Gary Yourofsky: Ist der Backlash gerechtfertigt?

Screencap from video showing Yourofsky explaining himself

Translation by The Vactory. The original English version of the following essay can be found by clicking here.

Trigger-Warnung: Dieser Artikel ist eine Antwort auf ein von Gary Yourofsky hochgeladenes Video. Er enthält Zitate von Yourofsky, die auf Gewalt, sexuellen Missbrauch und Vergewaltigung Bezug nehmen. Das Video enthält ableistische Sprache und behauptet, dass jede Person, die zum Tod verurteilt wurde, auch schuldig ist. (#FreeLeonardPeltier! #FreeMumia!) Des Weiteren enthält es ein unglaubliches Ausmaß an Machogehabe, aggressive, explizite und teilweise verstörende Sprache, welche für einige Leute triggernd sein kann.

„Nach 18 Jahren Prozess ist das Urteil endlich da!“, verkündete Gary Yourofsky kürzlich in den sozialen Medien. „Bezüglich meiner Befürwortung von Vergewaltigung wurde ich in allen Punkten für UNSCHULDIG befunden!“

Diese Aussage nimmt Bezug auf die Gegenstimmen seines berüchtigten Zitats:

Jede Frau, die sich in Pelz hüllt, sollte eine so grausame Vergewaltigung ertragen, dass sie fürs Leben gezeichnet ist.

Die „Bezeugung“ (in Form eines 28-minütigen Videos) geht bis ins kleinste Detail darauf ein, wieso er sich so ungerecht behandelt fühlt.

Es ist aber keine echte Verhandlung. Yourofsky hat sich selbst zum „Richter“ ernannt (daher auch seine Unschuld) und schließt seine Aussage damit ab sich zu bedanken: „Vegane Liebe an alle meine Unterstützer, welche sich geweigert haben diese psychotischen und diffamierenden Lügen über mich zu glauben. Und an all die Organisationen und Leute die mich angegriffen haben und behaupten, ich würde Vergewaltigung befürworten: Ich fordere euch hiermit heraus, den Level meiner Anti-Haltung zu überbieten. Los, traut euch.“ Er wartet einen kurzen Augenblick, um dann auf eine aggressive Art fortzufahren: „Was? Ja, dachte ich es mir doch. Ich gewinne, wie immer! Schachmatt! Ihr verliert!! Fickt euch!“

Yourofsky bemüht sich in dem Video sehr stark darum, darzustellen wie sehr er Vergewaltiger verabscheut: „Dass sollte jedem Vergewaltiger widerfahren, auch wenn er eine Frau im Pelzmantel vergewaltigt (falls das jemals vorkommen sollte).“

Laut „Women Organized Against Rape” wird jede vierte Frau und jeder sechste Mann vor Erfüllung seines achtzehnten Lebensjahres Opfer einer Vergewaltigung. Wenn man bedenkt, wie normalisiert das Tragen von Pelz in unserer Gesellschaft ist, ist die Chance relativ hoch, dass jemand der Pelz trägt vergewaltigt wird.

Er fährt fort:

Sein Penis und seine Hoden sollten mit einem Nagelhautentferner langsam versengt werden, und dann sollten ihm zwei Spieße in die Augenhöhlen gestoßen werden. Danach würde man ihn in einen anderen Raum zerren. Da angekommen sollte man seinen Penis und seine Hoden in Durchfall und Erbrochenes eintauchen. Um sein Leben zu retten würde man ihm dann die Option anbieten dies zu essen. Und wenn er es dann tatsächlich isst, würde ich eine Waffe ziehen, sie ihm zwischen die Augen drücken und sagen „Das war nur ein Scherz“.

Andernorts sagt er: „Tausende von Leuten, hauptsächlich Veganer, haben mich seit 1997 beschuldigt, Vergewaltigung gutzuheißen“ und dass er seit 18 Jahren ununterbrochen mit Falschaussagen schikaniert wird. Aus seinen Aussagen wird klar, dass er Vergewaltiger nicht mag. Doch sagt er auch, dass er das berüchtigte Zitat so niemals geäußert hat?

Yourofsky

„Ich rufe alle meine Anhänger auf, die Lügner und Betrüger zu verurteilen die behaupten, dass ich Vergewaltigung befürworte, weil ich es jemandem gewünscht habe. Ich wiederhole: Weil ich es Männern und Frauen gewünscht habe, die Vergewaltigung und Mord unterstützen indem sie sich in Pelzmäntel hüllen.“ Weiter sagt er, dass es niemanden gibt (einschließlich Vergewaltigungsopfern),  der Vergewaltigung so sehr verurteilt wie er.

Man kann mit Sicherheit behaupten, dass jemand der*die eine Vergewaltigung überlebt hat, dieser Aussage widersprechen würde. Doch schaut man sich an, was er eigentlich sagt, sieht man, dass er nicht den eigentlichen Akt der Vergewaltigung befürwortet. Er wünscht es lediglich den Leuten, die es, wie er findet, verdient haben oder „böse“ sind.

