience a retaliation in bad reviews. From there, things escalated quickly.

An anti-cafe page emerged, then and anti-anti page emerged. Online networks were activated, and vegans came in droves to drive down the review rating of the restaurant. Stenson then began monitoring reviews and posting increasingly hostile public announcements on the Facebook page.

The show that has ensued makes for an amazing example of what can happen when male privilege is challenged by feminine forces.

First, presumably male customers are invited to bond (and become aroused) over the domination of feminized bodies:

Facebook post from WMC: "A warm welcome to everyone joining us from the Chef Memes page. You are guaranteed a good time here on our page. There are lots of psychotic vegans to make fun of, and lots of mouth-watering meat dish pics to become aroused by. I wish you a very pleasant stay at The White Moose Café."

Another response (likely due to his suspicion that many of the fake reviewers were American) was to fabricate “joking” threats to assault vegans with a high powered rifle. For Americans, mass shootings are a reality, and the owner intentionally draws on this trauma to demean and intimidate.

Facebook post by WMC in response to a visitor who was sharing advice on how to report the owner's threats to the police "For any vegans worried about the mass shooting I am going to commit with the AK47 I have sitting conveniently beside my coffee machine, please see this advice from Ciara Norton. When you call the station and the Garda laughs at you, please remember that it's not because you are a vegan, it's because you are a fucking sap with the intelligence of a hot dog."

WMC Facebook post: **SPECIAL OFFER ON FULL IRISH BREAKFAST - ONE DAY ONLY** Seeing as we have had so many vegans trying to 'turn' us over the past day or two, it's now our turn to try to 'turn' them! For one day only, our delicious, meat-rich, Full Irish breakfast is ONLY €5 (usually €11.95). We guarantee that any vegans who try this will never look back! P.S. Don't forget your bullet-proof vests!

Not surprisingly, ableism is at the root of most interactions, as is misogyny:

WMC Facebook post: "**FOR THE ATTENTION OF THE VEGANS PROTESTING OUTSIDE THE CAFE** Please be advised that our café operates during day time hours only. Our opening hours are clearly visible on both our Facebook page and our website. You might want to familiarise yourself with these before you turn up at the café door looking like complete and utter twats."

Apparently White Moose Cafe also has some serious issues with ethnocentrism and racism, having caught fire in the past for unapologetically  hiring “Irish Only.” The restaurant is also openly hostile to poor and/or homeless persons, discouraging unworthy clientele from visiting its establishment. Owner Stenson writes:

Look we’re not a charity, if you want charity then go to a homeless shelter or sleep with a dog at the DSPCA [Dublin’s SPCA], you have to be firm with this otherwise people will walk all over you.

It is not uncommon for men and patriarchal spaces to react in this way. This is because male power is protected and replicated by 1. Dominating feminized bodies; 2. Denigrating all that is feminine; and 3. Using force and violence.

But, wait, what happened? Wasn’t this restaurant supposed to be vegan-friendly?

Feminists are often critical of benevolent sexism, that seemingly positive “special treatment” given to women that is generally rooted in discrimination and wields the potential for violence. “Cat-calling,” for instance, is supposedly just well-meaning guys “complimenting” women they don’t know on the street. In reality, it’s a show of male power over the public space and a not-so-subtle reminder to women that their existence in that space is conditional and vulnerable. If the men cat-calling do not get the response they want, women know all too well that things can become extremely threatening very quickly as men seek to establish dominance and exert male entitlement.

I see a similar pattern in the vegan/nonvegan interactions. In the case of White Moose Cafe, apparently some vegan options are offered on the menu, but if vegans step out of their place in the hierarchy (pushing back against anti-vegan “jokes”), patriarchal dominance will be enacted. White Moose Cafe does this by 1. Dominating feminized bodies (reminding the audience that the real heart of the business is hurting Nonhuman Animals; offering specials for Nonhuman Animal corpses); 2. Denigrating all that is feminine (using speciesist, misogynist, and ableist insults); and 3: Using force and violence (posting aggressive announcements and threatening a mass shooting).

