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).

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Mariage et Patriarcat

Translation by Hypathie: Feminist and Anti-Speciesist Blog. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

Anita Magsaysay-Ho "Women Feeding Chickens"

By Marv Wheale

Le mariage est une institution ancienne, en même temps que contemporaine. Son aspect culturel réside dans sa capacité à appeler des aspirations telles que l’amour, le bonheur et l’identité. Le cérémonial du mariage lie ensemble des individus à la poursuite d’un avenir satisfaisant et comblé.

Vous ne pouvez pas reprocher à des couples de vouloir une vie merveilleuse, mais le mariage pose pourtant de nombreux problèmes. Je vais en examiner deux :

– Il occulte les inégales conditions sociales des hommes et des femmes ;
– Il dévalorise les autres relations intimes non sexualisées : amicales, fraternelles (entre frères et sœurs) et entre humains et autres animaux, en les renvoyant à un statut inférieur.

La politique sexuelle autour du mariage

Le mariage en tant que dispositif établi par la société dissimule les divisions de pouvoir entre hommes et femmes face à l’intimité qu’ils partagent. Plus simplement, les femmes n’ont pas un statut égal à celui des hommes même quand l’affection qu’ils partagent est profonde : l’assignation aux rôles sexuels / travail reproductif non payé / salaires inégaux sur le marché du travail / participation des hommes disproportionnée aux gouvernements / manque de représentation des femmes à la tête des grandes compagnies, dans la police, les cours de justice et l’Armée / le harcèlement sexuel, le viol, les violences conjugales et le meurtre / l’objettisation sexuelle dans la pornographie, les autres médias et la prostitution. Tous ces facteurs se mêlent à d’autres et sont aggravés par l’ethnie, la classe économique, le handicap, la taille, et l’âge.

Parce que le mariage obscurcit ces inégalités et désavantages, il rend plus difficile l’organisation contre le pouvoir mâle. La mobilisation d’énergie est divertie vers les “intérêts du mariage” qui engloutissent des tonnes de ressources matérielles et émotionnelles en quelque chose qui ne peut satisfaire nos désirs les plus profonds. Il est essentiellement contre-productif d’investir autant dans un but incapable de tenir ses promesses aux hommes et aux femmes en tant que groupes sociaux. De toutes les identités qui affirment la subordination des femmes au patriarcat, le mariage est une des plus influentes.

Les mariages LGBTQ+ en sont une réforme, mais ils ne peuvent pas préserver des sanctions d’une institution fabriquée par la société patriarcale. Toute amélioration du système finit par le légitimer. Pensez aux proclamations du capitalisme végane, aux mesures de bien-être animal, à la pornographie féministe, au travail du sexe…, tous hérauts de la libération. Ces mouvements contradictoires ne peuvent apporter de résultats en vue d’une émancipation. Ils sont tous des illusions libérales.

Les outsiders

Pour mieux appréhender les implications du mariage, vous devez reconnaître la situation où il place celles/ceux hors de ses frontières. Les non mariés sont relégués dans une position sociale subordonnée au motif qu’illes n’atteignent pas le modèle marital. Vivre à l’intérieur de différentes autres unions vous donne un statut inférieur. C’est évident non seulement au niveau de la non reconnaissance culturelle, mais également dans les lois des états. Les relations contractuelles des sexes dans le mariage, reconnues par l’état permettent toutes sortes d’avantages : des réductions d’impôts, des prêts bancaires, l’accès à l’adoption d’enfants, l’accès aux avantages sociaux du partenaire, des privilèges d’assurances santé, des droits de visite à l’hôpital, des directives pré-décès, des droits du survivant, des droits à l’héritage, des droits à l’immigration, et tous les avantages des proches-parents.

Les contre-arguments aux critiques du mariage

Des gens vous diront que c’est une simplification que de voir le mariage comme irrémédiablement sexiste, surpassant toute autre relation platonique. Après tout, des quantités de femmes sont heureuses dans le mariage. De ce point de vue, plus de sensibilité et de crédit devraient être donnés aux exemples particuliers de mariages où les deux époux s’alignent sur les objectifs féministes, et qui respectent le pluralisme des relations des non mariés ; ils proposent que tous les avantages légaux et économiques du mariage soient étendus aux relations alternatives.

