Fifty Shades of Chicken

TRIGGER WARNING: Contains graphic descriptions of rape and violence against women and other animals.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Contains graphic sexual language and disturbing images of violated animals.

Roasted chicken corpse bound in twine

Vegan feminists argue that oppression is intersectional. In particular, the ways in which women are exploited and harmed are very similar to the ways in which other animals are. A shining example of this intersection is found in Fifty Shades of Chicken, a cookbook that parodies Fifty Shades of Grey (a best selling novel which glamorizes submissive sexuality and violence against women).  Fifty Shades of Chicken, a book “for chicken lovers everywhere,” takes this disturbing subject matter to another level of degradation.

Throughout the book, a chicken’s body is used to replace that of a woman, and she is referred to as “Chicken” or “Miss Hen.”  The choice of “chicken” was not accidental.  Chickens eaten by humans are almost always female.  The body parts of chickens (breasts, legs, thighs) are often applied to that of human women, and human women are often called “birds,” “chicks,” “chickens,” or “hens.”

The cookbook features several images of a muscled, shirtless man dominating a chicken’s corpse with weapons, kitchen utensils, and binding (twine). In one image he is shown sodomizing her with an upright roasting device.  In others, he is shown penetrating her with a baster and shoving cream into her bottom with his fingers.  Most of the photographs of the finished “product” show the bird’s body splayed and ravaged.  She is posed pornographically to mimic a defiled human woman.

Man in an apron firmly places a chicken's corpse onto a funnel

The chef known as “Blades” sodomizes “Miss Hen” with the “erect member” of a vertical roaster.

The recipe titles are also disturbing:

  • “Popped-Cherry Pullet”
  • “Extra-Virgin Chicken”
  • “Please Don’t Stop Chicken”
  • “Jerked Around Chicken”
  • “Mustard Spanked Chicken”
  • “Cream-Slicked Chick”
  • “Chile-Lashed Fricassee”
  • “Skewered Chicken”
  • “Steamy White Meat”
  • “Bacon Bound Wings”
  • “Dripping Thighs”
  • “Thighs Spread Wide”
  • “Chicken Thighs Stirred Up and Fried Hard”
  • “Red Cheeks”
  • “Pound Me Tender”

And my favorite:

  • “Hog-Tied and Porked Chicken”

It is a regular smorgasbord of entangled oppression, violence, sexism, and speciesism.

These recipes are inextricably representative of rape culture.  Sexualized violence is presented as normative, the female body is objectified as a passive recipient of male desire and aggression, and the obligatory obsession with virginity and female purity is highlighted.

Shirtless, heavily-muscled man prepares to bind a chicken's corpse on a cutting board

Chapter Two, “Chicken Parts and Bits,” literally reenacts the fragmentation of the female body into consumable pieces which are wholly divorced from the person they once belonged to.  This objectification erases personhood and makes exploitative consumption all the more palatable.

The recipe instructions also entail graphic violence, domination, and control:

Much pleasure and satisfaction is to be had from tying up your bird.  Not only does it show your chicken who’s boss, but a tight binding ensures the chicken cooks exactly how you want it–evenly, moist, and tender.  It also closes off the chicken’s cavity, so the juices swelling within can’t spill out, at least not until you’re ready for them.  (p. 34)

Using large, strong kitchen shears and a confident hand, forcefully cut the backbone out of the chicken; first cut along one side of the backbone, then cut along the other side until it releases, then pull it out.  Gently spread the bird open, pressing down on the breast to flatten it (see Learning the Ropes).  Massage the flesh with 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt. (p. 116)

Position the chicken’s nether parts over the vertical roaster’s erect member and thrust the bird down.  Tuck her wing tips up behind her wings, behind her body.  Tie her legs together with a piece of butcher’s twine or cooking bands […] (p. 120)

It reads like a manual for serial killing.

Several gruesome pornographic narratives were included to preface the recipes and work the reader up into a hot bother for the pleasurable consumption awaiting them.  Take this example from “Backdoor Beer-Can Chicken”:

‘Hush,’ he says.  He smile and holds up a beer can.

‘Yes, baby, have a drink, I’m sure you need it.’

‘Oh, no, this is not for me, Chicken.’  He quirks his mouth into a wicked smile.

Holy f***…Will it?  How?

I gasp as he fills me with its astonishing girth.  The feeling of fullness is overpowering.

He rests me on the grill and I can feel the entire world start to engorge.  Desire explodes in my cavity like a hand grenade. (p. 137)

Or this story from “Flattered Breasts”:

Suddenly he seizes me and lays me out on the counter, claiming me hungrily.  His fingers pull me taut, the palms of his hands grinding my soft white meat into the hard granite, trapping me.  I feel him.  His stomach growls, and my mind spins as I acknowledge his craving for me.

‘Why must you always challenge me?’ he murmurs breathlessly.

‘Because I can.’ My pulse throbs painfully.

He grabs a fistful of kosher salt.

‘I’m going to season you now.’

‘Yes.’  My voice is low and heated.

He reaches for a rolling pin, then hesitates, looking at me.

‘Yes, please, Chef,’ I moan.

The first blow of the rolling pin jolts me but leaves behind a delicious warm feeling.

