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.

whyveganism.com

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.

The Unapologetic Reality of a Vegan Feminist

 

Unapologetic Vegan Feminist

By Christine M. Dibiase

As a woman, I am constantly aware that I am a woman. While that may seem unnecessary to point out, consider that I have to be aware that I am a woman before I am aware that I am a person. Imagine a neon flashing sign on my forehead that reads “FEMALE,” and never ever goes off. When I wake up in the morning, I go on the internet and see the hate and inequality we accept as normal. I have to watch what I say and what I post, so as not to be deemed “crazy” or “emotional,” among worse things. When I walk to my car, I feel the eyes burning into me. I worry if my shorts are too short or if my top is too low cut. In class, eyes roll and people snicker if I am too opinionated on a subject.

When I get lunch, I have to make sure that I am not eating too much or too fast and that I am taking small bites and chewing with my mouth closed. I also have to try to sound as far from pretentious as possible when asked why I’m not ordering what everyone else is ordering, because saying, “I’m a vegan,” tends to cue the eye rolls. When I meet new people, I have to give a handshake that is not too strong or I will be viewed as manly and intimidating, but not too weak or I will be viewed as a joke. When I walk to my car at night, I fear the catcalls and the men who utter them. I fear what could be hiding around the corner or behind the bush. I am hyper-aware of each and every move I make throughout the course of a day. Being a woman is exhausting, and the worst part is that men have absolutely no idea.

How could they? Cisgendered, able-bodied, (typically) white men live in a harshly contrasted world. They have never needed to be aware of their gender, or live in fear because of it, because they are on the opposing side of the struggle. They are able to take everything for granted because their ignorance is bliss. They do not realize what obstacles women face in every aspect of daily life, and because they don’t realize they exist, nothing changes. When women do speak out, men hush us and tell us to stop being dramatic (playing on those stereotypes which hold us down). The system and institution were built against us, to keep us in a role of submission. Because of this, men today don’t even realize their ignorance. This way of life is so widely accepted as normal and never questioned that it is ridiculously difficult to get men, and even some women, to open their eyes and realize the imbalance of power, control, and comfort.

College did not gently shake me on the shoulders to make me see clearly, it beat me over the head with a two-by-four and ran me over with a steam roller. I was unaware of the issues with this system until recent years. Of course, I knew that women were treated like this, but I never understood that it was a systematic mistreatment, built into the very foundation of our society, and not grounded in any truth or evidence. After repeatedly being treated like I was a lesser being in society over the years, I began to question what was actually going on here. From attending too many misogynistic frat parties in grimy basements and getting treated like an object to be controlled and won, getting educated about and involved with feminist groups online, and then taking a Gender Studies course at my university, I finally realized that this is disgusting and needs to be fought against.

On top of all of this, I am a vegetarian and transitioning to veganism. I have been a vegetarian my whole life, which has forced me to learn to deal with the criticism. This adds a whole other piece to the feminist struggle. Not only do people typically see it as a silly life choice, but they never seem to understand why. They joke about it and shove meat in my face, asking if I want any. I don’t do this because I feel like a special snowflake, which is what they all think. I do this because the treatment of animals at farms is disgusting and unacceptable. I share the graphic videos and images online, then get harshly negative feedback from my Facebook friends that it is inappropriate and too sickening to watch. Do they not realize that they are living it and contributing to it every time they eat one of these animal products? The dissociation is so severe that they do not even realize the huge role they play in those videos. They are why the events in those videos happen. Without a consumer, there would be no market for these products. Why do I get taunted for my compassion?

A link between my feminist struggle and my vegan struggle is that animals are objectified the way I am. People don’t see a hamburger as the remains of a dead cow in the same way they do not see me (a woman) as a person. They ultimately understand that they are the same thing, but there is no instant, conscious link between the two ideas. As Carol Adams discussed, the idea of the absent referent plays a prominent role here. It requires thought to understand that they are one in the same.

