October 2008

Solidarity with Other Animals

This past Labor Day, Animal Voices replayed an interview with Jason Hribal on how "Animals Are Part of the Working Class." Hribal offers a insightful analysis on the agency, labor, and resistance of other animals and a call for solidarity with them and recognition of their role in creating history. (Read more...)

Speak Out!

In his article "Beyond Diversity," Paul Kivel writes, "The first step in diversity work is assessment—determining who has access to power and resources, who is safe and who isn't, who participates and who doesn't." As Kivel advises, we should begin by talking about "how we got to this point where diversity is an issue."

I believe the problem with the a many of the projects, campaigns, and policies I write about on this blog is the lack of any prior claim by oppressed people whose exploitation is being criticized. If, for instance, the oppression of people of color or transgrender people is considered from the start with their full participation then there really shouldn't be much need for criticism. (Read more...)

How PETA Exploits Black Men

The juxtaposition of the lynching of Black men and the slaughter of a bull, from a PETA exhibit in 2005, offends many Black people and anti-racist activists who object to the juxtaposition as dehumanizing and representative of White supremacy. Many of those (mostly White) nonhuman animal advocates who defend the comparison counter that those who object to the exhibit are just being "speciesist."

Class Bias and Nonhuman Animal Advocacy

The following is from "A Discussion with Tom Regan" in Ahimsa Oct/Dec 1987; I think it illustrates the class bias inherent in well-resourced nonhuman animal advocacy:

Tom Regan: People think of activists as antagonists in confrontation, and so on. I think of activists in terms of people with a dollar bill in the wallet; that's the way I think of the real activists.

An activist is anyone who goes into the marketplace with a dollar in hand, who says "I'm going to buy this rather than that because it has something to do with the way that animals are treated."

This would mean that the more disposable income a person has the more potential that person has of being a "real activist." (Read more...)

Boca Burgers are to Veganism as Virginia Slims are to Feminism

OK, beyond the fact that both of these products are manufactured by the Altria Group, Inc. (formerly Philip Morris Companies Inc.), both represent attempts to transform social movements into consumer markets. And just like smoking a Virginia Slim isn't going to challenge sexism or patriarchy, eating a Boca Burger isn't going to challenge speciesism or human supremacy. Consumer marketing is not a pathway to liberation, yet many organizations are pushing "veganism" as a niche market. (Read more...)

Transphobia and PETA

In 1992, PETA launched the transphobic "Fur is a Drag" element of its fur campaign. This anti-trans element was added to the PETA campaign just months after it launched the "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" campaign.

In a way, these two elements both represent different sides of the same coin. While the "naked" component of the campaign relies on stereotypes of the White ideal of feminine beauty, the "drag" component relies of stereotypes of trans female/trans feminine people as inherently unattractive. Hence PETA's use of drag queens to mock Star Jones, Anna Wintour, and Joan Rivers for wearing fur. That is, the subtext of PETA campaign is to suggest that Jones, Wintour, and Rivers are ridiculous and ugly for wearing fur by connecting with viewers' transphobic belief that trans feminine expression is ridiculous and ugly.

The PETA webpage promoting activist participation in this element of its campaign combines an anti-trans caricature with a sexist, racist caricature in its title "Draggin' 'Ladies' Prove That There's Nothing Glamorous About Fur," which is a play on the anti-Asian-based epithet "dragon lady." The webpage reads:

Want to help educate people about the cruelty of the fur industry? Put on some pumps and show the world what a fashion faux pas fur really is! Whether you've got a flair for the flamboyant or you're just an up-for-anything activist, staging a "Fur Is a Drag" protest is a terrific way to show people just how ridiculous fur really looks. You can enter a contingent of cross-dressers in a local parade or stage a drag of a demonstration outside a fur retailer. We have everything that you'll need to make your event a raving success. You just need to supply a time, a location—and a few daring drag queens! And remember, a few hours in heels is nothing compared to what animals killed for fur go through, right, guys?

Clearly PETA believes that trans people are "ridiculous." While feminists have long been speaking out against sexism in PETA's use of naked women in its campaigns, the silence regarding its devaluing of trans female/trans feminine people is deafening. This might be related to the virulent transphobia by some feminists (e.g., Carol J. Adams and other Feminists for Animals Rights) who criticize PETA's traditional sexism.

Much like it uses transphobia, PETA started exploiting anti-homeless hate in 1998 by giving fur coats covered in red paint to homeless women. PETA believes that both trans people and homeless people are disgusting and that if people see crossdressers or homeless people wearing fur then they'll think fur is disgusting by association.

Know Your History

Yesterday (Oct. 1) was World Vegetarian Day, an day founded by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977.

Above is vegetarian activist and comedian Dick Gregory (center) and founder of the American Vegan Society (1960) and the NAVS (1974) H. Jay Dinshah (right).