‘I.  Will. Make.  You.  Mine.’  he says between blows. (p. 62)

These narratives often present the chicken’s corpse as a willing accomplice. This is quite telling, given that she was beheaded and drained of blood days before she arrived in this man’s kitchen under saran wrap. This narrative of willingness is ubiquitous in rape cases and pornography. Even girls and women who are drugged or unconscious are frequently considered “willing.” It is therefore not surprising that a decapitated corpse, in the case of Miss Hen, is depicted as consenting.

As with other females, Miss Hen’s sexuality is strictly controlled and meant only for male entitlement. The relationship of domination that makes consent an impossibility, privileges men, and leaves women and Nonhuman Animals in a position of subservience is obscured.  Instead this chicken is “free-range,” implying that she has a choice in the matter.

What is worse, these actions are supposedly done out of “love” and for her pleasure.  It is not enough that women and Nonhuman Animals submit to male superiority, they must also be seen as enjoying their subjugation.  If the consumer was made aware of the immense suffering that lies beneath the surface of pornography, prostitution, exotic dancing, dairy, “meat,” “leather,” zoos, horse racing etc., the pleasure of that consumption would be challenged.  Previously unexamined oppression would come to light. What a buzz kill.

This book takes the male fantasy of ultimate control over a humiliated, submissive woman to its full fruition.  Men cannot legally coerce women into obliging sex slaves through force and fear.  They cannot legally fragment women into their body parts, strip them of their identity and self-efficacy, or pulverize and consume their bodies for sexual gratification (though more men than we like to admit do).  However, men can have the next best thing–they can humiliate, torture, dismember, and objectify a female Nonhuman Animal for pleasure. He can molest her, sodomize her, rape her, bind her, break her, “pork” her, and “slick” her with cream to the point of physical arousal and salivation.

Whether the victim is human or nonhuman, the script is the same. Control over the vulnerable is sexualized; domination and power is hot stuff.  And it’s completely legal, with full support from a patriarchal society.

He continues to fondle my liver with his fingertips until I can’t stand it.

He gently places my quivering offal into a skillet where some softened onions are waiting for me.  Holy f****** s***…we’re cooking in the middle of a party?  Everyone’s mingling and chatting, but I am not paying attention.  He stirs my insides with a deft wooden spoon, around and around [ . . . ] (p. 103)

As traumatizing as this book is on its own, what is perhaps most upsetting is the complete lack of criticism from the general public. The book racks up rave reviews by Amazon users who are beside themselves with laughter, folks who can’t get over just how darn clever this book is.  Violence against women and Nonhuman Animals is often trivialized, masked by humor, downplayed, and made more or less invisible…but surely, the triggering offensiveness of this book could not be ignored?  Not so. At the time of this writing, Fifty Shades of Chicken enjoys a whopping 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

The message could not be clearer:

Women=Nonhuman Animals=Sexualized=Dominated=Meat=Objects of Pleasurable Consumption

and

Nonhuman Animals=Feminized=Sexualized=Dominated=Meat=Objects of Pleasurable Consumption

. . . and apparently this is a hoot.

 


This essay was based on the work of vegan feminist Carol Adams.  For more information, check our her comments on Fifty Shades of Chicken posted on her blog.  See also the book’s promotional video on YouTube depicting a bird’s corpse being bound and cooked by an imposing looking  man accompanied by music and narration intended to convince the audience that the assault is “sexy.”

An adaption of this essay was published in 2013 in Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism 2 (1): 135-139.

You can read more about intersections of sexism and speciesism in A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave 2016).


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth 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 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.

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Demande-t-on le Respect et la Justice ? Ou juste des chamailleries ?

Content Warning:  Discute de pornographie et de sexisme
Not Safe for Work:  Contient du langage grossier et des sujets explicitement sexuels

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

 

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

PETA a posté sur Vegan Feminist Network aujourd’hui en réponse à mon article qui déconstruit leur campagne « Veggie Love Casting » . La campagne dépeint des jeunes femmes en bikinis et hauts talons effectuant du sexe oral et autres actes sexuels sur des légumes « pour les animaux ». Le communiqué est reproduit ci-dessous. J’ai mis en évidence les passages problématiques et les analyserait plus bas.

Les femmes intelligentes et sensibles qui ont participé dans ce clip ont choisi de le faire car elles soutenaient l’idée et voulaient agir pour aider les animaux. PETA les admire pour cela et ne leur dirait jamais qu’elles doivent se comporter d’une certaine manière afin d’avoir l’approbation de quelqu’un d’autre. PETA applaudit tout ce que les gens font pour aider les animaux et tente de montrer quelque chose qui plaise à tout le monde.

Tout le monde n’approuve pas les tactiques de PETA – et on peut choisir de ne pas montrer nos vidéos si c’est le cas – mais nous serons certainement tous d’accord pour dire qu’il est plus efficace de concentrer notre temps et notre énergie sur les abuseurs d’animaux plutôt que de nous chamailler.

Si vous souhaitez en apprendre plus sur les autres campagnes de PETA, ou visionner nos publicités comprenant des hommes, vous pouvez visiter le site www.PETA.org. Merci encore pour tout ce que vous faites pour promouvoir le véganisme et pour faire de ce monde un meilleur endroit pour les animaux. 