Auch wenn es ein Unterschied ist, ob man sagt„Ich wünschte, diese Person würde vergewaltigt“, oder leibhaftig jemanden vergewaltigt, so ist es doch merkwürdig, dass Yourofsky die Konsequenzen von Sprache nicht versteht, geschweige denn die Konsequenzen, wenn ein Mann darüber redet eine Frau zu vergewaltigen (auch wenn es „nur Worte“ sind). Dass er, wenn er Vergewaltigung als Methode zur Bestrafung benutzt (auch wenn es „nur Worte“ sind) zur kollektiven Rape Culture beiträgt und dies auch Tiere wie z.B. Milchkühe betrifft, welche wiederholt, gewaltsam geschwängert werden (sprich: vergewaltigt), und das nur für ein Produkt. Dass er nicht versteht, dass wenn ein aggressiv klingender Mann von seinen Vergewaltigungsfantasien erzählt, dies für Vergewaltigungsopfer unglaublich triggernd sein kann. Daher ist es befremdlich, dass er nicht versteht wie all dies Gegenwind auslösen oder rechtfertigen könnte.

„WÜNSCHEN“

Er wünscht bösen Menschen böse Dinge. Und auch wenn dies Vergewaltiger, Kinderschänder und Täter*innen häuslicher Gewalt einschließt, so ist in seinen Augen niemand gewalttätiger als diejenigen, welche die Tierindustrie unterstützen.

„VORSCHLAGEN“

„Niemand widerspricht meiner Position bezüglich Gewalt, sie stimmen nur nicht mit mir überein, zu wessen Gunsten Gewalt einzusetzen sei.”

„HOFFEN“

„Aus meinem tiefsten Innersten hoffe ich, dass Unterdrückung, Folter und jeder Mord zu jedem gefühllosen Menschen zehnfach zurückkehrt.“

„SOLLTE“

„Jede Frau, die sich in Pelz hüllt, sollte eine so grausame Vergewaltigung erleben, dass sie fürs Leben gezeichnet ist.“ Was Vergewaltigung angeht, so ist es das, was den Leuten (er bezieht auch Männer mit ein), die die Pelzindustrie unterstützen widerfahren sollte.

Das ist der Grund, weswegen Leute ihn beschuldigen, Vergewaltigung gut zu heißen, doch er sieht das einfach nicht.

So fragt er sich: Wieso konzentrieren sich die Leute auf seine Worte, wenn Tiere als Essen angesehen werden und täglich ermordet, gefoltert und in vielen Fällen gewaltsam geschwängert (sprich: vergewaltigt) werden? Dies würde nicht passieren, wenn niemand diese Industrie finanziell unterstützen würde. Dies sollte seiner Meinung nach der Fokus sein, und nicht etwas, das er gesagt hat.

In diesem Punkt hat er Recht. Unsere Gesellschaft ist sozial so stark konditioniert, dass wir mit dem Glauben aufgezogen wurden, die Gewalt an gewissen Tieren sei in Ordnung. Einer Konditionierung, die sagt, dass bestimmte Tiere nur dafür da sind von uns gegessen zu werden und als Kleidung zu dienen. Die Tierindustrie bemüht sich sehr, diese Dissoziation zu unterstützen, indem sie die Wahrheit über die Zustände in den Tierfabriken verschleiert und Bilder von glücklichen Tieren auf ihre Packungen druckt, um den Eindruck zu erwecken, das Tier sei glücklich unser Essen zu sein.

Wenn wir dann die Fleischpackungen sehen, ist das Aussehen so weit von dem eines lebenden Tieres entfernt, dass wir den Ursprung leicht ignorieren oder sogar vergessen können. Die Tierindustrie hat solche Panik davor, dass ihre Konsumenten die Wahrheit erfahren, dass sie den Staat veranlasst haben, Gesetze zu verhängen die es illegal machen auf ihre Grausamkeit aufmerksam zu machen.  Außerdem, wie soll man denn sonst zu genügend Protein und Kalzium kommen? Wir werden erzogen in dem Glauben, dass wir nicht stark und gesund sein können, wenn wir keine Tiere essen. Doch das ist eine der vielen Mythen, die von der Tierindustrie aufrechterhalten werden.

Es ist auch so, dass es eine enorme Dissoziation gibt bei dem Thema Vergewaltigung und Speziesismus, und dass viele Anti-Vergewaltigungs-Aktivist*innen und Feminist*innen die Verbindung zwischen Milchkühen und der kollektiven Rape Culture nicht machen. Sie wissen nicht, dass eine Kuh wiederholt gewaltsam geschwängert (sprich: vergewaltigt) werden muss, damit sie kontinuierlich Milch gibt, und ihr ihre Babys immer und immer wieder weggenommen werden. Für die Industrie ist ihr Baby nur Fleisch. Dies geschieht so oft, bis sie emotional und physisch so heruntergewirtschaftet ist, dass sie keine Kälber mehr produzieren kann (und entsprechend auch keine Milch) so dass sie geschlachtet wird. Uns wird beigebracht, dass es keinen Grund zur Sorge gibt, da Kühe und andere „Nutztiere“ gefühllose, lieblose Kreaturen sind, die ihre Umgebung nicht bewusst wahrnehmen und mit ihr interagieren können. Auch dies ist eine der Mythen.

In diesen Punkten hat er absolut Recht. Doch Yourofsky gibt sich weiterhin irritiert darüber, warum die Leute solchen Anstoß an seinen Statements nehmen, anstatt die Aufmerksamkeit auf diese sehr viel schlimmere Sachlage zu richten. Doch nur weil etwas noch schlimmer ist, heißt das nicht dass das weniger Schlimme keine Konsequenzen hat. Man könnte sagen „Oh, ich hoffe du wirst erschossen und stirbst einen langsamen, qualvollen Tod.“ Währenddessen kommt es in einem anderen Teil der Welt zu einem Genozid. Ja, Letzteres ist durchaus schlimmer, doch die Aussage hat trotzdem Konsequenzen.

