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.

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.

PETA Applauds Horrific Maroon 5 Video Glamorizing Violence Against Women

Trigger Warning:  Post contains images and discussion of violence against women.

Lead singer Adam Levine holds a reclining woman. Both are naked and covered in blood

PETA has a rich history of using explicit violence against women to promote Nonhuman Animal rights, a tactic that has been spreading to other organizations that follow PETA’s example.  In 2013, a PETA commercial depicted a scantily-clothed model in a locked car dying a sexy death to raise awareness for dogs vulnerable to heat exhaustion in the summer. LUSH hosted an anti-vivisection street demo featuring a woman in a nude suit enduring 10 hours of torture that culminated in her simulated death.  Animal Liberation Victoria campaigns against vivisection and whaling by positioning women in various states of undress, doused in blood for public spectacle.  Many of PETA’s print ads feature sexualized women in pain, often bloodied or dismembered.  In addition to PETA’s 20 year campaign of sexually objectifying young white women “for the animals,” it is clear that misogyny has become an anti-speciesist tactic of choice.

Image depicts the upper body of a woman butchered and hanging on a meat hook. Reads: “Hooked on meat? Go veg.”

PETA seems pleased that others capitalize on sexualized violence against women as well.  “Animals,” a new video release by American pop band Maroon 5, has come under severe scrutiny by feminists who are aghast at the video’s glamorization of stalking and violence against women. Indeed, as the lead singer/stalker Adam Levine (People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” 2013) is also portrayed as a butcher and the sexualized body parts of the female love interest (his “prey”) are juxtaposed with the fragmented, bloody body parts of Nonhuman Animals,  the video brilliantly exemplifies vegan feminist theories of intersecting oppression.  Despite the loud outcry from feminist and anti-domestic violence communities concerned with the impact this video may have on dating norms, rape culture, and women’s safety, it turns out that images of blood-soaked naked women in danger are right up PETA’s alley.  PETA spokesperson Ben Williamson reports to MSN:

Actually, we think Adam does a very convincing job of making slaughterers look deranged… If anything, the video doesn’t go far enough in showing the bloody horror of the meat industry and the misery that animals endure before their carcasses end up on a meat hook or butcher’s chopping block… We’re all ‘Animals,’ but anyone upset by the bloody scenes in the video had better opt out of real life violence by choosing to be a compassionate, vegan animal!

Typical of sexist advocacy in Nonhuman Animal rights, PETA is pulling on misogyny to scare or shame women into compliance.  If women are “upset” by exposure to male violence, they “had better” go vegan.

Using images of violence against women should never be an acceptable form of advocacy in a world where violence against women is real, lived, and on-going.  Most women will experience violence at the hands of men at least once in their lives, and all women suffer the constant threat of it.  The statistics for harassment, stalking, assault, rape, and homicide are staggering.  Given this reality, these approaches are nothing short of unethical and irresponsible.  By stepping in to defend the Maroon 5 video (what feminists are calling “this year’s ‘Blurred Lines’“), PETA is actively aggravating the distrust many women harbor for the stereotypically sexist Nonhuman Animal rights movement.

Incidentally, PETA’s comment that “slaughterers look deranged” is extremely disableist, classist, and racist.  Slaughterhouse work is the most dangerous profession in the United States; and it is grossly underpaid with the highest turnover rate.  What this means is that lower class persons, non-native persons, uneducated or illiterate persons, mentally disabled persons, non-English speaking persons, people of color, and other vulnerable groups are pushed into these jobs.  Using disableist rhetoric to describe human victims of industrialized food systems further alienates marginalized communities and puts Nonhuman Animal rights activism in an ugly light.

With so many peaceful and creative ways to advocate against speciesism, I reject the movement’s insistence on exploiting systemic violence against women, poor persons, disabled persons, persons of color, etc. Such an approach is inherently limited and can only alienate potential allies.

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.

The Patriarchal Orientation of Sex, Race, Economic and Human/Nonhuman Classes

By marv wheale 

 

Neither capital nor labor tend to consider women as a sex class beneath men.  Both economic classes are prone to treat sexual relations as private, naturalist, voluntaristic, thereby not collectively antagonistic.  Sexual equality is generally perceived as almost a given by men and women of the lower and middle economic classes.  They acknowledge some irrational differences that manifest because of poverty and cultural discrimination.  Racism is frequently explained along the same lines.   Celebrating diversity and commonality  are deemed as the answers to sex and race prejudice.  Full gender and race equality will be achieved in an economic classless society, they think.  So sex and race relations are subsumed into the class struggle and defined in primarily economic terms.  At the same time men and women in the capitalist class are mostly white at least in developed nations.  They often admit that women, especially women of color and of aboriginal descent (minority men as well) do not have equal economic power to white men but this will be resolved over time with more awareness, education and acceptance of differences.   These elite, not unlike their subordinate classes, are resistant to the idea that there is a systemic sex and race division of power inside and outside the marketplace and the state.