A white woman deep-throating a cucumber.

Une image de la campagne.

PETA déclare ne pas avoir dit aux femmes d’agir de cette manière, mais c’est une justification malhonnête. De toute évidence, PETA a mis au point la campagne et a engagé les participantes. Ce n’était pas un mouvement populaire spontané pour la promotion du sexe avec des légumes pour les animaux non-humains. En parlant de cela, est-ce qu’avoir une relation sexuelle avec des concombres ce que sont supposées faire les femmes si elles veulent aider les animaux ?

D’une certaine manière, PETA a raison de dire qu’on ne « dit » pas aux femmes d’agir de cette manière. C’est parce que PETA normalise le militantisme sexiste comme militantisme adapté aux femmes. Les militantes s’engagent de plus en plus dans le mouvement pour les droits des animaux avec la connaissance de ce qu’on attend d’elles (Gail Dines désigne ce phénomène de socialisation comme « prête au porno »). Les campagnes pornifiées sont aujourd’hui normalisées dans l’imaginaire politique du mouvement. Elles sont considérées pour acquises comme étant utiles, malgré la recherche psychologique sociale démontrant que ce n’est non seulement pas efficace, mais également contre-productif.

Les tropes incorporées dans la réponse de PETA visent à protéger cette normalité et méritent donc qu’on s’y penche.

1. Choix

Le “Choix” est un concept qui fonctionne généralement pour détourner l’attention sur le problème de l’inégalité structurelle et qui place la responsabilité sur l’individu·e. Il masque les privilèges et renforces l’oppression.

Les femmes « choisissent » de travailler dans le porno car une société patriarcale leur offre des options extrêmement limitées. Les femmes font ce « choix » car elles grandissent dans une société qui leur inculque que leur valeur est liée à leur attractivité sexuelle et leur disponibilité sexuelle (au contraire des hommes à qui on enseigne qu’ils peuvent réussir grâce à leur force, leur leadership, leur intelligence, leur esprit, etc.).

The Girls Gone Wild tour bus. Depicts two blonde white women, reads "Do you have what it takes?"

La plupart des actrices porno proviennent de milieux défavorisés et/ou de foyers violents et ont des carrières extrêmement courtes (environ 3 ans, une durée qui a fortement diminuée). La grande majorité des actrices porno gagnent très peu d’argent. Nous parlons ici de quelques centaines d’euros pour chaque film, avec une proposition de film toutes les quelques semaines environ. Une fois qu’elles ont « tout fait », elles sont usées, et n’ont plus d’utilité pour l’industrie. Ça vous dit quelque chose ? C’est exactement la manière dont les humains traitent les poules pondeuses et les vaches laitières : comme des ressources sexuelles périssables. Les femmes continuent à consentir d’effectuer des actes sexuels de plus en plus dégradants, douloureux, ou dangereux afin de rester dans la course le plus longtemps possible. L’industrie expose les femmes à ces conditions de travail précaires et dangereuses sans aucune sécurité garantie. Si c’est là le « choix » qu’ont les femmes, il y a quelque chose qui cloche réellement avec notre système de travail.

Je ne blâme pas ces actrices (militantes?) qui travaillent pour PETA. Elles font juste leur travail, et essayent de gagner leur vie. Certaines se sont peut-être même amusées et ont aimé participer. Au lieu de cela, je blâme le patriarcat qui élève les femmes comme ressources pour les hommes. Je blâme un mouvement social qui est supposé être basé sur la paix mais qui à la place exploite les vulnérabilités des femmes pour la levée de fonds. Sous le patriarcat, les règles du jeu penchent en faveur des hommes au détriment des femmes (et des autres populations vulnérables, dont les animaux non-humains). Toutes les femmes sont des produits d’un patriarcat qui les incite à croire : « Votre valeur sociale = Votre disponibilité sexuelle ».

Le “choix” s’appuie sur un ensemble très restreint d’options définies pour les femmes par le patriarcat. Si nous voulons avoir une discussion sérieuse sur le « choix », je suggère que nous obtenions une réponse claire de PETA quant à leur choix intentionnel de femmes pour la levée de fonds et l’attention des médias, et la raison pour laquelle des femmes sont placées disproportionnellement dans des scénarios dégradants, souvent (même si pas dans ce cas-ci) en simulant la souffrance et la mort horrible d’animaux non-humains. Comme dans toute pornographie, les campagnes de PETA sexualisent l’humiliation et la violence envers les femmes.

2. Viser un large public

Les personnes susceptibles d’être attirées par la pornographie ne seront probablement pas intéressées de s’investir sérieusement dans la justice sociale. La pornographie consolide l’oppression et renforce la notion que certaines personnes sont des objets de ressources pour d’autres, plus privilégiées. C’est loin d’être le genre de structure qu’on est en droit d’attendre pour remettre en cause le spécisme. Pour rappel, la recherche démontre que les campagnes de PETA repoussent en réalité les téléspectateurs qui peuvent aisément reconnaître que les femmes sont rabaissées.

