August 2008

Transphobia and Carol Adams

Another example of vegetarian-ecofeminist transphobia and cissexism is described in the keynote address presented on June 17, 2005 at Queer Communities and Controversies, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education's second annual conference in Toronto, Canada, by transsexual, sex worker, and animal liberation activist, Mirha-Soleil Ross. In her keynote address, Ross describes an encounter with Carol Adams that occurred on July 15, 2000 at the World Vegetarian Congress.

Ross talks about Adams' cissexism, starting with trans-interrogation. Adams uses a metaphor about "fish in the water" to invalidate Ross' gender identity. Adams intrusively attempts to force Ross to answer personal questions about her transsexuality, and reduce her to the status of an object. Adams also uses trans-fascimilation to portray Ross as merely imitating a woman by claiming the Ross simply "chooses" to be a woman. (Read more...)

Transphobia and Feminists for Animal Rights

Most people are aware of the issue of transphobia in the feminist movement by how it is dramatically exhibited through the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival's (MichFest) infamous "women-born-women" policy. The term "women-born-women" is actually a cissexist synonym for a cissexual (non-transsexual) women, and it is used primarily to exclude transsexual women from "women-only" spaces. The term is used as part of a transphobic backlash that employs biological determinism to claim the superiority of cissexual women as "natural" or "real" women while devaluing transsexual women as "unnatural" or "fake."

The now dormant organization Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR), founded by the trans-misogynistic vegetarian-ecofeminist Marti Kheel (who when asked during a panel Q&A what people can do to help trans women, Kheel instead went into a misogynistic, transphobic tirade attacking trans women), also promotes a transphobic "women-born-women" policy. FAR has long been a hub for feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists closely connected to nonhuman animal advocacy. In fact, while other feminist views exist on the intersection of feminism and anti-speciesism, the discourse is dominated by the FAR clique of feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists who are featured prominently in books, conferences, and academic journals. (Read more...)

Challenging Feminist Transphobia

White ecofeminism and feminist-vegetarianism is heavily influenced by the reactionary and transphobic writings of some dominant radical culutral feminists. Most notably is Mary Daly and her book Gyn/Ecology, which is filled with transphobia, cissexism, and trans-misogyny directed at transsexual women. A major influence on, as well as of, Daly's transphobia was Janice Raymond, who wrote the transphobic book The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Other transphobic influences on feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists include Robin Morgan and Sheila Jeffreys. (Read more...)

Being an Ally: Taking a Bullet

I can empathize with people's refusal to accept their privilege. That is, I can understand their situation, feelings, and motives for wanting to hold on to the privileges that come from oppressive systems. I struggle with confronting my own privileges everyday. However, since I feel working to divest ourselves of privilege is so important I have to admit I don't have much sympathy for those situations, feelings, and motives that lead us to believe that giving up privilege is too extreme or impossible. I can't accept excuses for our privileges that need interrogation and intervention. In terms of veganism and human privilege, the backlash goes that being a strict vegetarian who refuses to consume flesh, eggs and milk products is asking too much. But if we want to end human supremacy and speciesism, I think that a radical plant-based diet is only the beginning. After all, it's not like we're being asked to take a bullet for nonhuman animals.

However, I think in a way that confronting privilege – be it the privileges of being human, White, male, rich/middle-class, heterosexual, cissexual, citizen, able, adult, and/or colonizer – really needs to come to the point where, as anti-oppression allies, we're willing to take a bullet for those who are being exploited. After all, those privileges we enjoy are the result of the violent assault of oppression the target others. So, in a way, privilege isn't so much an invisible knapsack, as it is a form of bulletproof armor. At least in a figurative sense (but sometimes literally), the privileges we enjoy are bullets of exploitation that target oppressed groups.

While promoting a White anti-racist study group, my co-facilitator and I had a conversation with a Black woman who rightfully expressed skepticism about the sincerity of White folks organizing a study group on racism. She justifiably doubted that we would give up our privilege. At one point during the conversation she asked us if we were willing to "take a bullet" for her. I was honestly caught off guard by this, and since I wasn't prepared for that kind of question I stammered something that only betrayed my insincerity and internal confusion. My partner in organizing the study group was obviously better prepared than I and said he is working on it.

What really unnerved me wasn't the question – it wasn't that I thought I would have to literally "take a bullet" for this woman – it was how I felt exposed for being hypocritical. I knew that because I'm White that White supremacy in a sense makes me bulletproof to the everyday racism that she experiences as a person of color. I also knew that being an ally and working to divest myself of White privilege means reducing the effectiveness of my bulletproofed Whiteness. It means putting myself in the line of fire, instead of standing on the sideline while oppression continues. Being an ally actually means I'm no longer willing to allow others to be the target of bullets for my benefit.

When we're bulletproof it's too easy to sit back while others are being blown away; it's too easy to ignore our privilege. Being bulletproof makes us insensitive to oppression others experience. As long as we're attached to our privileges we'll be compelled to hold on to those systems that protects us from the very oppression and violence those same systems directs at others. I think being an anti-oppression ally means divesting ourselves of the privilege that requires others to take bullets for our benefit. It means dropping our bulletproof armor so that we become more sensitive to the affects of oppression on others.

Anti-Oppression and Law Enforcement

By way of Emily's The Partial Muse, I came across a comment Tim Wise left on Racialicious that backlashes against veganism. Wise's comment on Racialicious shows some confusion over anti-oppression work and law enforcement, not to mention a need to learn more about human supremacy and the oppression of nonhuman animals. (Read more...)

The Non-Profit Industrial Complex Will Never Be 'The Movement'

PETA is often confused with "the movement," as is the annual FARM conference. However, it's hard to define what this "movement" actually is. It is not a vegan movment, it is not an animal rights movement, it is not even a "movement" in any meaningful sense of the term. Organizations like PETA, FARM, HSUS, etc. are all part of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC). (Read more...)

Why Veganism and Firebombs Don't Mix

In a recent post on her La Chola blog, brownfemipower uses her experience and knowledge of feminism and other social justice movements to explain "why fire bombing will not work." She touches on many of the reasons I don't support the firebombing in particular, and the ALF in general.

Like bfp, I believe that what is needed is cultural and social change, and I agree that this requires a mass movement.

Breeze Harper on Speciesism and Racism

Please listen to Breeze Harper's new podcast on the intersections of racism and speciesism. Breeze reads from "Speciesism: Why We Cannot Fully Eradicate it if We are Unmindful of its Contingency Upon Racism, Racialization, and Normalization of 'Whiteness,'" a chapter she wrote for a new anthology that will be out soon.

Breeze discusses how in the media, "White male youths who kill 'game' animals are heroes. Black male youths who kill a puppy or engage in dogfighting are the anti-hero." She goes on to encourage us to think critically about why that is:

PETA and the (Animal) Right

PETA's "focus solely on promoting animal rights" is not about promoting veganism. As a movement, veganism necessitates honoring the efforts of all anti-oppression movements who are striving to achieve the liberation of human and nonhuman animals alike. Regardless, Rajt betrays PETA's own proclaimed neutrality by evoking Right-wing arguments regarding taxes and health care costs. Nothing in the ad, or PETA's defense of the ad, makes any point for the rights of nonhuman animals. And while in a very narrow sense the ad is "pro-vegetarian," it is also very much anti-vegan.

Animal Whites 2008

A couple months ago I posted about the assumption of universal Whiteness built into the scheduled program for "Animal Rights 2008" (AR2008), a national conference that took place this past weekend. In a blog posting on the conference, Debra Erenberg of Rainforest Action Network wrote about the ways Whiteness played out over the weekend. (Read more...)