We have such a complicated relationship and history. You were one of my first entry points into animal activism, made me feel not so alone, gave me a sense of connection, and so much passion and hope as a middle schooler. I proudly wore my PETA t-shirts to school, lived on your street team website, and even spent the summer interning with you. I learned how to organize my first protest from you. You provided advice when my teacher wouldn’t allow me dissection alternatives. The “Street Team” forums helped me not feel so weird in the world (although, now I know – weirdness is the best) and gave me the strength to keep going, to keep fighting, even after cruel kids and comments.
So much has changed – and it really, really hurts, to be honest. I know you haven’t changed, and I guess that is the problem. You are still doing what you’re doing – in the way you are doing it. I see your campaigns/advertisements – over the past few years, have reflected back on the media “brainstorming” sessions we had when I was an intern, and it creates these twisted knots in my stomach. It’s really hard to describe the feeling. It’s like when a family member says something really homophobic or sexist, does something that you know isn’t right – but they were the ones who stayed up with you at night as a kid, read you bed time stories, and fought against some of the monsters in your closet. There’s always this soft spot, this hope that they can change, will change.
I’m just. Angry. And sad. Sad for the non-human animals – sad for the animal rights and social justice movements – because it’s a loss, a huge loss, and it’s hurting all of us. We need organizations that are working towards ending ALL forms of oppression – not perpetuating them in the name of justice for one – because it’s not possible. Nothing is a single level issue. And animal rights IS a social justice issue. The non-human animals need everyone.
I struggle when feeling the divide between the social justice/feminist movements and animal rights movements- as though they are separate non-connected issues. And I hate that you are so often the face of the animal rights movement – but you are, so it’s time to hold yourself accountable, take responsibility, and make a change. I beg of you. As that bright and teary fire eyed middle schooler. Please stop with this sexist, racist, non-consent centered bullshit, and please get rid of any remnants related to your latest campaign: “Vegans go all the way.” NO. NO. NO. We need to challenge rape supportive culture, not contribute to it – for non-human animals and human animals.
I don’t really have any more words, but please, I beg of you, on my hands and knees, for all the passionate teens, the cant-quite-fit-in people like me – teach them that we can make a difference, and support them in their multiple identities and experiences, and in ending all forms of violence. Because it’s all connected. Only then can we create a beautifully loving and compassionate world – where violence is not digested. Where sexualized violence is not normalized. Where marginalized non- human animals and human animals are not objectified and seen as inferior.
This goes out to all the feminist movements as well – it’s time to recognize the role violence against non-human animals plays in desensitizing us and normalizing other forms of violence and oppression.
-A once young PETA lover, hoping for change.
By Mary Sue Savage
You can follow her on her blog, Confessions of an Activist with Social Anxiety.