Man muss einräumen, dass Yourofsky seine Aussage teils konkretisiert und klarstellt, dass er nur den Menschen Gewalt wünscht, die direkt oder indirekt in die Nutztierindustrie involviert sind. Er geht davon aus, dass wenn Menschen das Ausmaß von Gewalt erleiden müssten, das den Tieren widerfährt, sie sich vielleicht nicht weiter an der Gewalt beteiligen würden. Allerdings konkretisiert er das nur manchmal. Und wenn er es tut, müssen die Zuhörer*innen erstmal an seinen Eingangs-Statements vorbei, die voll sind mit Wünschen, Hoffen und Befürworten von Gewalt gegen sie, bis sie zum eigentlich Punkt durchkommen. Zu anderen Gelegenheiten ergeht Yourofsky sich einfach nur in anschaulichen Tiraden darüber, was seiner Meinung nach mit Leuten passieren sollte, die bösartig sind

Tatsächlich arbeitet es nur gegen das Anliegen der Tierbefreiung, sich verbal für Gewalt gegen eine Person auszusprechen, die nicht vegan ist. Es ist außerdem äußert heuchlerisch, da man, sofern man nicht vegan geboren wurde, auch einmal zu der Gewalt an den Tieren beigetragen hat. Und selbst als Veganer*in kann man es nicht komplett umgehen, da bei der Ernte von Gemüse, Früchten und Getreide Insekten und Mäuse getötet werden. Wenn unsere Häuser gebaut werden, schaden wir den Tieren die dort lebten. Viele Veganer*innen benötigen Medikamente, die an Tieren getestet wurden.

Lasst uns daran arbeiten dieses System zu ändern, das es beinahe verunmöglicht Tieren nicht zu schaden. Es ist leider nach wie vor so, dass niemand vollständig unschuldig ist.

Als Aktivist*innen müssen wir uns immer vor Augen halten, dass es einen Unterschied gibt welche Aussage sich gut anfühlt und kathartisch ist, und welche eine effektive Taktik oder ein gutes Argument ist. Das wir überlegen, was wir in unserem Tagebuch schreiben oder einer privaten Unterhaltung sagen, und was wir mit dem Rest der Welt teilen, vor allem mit denjenigen, die sich uns anschließen sollen. Die Tiere brauchen so viele Menschen auf ihrer Seite wie möglich, denn nur so kann das Ziel der Tierbefreiung erreicht werden.

Gary Yourofsky hat mittlerweile ein neues Video herausgebracht, mit dem Titel „Palästinenser, Schwarze und andere Heuchler“ in dem er beklagt, dass ihn Leute in der Gemeinschaft „unfairerweise“ bezichtigen, rassistische Äußerungen zu machen.
Hmm, warum wohl?

 


Michele Kaplan ist eine queere (genauer: bisexuelle), geek-proud, intersektionelle Aktivistin auf Rädern (sprich: motorisierter Rollstuhl) und sie strebt danach, eine Balance zwischen Aktivismus, Kreativität und Selbstfürsorge finden, während dem sie die Welt zu verändern versucht.
whyveganism.com

Lack of Intersectionality: A Moral Inconsistency of the Animal Rights Movement?

Woman brandishing a large rainbow flag with a vegan symbol in the middle; appears to be at a gay pride festival

By Raffaella Ciavatta and Lilia Trenkova

Animal rights activists are often accused of not caring about humans. We can argue that usually these accusations come from people who have just had their speciesism challenged and who feel attacked, so they’re reactionary statements. We can obviously also argue that we do indeed care about other humans. Yet this happens so often that even people who’ve never faced their speciesism have come to believe that animal rights activists simply do not see humans as important as non-humans.

Facebook post responding to Yulin Dog Meat Festival (image shows a man tending to caged dogs awaiting slaughter): "I WOULD LOVE TO BE THERE I WOULD PUT BOMBS TO KILL ALL THESE SICK PEOPLE"

How can we change this view? There are among us those who truly believe we cannot fight one system of oppression (speciesism) by supporting another system of oppression (sexism, for example). It is morally inconsistent to claim we care about the bodily autonomy of hens but to oppose the bodily autonomy of women, just as it is morally inconsistent to say we care about equality but exclude certain species who are worthy of that consideration.

According to Javed Deck, for animals rights “[…] to be a movement that actually transforms relationships between humans and animals it needs to take seriously issues of race, class, and gender, and the ways these impact animal systems. Just like the transformations feminist and queer struggles have undergone as they crossed cultural boundaries, so must animal struggle change across these boundaries.”

>In the 70’s, black feminists who worked both for women’s rights and civil rights, started to look at gender and race as connected issues. The feminist movement back then wasn’t talking about race, and the civil rights movement wasn’t addressing gender. They developed a theory and practice called intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in her insightful 1989 essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”.

Applying Crenshaw’s frame of intersection to other systemic oppressions, we can no longer see discrimination based on gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, religion, caste, species, et al, as separate and independent from one another. Axes of identity interact on multiple levels, contributing to systemic injustice and social inequality.

Oppressive systems also share the same roots. They not only have the same strategy, the same tactics, but they also share patterns of behavior and thought. In her essay, Crenshaw uses an analogy to a traffic intersection, or crossroad, to concretize the concept:

“Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them.”

So why should we care about others’ struggles?

