Feminism and Veganism: a panel with Nicole J. Georges, Jojo Huxster, and Anika Lehde; moderated by Julia DeNoto
I'll type the panel as it was presented- a Q&A, with Julia's questions as orange titles and panelist's answers below.
What is patriarchy, and what does it have to do with animal exploitation?
Anika: I recommend the book The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner! Animal husbandry and the rule of men over women has allowed humans to oppress other humans and non-humans. It's important not to use those same tactics when liberating others.
What is feminism, and how does it apply to animals?
Anika: down with patriarchy!
Let's take a look at some examples of how women are portrayed in advertising; specifically vegan or AR-related media
Nicole: It's saying 'women, your worth is tied to your body. A small body means are you worth attention and approval; here's an ad to reinforce that and keep you in your place."
Nicole: Why does the chip have to have a body size or body type? Why not just 'delicious' chips?
Nicole: When do the ends justify the means? If this gets some dude to go vegetarian, is that a good checkpoint? People justify these types of ads by saying that women have a voice whereas animals don't. I don't think we should have to choose, though.
Jojo: No, we shouldn't have to choose. Our veganism shouldn't be at the expense of degrading women. When I was a new vegetarian I was very involved with PETA, and everything was about nudity. As a young woman, that wasn't good for me. They wanted me to cover up my tattoos, feel bad about my body. It's not an acceptable approach or byproduct to getting that Animal Rights message out there.
Anika: If the AR movements continues to put out such specifically-appealing ads (for, as one speaker whose talk I attended described it, "douchebag cis men"), then our movement will be full of those types of people. Why do we want that? The ends still don't justify the means in this case.
How do you address women who see no problem with these types of images?
Anika: They should decide for themselves. That said, not a lot of people have those resources to begin that conversation. It's important we bring people along with us on our path rather than fling accusations. We're comfortable blaming PETA rather than the women who are involved in their ads or demos.
Jojo: I try to influence people gently.
Let's talk about gendered food.
How do we analyze and address these images? How do we start noticing and continue noticing?
Nicole: Calories are just energy. They're saying women don't need as much energy as men; just be skinny and sit there and look pretty. Some stuff you just have to say 'whatever' and turn the page, which I do a lot with PETA. I teach media literacy to children, adults, and seniors, and you don't see a lot of unique individuals reflected in the media you consume. I also make my own media. You need to decide what to focus on because it's just overwhelming.
Anika: You develop an overall media critique. I get used to it, and it's a habit, but you do learn to ignore these micro-aggressions. I like to point them out and demand alternatives- we don't have to do/buy/believe in anything we don't want to.
Can you describe/weave intersectionality together?
Jojo: When I first learned about intersectionality, it made sense to me. But living those ethics is not as easy as it seems. I'm taking a closer look at my own buying behavior and pondering what 'cruelty free' really means. For example, chocolate picked by child slaves- how is that 'cruelty free'?
What can we do to make a difference?
Jojo: I try to reach out to vegan companies and let them know I care where their chocolate comes from, rather than blast them on Twitter or other social media. I want to give them a chance, to let them know there's something I don't agree with. Kindness ad compassion are important.
Anika: There are individuals in groups who are maybe just missing information, and that's a good place to start. Or give your time/energy/money to an organization that supports your ideals and intersectionality. We shouldn't infight, but we should hold each other to a higher standard. Keep your foot on the pedal and don't let up. If we continue to make it challenging to be a woman or to be different, this movement will stay really tiny and be made up just of really tough people and 'perfect' people.
Anika: Compassion fatigue is a real thing! I'm amazing anyone goes vegan sometimes because we don't see or embody what we're fighting for as much as other liberation movements. We have to show that vegans do that work also. We have solidarity with other movements, we can move across all these movements. Single-issue vegans are also very common. Lead by example- what doesn't work is lecturing everyone on veganism.
Nicole: I'm the only vegan in my feminist/queer activist circle. I have to ask myself what is the greater good for me? They see me eat and eat well, and I try to make an impact by example. Even when people fall off the wagon, they've got that veganism in their head still.
Jojo: I am involved in many groups. I think being seen as a vegan who is also involved in anti-racism or other social justice issues disproves that all vegans are single-issue.
What about white vegans answering 'Black Lives Matter' with 'All Lives Matter' or 'Animal Lives Matter'?
Anika: This comes from a place of privilege where they don't have to be making that fight, and they want to stay in their individual 'track.' I think personal contact (ie, "calling in" vs. "calling out") is the best first resort.
Nicole: Anyone with privilege needs to take a breath and recognize when it's not their time to speak. Part of being a good ally is just knowing when to shut up and listen. Also, knowing how and when to apologize without defending yourself- just a simple "I'm sorry."
Dan asked: We VVCers have thousands who read our collective blogs. What is one campaign our readers should know about?
Nicole: Palm oil
Jojo: The Food Empowerment Project
Anika: The Sistah Vegan conference
What are your feelings about people who make comparisons between animal abuse and domestic violence or The Holocaust?
Anika: If you're putting our your personal opinion or experience, it's one thing, but it's difficult to make parallels between animal rights and non-personal issues.
Nicole: I made Holocaust comparisons when I was young. Now, as an adult, I know it's not my story to tell, I'm not Jewish, I have no relations who were victims or survivors of The Holocaust. People's families and history in the world's continued violence is not my place.
Jojo: We all have our own 'thing' that we can relate to animal rights, it's best to draw on that.
Anika: There is a lot of discussion about the wisdom of using words like 'slaves' and 'prisoners' to describe animals in the food industry. It does a disservice when we are myopically involved in animal activism and not considering the impact our language has on others.
What a fabulous panel- I would love a 2-day conference just on the topic of feminism and veganism! But alas, we only had 45 minutes. There is an extensive list of further reading and resources that they will be sending me, so I will update this entry when I have it. Thanks!