3. Critique de la culture du viol comme de la « Chamaillerie »

Une femme sur 3 sera violée, battue, ou abusée d’une certaine manière une fois au cours de sa vie. Cette violence est fortement liée aux médias misogynes, et PETA non seulement crée mais promeut les médias misogynes. Décrire la critique féministe de cette violence systémique comme étant de la chamaillerie est insultant et banalisant. Faire front contre la violence que j’endure, contre la violence que des millions de femmes endurent, n’est pas de la chamaillerie, c’est de la justice sociale en action.

4. Hommes contre Femmes

Nous ne vivons pas dans une société post-genre/post-féministe. Les corps des hommes et des femmes ne sont pas vus ou traités de manière égale. On ne peut pas simplement déclarer : « Nous utilisons aussi des hommes ! ». Ca ne compensera pas la misogynie utilisée dans la majorité des actions de PETA. 96% de l’objectification sexuelle présente dans les médias inclut des femmes. Les femmes sont également bien plus susceptibles d’être victimes de viol, d’abus sexuels et de violence conjugale. Il est injuste de balayer les représentations sexistes des femmes juste parce que le corps d’un homme est utilisé de temps à autre.

Cet argument est particulièrement absurde dans le cas de PETA. Les publicités de PETA mettant en scène des hommes représentent dans l’ensemble des hommes qui sont aux commandes de leur espace social, et leur pouvoir ainsi que leur statut sont renforcés. Certaines de leurs affiches représentent des hommes ridicules. A nouveau, il n’y a aucun sexisme sérieux en jeu. Nous trouvons ces affiches idiotes car les hommes sont rarement objectifiés sexuellement et représentés dans une position soumise. Les hommes ne sont pas affichés dans des positions sexuelles soumises ou comme victimes de violence, seules les femmes le sont.

Prenez par exemple cette image d’un acteur de Bollywood militant pour PETA. Remarquez le regard confiant face à l’objectif, son pouvoir sur la situation, et sa capacité de contrôle l’espace autour de lui et de créer du changement. Remarquez cette posture qui affiche la confiance.

Indian Bollywood actor freeing birds. He is shown giving direct eye contact to the camera and displaying his power and strength.

En revanche, examinez cette affiche typique de PETA représentant une femme nue. Elle est montrée dans une position soumise, vulnérable, pas sur ses pieds, à la merci du téléspectateur. Ses yeux ne font pas directement face à l’objectif, mais le regarde au contraire par le bas. Elle caresse doucement le lapin; il n’y a pas de contrôle sur son espace. Ses fesses sont relevées pour suggérer la disponibilité sexuelle.

Reads "I'd rather show my buns than wear fur." Shows a naked white woman prostrate on the ground touching a rabbit.

L’argument que le sexisme n’existe pas dans les campagnes de PETA car des hommes nus sont aussi utilisés de temps en temps est un leurre.

Nous ne pouvons pas mettre fin à l’objectification des animaux non-humains par l’objectification des femmes. Nous ne pouvons pas mettre fin à la violence envers les animaux non-humains par la violence envers les femmes. Il est temps de décoloniser le schema militant.

Les informations fournies sur l’industrie de la pornographie dans cet essai sont tirées du documentaire, The Price of Pleasure.

 

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

Gary Yourofsky: Is The Backlash Warranted?

By Michele Kaplan

TRIGGER WARNING: The following article is in response to a video posted by Gary Yourofsky. It contains quotes from Yourofsky that reference violence, sexual abuse and rape. The video also contains ableist language and makes the inaccurate claim that every person on death row is guilty. (#FreeLeonardPeltier! #FreeMumia!) Lastly, it contains a great deal of macho posturing, aggressive, graphic and at times disturbing language which may be triggering for many people.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Contains foul language.

Screencap from video showing Yourofsky explaining himself

“After 18 years on trial, the verdict is finally in!” Gary Yourofsky recently declared on social media. “I’ve been found INNOCENT on all charges of supporting rape!”

This being in reference to the backlash from his infamous quote: “Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever.” The “testimony” (which was in the form of a 28 minute video) goes into great detail as to why he feels he has been treated unfairly.

It should be noted this is not an actual trial. Yourofsky has also declared himself “the judge” (thus his innocence) and ends his testimony by saying “Vegan love to all my supporters who refused to believe these psychotic defamatory lies about me. And finally, to all the organizations and people who have attacked me, claiming that I support rape. I hear by challenge you to top my anti rape position. Go ahead. I dare ya.” He pauses for a moment and then continues in an aggressive posturing “What?! Yeah, I thought so. As usual, I win! Checkmate! You lose!! Fuck you!!”

Yourofsky goes to great lengths in the video to show just how much he despises rapists: “This is what I think should happen to rapists.” He says “Even somebody who rapes a woman in a fur coat (if that ever happens).”

According to Women Organized Against Rape, 1 in 4 human women and 1 in 6 human men will be raped by the age of 18. Considering how much of the norm wearing fur is in our culture, the chances that a fur wearing human being raped, is highly likely.

He continues:

I think his penis and balls should be seared off with a cuticle remover slowly, and then I think two skewers should be shoved into their eye sockets, dragged into another room. And then I think their penis and balls should be dipped into diarrhea and puke. They should be given the option of eating that and then they can save their lives. And if they do eat it, I want to take a gun, put it between their eyes and say ‘I was just kidding’.