De plus, de nombreux couples issus des classes moins privilégiées pensent que le mariage est un refuge : contre la suprématie blanche, l’adversité économique, le capacitisme dominant, et la primauté hétérosexuelle. Ils proclament que bien que le mariage a des inconvénients pour les femmes, il est moins pénalisant que les pesants problèmes imposés par le racisme, le classisme, le capacitisme ou l’hétérosexisme. Ce qui est important pour elles/eux, c’est de centrer le mariage sur la réciprocité et la résistance aux injustices sociales. Dans ces cas, le mariage est estimé fortifier la classe laborieuse, les combats contre le racisme, ceux des handicapés et des LGBTQ+ : en retour, le mariage s’en retrouve fortifié.

Les mariages entre véganes aussi sont vus comme un moyen d’exprimer publiquement un attachement émotionnel, des valeurs communes pour la cause de la libération animale. Ce raisonnement et ces sentiments sont similaires aux autres mariages axés sur la justice sociale.

Dernières remarques

Non, tous les mariages ne sont pas égaux, mais la querelle contre le mariage est politique, car il est une entité politique.

L’idée du mariage, bon ou mauvais, faisant consensus, dépendant du respect mutuel, de l’affection et de la solidarité, masque la réalité des classes de sexe et la privatisation des femmes dans l’institution. Il dévalue celles/ceux qui ne veulent pas en être culturellement et légalement, refusant d’être ébranlés par l’optimisme progressiste des gens mariés à l’esprit aussi ouvert soit-il.

Certainement que l’intimité et l’activisme politique sont accessibles hors liens maritaux.La violence des hommes contre les femmes est un système de pouvoir qui s’exprime majoritairement dans les liens du mariage. Pourquoi promouvoir un système oppressif qui masque l’occupation structurelle des hommes de la vie des femmes ?

Ne pourrions nous pas rendre l’intersectionnalité plus inclusive vis à vis des femmes battues en critiquant le mariage comme une fabrication sociale ? Nous savons que le genre, la race, le capacitisme, la classe, sont des constructions sociales, pourquoi ne pourrions-nous pas dire que le mariage en est une aussi ? Tendons-nous à nous accrocher socialement à des habitudes apprises qui nous empêchent de questionner en profondeur nos visions du monde ?

Je ne demande pas aux gens mariés de se séparer ou de divorcer. Ce serait arrogant, inconséquent et absurde. Ce n’est pas la faute des individus s’ils ont été socialisés par des normes et des valeurs. Mon invitation est de mettre de côté nos résistances aux questionnements et de soumettre nos institutions sociales à l’épreuve de la pensée, du ressenti et du vivre.


Marv is a moderator for the Vegan Feminist Network Facebook page.

Why I’m Giving Beyoncé’s Vegan Campaign a Chance

Beyoncé and Jay-Z shocked mainstream news and vegan activists alike when they announced that fans who pledge to go plant-based have a chance to win free tickets to their concerts for life.

Some vegans have not been so enthusiastic about the campaign, citing that veganism “for the health” is not the same as veganism “for the animals,” and that veganism is not something that can be “forced” on others.

Whose Veganism is It Anyway?

To this I would counter that, although some (myself included) may understand veganism to be a matter of anti-speciesism, vegans should hesitate to insist that the Eurocentric interpretation of veganism is the only valid approach.

As a practical matter, a “master frame” of veganism is not especially useful in the context of a diverse audience. Personally, I critique the hegemonic vegan frame which is highly bureaucratized and prioritizes capitalist interests over the interests of effective social change (which I argue inevitably undermines veganism). To be able to criticize hegemonic veganism from this angle, however, is a reflection of my white privilege.

As a white person, I have to concede that other ethnicities will have other priorities. These include the deadly consequences of food deserts and food insecurity as well as the role that “animality” as a social construct has played in the oppression of people of color. These are priorities which have been beautifully outlined by activist scholars such as Dr. Breeze Harper and Aph & Syl Ko.

I concede that “my” veganism will not be the veganism that other folk feel compelled to adopt.

The Vegan Society defines veganism as:

a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

Beyoncé definitely does not count as a “vegan” according to this definition. She claims to eat animals’ flesh occasionally since it’s “all about moderation.” I assume her stage outfits make use of real birds’ feathers and cows’ skin as well. Her makeup is probably produced from slaughterhouse renderings and tested on other animals. She could exclude these things quite “possibly” and “practicably.”

But is The Vegan Society’s definition the only definition that matters? More specifically, is it the only definition which should apply to everyone? What about people of color living in a racialized society?