In fact the sexes and races are classes too.  Anyone who understands social classes knows that they refer to power inequalities not bigotry.  Male dominance is a sex class.  It signifies the political forms men’s power has taken over time:  the sexual allocation of childcare and labour, pornography, sexual harassment, stripping, burlesque, beauty practices, rape,  prostitution, battering, obligatory heterosexuality, homophobia,  transphobia, the state, capitalism, colonization, the military, etc.  Women assimilate into these constructs.  They did not determine them.  Hence male supremacy is institutional sexism not a natural or solely individual phenomenon.   In terms of race class, it was white men in Europe, Australia and North America who organized  the government, economy, servitude of  men and women of colour, segregation and the occupation of indigenous lands – all illustrations of institutional racism.

As a correlation think about capitalism.  Capitalists and workers do not have the same power to dictate each other’s lives.  It would be ludicrous to believe that capital is not dominant over labour and that mistrust and intolerance are the causes of the ill feelings towards each other.  To see the enmity in economic class divisions as a result of reciprocal misunderstandings would be an obscene misrepresentation of reality.   Capitalist rule is institutional economic classism.   Mutual respect, dialogue and compromise are not the solutions here to power and powerlessness;  abolition is, at the system design level.

Big fish eating smaller fish eating smaller fish; meant to represent capitalism

Many millennia ago males constructed masculinity thereby creating femininity out  of females, causing the rise of the sex class hierarchy.   When women  were privatized and isolated into pair bonding/marriage it obscured their sex class status and the systemic violence towards them.  Conjugality kept them divided against themselves by publicly declaring their primary identification as spouse/wife.  Women’s lower economic status is shrouded as well when they marry men because men generally have more wealth.  What’s more, women mediate economic class relations between men  when they marry across (and within) class lines.  Women serve to ease monetary and race class hostility by having men of different classes bond across women’s bodies providing political stability and legitimacy to the whole class system.

Woman and man holding signs that read "marriage equals" with a figure of a man and a woman

As noted by Cheryl Abbate the ascendancy of the male gender is obvious on the basis of aggression alone:  The idea that masculinity is responsible for violence, including sexual assault, is rarely disputed.   As Kilmartin points out, the vast majority of violent acts are committed by males, leading us to conclude that there is a high correlation between masculinity and aggression (Kilmartin 1994, 211).   According to the FBI (2011), approximately 90% of violent crimes in the United States are committed by men.”

Male dominance exists cross culturally in common and particular local forms too.  Women are inferior everywhere in terms of the gendered/sex lines of power.  Trouble is, the partitioning is usually defined as the biological sex differences by men (and many women) concealing its sexual politics.  When the Left admits that austerity measures and poverty affect women, First Nations and people of colour more than white men, it seems to be aware of the centrality of white male privilege;  but the Left doesn’t honestly face the universal historicity of patriarchy, preceding and following primitive accumulation.

Since all the world is a structural stage and the central element is patriarchy, gender conditions our choices in sexual relations in conjunction with capitalism in economic relations.   No one purely chooses heterosexuality no matter how much consent there is because the assent is shaped by inequality.  Heteronormativity under male imperialism is (man)datory whether it be monogamy, sexual harassment, pornography, prostitution or polyandrous relations.    As mentioned earlier, in western countries male monopoly is integrated with white supremacy as the public setting for people of color.  The difference is that many progressives suppose race classes should be undone while the majority uphold masculinity and femininity as innate.  They only want femininity to be as socially valued  and empowering as masculinity.  Liberal feminists take this viewpoint that sex work, cosmetics, BDSM, marriage and housework can be liberating.

Woman at SlutWalk protest holding sign that reads "Is it legal to eat me if I wear bacon?"

The following rhetorical questions should resonate with socialists and feminists alike :  Do workers meaningfully choose their type of work or place of work?  Have women played an equal part with men in conceiving and building the major institutions of society?  If working conditions improve would oppression disappear? If women are granted greater legal protection from male violence does their exploitation vanish?   If you have satisfying and high paying work, does that imply your work is not exploited? If a woman has high status in society by male standards does that mean she isn’t discriminated against or sexually objectified?   As feminist scholar Catharine Mackinnon once said, is “a good fuck…any compensation for getting fucked?”   I hope we all have honest answers to these questions.  Apply race to these queries, which we must, and you will have another layer of subordination alongside and below white women.  Add colonization, sexual orientation, age, disability, body shape and biosphere debasement to the equation, and more intertwining injustices come to light.