In another quote he states that, “Since 1997, thousands of people (mostly vegans) have accused me of condoning rape” and that he has been “continuously harassed with false statements for 18 years.” Okay, so it is clear he does not like rapists. Is he also saying that he never said the infamous rape quote?

Yourofsky

“I need all of my supporters to start condemning the liars and deceivers,” he says in the video “who claim that I support rape because I wished it. And I repeat: wished it, upon men and women who actually support rape and murder by draping themselves in fur coats.” He then goes on to say that there isn’t one person on this planet (including a rape victim) who is more against rape than he is.

And while it’s safe to say that someone who has actually survived rape would disagree with that last claim, let’s just move on and focus on what he is actually saying. He does not condone the actual violent act of rape. He merely wishes it upon certain people who he feels are deserving or “evil”

And while I agree that there is a difference between saying “I wish this person gets raped” and actually physically raping someone, I find it odd that he does not understand the consequences of language, let alone the consequence of when a man talks about raping a woman (even if “it’s just talk”). That when he uses rape as a means to punish a person (even if it’s “just talk”), that this still contributes to the collective rape culture, which also impacts the animals such as the dairy cows, who are repeatedly forcibly impregnated (aka raped) in the name of a product. That he doesn’t understand how when an aggressive sounding man starts talking about his rape fantasies, that this can be incredibly triggering to victims of rape. And thus, it is odd that he doesn’t understand how this could possibly create and warrant backlash.

“Wish”

He wishes evil things upon evil and violent people. (And while this includes rapists, domestic abusers and child molesters, none are more violent in his eyes, than the people who partake in the animal agriculture industry.)

“Propose”

“Nobody disagrees with my position on violence, they only disagree who I propose to be violent for.”

“Hope”

“Deep down, I truly hope that oppression, torture and murder return to each uncaring human tenfold!” And lastly he uses the word:

“should”

“Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever.” As far as rape is concerned, this is what should happen to people (as he also comments on men) who support the fur industry.

This is why people accuse him of supporting rape, and yet he fails to see that.

In his eyes, why are people focusing on his words, when the animals (deemed as food) are being murdered, tortured and in many cases forcibly impregnated (aka: rape) on a daily basis? This would not occur if there weren’t people who were financially supporting the industry. This should be the focus, not something he says.

And in this regard, he is right. There is a deep social conditioning in our society that has raised us to believe that violence against certain animals are okay. That says certain animals are here to be our food and clothing and have no other purpose. The animal agriculture industry goes to great lengths to encourage this disconnect, by hiding the truth of the factory farms and putting the image of the jolly animal on their package, to give off the impression that the animal is happy to be your food.

Advert for barbecue catering service with a cartoon pig face that is smilingAnd when we see the packages of meat, the appearance is so far removed from what the actual animal looks like, that it becomes very easy to ignore and even forget the origin. The animal agriculture industry is so freaked out about their customers learning the truth of their industry, that they have gone to great lengths to lobby the government so it becomes illegal to expose the cruelty. Furthermore, how else will you ever get your protein and calcium? We are raised to believe that we can not be strong and healthy, if we do not consume animals, which is yet another myth perpetuated by the animal agriculture industry.

And I will also agree that there is a huge disconnect regarding the issue of rape and speciesism and that many anti-rape advocates and feminists do not know (or do not make the connection) between the dairy cow and the collective rape culture. They don’t know (or are taught not to care) that the only way a cow will continuously produce milk, is if she is repeatedly impregnated against her will (aka: rape), only to have her babies stolen from her time and again. Because to the industry, her baby is nothing but veal. This happens over and over until the mother cow is so emotionally and physically run down, that she is unable to produce babies (and thus milk), and then she is slaughtered. But we are taught to not worry about that because we are told that cows (and other farm animals) are unfeeling, unloving, creatures who do not respond to their environment, which is yet another myth perpetuated by the industry.

When he makes those particular points, he is correct. However, he remains confused as to why people are so distracted by his statements and they don’t just focus on what is a far worse situation. The truth is just because something is worse, doesn’t negate the consequences. I could say, “Oh, I hope you get shot and die a miserable slow painful death”. Meanwhile genocide is occurring in another part of the world. Yes, the latter is worse, but that truth does not remove the fact that there are still consequences to what I said.

Granted, Yourofsky will sometimes clarify his message and say that he only wishes violence upon people who indirectly or directly partake in the animal agriculture industry, because he feels that maybe if humans experienced the level of violence that the animals experience, then they would cease to contribute to the violence. However, he only clarifies some of the time. And when he does, people have to first get past his initial statements of wishing, hoping, and proposing violence against them to get to that point. Other times he just goes off on a graphic rant about what he thinks should happen to people who are evil.

The truth is, verbally advocating for the violence against a person who isn’t vegan only works against the cause of liberating the animals. Furthermore, it is hypocritical since unless you were born vegan, you too were once contributing to the violence. I know I was. And even now as vegans, when the grains, fruit and veggies are harvested, insects and field mice are often killed in the process. When the homes that we live in are constructed, harm is also done to the animals who were already living on that land. Many vegans require medications that were tested on animals. And yes, let’s work to change the system that makes it nearly impossible to not harm animals, but the present truth is that not one person is completely innocent of this.