I suggest that the vegan identity is multifaceted and that the terms of engagement must be contextualized.

Cultural Force

In any case, I think it is a stretch to claim that Bey (who is not even a vegan herself) is “forcing” veganism on others. Fans who claim to go vegan (how can their veganism even be verified?) only have a chance to win free tickets, they are not guaranteed free tickets. Attending expensive music concerts is not a requirement, it is only recreational. Nor do Bey or Jay-Z require a complete transition since they also promote reducetarianism or “meatless Mondays.”

As I have uncovered in my research on flexitarian campaigns of this kind, many people already identify as someone who does not eat “that much” meat or dairy, since reducing animal product consumption is seen as a social good (unlike veganism which is interpreted as “extreme”). Importantly, the flexitarian identity does not often correlate with actual behavior change. In some cases, those who identify as flexitarian actually consume more animal products than their non-flexitarian-identifying counterparts.

That said, Bey is using her cultural clout to promote a social good. This is no different from the efforts of white celebrities like Moby, Morrissey, and, if you stretch it, Miley Cyrus. Morrissey reportedly bans all sale of animal flesh at his concerts–is he forcing his fans to be vegetarian?

True, celebrities are rarely trained in social justice activism, and their politics are not always perfect. I also find it uncomfortable that society should rely on celebrities to promote social goods since celebrities, given their extreme wealth, are the very embodiment of social inequality. Yet, Bey is putting her money where her mouth is–she is using her celebrity and privilege to make the world a better place through the channels available to her.

As this essay goes to print, Senator Cory Booker (also a person of color) has just announced his bid for presidency. He is a fierce social justice advocate and a longtime vegan. But he, too, promotes veganism for a wide variety of reasons which do not always center other animals. Would the movement be so quick (and foolhardy) to write off Cory Booker if he were to become our first vegan president? Need the vegan movement even have to wait for a vegan president? Beyoncé is practically American royalty, after all. Her clout arguably exceeds that of Booker’s.

Whether white activists like it or not, celebrity influencers shape the cultural landscape. The vegan identity (unlike the flexitarian identity) is a highly stigmatized one, and social movements will need to normalize its goals before they can be widely adopted. If Queen Bey makes vegan cool, it might not be “for the right reasons” (that is, it might not seek to advance the interests of Nonhuman Animals), but it can have a significant impact on the community she serves.

The Master Frame

Social movement scholars acknowledge that collectives strategically design frames which are hoped to resonate with their audiences. Multiple frames can be at work, but it is sometimes the case that a “master frame” will come to dominate in the movement’s repertoire. The utility of a master frame is its ability to present a strong, united front to the public and policy-makers. The downside is that a “one-size-fits-all” approach can be unrealistic given that audiences (and activists themselves) are not necessarily homogenous. Persuasion is a complicated matter and it sometimes takes many approaches to push a social justice agenda.

The Vegan Society, which formed in 1944 Britain and officially launched the political concept of “veganism” in the West following a protracted debate with The Vegetarian Society, may have prioritized veganism as a matter of anti-speciesism, but, from its very conception, it drew on a diverse framework relating to human health, poverty and famine, war, and individual autonomy. Indeed, The Vegan Society, today, continues a multipronged approach.

As the society moved into the 21st century, it continued to promote veganism, not necessarily as an endeavor to liberate other animals, but as something “normal” and achievable. Its vegan labeling scheme, for instance, was a major campaign in this effort. I have my issues with such an approach given its pro-capitalist leanings and its watering down of the anti-speciesist radical politic, but it is the case nonetheless that the expansion of commercially available vegan products has made veganism easier to perform.

Beyoncé has been dragged before for not meeting the expectations of white activist frames. White feminists, for instance, have criticized her brand of feminism as sexually objectifying and complicit with patriarchy, if not ignored it altogether. Black feminists have responded by reminding the community that there is no one “Feminism” (capital F) but rather many feminisms, and the failure to embrace Black women’s activism reflects white supremacy in the public space.

Because inequality does not stop at the door of social justice movements, activists must consider how inequality can sometimes shape strategy. Who is the “master” in developing the “master frame”? What I am suggesting is that the “master frame” is too frequently racialized in its construction.

Likewise, the need to control the vegan discourse and the very definition of veganism itself is rooted in colonial politics. As European countries pushed their culture onto “inferior” and “ignorant” subjects, they expected full assimilation. There was little patience for adaptation or nuance; it was simply presumed that European cultural values were universal and should be adopted unquestioningly. This is the very definition of cultural domination.