  1. Because it is the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong with choosing to be morally consistent.
  2. If we want animal liberation, then we had better build bridges. According to professor Will Kymlicka, 99% of the intersectional analysis that is done by the left today completely ignores the intersection of species. He adds, “I think there’s no way for the animal rights movement to possibly succeed without the support from other social justice movements.”
  3. Being able to create a safe space for activists and potential supporters is key to grow our movement. If we choose to ignore the intersections of oppressions, we run a great risk of turning people away from our cause.

The word intersectionality currently seems to be getting a lot of attention as well as confusion. Quite often there isn’t a mention of the originators of the concept, leaving it to be a white-centric circle, as explained here. Love it or hate it, the concept is challenging all of us, and we shouldn’t turn away from it.

We would like to share our view about it and how we are learning to apply it to Collectively Free. When we first started CF, our dream was to create an anti-speciesist group that embraced the intersections of oppression, both internally in our community and externally in our actions.

Within our community, we strive to create a safe space for activists to express themselves and for potential supporters to join us. We have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we have also tried our hardest to remain humble enough to recognize our mistakes and implement prompt changes to repair them. A great example of that was when the amazing activist, Heather P. Graham, felt triggered during one of our protests after hearing an activist use the word “rape” trivially.

We reached out to her, heard her concerns and asked her to do a panel discussion about the “Importance of Language In Our Movement” followed by a Q&A. We learned a lot from Heather that day. It pushed us forward to officially retire a poster we hadn’t used in a long time, part of our early days, which had the r-word in it. The decision wasn’t because of personal purity, because we care more about what other people may think, or because we don’t believe that mother cows are truly sexually assaulted – it is because we learned that we can achieve the same result in making people understand our message without running the risk of triggering them. Lesson learned: always listen when people who have been hurt share their stories, and always listen when someone brings up issues to your attention.

In terms of delivering an effective message for our activism and building bridges, our first big effort was at NYC PRIDE 2015 (here’s a YouTube link if you don’t have Facebook). We wrote a speakout and chants that reflected the common goal of anti-speciesist, anti-heterosexist and anti-cissexist struggles – liberation from oppression and equality of consideration. Feedback on our video from that day was overwhelmingly positive, from both animal rights and LGBTQ rights activists. Another lesson learned: participate in different movements’ protests and support their causes.

It wasn’t until we launched the campaign against Starbucks that we had the opportunity to really bring that concept out in our actions. We spent several months trying to convey a strong message for the animals while highlighting Starbucks’ exploitation of coffee workers. We have never felt so listened to in any action we ever participated in as on our first day of action, and we are certain it was because we carefully brought together human rights and animal rights.

Our community is not perfect, and we’ll surely continue to make mistakes and learn from them. But if we all stay open to ideas that challenge us we’ll also make strides. Don’t worry, our community will still be hard-core, progressive, envelope-pushers – but now with a bonus! Our activism will no longer appear as a one-way street but as a lane on a highway, a highway shared with other fighters for liberation, equality and freedom.

 

Raffaella

Co-founder of Collectively Free, Raffaella Ciavatta is vegan animal liberation activist, art director, poet, photographer wanna-be, DJ in some past live and most importantly… a big dreamer who makes things happen.

 

Lili

Lilia Trenkova is an activist vegan, set designer, fabricator, organizer and musician.

Vegan Moon – Food, Control and Masculinity

By Stevie LynneBook cover: White heterosexual in the nude embracing.

I read Vegan Moon so you don’t have to.

Trigger Warning: Abuse, racism, and sexual assault.Not Safe for Work: Contains graphic descriptions of non-consensual sexual encounters.

Note: If you’ve come to this post expecting romance fiction bashing, you’ve come to the wrong place. Romance fiction is important. Yup, that’s right: romance fiction is important. In arts and academic circles it’s a struggle to get this popular genre to be seen as anything other than some kind of fleeting triviality. Probably because it’s a genre dominated by women and prioritises women’s pleasure (both physical and emotional) and as we know, those things are “trivial”. This is not a space to dismiss the romance genre.

I was curious to pick up the novella Vegan Moon as it has a vegan werewolf as the hero. But it didn’t take me long to realise that this wasn’t the fun, sizzling, romantic romp I’d been promised…

Vegan Moon is a cis-het paranormal romance novella by American author Kerri Nelson. The central themes are masculinity, flesh-consumption, control and animality. The story follows the perspectives of Santiago Salazar, a Venezuelan dog trainer and werewolf, and professional chef Gabrielle (Gabbi) Connor as they experience instant steamy attraction to one another. Santiago’s plant based diet (there is no mention of veganism as an ethical system) is a source of conflict for the characters, along with the fact that Santiago is a werewolf.

The Hero and Heroine

Santiago is a werewolf who is struggling to control his urges for killing humans and part of his mechanism for control is his vegetarianism/veganism. Other examples of this trope are Munroe from Grimm as well as plenty of vegetarian vampires.

Santiago is described as a “a tall, dark mystery man… with pure lust in his eyes,” and as “[t]he tall, dark creature”.

The heroine of the story is Gabbi. She is described as “petite” and “blonde”, and although it is unsaid, she is probably white. She has a successful career as a celebrity chef, but finds her personal life a little lacking.

I won’t pretend to be an expert in race, but I think it is worth pointing out that constructing Santiago as “dark” and Venezuelan and as part animal in addition to making Gabbi as a pretty, petite, white woman, who spends a good chunk of the narrative afraid of Santiago, is problematic.