Lastly, as activists we must remember that there is a difference between what feels good and cathartic to express, and what makes for an effective tactic and argument. The difference between what is best to share in a diary or in a private conversation, and what we share to the rest of the world, especially to people who we’d like to join us. Because, yes the animals need as many people on their side as possible, so that the goal of animal liberation can be achieved.

Gary Yourofsky has since put out another video entitled “Palestinians, Blacks and Other Hypocrites” where he addresses the issue of people in the community “unfairly” accusing him of making racist statements. Hmm, I wonder why.

 

This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on May 17, 2015.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

The Dangers Of Hero Worship In An Activist Movement

By Michele Kaplan

Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape and racism; contains extremely offensive racist and ableist comments about Palestinians and Muslim culture.

Gary Yourofsky

Have you ever been in a situation where people wish you would just shut up?

It all began back on March 19th , when some vegans in my social media circle were talking about Gary Yourofsky’s anti-Palestine rant. Naturally, those in the animal rights community (myself included) who support the plight of the Palestinian people, were horrified at what he said.

Gary Yourofsky's Facebook statement on Palestine.

This post was apparently deleted from his Facebook. For disabled visitors, you can listen to the post read by Plant Powered Activist on Youtube.

Who was this Gary Yourofsky? I heard his name here and there in various animal rights circles, but was not familiar with his contributions to the movement. I began to google his name and found out that this rant (that was just dripping with discrimination and privilege) was not a one time incident (not that that would’ve  made what he said okay).

Gary Yourofsky, is a controversial and passionate figure in the animal rights community, with a history of on one hand, making powerful speeches that have inspired people to go vegan, and on the other hand making derogatory statements that have alienated people within and from the animal rights movement.

Such statements as his infamous quote (and you can read the full interview here):

Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever.

As a vegan, as a woman and as a human being, I was shocked that he said this, and felt nothing short of disturbed (and a little less safe) when some people in the AR community made excuses for his behavior.

“Oh, that’s such an old quote.” they said, as if time makes it somehow untrue. Or as if he had since apologized for this statement, or changed his ways. He has not.

I felt heartbroken because I devoted so much time and love to the cause, and now I was questioning my future in it. I knew there was this old school (and not so intersectional) wave of AR activism and the next wave animal rights activism (which typically is very intersectional), so I didn’t think that everyone would support the letter, but when some people in the next wave were making excuses, even though it was “only” a couple of people, it was incredibly disheartening.

The next morning, a small group (3 to be exact) got together and put out a statement to let the community (and internet) know that our veganism has zero room for discrimination and oppression of others.

A woman who was a survivor of rape came forward and said that reading this letter was very healing for her. Another person said “I’ve been stuck without support on making these points about him many times. So glad this exists to show other vegans feel the same way!” (and this sentiment was repeated by a number of people). And so for a moment in time, we felt like whatever happens, this was all worth while.

And then… the backlash kicked in.

“Why are you attacking Gary?”
“Why are you being so mean?”
“Gary does so much for the animals, why are you focusing on this?”
“I think the good outweighs the bad.”
“Are you guys for real? … Premature April 1st joke? Trying to get an attention attacking Gary or just plain stupidity?”
“You’re being really judgmental.”
“So he made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”
“You’re taking things out of context!”
“He needs support, not stabbing in the back.”
“He does not condone actual, literal rape in any circumstance. Do more research.” (As if that was said in the statement? It wasn’t. As if just talking about it was harmless and without consequence? It’s not.)

It was incredibly confusing and draining. I mean what the hell is going on?

And then it dawned on me. Could this be a case of hero worship? Something that I have certainly done in the past.

I remember when I had heroes, and I heard something damaging or negative about them, I would get defensive and protective, because that was my hero. A symbol. Hope. Part of me needed to believe that a hero exists.

These days I do not have heroes, because to have heroes is to place someone on a pedestal. I admire people and their work. I appreciate them, but at the end of the day, we are on the same level. Human and human.

And I get it. Advocating for veganism and animal rights is going against a deep rooted social conditioning, where even though factory farms is one of the largest contributors to climate change, where even though the conditions in which the animals live are so horrific and unethical, it is the vegan diet, it is the idea of animal rights that is “extreme”.  And once you know the truth behind the animal agriculture industry, you can’t un-know that. And knowing how much the animals suffer, if people don’t take proper self care (which is not always promoted in the movement. “The killing doesn’t take a break, so either will we!”), it can all get to you.

But does that justify discrimination in the movement? No. Furthermore, let us not forget that unless you were born vegan, there was a time, when you were not vegan either. So is it okay to advocate for violence against people (who were just like you) simply because they haven’t un-learned the social conditioning at the same rate that you have?