Beware of benevolent sexism. When the male entitlement to feminized bodies is challenged, violence is often the next recourse to maintain dominance and power.

 

Note: While Irish gun control is quite strong and the possibility of Stenson committing a mass shooting is rather small, it is also important to consider the considerable white privilege he is able to engage by repeatedly making public threats without fear of police intervention.


Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with 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. She was awarded the 2016 Exemplary Diversity Scholar 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 (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

Men Gnawing on Steaks

Man in a suit sits in front of a plate with a raw steak, knife and fork poised in his fists on the table

Following my essay on Women Laughing Alone with Salads, a colleague became curious and googled what we might consider to be the reverse: men eating steaks. What he found, and what I was able to verify in my own Google image search, was the repeated theme of men gnashing their teeth at a big slab of flesh, often with a fork and knife firmly planted on either side of its plate.

Rather primordial, these images seem to read, “I AM MAN; MAN NEED MEAT.” The firm, just-slammed look of his fists and the strong grip they have on the utensils are rather common gender codes that present men as in control and in command over their surroundings.

Man gnawing on raw steak

Interestingly, the steaks are almost always shown uncooked. The intention is likely to portray men’s flesh-consumption (a very unnatural behavior) as natural. This is underscored by the frequency of stock photographs that show men consuming the steak directly without the help of utensils, gnawing on the flesh as though they were a carnivorous nonhuman species.

Interestingly, when I searched for images of women eating steaks, time and time again, they are grappling with raw flesh positioned above the head as though overwhelmed (people don’t eat upside down). It also seems to suggest subservience, a subservience that is frequently sexualized through pose and nudity. When she is using utensils, she is more likely to be handling them weakly or in an unsure manner.

Woman Eating Steak

Overall, images of women eating steaks are few, as the notion is contrary to gender norms. When pictured at all, it is clear that the gender hierarchy must be preserved by demonstrating that flesh consumption (an act of domination and power) is less natural and more awkward for women.

Women Cutting Steak

Meat acts as a symbol of masculinity. Therefore, men interact with meat to demonstrate their prowess, while women interact with meat to demonstrate their subservience

Fisicoculturistas Veganos, Hombres Músculo, y el Físico Masculino: Por Qué Promover lo Masculino es Dañino para el Movimiento de la Liberación Animal

 

Muscled man's chest and arms, holding large floret of broccoli

Translation by Mariángel Villalobos. You can follow her on Twitter @mvillabe. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

PETA y otras campañas de liberación animal son comúnmente criticadas por explotar los cuerpos de las mujeres de una manera sexualmente provocativa en campañas para los animales no humanos. A través de estas campañas, las mujeres son motivadas a prostituir sus cuerpos desnudos en la calle, todo para llamar la atención a la situación de los animales no humanos. Mi amiga y colega Corey Wrenn llama la atención sobre los efectos dañinos de usar el sexo para vender el caso de los derechos de los animales, señalando que “la degradación de la mujer socialmente aceptada y su objetificación sexual está directamente conectada a la discriminación y violencia en contra de la mujer.”

Mientras que estoy de acuerdo de que tácticas como las de PETA dañan a la mujer y que estos trucos perpetúan la objetificación de la mujer, que de vuelta engendra violencia sexual, me gustaría señalar que hay otra manera en que las campañas de liberación animal comúnmente dañan a los animales y a las mujeres al mismo tiempo: al usar la masculinidad para promover el veganismo.

No es poco común ver organizaciones de liberación animal, como Vegan Outreach  ilustrar en sus panfletos cómo uno puede mantener su masculinidad en una dieta vagana. De hecho, en el panfleto de Vegan Outreach “Even if You Like Meat” (Aunque te Guste la Carne) ellos incluyen una foto de un fisicoculturista Robert Cheeke en una camiseta que lee “Vegan Bodybuilder” (Fisicoculturista Vegano), dando la aprobación para llamar la atención a sus hinchados músculos. Publicidad como esta perpetúa el siguiente mensaje: puedes ser vegano y también tener tu masculinidad.