Veganism and Self Control

The novella’s thesis is outlined in chapter one. The hero, Santiago, as a werewolf has killed and eaten humans in the past. However, ten years ago, Santiago killed a drug dealer whom he says “deserved” it. But Santiago had a bad experience:

[ . . . ] the man’s blood was so full of chemicals that it had made Santiago sick for days. After that, he’d decided to turn over a new leaf…He’d become a practicing vegan with a new lease on life… Of course, since wolves were carnivores by nature, Santiago still had cravings that required serious impulse control management.

We learn a number of things about the premise:

  1. Santiago’s choice to go vegan has nothing to do with non human animals or systemic injustice
  2. Santiago’s choice is based on personal cleanliness
  3. It is against Santiago’s nature to not eat meat, therefore abstaining from it is a difficult exercise, showing him to be a strong-willed character.

The author has a foreword in which she explains her own desire and failure to go vegetarian (in the text, she uses vegetarian and vegan interchangeably):

I’ve always believed that I could be a vegetarian as I’m addicted to the crisp, delicious selection of produce that calls to me at the grocery story [sic]. However, there’s apart [sic] of me that still craves the juicy taste of a well-prepared hamburger… I’ll never truly be a vegetarian despite my best efforts.

Nelson then goes onto say that she wrote this novella while she was pregnant and explains how much food cravings, especially for the flesh of non human animals, took away her control when it came to food choices. (Now, I don’t know what the food availability options are where Nelson lives, I can only go from what she says in the foreword. It may be the case that she lives in an area where a wide variety of plant based foods are not available all the time.)

Nelson has provided us with a tool to help readers construct one possible reading of her novella: Santiago can be read, in part, as an exploration of Nelson’s own desires and struggles to go vegetarian. What both author and character have in common is that non human animals are missing from their reasons. Nelson in her foreword constructs vegetarianism as an addiction to produce and the ability to conquer cravings. For her character Santiago, it’s all about overcoming and controlling his craving for human flesh.

It’s worth noting that the hero’s perspective in cis-het romance novels is never just a masculine perspective. There is a complicated interplay between author, cis-het hero, and reader. Not to mention how socially indoctrinated ideas about masculinity, identity and action inform the construction of the hero in cis-het romances.

Food and Arousal

After the our two main characters hit it off on a coffee date, Gabbi offers to cook Santiago dinner to show off her super fancy professional chef skills. She decides to make… pasta primavera (Note to any pro chefs looking to impress a vegan: that better be one heck of a pasta primavera).

Gabbi’s cooking puts Santiago close to losing control of his “animal libido” and the sensations he feels remind him of “hunting” and “feasting on meat”:

… all the scents of herbs and spices wafting around them, he could barely keep his animal libido in check.

He’d never known cooking and eating a meal could be this sexually stimulating. Well, he’d felt similar surges when hunting his prey and feasting on meat back in the day.

Food, killing and sexual arousal are all melded into one here, already we can predict the not-so-nice pathway that we’re headed down.

Werewolf and woman

Consent, and Manipulation

Before we talk about the “sex” scene, there’s a bit of information revealed later in the story that is, I think, required to frame the “sex” scene. Santiago says:

Now that we’ve mated, you’ll continue to be drawn to me. You’ll slowly start to lose your mind if you don’t give in to the call. I’m sorry that this happened this way, but I’d like to help you. If you’ll let me.

In theory, Santiago knows prior to “mating” (here meaning a sexual act – presumably penis in vagina because of the way our culture prioritises this type of sex act as being “legitimate”) with Gabbi, that it will cause her harm: she will “lose her mind” if she doesn’t stay with him. In addition, if Gabbi were to find out that Santiago was a werewolf:

Their species code required that they either kill or mate [stay with for life] with any human who discovered their existence.

Essentially after “mating” Gabbi’s only option would be to stay with Santiago. If she finds out he’s a werewolf, her only options are to stay with him for life (made contextually obvious later), or the werewolves will kill her. This prior knowledge of Santiago’s makes all his actions suspicious. If he knows pursuing a romantic relationship with her might lead to “mating”, which will then forcibly make her stay with him (which he doesn’t tell her up front), that’s downright manipulative. Communicating any possible bad outcomes for your potential sex partner to them is something that you should do, full stop.

On one level Santiago’s inability to resist Gabbi, even knowing the harm it will cause her, both actual and potential, is also tied to the theme that animal flesh is irresistible (as seen in the foreword by the author). Neither Nelson nor Santiago seem aware/care about the harm their choices create and frame those choices in terms that remove their agency such as “addiction” and “craving”.

This knowledge, that we only learn after the “sex” scene, makes the violence and abuse in the “sex” scene even more shocking. At one point, Santiago shoves Gabbi. Gabbi protests to being shoved, but  he ignores her protests and continues without her consent: “his hand continued to stroke up the inside of her thigh…”

After he makes her orgasm through manual stimulation, he also does not seek any kind of consent before penetrating her, let alone put a condom on:

She felt dazed and confused in the aftermath of her passionate storm. She felt the cool night air on her ass as her panties were thrust downward, and then she gasped at the feel of his hard cock shoving into her from behind… He was almost too rough in his possession of her tender, swollen pussy, but she was so lost in the moment that she just submitted to the frenzy. As he drove inside her, she heard the wet sound of their carnal connection… She closed her eyes and tried to imagine what they must look like as they mated like animals.

A comparison of who is doing what in this scene shows that Santiago is described with physical actions: he removes her underwear, he penetrates her, he “possesses” her pussy, and he drives inside her. Gabbi is described in a primarily passive ways: she is dazed, confused, feels, gasps, submits, hears and closes her eyes.