In this vein, it must be remembered that, while non-Western countries have their own histories of plant-based resistance, “Veganism” (capital V) as it is understood and politicized today, is a deeply European concept. White activists must tread carefully when attempting to impose “their” veganism on “others.” Indeed, the vegan movement, dominated as it is by white activists, has been less than welcoming to the veganisms of other cultures. This is problematic if the goal is to expand veganism beyond middle-class white spaces.

Most people go vegan and stay vegan because of their concern for other animals. Bey’s health-centric, flexitarian approach does not alter this research-supported fact. But Bey also has a wider cultural influence and represents a nonwhite consumer base that has been traditionally overlooked by the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. I am interested to see if her efforts will contribute to the larger discourse. I am also deeply supportive of women of color who have the “audacity” to be political in a white-dominated cultural landscape. Celebrity persuasion is far from perfect, but it can contribute to the destigmitization of veganism. This cultural normalcy was The Vegan Society’s aim all along.


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 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).

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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.

The Other “Other”

By Vinamarata “Winnie” Kaur

I see people around me,
Trying to define race as white or Black,
And I look at myself…
Lurking in between the color codes of what’s deemed “normal.”
I turn to feminism,
To find the Western mainstream feminist movement still plagued with racism and speciesism.
I feel like an insider-outsider.
I get asked, “What are you?”
Am I white, or am I Black?
“Maybe neither, or maybe both; it’s none of your business,” I say.
Who am I, and what social justice movement(s) should I turn to?
Will the Others ever learn to look beyond my Brown flesh
And channel their chakras away from my external appearances?

I see people around me,
Smoking and drinking their health and lives away.
They socialize in the ecstasy of hallucinating drugs
And take pride in the grilling of their steaks at summer BBQs while shaming vegetarians and vegans for not sharing their carnal pleasures.
And I look at myself…
A decolonizing, teetotalling, fat, hairy, vegan feminist secluded and excluded from those circles,
Isolated in the company of my books.
I turn to TV and films,
And they still ridicule me with their colorblind eyes and their body-shaming ads…
Who am I, if not the Other “Other” in this United-yet-divided land of opportunities?

With liminal spaces to call “home”
I continue to be oppressed
By the layered shackles of binarisms entrenched in white cis-male heteropatriarchy,
Without a recognizable identity of my own…
And whom the Department of Homeland Security once called a non-resident alien
And now calls a permanent resident,
Still stripped of that full status assigned to its human citizenry.
I carry with me the spirit of the Brown subaltern,
And a body fueled by plants,
Spreading the word that…
I am different and disidentified,
I am both vegan and a non-Western feminist,
And that’s OK.

I occupy the in-betweenness and the Brownness of this flesh- and color- obsessed society,
Not just because of my culinary choices or the invisible purdah I wear on my skin,
But because of my subjectivity and lived experiences.
What gives anyone then the privilege to exclude me from bounds of “normalcy,”
And to force me to classify myself as either white or Black / feminist or vegan?
I refuse to pass as one or the Other…
Because #BlackLivesMatter, #BrownLivesMatter, #TransLivesMatter, #IntersexLivesMatter, #NativeLivesMatter, and #NonHumanLivesMatter.
And whiteness, colonialism, and speciesism should not be allowed to define our relations to our marginalized bodies anymore;
I am an intersectional, Brown, South Asian vegan feminist,
For these are inherent parts of my multivalent identity
That I will continue fighting for,

Until my last breath.

 


Winnie was raised in a small city in northern India and is currently a PhD candidate in English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. Her current research and teaching interests include South Asian studies, environmental literatures, critical animal studies, digital humanities, Sikh studies, queer thea/ologies, and feminisms in popular/counter cultures. She has always been passionate about social justice through expressivity and creativity.

Essay Reading – Single-Issue Campaigns are the White Feminism of Animal Rights

Vegan Feminist Radio

White feminism prioritizes the interests of relatively privileged women with the expectation that their gains, more easily won, will trickle down to more marginalized women. The Nonhuman Animal rights movement demonstrates this problematic tactic as well, frequently to the exclusion of vegan outreach and to the detriment of the most marginalized of species.

Reading by Dr. Corey Lee Wrenn; music by Lucas Hayes.

This is an installment of Vegan Feminist Network’s podcast series, making popular essays more accessible through audio recording. You can access the original essay by clicking here.

Archives of this podcast can be found here.