Podcast #5 – Trumpocalypse

In this podcast, Corey examines the personal and community grief associated with the 2016 American election. This episode also identifies a number of important parallels between Trumpism and veganism. Aggravating human inequalities in a hasty and desperate push for change is an ethical concern.

Episode recorded on November 13, 2016.

Scroll down to listen.

Show Notes

Brookings Institute | “What a Trump presidency means for U.S. and global climate policy

MSNBC | “Michael Moore joins wide-ranging election talk

Public Radio International | “Gloria Steinem says Donald Trump won’t be her president

Saturday Night Live | “Election Night

Vegan Feminist Network | “Why Trump Veganism Must Go

Vegan Feminist Network | “LUSH Cosmetics: Kind(ish) to Animals, Not to Women

The Woman as Sexy Dying Animal Trope

Women crouch in filthy cages, dressed in rags, looking around in fear; promo image for "The Herd"

Too frequently in anti-speciesism advocacy, women become stand-ins for Nonhuman Animals suffering from extreme human violence and degradation. It is not by chance that women predominate in these roles. Women are selected (or self-select) because it culturally “makes sense” to audiences that sexualized violence will be aimed at women. If men, a relatively privileged group, were to substitute the vulnerable and suffering Nonhuman Animals, it just wouldn’t compute.

Women are regularly subject to violence and degradation, so they become the “natural” choice when staffing campaigns. Women in the audience, too, are familiar with the normalcy of misogyny, and perhaps social movements hope to trigger them into supporting the cause by tapping into their fears and traumas. Such a tactic begs the question as to how aggravating inequality for women could reduce inequality for other animals.

Consider the vegan advocacy film, The Herd. Status quo misogyny predominates, and there is arguably nothing that sets this film apart from standard sexist and violent horror movies except the good intentions of the filmmakers. The script is exactly the same: young, thin, white women, naked or nearly naked, are sexually brutalized for the titillation of the audience.

I ask activists to consider how replicating violent, misogynistic media could, logistically, disrupt oppressive thinking about other vulnerable demographics. Further, I believe it is ethically problematic to contribute to a culture of woman-hating in a world where actual violence against actual women continues to happen so frequently that it can only be described as normal. Images have power, and these images should be used responsibly in service of social justice. It is both unwise and immoral to capitalize on sexism to advance anti-speciesism.

In the video linked below, I have compiled a number of images to illustrate the woman as sexy dying animal trope. This is a pattern that extends across a number of organizations, notably PETA, but also LUSH Cosmetics, 269life, and others. Consider what it means when activists instinctively position women as representatives of speciesist violence. Consider also the privilege afforded to men who are less frequently used, but also the dangers in positioning them as abusers in protest scenarios. In a society where violence against women is still not taken seriously, it is unclear how movement audiences could be expected to take violence against animals seriously through misogynist imagery of this kind.

 

 

ARationalApproachtoAnimalRights

You can read more about gender politics in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies 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.

whyveganism.com

Essay Reading – Dear New Vegan

Vegan Feminist Radio

Newly establishing vegans face a number of hurdles in their transition, but not all of them have to do with changing palates. New vegans must also contest with the gender politics of food and activism.

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

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

Archives of this podcast can be found here.

Essay Reading – Tips for Male Allies

With sexism so endemic to social justice spaces, how do men help push back against interpersonal violence and systemic discrimination while also respecting boundaries?

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

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

Archives of this podcast can be found here.

Feminism, Veganism, and Vaginal Beer

Vantage Points

Editor’s Note: Despite the publication date of this essay, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke, and we encourage you to actually view the campaign linked below. In a porn culture, the consumption of women’s body parts is normalized and fetishized. Shocking as it may seem, products and projects like this one are the predictable result.

Here we go, as if the daily reminders of women’s bodies as objects through the media are not enough, consumer culture has concocted yet another way of degrading women. As of last week an IndieGogo campaign has been created to fund the first vaginal beer. The pitch is that they will use a Czech model’s lactic acid bacteria from her vagina and implement it into a beer. Their long-term plan is to expand the line to involve other women in the production of this beer.

Before getting too deeply into this topic, it is important to point out that not all women have vaginas and that men can also have vaginas, so the pairing of the words “woman” and “vagina is problematic. Although as a cisgender person myself, I cannot accurately critique this from a transgender perspective. Therefore, the light referencing of this issue is not meant to undermine, but rather it is the recognition on my part that it would be disingenuous of me to deeply dissect this project through such a lens.