This mistreatment and misrepresentation is something that now, after getting an education on the inner-workings of the system, I am fighting. I no longer second guess what I say or do, I am unforgivingly opinionated and outspoken. I will eat what I want and stand up for those without voices. I dress how I want and do what I want. I am not sorry for being a woman. I am not sorry for having a mind and a voice. I do not care if you have something to say about it. I identify as a woman and that is not something I should spend my life asking forgiveness for.

 


Christine Dibiase

Christine is a senior Elementary Education and English major at Monmouth University. She has been a vegetarian since age two and an animal rights activist in training since shortly after. In her teenage years she became increasingly involved in the animal rights movement, and is now transitioning to veganism. Since college, Christine has discovered her growing interest with the feminist movement and discontent with society’s inequalities.

whyveganism.com

When Social Justice Ignores Marginalized Vegans

Dejected pony ignored by larger herd of horses
Shunned pony image from viral AmazonUK commercial.

By Lauren McGrath

Along with defending animal exploitation, asking repetitive questions, and constantly derailing arguments, a favorite pastime of non-vegans as of late seems to be their use of the Social Justice moniker in order to justify their non-veganism. Instead of attacking systems that exploit human and non-human animals alike, the warriors of the almighty keyboard are far more interested in using poor campaigns to justify the torture and murder of innocent non-human animals. They are more than happy to speak over the voices of marginalized members of society who choose to lead an ethical lifestyle in order to assert that no, they are the most ethical of all because they are acting as true allies. Or… something like that. Either way, imagine the energy these blue-in-the-face talkers could be expending on helping to make veganism mainstream and accessible? It’s an interesting combination of trying to play The Ultimate Ally and simple bacon obsession, and there’s no way around this.

Let’s get an uncomfortable truth out of the way; there are certainly vegan organizations who take part in all sorts of bullshittery. From the rampant sexism of PETA to DxE’s constant struggles with racist members, (links for both back to Ecorazzi pieces) the animal rights community does not always act in the best interest of all species. Unfortunately, this is a widespread phenomenon that all activist movements must face and deal with in the same ways. Singling animal rights out, however, is unfair. It’s singled out because of cultural norms of violence and a societal obsession with meat consumption, undoubtedly. Veganism is such an easy target because society at large has created such mountainous misconceptions about it as a social movement. Every time an article critiquing veganism from a non-vegan is released, the author seems to expect vegans from marginalized backgrounds to take the attack lying down.

Last week, I wrote about former vegan Mickey Z.’s anti vegan tirade, and his blatant erasure of non-white, non-male, and poor vegans. “I’m sure plenty of you are itching to assure me that none of your friends behave like this. (None, you claim!) Hey, I personally know some amazing humans who happen to follow a plant-based lifestyle but sorry, that doesn’t alter the overall reality,” he wrote, using a brush to paint one of the most broad takedown attempts I’ve ever seen. “As someone who was immersed in the inner circle of veganism for two decades, I can speak from vast personal experience. So please spare me and everyone else the “not all vegans” defense.”

It’s the #notallvegans bullshit that really sets me off. The “out” vegan movement is diversifying at a rapid rate, with oppressed groups carving out their own spaces. Many of these groups have been at work for years publishing essays in regards to critical theory an animal rights, applying it both to the animal rights movement, and larger societal systems. Believe it or not, vegans can examine the world while also being reflective!

In terms of feminist theory, feminism with a focus on animal rights has existed for decades now. With theorists and strategists such as Corey Lee Wrenn’s The Vegan Feminist Network, Carol J. Adams, and organized efforts such as Collectively Free that highlights grassroots feminist-vegan movement and thought, one must be willfully ignorant in order to not know how powerful vegan feminism is. Many feminists object to feminism and veganism being used in the same breath. They claim that our discussion about the female reproductive system and how it is exploited is taking part in biological essentialism. In truth, it’s the animal agriculture industry that has worked so very hard to gender the animals that they exploit. I would love to speak in more gender neutral terms when discussing the rape of dairy cows or fixation on chicken’s ovums. Unfortunately, farmer’s obsessions with feminizing “their girls” makes veganism a feminist issue whether we’re attaching gender to individual animals or not.