 

Women and Nonhuman Animals

Capitalists, socialists and anarchists have other conceptual barriers linked to male hegemony:  an aversion to regarding nonhuman animals as a subjected class.   Moreover these speciesist androcentrists dismiss women’s rank in interrelationship to animals’ position.   The comparative mirror reveals the oppressions are not the same: women aren’t eaten and animals aren’t usually men’s sexual fetishes, for examples.   Nonetheless there are numerous similarities.  Dog and pony shows are analogous to beauty pageants and runway modelling.Hypermuscular man is binding the corpse of a chicken   Animals are imprisoned and assaulted in our homes, corrals, barns, laboratories, rodeos, horse races, circuses, zoos, aquariums and fight rings.  Women are detained and abused in prostitution, brothels, rape camps, strip clubs, peep shows and in their homes.  It is men who typically control these forms of enslavement of women and animals.  Domesticated animals are cooked and photographed in sexual postures as the pornography of meat.  Women are sexually depersonalized in and by pornography.   Harassment is common to either group.   Animals and women are most frequently killed by men, and some women have been slaughtered, eviscerated and dismembered like animals by men.  In addition, societal assumptions in general that animals “exist” for human welfare should not sound totally different from women’s experiences under male expectations.  Even the therapeutic role animals and women play correlate.   Most people live their entire lives without learning of the barbarity that occurs behind the closed doors of brothels, pornography studios, massage parlours, sex trafficking, strip clubs and private dwellings on the one hand, and slaughterhouses, vivisection labs, animal entertainment industries, animal traffickers, product-testing facilities, factory farms and households on the other.  The business of exploiting women and animals for pleasure, convenience, amusement, taste and moneymaking is intentionally well hidden.   Disclosure would undermine the power and profit of male capitalist and socialist enterprises.   Men must have their sex and steak at all costs.

Men walking through red light district with women's bodies in the windows

The truth of the interrelationship of patriarchy, capitalism and speciesism is revealed by vegan feminists who believe it is crucial not to conflate them in ways that are fanciful and offensive to women or untrue of animals.   When relating the rape of women and farmed animals for instance, Corey Lee Wrenn  calls for respect: “Knowing that about 1 in 3 women have or will be raped, I find it extremely inappropriate to utilize rape imagery to promote veganism.  First off, our primary audience is women.  If 80% of the movement is women, and 1 in 3 women are rape victims, that means that more than 27% of our movement (or more than 1 in 4 activists) are likely to have been the victim of rape.  Any rape victim can tell  you, seeing images of rape or reading graphic descriptions is extremely triggering.  It is also revictimizing when it is made obvious that our community doesn’t care enough about our safety to avoid using our experiences for animal rights claims on our behalf.”   A discerning approach is always necessary to examine these oppressions together and separately.

 

Transforming Cognizance

Vegan feminists unmask and demystify our personal identities.  Part of seeing through the identity fog means admitting the delusions we took for granted, the “habitual patterns” –  the assigned gender hierarchies of masculinity and femininity, human species superiority and capital control –  reinforced through millions and millions of moments of social learning.  Before “awakening” we thought  it wasn’t possible for things to be any other way as if these tendencies were an unchanging part of human nature (coming from the stork or written in the stars).  These assumptions easily perpetuated themselves because they are some of the most unquestioned beliefs we have.  As we begin to grow in consciousness and apprehend the alternatives to the prison of gender roles, non-human animal inferiority and labour submission, we become unstuck from oppressive attitudes.  Declaring a primary loyalty to women’s or animals’ or workers’ liberation is now regarded as a misconceived notion.  They are different, interrelated and of equal value.  There is no complete separation among them when each is understood as they actually exist in the context of patriarchal systems and rules.

All this illustrates the extraordinary power and influence of male ideologies over our consciousness, unconsciousness and societal institutions. They render dissenting views like the abolition of pornstitution,  animal products and capitalism as absurd and unintelligible – it has always been this way so it must be this way.  Overcoming the suppression of freedom of expression by male dogma is daunting but achievable.   Promoting veganism is an essential though utterly deficient way forward.   Political engagement in women’s, people of colour’s, workers’ and other species’ emancipation from  patriarchal organizational injustice is the ultimate solution.    Single issue approaches focusing on higher status animals as in dogs, cats, bears, whales, dolphins, sharks, elephants, tigers, gorillas, etc., does not constitute a serious engagement with comprehensive structural violence when they omit contextual analyses and strategies.

 

Feminism, Anti-Capitalism and Anti-Specieisism

That deep feminism is the missing underpinning of anti-speciesist socialist/left/anarchist analyses is another point of this reflection.   Some pro-animal revolutionaries from these traditions agree that all oppressions including sexism are entangled.     However they are reluctant to admit that men, often white males, have dominated the top tiers of monarchial, feudalist, religious, slavery, animal industry, state, military, capitalist, colonialist, family and pornstitution systems.   The animalist left typically denies that the male sex class could well be the enveloping power of all social hierarchies throughout (his)tory. Patriarchy was never unvarying. It evolved in various ways depending on how societies were organized within the hierarchies of men of which women and animals had little decision making power. It would be more factual therefore to resolve other class struggles within the broader sex class struggle.   Male supremacy should be emphasized as the first among equal subjections rather than one structure among many.  Opting for an “interlocking equal oppressions method” has the effect of minimizing foundational sources and influences even though women oppress animals, women capitalists have power over their workers and white women as a group have advantages over people of colour.

How can we devise appropriate strategies to change the world if we don’t  analyze it accurately?

 

Note: Few of the ideas in this post originate with me.  The principal ones stem from feminists like Cheryl Abbate and Corey Lee Wrenn  who have taught me how to think rationally, critically and inclusively,  something my non-feminist teachers failed to do.