To start off, the campaign video for project is riddled with sexist language and makes no effort to hide the high levels of objectification being used to appeal to a straight male audience. In the first ten seconds of the video the viewer is presented with the words, “Imagine a woman of you dreams, your object of desire.” The first words of this video flat out refer to women as an object of desire. The hook of this campaign’s video starts off strong with these words, which are accompanied by a sketch of the behind of a naked woman. The first couple seconds presents us with the reality that referring to women as an object in a patriarchal society can be done in such a casual manner without any pressure on the speaker to defend such a statement.  Even more so, this statement is intended to drive profit.

This campaign is not unusual in that sexualized women’s bodies are used to sell everything, especially consumptive products. The term consumptive product here is used in the literal meaning of “things that can be ingested into the body”. It is not new information that these sexualized tactics are used to sell an array of animal products such as hamburgers and steaks in commercials and other forms of media. Although, this campaign takes it even farther by creating a product that literally allows men to drink particular female bodies. This is the actual bottling of vaginal secretions to be sold, so that men can ingest “the essence of femininity and women’s instincts”. Not to mention that there is an intentional use of beer to be the subject of this product, being that beer is a notoriously male-marketed alcoholic beverage.

Pinup woman holding glass of beer

The creators of this project also make sure that they sexualize women, while also shaming them. They explain that the drink does not taste or smell like a vagina. Through doing this it can be understood that women’s bodies are only profitable as long as they are represented in this particular fantasy framework of desire. The natural functions of a vagina are not desirable; in fact, they are something to be disgusted by. Therefore, any arguments that women are being honored in this product should pay attention to this distinction of the smell and taste by the creators while unpacking the true intentions of this product. A true honoring of women would recognize the diversity of women and a true honoring of vaginas would entail an honest representation of the functions of a vagina, beyond a representation deeply entrenched in sexualization and commodification.

Even more so, the language used to describe what a consumer will supposedly get from this beer provides an overbearing amount of gender norms. The video describes flavoring the beer with female essence, femininity, and instincts. The use of these terms reduces women to the idea that they inherently encapsulate these terms (so inherently that the origins can be traced, extracted, and sold). This ignores the fact that gender is a social construction; the biological female essence or instinct does not exist. Furthermore, as stated before, not everyone with a vagina is a woman and to have such a strong link in this product between these two words is harmful towards those who are transgender. Of the terms used to describe the ingredients of this beverage, the term femininity is particularly oppressive. This term is rooted in a burden on everyone who appears to be a woman to interact with the world in a particular way, regardless of whether they identify as women or their actual personalities. This way of characterizing women is not inherent or natural; it is a way in which society restricts women. One cannot scientifically bottle up femininity or women’s instincts in a bottle, but you sure can put your sexist social constructions into a bottle and start a crowdfunding campaign!

This project further frames the need for an intersection between animal rights and feminism. In this example it is clear that the female human-animal body has been reduced to an object to be ingested into the bodies of others for pleasure. This has been a constant in plight of non-human farm animals. In both cases there is a sense of entitlement of those in a position of power towards the bodies of these persons and what these bodies produce are subject to commodification. The reduction of a person to a product that is purchased and enjoyed so fleetingly is a reflection of the level of worth that person is assumed to have in society. Here specieism and feminism intertwine in the need to recognize that the bodies of persons are not to be objectified and commercialized, but to be respected as individuals with autonomy. The only way this can be achieved is through recognizing that the oppression of marginalized groups is not mutually exclusive, but that they are intertwined and reproduce each other.

 


AlexusAlexus is an animal rights activist, who is in a constant state of trying to unlearn indoctrinated forms of injustice. She spends the majority of her days reading to get her degree in Environmental Policy, she is also a writer for the EPIB Trail (an environmental justice newsletter), and on the weekends she waitresses at a vegan café.

Vegan Feminist Work Removed from Ecorazzi; Author Ousted

Photo of McGrath, quotes "They want me to shut up, to lay low, to be complacent. That's never going to happen."

It is no accident that mainstream vegan spaces are androcentric, and the contributions of women are so invisibilized. There are a number of disadvantages women face to having their anti-speciesist expertise and experience acknowledged, one of them being the overt exclusion or silencing of women.