Everyday Feminism recently published an article called “4 Ways Mainstream Animal Rights Movements are Oppressive.” What I found the most disturbing about the article is that it rushes past minority, non-male and queer led movements without really celebrating or giving credit to the hard work they are doing. Author Mahealani Joy lists ways that the “mainstream” movement (defined in the article as groups such as PETA) is oppressive without examining veganism itself. Critique of the mainstream movement is so incredibly important, but it was a huge failure to simply name drop three grassroots movements that are inclusive as a means of “covering all the bases”. “The thing is, those people and the work they are doing is not what most people think of when they think of veganism, vegetarianism, and animal rights,” writes Joy. It’s because of commentary that focuses so strongly on PETA above all else that this problem exists to begin with, and Joy is participating in the silencing of progressive vegan movements by speaking over inclusive vegan movements. To their credit, the piece does highlight that as vegans, less focus needs to be put on aligning ourselves with large organizations and doing more work from the bottom up to prevent misconceptions from taking on lives of their own.

Friends, I’ll take one for the team here. I’ll be the one who says “not all vegans,” because it is so very true. Non-white, non-male, and poor vegans have been thrown under the bus for far too long and used as props and tools for anti-vegans to continue to mislead members of the social justice community. It’s time we stand together as a movement to move past the lies that are told about us.


Click here to visit the author’s website.

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Should We Retire “Mother Earth”?

Image of a celestial mother earth holding planet earth in space.

By Eve Wetlaufer

We have all heard the ubiquitous term “Mother Earth,” and often in reference to treating the environment with more care. While the term might seem innocent, does anthropomorphizing the Earth actually help or hurt the environment? What about when the gender is female? What about when the female is a mother? What does the feminization of the Earth do for the feminist movement? I will first look at the ways in which giving the Earth a gendered role as our “collective Mother” is harmful, and then the ways in which it is beneficial. This is a topic that, for me, raises many more questions then it answers, but that is quite all right. As long as we continue to use this term, it is important to discuss the implications.

In the English language, nature and natural forces (hurricanes, tornadoes), many animals (cats, deer, rabbits), and, in general, whatever cannot be controlled take the feminine pronoun; when applied to nature, “she” still carries the connotations of femininity. ‘We should check carefully whether we really want to view our relationship with the Earth through genderdized lenses,’ warns Yaakov Garb. ‘What baggage will carry over from one domain to another (especially in a culture whose relation to both women and mothers is as misogynous as ours is)?’

– Greta Gaard, Ecofeminism, p.303

Femininity as well as motherhood carry many, often-stereotypical connotations in the world we live in today. When the Earth is given both a gender and a familial role, those connotations carry over. Gaard goes on to say that when the Earth is seen as female, she becomes associated with some of the cliché female attributes projected on to her such as the “damsel in distress,” “out of control,” and the sexualized female who can be a virgin, pillaged, and raped. In the later example, and issue Gaard points out is that the one who does the raping is culture, thus “culture is masculinized, and the human-nature relationship becomes one of compulsory heterosexuality” (104).

The second layer of the Earth’s given femininity is that she is a mother. The mother role takes on a whole other array of linked attributes such as nourishing, caring, supportive, and forgiving, and then on the flip side, stern, punishing, and spiteful. Mother Earth is often (subconsciously, even) seen as the female counterpart to “Father God,” who is most always male in the three major monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. God is commonly understood to rule over (Mother) Earth, he created the Her (i.e. Psalm 24:1 states, “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it,) and in contemporary commentary, God is often portrayed as working through the Earth with natural disasters, weather patterns, and the like. God and Mother Earth are commonly seen as separate from one another, but they are also in a hierarchical and heterosexual relationship of control.