Note: I know this is not really sex, it’s assault. Also I know condoms and other safe practices aren’t “trendy” in romance novels, but it still pisses me off when I see it, because c’mon writers, you’re a creative bunch; make safe sex sexy.

Craving and Abuse

As if to emphasise the twin themes of craving and abuse, afterwards Gabbi observes Santiago’s personality change:

She shivered at the now delicate touch. It was in such complete contrast to the rough way that they’d just had sex. This man was an absolute mystery.

The “craving” for flesh has been satisfied. As it often is with domestic abuse: “The abuser’s ‘good side’ can give victims reason to think their partner is capable of being nurturing, kind, and nonviolent.”

After what the author calls “sex”, what can go wrong, does go wrong: Gabbi sees Santiago transform into a wolf. It of course totally freaks her out. As we already know, this means one of two things for Gabbi; either become his mate – i.e. stay with him for life – or the werewolves will kill her. She, however, doesn’t know these are her only options denies his phone calls and refuses to see him, even briefly thinking that he may have drugged her. She holes herself up away from him and spends time in hiding.

The werewolf council (there’s always a bloody council!) find out that Gabbi has seen Santiago transform into a werewolf, therefore steps must be taken to either make her be Santiago’s mate for life or kill her. Santiago seems remorseful about this fact:

He ached for the pain that he’d caused Gabbi, and he didn’t know how he’d go on living day to day as if he’d never met her… never touched her… never possessed her body and made her his own.

But Santiago’s remorse has virtually nothing to do with Gabbi, but himself. This is especially true of the phrase “possessed her body and made her his own”. This verbally echoes Gabbi’s observation that he “possessed” her pussy. She is not an agent, she is a thing to be possessed.

The werewolf council send Santiago’s friend, Tenny, to assess Gabbi’s suitability as a “mate” for Santiago. During this time, Tenny manages to convince Gabbi that she should stop being scared of Santiago and become his mate. We never see how or why she changes her mind. This is highly suspicious and once again shows that Gabbi’s agency is not important.

At the end of the novella Gabbi’s only reservation about everything that has happened is: 

We’ve got to talk about this vegetarian thing.

Nelson’s construction of Santiago as a foil for her own relationship with animal flesh foods manifests as an abusive man who disregards Gabbi as an agent in her own right. Even Nelson’s construction of Gabbi is mostly passive to Santiago’s physical onslaught. The world building choices that Nelson has created makes Santiago into an abusive figure – he knows prior to any kind of sexual activity that Gabbi has to stay with him or else she will “go mad”. It’s difficult to excuse his behaviour in light of this. Thinly, the author suggests that Gabbi is probably his “soul mate”, but this is grossly inadequate.

There are a few things I think are worth highlighting in light of this novella: firstly, that even men who identify as “vegan” can be abusers; secondly, that the author constructs a world and characters where manipulation and abuse are considered okay in the pursuit of desire; and finally that the author believes abstaining from animal products is an act of immense control tying into how the abuse in the novel is symptomatic of the author’s view that cravings for animals’ flesh can’t be helped.

It was disappointing to see abuse and assault in this novella presented as sexy and desirable. It was also disappointing to see veganism misconstrued. It would have been nice for this to be a fun, romantic romp with a non abusive vegan hero, but alas, Vegan Moon did not deliver on that front.

Rape Analogy as Fast Food Advocacy

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay contains a frank discussion of rape analogy in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, including images that depict violence against women. There are also discussions of other forms of human suffering (like pedophilia and racism) that may be painful for some readers.

Fast Food Advocacy

In this essay, I want to quickly address some common responses to Vegan Feminist Network’s position on misogynistic imagery as a tactic in Nonhuman Animal rights. I believe much of the response reflects a commitment to sexism, but some also reflects a general ignorance to the impact that patriarchal ideology and a social environment of misogyny has on the activist imagination. The response also reflects a need to deflect discomfort, because these are tactics that have come to dominate our social movement space, and many have taken them for granted as acceptable and useful. Being made aware of participation in violence triggers cognitive dissonance, and it is a natural response to debate, deride, or deflect in order to protect a positive self-concept.

One of the most common responses we receive is an appeal to alternatives (the implication being that alternatives are either too difficult to imagine or simply do not exist). Activists may be sincere in their inquiries for alternatives to misogynistic tactics, but I believe this response is often engaged to derail the discussion. All activists know that there are certain lines that should not be crossed because they will be so offensive that they will hurt others and repel participants.1 We don’t want to cause hurt and we want to grow our movement, so analogies that go too far are inappropriate.

Man artificially inseminating a cow

Just today, this image was shared by A Well Fed World and Free From Harm. While no women are pictured, the analogy is implicit. Research into morally shocking imagery suggests that this approach can easily repel audiences. We can imagine how this response would be magnified by female audiences that are triggered by images of sexual assault and rape.

More and more activists in the movement recognize that slavery and Holocaust analogies are problematic. True, there are still some white-identified/non-Jewish persons clinging onto these analogies, but there are other analogies that I daresay no one would get behind. For instance, I think it is fair to say that everyone agrees that pedophilia analogies would go too far. A common analogy between women and other animals involves the violence of dairy production. Women are often depicted as being assaulted, beaten, and raped to make a point about what happens to cows. When women are targeted, there seems to be little objection. However, if activists were to produce and promote memes of children being sexually assaulted to raise awareness to dairy cows being violated, most would have to agree that this approach would be so triggering and hurtful, that it would be an act of violence and would put the movement in a bad light. Indeed, because the cows in the dairy industry are still babies and children themselves when they are hoisted onto the industry-termed “rape rack,” wouldn’t pedophilia analogies be more accurate than those that draw on violence against adult women?