In late March, 2016, a young woman writing for Ecorazzi published an essay on vegan feminism, imploring the feminist movement to acknowledge the thriving anti-speciesism intersectionality community we’ve been working so hard to build. The article was written by a feminist for feminists; its intended audience was not the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. It nonetheless solicited the attention of vegan men who, while not a part of the dialogue, insisted on eliminating that which promotes vegan feminists and their achievements (to the effect of recentering men’s achievements). At the request of a high-profile male theorist who has described her writing as “speciesist garbage,” her work was removed.

When Vegan Feminist Network made a public statement on the incident, an Ecorazzi staff member responded:

Ecorazzi statement posted on VFN which claims that the essay was removed at the request of Gary Francione for not being vegan or abolitionist enough

The author’s name is Lauren McGrath, and she’s not about to let this go without a fight. In an interview with Vegan Feminist Network, she explained:

This was a public attempt to embarrass and gut me, by both a tired academic and a writing team who I considered my friends. The best part is that they can’t do that- I’m too determined, I’m too passionate, and I fully intend to make the most of this situation.

So how did this happen? As Ecorazzi explains in the aforementioned comment (which was originally published on Vegan Feminist Network’s Facebook page), Ecorazzi has been shifting to a fully Francionist abolitionist approach in its topic coverage. Importantly, this policy appears to necessitate the exclusion of other writers, some of whose advocacy ethics are nonetheless in considerable alignment with “The Abolitionist Approach.”

An Ecorazzi job posting on Vegan Job Board, for instance, seeks a salaried writer who will demonstrate, “A strong understanding of the principles of The Abolitionist Approach by Gary Francione.” The job description insists, “All editorial content will have a strong focus on animal rights and the Abolitionist approach by Gary Francione.”  Says McGrath, “When I was hired, I didn’t realize how aggressively Ecorazzi was going to push Francione’s work.” And this misunderstanding might be expected given that, “The piece I wrote, that got me ousted, was in fact reviewed by all the Ecorazzi staff with zero disagreement or problems.” In other words, it was not until the unofficial “editor-in-chief,” presumably not on staff with Ecorazzi, decided that the piece was not in line with the principles of “The Abolitionist Approach” that McGrath’s work was erased.

After two or three days of no response to McGrath’s voicemails and emails, it was settled via text message that her employment was no longer needed. She was subsequently locked out of the Ecorazzi webpage.

I'm willing to admit when I feel scared, or upset, or feeling threatened, and I think that makes me strong.

In my opinion, McGrath’s contributions to anti-speciesism advocacy are invaluable. Veganism needs more women like her working to build connections to like-minded movements. Unfortunately, she was punished for doing so. Because her experience with marginalization is so common, it only leads me to conclude that the Nonhuman Animal rights movement as an institution, despite its pretenses, ferociously stigmatizes and derides feminism.

What will become of Lauren McGrath after this? I worry for her. She explains, “I’ve had my income, the very thing that sustains my home, puts food on my table, and pays off my bills, yanked out from under me, and that sucks. That’s really, really hard right now, and I’m doing what I can to keep afloat…” Because poverty is feminized, fewer women have access to the secure employment or thousands (even millions) of dollars in wealth that so many of the patriarchs of our movement do, those who use their power to push around those they perceive to be weaker than them. McGrath unknowingly found herself in an impossible position, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t try.

I turned my back on activists I admire and didn't speak up about my beliefs because I wanted to please my boss and keep a job. It was an ugly feeling."

Despite the ethical qualms she faced as an Ecorazzi author and her ultimate erasure, McGrath remains hopeful. As we closed our interview, she insisted, “I’m determined and eager to continue my career nonetheless, perhaps that this has just fueled my passion.”

McGrath isn’t the only victim–this is a systematic attack on women’s contributions, and very often, it is racialized. Recall that Sarah K. Woodcock, Korean-American and feminist founder of The Advocacy of Veganism Society was removed from not one, but two conferences at the behest of white male gatekeepers. I think it no coincidence that she also takes a strong feminist and anti-racist position in her advocacy approach. To be clear, while Vegan Feminist Network fully supports McGrath and the loss of her job is a serious injustice, the disproportionate amount of support and attention her case is garnering does warrant an acknowledgement of how Woodcock’s race may also be working against her (or, rather, how McGrath’s race may be working for her). Stinging from the repeated microaggressions and outright discriminations she has faced, Woodcock questions: “Does oppression only matter when it happens to white people? Does sexism only matter when it happens to white women?”

We need accountability. We must push back against blatant discrimination and woman-hating. So long as the movement remains male-focused and violent in its strategy, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement will remain marginalized, mocked, and misunderstood. I reject this oppressive behavior. What about you?

 


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.

whyveganism.com