A serene forest with a large tree canopy blotting out the sun

The many different characteristics associated with a female and mother Earth can be harmful not only to the Earth itself, but the humans living on it. For example, Simona Sacchi, Paolo Riva, and Marco Brambilla begin to answer the question of how anthropomorphizing the Earth helps or hurts it, especially when wearing the “wise mother” hat in their 2013 study, When Mother Earth Rises Up. They conducted two studies that tested whether or not a group of people would feel more or less inclined to help victims of a natural disaster when the Earth was anthropomorphized. They found that “humanizing nature undermines the tendency to support victims of natural disasters.” While hypothetically it could actually help people cope with natural disasters because the natural force that caused it is rational and therefore must have had a deliberate reason, that is, in fact, the exact reason people were less likely to help victims. If Mother Earth deliberately caused this natural disaster to destroy a group of people, she must have had a reason, the thinking goes, according to the study. The Earth is simply acting as the “wise and all-knowing” mother role attributed to her.

Mother Earth Painting

Another example of a Mother Earth characteristic that works against it is the “always-loving” and “ever-replenishing” role. It is said that you can treat those who love you the most, the worst, because you know they will forgive you. Time and again, we see how mothers of convicted killers, for instance, still deeply love their children. Unconditional love is something a parent often has for their children, and that dynamic carries over to the way humans can be careless in their treatment of the Earth. These individuals separate themselves so deeply from the Earth that they view environmental degradation as an outside problem, one that She can deal with, especially because She is a mother figure, who is often seen as a fountain of replenishing love, wisdom and forgiveness.

A final critique of the term “Mother Earth” is that it is typically linked with whiteness. Although artistic depictions of Mother Earth often show her with green skin, the Earth-loving, granola-eating, White people have appropriated sustainability and care for the Earth as their movement. Lolaboloca writes about this issue in her article Reclaiming Abuelita Knowledge As A Brown Ecofeminista. She writes:

The thing is, I DO care about the environment but I cannot stand it when white people pretend they are all connected to the earth and refuse to understand that many of us — Migrant Brown People — come from backgrounds where “environmentalism” is not talked about because we grow up doing unintentional “green” things.

She gives the example of reusable pads during menstruation. Associating Mother Earth singularly with whiteness also discounts many People of Color whose religious and cultural traditions incorporate Earth fundamentally and often in a maternal role, such as many Native Americans tribes, who have long linked the Earth with spirituality and the Mother of all.

An interesting case study regarding these issues can be seen in the current state of the Yamuna River. Snaking down from the Himalayas and passing through Delhi, the Yamuna River spans 853-miles through India. With the rapid industrialization and increasing population of Delhi, and India as a country, the Yamuna has become neighbor to many manufacturing plants that directly dump their waste into the river, while 60 million people rely on the Yamuna for drinking and bathing water. Although there have been protests and a movement to protect the river, in some areas it is a thick, black stream of sewage. For many Hindus, the Yamuna River is much more than just a holy river; it is quite literally the Goddess who is giver of life and a lover of Krishna. Many devotees perform rituals at the river, in which they bathe and then drink it ceremoniously.

Devotees wade in the Yamuna River, which froths heavily with pollution and is littered with trash

In David Haberman’s ethnography, River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India, he describes how the belief in the Yamuna as a Goddess can actually cause a lack of environmental action for some people who believe Her to physically and spiritually wash away all sins, including the material waste. If She makes all unclean clean, then the pollution is inconsequential, and even offensive to some to discuss the current state of the river. Others feel the river’s condition can harm the living creatures in Her, but not the Goddess herself. And lastly, there is a group of Hindus who believe She (the river) is a victim and must be protected. This group has been a part of the protests and show us that personification of nature can in some cases be a motivator for action to create a more healthy Earth.

Before I explore the benefits of calling the Earth our mother, it’s important to take a step back and ask: Is anthropomorphism always bad? I don’t think so; in fact it seems to be a natural tendency for humans. We often relate the knowable (human) to the unknowable (non-human) in order to better understand. This is why we narrate what our companion animals are thinking, yell at technology when it isn’t working properly, and exclaim how wonderful the birds sound when they “sing.” In the same way, referring to the Earth as our mother allows us to frame the complexity and unspeakable mystery of the universe into terms we can easily relate to. This bridge has the budding opportunity to lead to empathy and compassion.