At the end of the day, the statement that we put out there was not about attacking Gary for the mere sake of attacking someone. At the end of the day, it was about saying “No, just because a person is vegan does not give them a free license to discriminate against others (and without consequence), regardless of how revered they might be.” At the end of the day, it is very dangerous, especially within an activist movement, when a person is placed so high on a pedestal, that they become untouchable and can do no wrong.
This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on April 21, 2015.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

Editor’s Note:

Interested in learning more about the problems with hero worship in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement? Check out the work of Marti Kheel, co-founder of Feminist for Animal Rights. Some of her writings on this topic are hosted on the FAR website. Vegan Feminist Network has also written on this topic in regard to the celebration of male violence as vengeance. You can also read more about the problems with anti-Muslim rhetoric on the Academic Abolitionist Vegan. A number of Yourofsky’s essays on violence and rape are also available on Negotiation is Over; please be warned, they are very crude and offensive.

Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Community

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses sexual harassment and assault.

Not Safe for Work: Contains one sexually suggestive photograph.

I want to preface this essay by clarifying that I am not a medical professional, nor am I licensed in counseling or anything of that nature. I specialize in gender studies, feminist theory, and social movement theory with an emphasis on politics in the Nonhuman Animal rights space. This essay intends to share wisdom based on this expertise and is not meant to offer psychological or medical advice. 

Let’s start with context: the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is 80% female. A large percentage of these women are college age, and the movement specifically targets college age persons. The movement is also male-led and adheres to patriarchal norms. Masculinized violent tactics like aggressive confrontation or property destruction tend to be celebrated. As are patriarchal tactics like sexual objectification, whereby female-identified activists are pressured to sexually objectify themselves “for the animals.” So, what we have here is a very toxic situation where men are elevated for violent, patriarchal, and sexist behavior, and the movement is predominately populated by young women (a group that is especially vulnerable to sexual assault, rape, murder, and other forms of male violence) who are valued primarily as sex objects.

Group of scantily clad, sexualized women barely covered with vegetable underwear, their breasts covered with PETA stickers

Men enter the Nonhuman Animal rights movement with the expectation and understanding that female-identified activists exist primarily as sex objects. This also creates a movement culture where activists of all genders may find it difficult to believe survivors who speak out about their experiences.

The unfortunate result is that violence against women in our community is extremely common. Please review our victim services page to learn more about what constitutes violence. Readers may also want to check out Emily Gaarder’s 2011 Women and the Animal Rights Movement, which includes an ethnographic survey of violence against women. I also recommend The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (Chen et al. 2011). Abusers take advantage of social justice spaces where they know young women will be easily accessible, where survivors will be afraid to come forward and the movement will be unwilling to hold abusers accountable in an effort to protect the movement’s image.

Based on this context, activists who come across violence in our community should consider the following hierarchy of concern:

1. The victim or survivor

2. The movement

3. The abuser

Given that we live in a sexist society and our movement is a microcosm of that sexist society, advocates tend to default to victim-blaming, victim-shaming, dismissal, disbelief, etc. We need to overcome this internalized sexism and always keep the survivor first and foremost. It is tempting to be swayed by redemption narratives, especially when the abuser owns up to their abuse (which is rare, making their openness all the more alluring). But keep in mind that this is a movement with a majority demographic consisting of vulnerable persons (women), and men are, as a matter of course, elevated to positions of power and prestige. Survivors must come first, as should the safety of other women.

Activists lined up outside of Whole Foods holding an animal rights banner. Man in front of them is yelling the message to the public.

In a movement that celebrates aggressive tactics and elevates male activists to “heroes” and leaders, a culture is created that endangers women. Groups like DXE and ALF epitomize this hyper-masculinized approach. Image from Direct Action Everywhere Chicago.

Many also pressure victims to keep it hushed because of fears about the movement looking bad. Keep in mind, however, if we have a movement where women cannot be granted basic guarantees of safety, and if those victims come forward and are not believed (or, worse, they are insulted or threatened), this makes for a very weak collective. We must put the vulnerable first, not the abusers.

So where does this leave the abuser? Given the tendency for men in female-dominated spaces to abuse their power (this has been documented in the feminist movement as well), we need to be extra vigilant about male-on-female violence in this movement. There must be accountability for interpersonal violence. For those who own up to their behaviors, that is a good start, but we should engage the admission with caution. The redemption narrative can easily be used to protect male privilege, especially when a discouraged movement desperately wants to maintain hope that a just world is possible and also wants to keep a positive outlook for purposes of sustaining morale and attracting new members. But, remember who we must keep at number one: the survivor, not the abuser. Perhaps abusers should begin to exit the movement out of respect for the safety and well-being of others. The community should support this departure. For the sake of social justice and movement integrity: survivors first; abusers last.

Those who prioritize the movement might balk at such a suggestion. Indeed, many claim we need “all the help we can get,” so anyone and everyone is welcome to participate. But there are other ways for individuals to help animals that will not involve them being in direct contact with vulnerable persons in the activist community. If we do not maintain an accountable and safe movement, we are unnecessarily weakening our movement. This is serious. Survivors can experience severe mental health issues following the incident(s) like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Some even kill themselves. Many drop out. We support incredible suffering and we lose valuable activists when we refuse to take violence seriously. If this truly is a movement that values peace, nonviolence, and social justice, we need to keep our priorities in check. Survivors first.

 

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

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

Animal Victimization in the Service of Male Vengeance

Consider the following story line:
1. Woman is assaulted/raped/kidnapped/murdered.
2. Man goes on rampage in revenge.

