Class Privilege in Anti-Sex Worker, Anti-Homeless Activism

Jenna directed me to an important post by Johanna at Vegans of Color reminding us: "Don't Use Classism and Anti-Sex Worker Rhetoric to Protest Fur." Johanna's post provides a needed look at the anti-homeless and anti-sex worker rhetoric of a few nonhuman animal advocates.

In a post titled "Fur is for Beautiful Animals and Scary Hookers," "Vegan Shoe Lady" proudly quotes PETA's Ingrid Newkirk as saying, "Fur has lost all its cachet. It's yesterday. I see prostitutes in Atlantic City wearing fur." Shoe Lady goes on to suggest that nonhuman animal advocates refer to women wearing fur by saying, "She's probably a hooker. Tacky coat, lower-class manners – no one respectable presents themselves that way." (Read more...)

The Garden: A Model for Change

I highly recommend watching Scott Hamilton Kennedy's documentary The Garden. This film brilliantly illustrates the following concrete realities as they are experienced by oppressed communities within the United States:

  1. It shows how the existing power structure is poorly suited to serving the interests of oppressed peoples.
  2. It shows how the existing power structure works extremely well at serving the interests of the owning-class.
  3. It shows how the existing power structure is bolstered throughout by White supremacy. (Read more...)

Pollan Favors Upscale Food Retailer Over Universal Healthcare

Whole Paycheck MarketIn spite of the national boycott against the high-priced chain of supermarkets, best-selling food author Michael Pollan insists he's going to keep on shopping at Whole Foods Market. The corporate "natural foods" retailer is currently being boycotted by consumers, healthcare advocates and labor because its co-founder and CEO John Mackey is lobbying against universal healthcare. (Read more...)

'Pay More': The High Cost of Class Bias in Food Politics

As a poor person who has experienced food insecurity, I find many mainstream writings on food politics hard to accept as creditable. At times I find the professional middle class norms and assumptions agonizing to read. While sometimes writers make trivializing and token references to differences of class, race, sex and citizen status, these superficial acknowledgments are patronizing and tend to marginalize and perpetuate the ways the food system affects the lives of the poor and working class, people of color, women and im/migrants. The fact that these commentators ignore the experience of those of us most oppressed by our food system is too infrequently questioned.

A class-conscious look at the writings of best-selling author Michael Pollen can help illustrate the practical harms that class-biased food advocacy can have on poor and hungry people. Pollan's writings on food politics are rooted in his own privileged position as a professional upper-middle class White man. Much of Pollan's class and race bias is hidden under a voice that depicts his own privileged experience as normal and universal. He thus specifically writes for other class-privileged Whites and it is not much of a surprise that many of his affluent White readers don't question what is oftentimes their own experience as well. (Read more...)

Support Univeral Healthcare, Boycott Whole Foods Market

On the heels of my post earlier this week on supporting universal access to food and health care, comes this report from today's Democracy Now!:

Single-Payer Advocates Call for Boycott of Whole Foods

Advocates for universal healthcare are calling for a boycott of the grocery chain Whole Foods over the views of its CEO, John Mackey. This week Mackey wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal criticizing President Obama's plan to create a government-funded public healthcare option and dismissing the single-payer healthcare system of countries such as Canada and Britain. Mackey said he doesn't believe in "an intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter," which he said are best provided through "market exchanges." On Thursday, the group Single Payer Action released a letter calling for a boycott of Whole Foods.

(Read more...)

Is Vegetarianism an Affordable Health Plan?

I recently read a bumper sticker that boasted: "Vegetarianism is an Affordable Health Plan." Wouldn't that be nice? Well, while I can certainly empathize with the desire to communicate the connection between a plant-based dietary system and well-being, I think this particular bumper sticker communicates a more disturbing message about class, health and privatization. (Read more...)

Stupidity as a Quality or Condition of Oppression

Labeled "learning disabled" from the time I entered kindergarden, I've struggled with the label "stupid" for most of my life. Stupidity is used to identify some of us as belonging on the bottom of the social hierarchy. If we're "stupid" then we must naturally deserve whatever exploitation we experience. Of course, if we were "smart" then we supposedly wouldn't let ourselves be exploited. It's therefore assumed to be our own fault for being so "stupid."

In order to understand stupidity, it helps to understand the ableism that it is primarily based on. In 1976, the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation developed an anti-oppressive definition of the term "disability." That definition, as quoted in Eli Clare's book Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation (South End Press, 1999), states that disability is "the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes no or little account of people who have physical [and/or cognitive/developmental/mental] impairments and thus excludes them from the mainstream of society." This definition of disability addresses the ableism from which it arises. (Read more...)

The Intertwined Exploitation of Turkeys and Humans

Tomorrow, when family gather all across the United States at dinner tables with a roasted carcasses as the centerpiece it's not just the turkeys whose exploitation they'll be benefiting from. After all, these birds don't just fall out of the sky wrapped in plastic with their heads, feet, feathers, and guts removed – the latter, of course, being placed in a small bag and shoved back inside – it takes the labor of some of the most exploited humans in the U.S. to make all that happen.

'Food for People, Not for Profit'

The slogan "Food for People, Not for Profit" sums up the philosophy behind a movement for food justice where the production of food is done ethically and its consumption is considered a collective right. In the late 1960s and 1970s, a number of vegetarian, natural, and whole foods cooperatives and collectives where founded on this principle. (Read more...)

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...)