The Earth is a living, conscious being and the personification of it can help people to see that. This is one reason why James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory was so influential for the scientific community and beyond. In the late 1960’s Lovelock developed the Gaia Theory, which stated the organic and inorganic elements of the Earth have developed together as a single, self-regulating, living system. This allowed people to connect the Earth to any living organism, such as the human body. It also showed how humans as a species are dramatically effecting the harmony of the Earth, but how we also have the potential to live in accordance with the Earth’s equilibrium because we are a naturally occurring part of it. The theory is named after Gaia, Earth Goddess, whom in Greek mythology is said to have given birth to the universe.

"The Gaia Hypothesis: The earth is more than just a home. It's a living system and we are a part of it."

With all the problems discussed in calling and experiencing the Earth our Mother, it has shown to also be a pragmatic tool to help the environment. There are countless nature-based schools, gardening and conscious living publications, vegan cafes, cruelty-free beauty brands, health food stores, and more all using the name “Mother Earth,” “Mother Nature,” or “Gaia,” which draw people closer to nature-based living.

But perhaps the greatest benefit from identifying the Earth as our mother is something that goes much deeper into our core understanding of our place in the world. When we identify the Earth as our Mother, there is a greater likelihood that we will create a connection that allows people to empathize with the Earth and her suffering, as they would with a member of their family. Viewing the Earth as a member of one’s family is a profound shift from the mainstream understanding of our relationship to the environment, and even different than the mainstream environmental thought. If the Earth is a part of our family, or better yet, we are a part of it and all that lives and grows upon it, how could we ever bring ourselves to harm it? To harm her is to harm ourselves.

Thich Nhat Hanh elaborates on shedding the common dualistic mindset when it comes to our perception of the Earth and ourselves in his book Love Letter to the Earth. Just as we are made up of our biological parents, we are also made up of the Earth:

We often forget that the planet we are living on has given us all the elements that make up our bodies. The water in our flesh, our bones, and all the microscopic cells inside our bodies all come from the Earth and are part of the Earth. The Earth is not just the environment we live in. We are the Earth and we are always carrying her within us.

He goes on to say that by realizing our interconnection with the Earth, and understanding it to be our Mother, we are bound to change the way we act for the better.

We too can see that the Earth is a living being and not an inanimate object. She is not inert matter. We often call our planet Mother Earth. Seeing the Earth as our mother helps us to realize her true nature. The Earth is not a person, yet she is indeed a mother who has given birth to millions of different species, including the human species.

But don’t think that Mother Earth is outside of you. Looking deeply you can find Mother Earth within you, just as your biological mother who gave birth to you is also within you. She is in each of your cells.

If we need to turn to anthropomorphic terms to feel this connection and subsequent care for the Earth, is that worth the baggage that comes along with feminizing and giving the Earth the role of our collective mother? Ideally, we would simply be at peace with the Earth as it is; with utter awe, reverence, and respect for its intrinsic value. Ideally, we would break free of the desire to relate everything back to human terms, as if the very essence of our species is the central tenet of what all else needs to be compared to. But we do not live in an ideal world. So I believe that in order to get one step closer to it, we can call, and more importantly feel, the Earth to be our Mother. Moving towards a more inclusive sense of family; towards an interconnected relationship with our human and non-human brothers and sisters, and with our Mother Earth.

References:

Conniff, Richard. “The Yamuna River: India’s Dying Goddess.” Environment: YALE Magazine. : The Journal of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Spring 2011. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Gaard, Greta Claire. Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1993. 303-04. Print.

Haberman, David L. River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India. Berkeley, CA: U of California, 2006. Print.

Hạnh, Thich Nhất. Love Letter to The Earth. Berkley: Parallax, 2013. Print.

Lalobaloca. “Reclaiming Abuelita Knowledge As A Brown Ecofeminista | Autostraddle.” Autostraddle. N.p., 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Sacchi, Simona, Paolo Riva, and Marco Brambilla. “When Mother Earth Rises Up: Anthropomorphizing Nature Reduces Support for Natural Disaster Victims.” Social Psychology 44.4 (2013): 271-77. American Psychological Association. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.