Pausemos por un momento para considerar qué es la masculinidad y por qué es dañina.

La masculinidad se relaciona con las expectativas de la sociedad para los hombres; hay ciertos roles de género que son vistos como apropiados para que los hombres fomenten. Mientras que los roles

de género son comúnmente definidos como “un set de expectativas para comportarse, pensar y sentir, que son basados en el sexo biológico de una persona,” la masculinidad es un set de roles de género, comportamientos, y aspectos de personalidad esperados de “hombres reales”: fuertes, independientes, con metas, trabajadores, dominantes, heterosexuales, vigorosos, agresivos, no emocionales, físicos, competitivos, enérgicos (KIlmartin 1994, 7-17).

La idea de que la masculinidad es responsable por la violencia, incluyendo los asaltos sexuales, es raramente cuestionada. Como Kilmartin señala, la gran mayoría de actos violentos son cometidos por los hombres, llevándonos a concluir que hay una alta relación entre la masculinidad y la agresión (KIlmartin 1994, 211). De acuerdo al FBI (2011), aproximadamente 90% de los crímenes violentos en los Estados Unidos son cometidos por hombres.

Además de la relación entre la masculinidad y la violencia, la masculinidad es asumida como la responsable de la violencia sexual, ya que “los asaltos sexuales son casi exclusivamente perpetuados por los hombres” (KIlmartin 1994, 212). En su estudio transcultural sobre el abuso sexual, Sanday (1981) reporta que las sociedades con un alto índice de violaciones “toleran la violencia y fomentan a los hombres y niños a ser fuertes, agresivos y competitivos.” De la misma manera, Kilmartin (2005, 1) sugiere que “la socialización de los hombres para que sean agresivos y iniciadores sexuales, su desproporcionado poder social y organizativo, y su habilidad para intimidar basado en superior tamaño y masa muscular“ puede explicar el fenómeno de los asaltos sexuales llevado a cabo por hombres. La moral de historia, entonces, es que, “la masculinidad es uno de los más poderosos contextos en los cuales los asaltos sexuales ocurren” Kilmartin (2005, 1).

Cuando usamos individuos como Robert Cheeke, cuya imagen ilustra lo masculino, para promover el veganismo, perpetuamos la idea de que la masculinidad es un tipo de ideal que los “hombres reales” deberían esforzarse para alcanzar. Sin embargo, si la masculinidad es responsable de la violencia, especialmente la violencia en contra de los débiles o “femeninos”, entonces deberíamos pausar para considerar si hace sentido que usemos este tipo de tácticas de mercadeo para enviar un mensaje vegano.

Recordemos qué es lo que el mensaje de liberación animal conlleva: una de las metas del movimiento de la liberación animal incluye desafiar el modelo de dominio al repensar por qué nosotros damos privilegio y admiramos a los seres “dominantes” o “fuertes”. Sin embargo, cuando las organizaciones usan a los fisicoculturistas para vender el mensaje vegano, envían el mensaje opuesto, un mensaje peligroso: la masculinidad es preferida sobre lo femenino y hay una jerarquía donde lo masculino reina y domina sobre los demás.

Esta idea no solo pone en peligro a las mujeres, pero la idea de que hay una dicotomía entre lo masculino y lo femenino pone en desventaja a los animales, ya que los animales son identificados como parte de la “naturaleza” – y la naturaleza es de vuelta identificada con lo femenino.