How many movies (and television shows, video games, comics, etc.) can you think of that follow this plot? Bravehart? Taken? Just about every video game ever created? The victimization of women is an extremely over-used plot device meant to allow for rampant, unabashed violence from leading male-identified characters.

Taken Vegan Neeson

Feminists have taken issue with the trope, not simply because it gives a green light to hyper-masculinized violence, but also because of the ways in which women are presented. In seeing women vulnerable, victimized, dependent on men, and rarely actively involved in their own protection or survival, women become objects. Women don’t exist as persons or meaningful characters–they exist solely as an excuse for Liam Neeson to blow up half of Europe in search of his daughter, or for Mel Gibson to disembowel and behead half the English army.

Consider the impact this imagery has within a sexist culture. Imagine what it is like to be a woman in a media space that is saturated with images of women being hurt. Think about how difficult it can be to watch an action movie or television drama without being subjected to the obligatory rape scene. Media socializes not only male viewers, but female viewers as well.

Are we being encouraged to empathize with the victim, or are we being encouraged to root for the “good guy”/”hero”?  Are we encouraged to think critically about the systemic violence that the victimization is embedded within? Or are we really just pushed to unload our hatred on one individual “bad guy” and his cronies? When images of violence against the vulnerable are presented as entertainment and cheap plot devices, is this not a form of revictimization?

Lee Hall, a feminist and legal scholar in animal rights, has a chapter in her book On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal Rights Philosophy Down to Earth which questions the use of violent images of Nonhuman Animal suffering in a similar vein. Social movement scholars have pointed to the utility of “morally shocking” imagery as a motivation for becoming an activist, but at what point do graphic images simply begin to reinforce the object-status of Nonhuman Animals as helpless victims? What impact could these millions of images be having on our conceptualization of other animals?

To me, it seems that activists are not only blasting the public with these demeaning images, but they are also sharing them within the activist community as a means of exciting rage and desire for vengeance. Crude images of Nonhuman Animals being kicked, beaten, sexually assaulted, dismembered, etc. are shared among activists with encouragements to “GET ANGRY!” or “DO SOMETHING!”

Ecofeminist Marti Kheel has been writing about this “savior complex” in anti-speciesist spaces for decades. Instead of examining the root cause of exploitation, activists and theorists are looking for a reason to call on their inner Liam Neeson. The vegan feminist perspective, however, sees social change grounded in respect for the exploited and peaceful, non-violent education for the exploiters. Kheel explains:

Whereas nature ethicists have tended to concentrate on “rescuing” the”damsel in distress,” ecofeminists have been more likely to ask how and why the “damsel” arrived at her present plight. [ . . . ]

The natural world will be “saved” not by the sword of ethical theory, but rather through a transformed consciousness toward all of life.

“From Heroic to Holistic Ethics,” Ecofeminism,1993, p.243-4

My concern is that “victims in pictures” simply become revictimized when their experiences are shared in a matter that does not necessarily respect their personhood. In doing so, they simply become objects in the story line of activism:
1. Nonhuman Animal is assaulted/raped/kidnapped/murdered.
2. Human goes on rampage in revenge.

Given that the Nonhuman Animal rights movement already operates according to patriarchal norms and generally celebrates violent direct action, it seems quite fitting that Nonhuman Animals are presented as victims in order to allow men the justification they need to rampage. While violent activism is done in the name of social justice, the “might makes right” logic that supports this approach clearly works within an ideology of patriarchy.

Baby elephant smiles and lifts their trunk upwards towards mother, whose legs and trunk frame the shot

Popular media loves to play this victim card so that audiences can quickly “cut to the chase.” But is it wise to employ the same tactic in social justice efforts?  I think it is fair to say that the norm in other movements is to focus on the personhood of victims and survivors, instead of blasting audiences (and each other) with images of bloodied and mangled corpses or near-corpses. The video capturing the murder of Walter Scott by a police offer has gone viral in the Black Lives Matter movement’s media circles, drawing criticism from some that the revictimization of Black men through imagery mimics the same process found in pornography (an argument I have also made regarding the use of rape memes in the Nonhuman Animal rights media):

Yes, we should celebrate that even though an unarmed black man was killed, his killing was caught on film, so there’s a better shot at justice and closure. But I’m trying desperately to make sense of why watching and sharing the video that tore his mother’s heart to pieces is as normal as making your latest Instagram post. So far I’m landing at this: In a world where we are inundated with explicit content, watching black men die on camera provides a thrill that America thought she lost when popular lynchings ended with no need for a “mature audiences only” disclaimer. [ . . . ]

The black man’s death is repeated, reproduced, shared, and celebrated in a macabre way specific to the snuff genre. These films and activities have always existed, but in the past people didn’t consume them so publicly, or so proudly outside of public executions and lynchings.

Perhaps the Nonhuman Animal rights movement should take note. Instead of revictimizing Nonhuman Animals, let’s present them as persons. Let the Nonhuman Animals take center stage, not their human avengers. This is a movement that seeks to restore dignity to Nonhuman Animals. Reproducing victimization through movement media might not be sending the right message.

 

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

Ms. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is an instructor of Sociology and council member of the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association.