But it isn’t about accuracy. It’s about swapping out one degraded and worthless body for another. As one reader pointed out, PETA’s foie gras campaign that positions women as the duck victim in advertisements and demonstrations across the world is illogical because ducks used in the industry are male. That doesn’t stop PETA from “telling it like it is.”

Woman at a dining table being forcefed by a man with a tube, she looks frightened Woman bound by rope face down on a dining table covered in her blood and vomit in an anti-foie gras demo PETA Founder Force-Fed Outside Fortnum&Manson Man standing over woman on her knees being choked by a feeding tube in an anti-foie gras demo Woman force fed with feeding tube, her mouth is stretched and bleeding Man standing over bound and kneeling woman, he is pushing her head down and forcefeeding her with a feeding tube, she looks scared

Indeed, a common response to misogynistic analogies is that “this is accurate; this is how it really is.” Vegan Feminist Network isn’t arguing against that, but we must be cognizant of media as a social construction. Media creators choose what story they want to tell and they seek to manipulate how audiences will interpret them. We live in a rape culture where violence against women is commonplace. The movement draws on this social reality to trigger a specific response. Patriarchal ideology may make many unconscious to this language they are using, but activists are not ignorant. No one (I hope) uses images of lynching or violence in nursing homes or mental institutions. No one uses images of humans with deadly diseases like cancer, AIDS, or ebola. All of these human experiences with violence and suffering could easily be enacted to make analogies about Nonhuman Animal exploitation. Fortunately, activists know better than to use them, because it is understood that they will be offensive and painful to the vulnerable groups whose experiences are appropriated. Except for women. The movement produces thousands of images and reenactments of women bloodied, bruised, assaulted, raped, dying and dead. Because women don’t count.

Women are still at the bottom of the ladder. Violence against women is so commonplace, it is rarely even questioned as a painful subject in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. This is to be expected. In all social movements, women have been ignored, exploited, and left behind.2 The anti-slavery movement would not let women participate and intentionally excluded gender from campaigns to make legislative language more inclusive. The Civil Rights movement kept women in organizational roles and pushed men into the leadership positions.  The gay rights movement seriously underserved lesbians. The free-thinking/atheist movement soundly denies the need to recognize feminist issues. In all efforts to advance social justice, women have been made to take a back seat, never considered fully equal or worthy of rights. The feminist movement has been seeking to challenge this ideology since women were first ousted from anti-slavery efforts in the 1800s, but female activists continue to be framed as loudmouthed, unattractive, mentally unstable, feminazis. Just last month, Time Magazine listed the word “feminist” on their reader poll of words that should be banned. We’ve come a long way baby…but not nearly far enough.

Sexism is so normalized in our society that it has become invisible. You cannot turn on the television without being exposed to sexist remarks, jokes at women’s expense, sexual harassment, sexual objectification, and violent assault and rape of women. We are all exposed to a nonstop onslaught of sexist imagery in our society. It becomes as natural as the air we breathe. The bodies of women have always been sites of violence and domination, to the point where it becomes mundane and expected. So, when Vegan Feminist Network takes a stand against the encroachment of this violent imagery in Nonhuman Animal rights spaces, readers are understandably taken aback. They’ve never been made to think critically about the gender-based violence they have taken for granted as acceptable and normal for all of their lives.

Readers often respond with disbelief or with weak justifications, demanding a soundbite explanation as to why this behavior is problematic in two Facebook comments or less. The information is out there (as just one example, the Vegan Feminist Network website is chock full of free information), but few really want to learn more, because I suspect that few really care. This is the way it has always been done, women are easy targets, and women’s pain doesn’t matter (or matters less).

Kim Socha refers to these kinds of trans-species tactics as “fast food activism.” There is no concern with investigating why these analogies might be problematic, that is, why they may not work as a scientific matter, how the state of sexism is in our society influences interpretation, or how they impact women. Just like McDonalds, these analogies pull on the readily available language of violence against women and pump out advocacy cheaply and quickly irrespective of the hurt it causes to vulnerable groups and the damage done to society.

Woman hugging cow

Violence-free activism that brings attention to Nonhuman Animal exploitation and the intersectionality of oppression is not difficult to achieve.

There are tons of ways we can help other animals without resorting to this tokenizing approach. I’ve published hundreds of essays on this website and on my personal blog, The Academic Abolitionist Vegan, most of which are grounded in my research in social movement theory and social psychology, and all of which are freely available. There are also hundreds of books on effective social change available. There’s no excuse for allowing patriarchal norms and PETA’s influence to dictate our activism. We don’t need to hurt women to help animals. We do it because it is easy and because women don’t matter, and that is a problem.

 
Notes

1. There are a few exceptions, including Israeli group 269Life which, in addition to “reenacting” sexual assault and violence against women in public, also uses shackles, chains, and branding on humans in street demonstrations. PETA, too, has utilized graphic analogies of African slavery and the Holocaust.

2. This is not to say that women were not leaders and important players (in all movements there are important exceptions), but only to emphasize that movements act as microcosmic social systems and too often exclude women and ignore their interests.