Si queremos erradicar la explotación de los animales, debemos desafiar la idea de que “no importa por qué alguien es vegano, simplemente importa el que ellos son veganos.” Por que el que alguien sea vegano importa si nuestra metal final es completar la liberación animal. Si uno no comprende que los principios de fondo detrás del veganismo ético, como el rechazo al dominio de la jerarquía, entonces qué va a prevenir que él explote animales en situaciones que le permiten expresar su masculinidad, como en las corridas de toros, la caza de animales, etcétera? La masculinidad es un mensaje peligroso de mandar, y si podemos promover los beneficios para la salud del veganismo sin tener que recurrir a las imágenes de la masculinidad, por qué las organizaciones de liberación animal como Vegan Outreach se centrar en hacer esto mismo?

Por 1LT Cheryl Abbate

 

It’s a Man’s World for Talking Dogs

Closeup of a collie chewing food and talking from Beneful commercial

Why is it that almost every voice-over for dogs in commercials for flea & tick medication, pet food, or treats is masculine?

 


First, animals for whom we do not know the sex or gender we often presume to be male by default. Secondly, canines in particular tend to be masculinized. However, the predominance of masculine voices in media is well documented. Human or nonhuman, it really speaks to the patriarchal dominance of public spaces and experiences.1

Feminine voices only seem to be consistently ascribed to Nonhuman Animals on television in dairy commercials featuring farmed cows. These voices are often matronly, as well, likely in an attempt to frame the product as something that is nurturing, healthful, and familial.

 


One exception can be found in the 2015 Yoplait commercial that gives a masculine French voice to an American female-bodied dairy cow. In fact, cows are frequently represented as male despite being female-bodied.2 This not only demonstrates a general ignorance about the American food system, but it also lends evidence to the male-as-default schema.

Notes:

1. Voice-overs are also white-dominated, with few ethnic intonations represented.

2. Gender and sex are not one in the same of course, but human constructions of gender in the nonhuman world are even less consistent and tend to reflect gender hierarchies.

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with 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. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

Miss Molly & Masculinity

Trigger Warning: Contains a graphic description of violence against a Nonhuman Animal and a discussion of domestic violence.

Closeup of emu face

Nonhuman Animal rights groups have been circulating a horrific story of the kidnapping, battering, torture, and murder of a female emu by high school football players at a party:

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015, eighteen-year old student Cassius Mankin entered the property of Bob and Carol Falk in Comanche County, Texas with several other people, both minors and adults. They took the couple’s emu to a party where they allegedly punched out her eyes and choked her to death. Police charged Mankin, a high school football player, with felony animal abuse.

How did this happen? A few bad apples? No, this incident is much more insidious . . . it is systemic. What happened to Miss Molly the emu reflects the power of masculinity and the normalization of violence against feminized bodies.

Violence against the vulnerable in highly-masculinized spaces such as football team parties and frat houses is a phenomenon that is increasingly gaining media attention. Importantly, as the crimes continue to pile up and are kept visible and relevant thanks to the efforts of feminist activists, the facade of gender neutrality in reporting is beginning to lift. That is, the narrative of crime and violence is more likely to acknowledge that there are gendered patterns in this behavior. This isn’t just a perpetrator that happens to be male and a victim that happens to be female. We are starting to recognize that we live in a system where men are socialized to be aggressive and violent, a system where men must prove their masculinity by enacting dominance and control over the vulnerable.

In reading the report of Miss Molly’s terrible death, if we did not know she was a bird, we might easily imagine the victim was a human female. This universality is key–masculine violence knows no species barrier. Patriarchy is a system that privileges men and exploits and terrorizes all feminized bodies.

These connections are essential to recognize for anyone hoping to dismantle oppression. For Nonhuman Animal rights activists, it is important to recognize the violence faced by women, as it supports the violence experienced by other animals. For domestic violence activists and social workers, it is important to recognize how men hurt animals like men hurt women. Fortunately, it is common for social workers to be trained to identify these connections when interviewing clients or performing house visits. Social services departments are aware that when Nonhuman Animals are being abused, it is likely that humans in the home are as well.

Great. Now . . . what about the Nonhuman Animal rights movement? It’s time to acknowledge that women matter because masculinity matters. A single-issue movement that frames vegan feminism as “selfish” or “speciesist” wholly misses the point.