EveEve Wetlaufer is in her third year at New York University in the Gallatin Program, with an individualized major investigating the historical human orientation toward animals, spirituality, and the environment, with a minor in the Animal Studies Initiative. Eve also holds a certification in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She has worked at several animal rescues, most recently Catskill Animal Sanctuary, as an Outreach and Education intern. She is also the loving companion to a rescued hound named Chrissy.

whyveganism.com

Fedoras for Animal Rights

Several animals standing in the background; fedora in foreground, reads, "Fedoras for Animal Rights"

Why fedoras? See bottom of essay.

Dear readers,

Are you tired of endless microaggressions and intentional ignorance disrupting your activism? Totally over the overt racism and sexism levied at you by privileged persons determined to ruin your day? Got a racial tension headache?

Annoyed at the time wasted every day bouncing off derailing comments when you could be advocating for social justice? Yuck. I know I am.

Of course, activists are well aware of the tough resistance inherent to social justice work. Social change is hard. People don’t want to give up their privilege.

But feminists are also aware of a particularly insidious aspect of this work: the frustration, stress, and energy expended in grappling with disingenuous persons who want nothing more than to cause us pain and to block social progress. You know, the doxxers, the cyber-stalkers, the “all lives matter” espousers, the “not all men” proclaimers, and the “reverse racism/sexism” wannabe philosophers. It’s the trolling, the mocking, and the jabs at underprivileged people made by privileged people. It’s the revelry in bigotry.

Certainly, we do not live in a post-racial/post-feminist world, and these attitudes and behaviors are still commonplace in our society. However, it is especially disheartening when they characterize social movements. It’s also especially crushing when it takes place online, where there is little recourse for those targeted. In fact, this kind of behavior especially flourishes in online spaces (male-created and male-dominated) where marginalized persons network and advocate at low cost (which is crucial for us, as poverty targets women and people of color).

Brown fedora hat

Racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, and other oppressions that seem to proliferate and flourish online can leave activists feeling frustrated, sidetracked, and ineffective. And that’s the point. Countermovements and bigots are successful when they keep activists from doing their important work.

Just how to handle this conundrum has been heavily debated. Some advocate ignoring it, while others advocate spiritual recentering and understanding. Some prefer to tackle it head on by publicly shaming and outing abusers to demand accountability. Whatever works for you, it is still important to acknowledge that the negative impact that systemic oppression has on marginalized activists is real. It hurts.

It also hinders.

My wise friend Aph Ko once explained to me that we all know how to break things down and criticize what is wrong in the world, but we don’t seem to be as skilled in building things back up. We don’t nurture our imagination for reconstruction enough. Instead of incessantly focusing on the negative, how can we start to create the positive world we want to inhabit? Can we start to tune out the bad with stronger, clearer, more radiant messages of social justice and equality?

And so, my dear vegfems, this is my resolution to share with you. Every time someone with ill-intentions seeks to bring you down, slur you, scare you, silence you, try this:

Do something positive for Nonhuman Animal liberation (or Black liberation, or trans liberation, or women’s liberation, et cetera).

Take the ugliness you have been served and use it to fuel your actions in the service of good.
Straw fedora hat

Can you do that? Try it. It doesn’t have to be major. If someone tells you that Black Lives Matter is narcissistic, bring some food to a feral cat colony in your area. If someone calls you a cunt, send an email to a feminist friend and offer some support and tend to the friendship. Shamed for promoting anti-reformist approaches to animal rights? Go post some leaflets in your community. Received a microaggression on Facebook? Give your dog a nice brushing, or treat your cat to some playtime. You get the idea.

Take that negative energy and flip it. When life gives you fedoras, make social justice.

Keep putting the good out there. It won’t stop the hate, and it won’t stop the violence. But it can help you to cope in a constructive way, and it will move us closer to our goal of peace.

So let’s give it a go, okay?

And let us know how it turned out! Please stop by Vegan Feminist Network on Facebook and share your stories, or email them to us! Check out WhyVeganism.com for more ideas.

 

In love and solidarity,
Vegan Feminist Network
Heart

Why Fedoras? In modern feminist spaces, fedoras have come to symbolize fraudulent “Men’s Rights Activism,” or feminist countermovement activity.