Rape & Slaughter: Empirical Correlations

Slaughterhouses and rape

I had the pleasure of presenting at the American Sociological Conference last August in San Francisco with a panel of several talented female scholars in the field of Animals & Society.  One such presentation, that of Racine Jacques, a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida, especially caught my attention because of its implications for vegan feminist theory.  Ms. Jacques had discovered a very strong relationship between rape and the presence of “beef” slaughterhouses in the community.  This relationship remained strong even when controlling for a number of other variables typically responsible for increases in crime rates.  She reports that the presence of a slaughterhouse corresponds with a 166% increase in arrests for rape.  Her study looks at other forms of crime, but rape stands out as especially significant.

Racine Jacques

Racine Jacques

This study partially confirms what vegan feminist scholars have been theorizing for some decades:  Violence against women and violence against animals are closely entangled and likely aggravated by patriarchal rule and capitalist economics.  In a society where the bodies of women and other animals are considered commodities and resources for the privileged, it should come as no surprise to find intersections of violence.

Ms. Racine’s study, “Social Disorganization in Slaughterhouse Communities,” is due to be published in an upcoming issue of Society & Animals.  A more nuanced discussion of the race and class oppression felt by the slaughterhouse workers themselves is included in her analysis.

Prison Rape and the Sexual Politics of Meat

Billboard that reads "The Freshes Meat outside the prison"

The above image was taken on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The billboard pictured reads, “The Freshest Meat Outside of a Prison,” and advertises a fusion restaurant called Chino Latino.  The mocking reference to prison rape is both saddening and telling.

Though we often critique patriarchy in relationship to female disempowerment and violence against women, it is also true that the rape culture evidenced in advertisements like that of Chino Latino celebrate male violence in ways that hurt vulnerable men as well.  Rates of rape in the prison system (an institution that targets primarily men) are astronomically high.  Victimization is tied to severe emotional trauma, but also increased exposure to disease given the closed nature of the institution.  Gay men and transgender persons are extremely vulnerable to assault, but all men are at high risk within the hyper-masculinized and violent environment of the prison system.

Prison rape is a feminist issue for several reasons. First, male-on-male rape is a product of patriarchy and normalized male entitlement to vulnerable bodies.  Second, prisoners are, in many ways, feminized bodies. That is, they are disempowered persons who have been stripped of their agency and identity.  They generally fall into the “feminine” category within society’s masculine/feminine dichotomy.  They become deindividualized and are controlled and exploited by a capitalist/patriarchal institution (the privatized prison system is highly lucrative, relying on an inmate work force that is paid in pennies and cannot unionize).  Many are mentally ill when arrested or become mentally ill from the incarceration experience.  Imprisoned persons are often forcibly medicated.  Imprisoned persons are also forced to wear demeaning uniforms meant to deindividualize or humiliate them. Many are kept in solitary confinement to prevent meaningful and healthy social interactions or relationships.

Pink Uniforms Jail

Third, the prison system is notoriously racist and classist, meaning that poor persons and persons of color are disproportionately targeted for imprisonment.  Beginning in the 1970s, this trend increased significantly after the end of legalized slavery and the share-cropping system.  Previous economic forms of enslavement were simply replaced with the for-profit prison system.

Finally, of course, female prisoners experience high levels of rape as well, particularly from male prison staff.  Too often, the experiences of imprisoned persons are written off because these persons are presumed to “get what they deserve.”  This ideology, however, ignores the role of systemic oppression, gross violations of human rights, and the intentional targeting of vulnerable groups.

The Chino Latino advertisement makes light of this horrific system and plays on the rape of vulnerable, deindividualized and feminized bodies to sell the body parts of vulnerable, deindividualized and feminized bodies in the form of “meat.”  Exploiting and consuming the bodies of those who cannot consent is funny . . . and sexy . . .

The sexual politics of Chino Latino food is unmistakable. On their website, you are invited to look at “sexy pictures” and “hot shots” of their food and drinks.  Many of these images display the corpses of Nonhuman Animals in all varieties of dismemberment and display.

Screencap from website that shows a large piece of animal flesh being sliced. Labeled under "Sexy pictures!!" and "Hot shots"The advertisement for their party room (a webpage entitled, “Explore Our Private Parts – It’s Okay to Stare”) proclaims:

We don’t like to brag, but why be coy? For parties and private events, Chino Latino is unusually well-endowed, with five unique spaces.

One suggested use (there was no mention of any female equivalent, such as a bridal shower):

[ . . . ] have us host a bachelor party the groom won’t remember to regret.

In other words, spaces where “meat” is served and consumed are considered male spaces, and the products are framed as feminized and waiting for male penetration.

The consumption of animal bodies is embedded within the patriarchal language and imagery of sexualized entitlement to and domination over feminized bodies, be they imprisoned persons, women, or other animals.  The references to rape and voyeurism denotes the right of persons of privilege to the private and personal spaces of vulnerable persons.  They become objects of resource and enjoyment; their individual agency is obscured and ignored.

The institutionalized and epidemic levels of violence, rape, and death imposed on imprisoned persons (primarily poor persons and persons of color charged with drug offenses), women, and Nonhuman Animals is neither funny nor sexy.  That a billboard like this could be posted at all indicates how ingrained rape culture and patriarchal values have become.  The presence of these messages demonstrates how the public space is, by default, the male space, maintaining a rigid gender/class/race/species stratification system.

 

References to the sexual politics of meat in this essay are based on the work of Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, The Pornography of Meat, and other vegan feminist titles.