Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Win a Signed Copy of Sistah Vegan! March 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:01 am
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Breeze is giving away one signed copy of the new Sistah Vegan book.

She’s gonna make you work for it: in 250 words or less, write something about the following topic in the comments of her post:

Sistah Vegan project was created to tackle the question of the racialized experience within veganism, with an emphasis on people who identify as black women. Give an example of how issues of race (racialization, anti-racism, ‘whiteness as the norm,’ racial formation or colorism) and veganism intersect(ed) in YOUR own lived experience.

The contest ends 1 April, with the winner being announced on 5 April. I’m sure it will generate a lot of thought-provoking comments!


Joint Statement by a Group of Abolitionist Vegan Feminists for International Women’s Day March 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:42 pm
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Check it out here (& there’s also a video). A lot of issues bloggers here (& elsewhere) have raised about sexist AR campaigns are addressed in this statement, which begins:

As abolitionist vegans and feminists, we oppose the use of sexist tactics in the animal advocacy movement. Ethical animal rights veganism is part of the logical conclusion of opposition to the exploitation of all sentient beings — both human animals and non-human animals. Opposing speciesism is incompatible with engaging in sexism or any other form of discrimination, such as racism, heterosexism, classism, and other forms of oppression.


These “Herbivores” May Still Eat Animals December 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:52 pm
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It’s pretty easy to find examples of media in the West that tie meat-eating to manliness. Connected to this, NPR reports that in Japan, men who are taking on traditionally feminine traits are known as “herbivores.”

Described as “a quiet army of sweet young men with floppy hair and skinny jeans,” they may prefer “sewing, baking and crocheting clothes for [their] stuffed animals,” as does the protagonist of one TV show said to be popular among herbivores.

Though the story features a Sweets Club, for men who like desserts, nothing else about diet is mentioned. The mere idea of non-standard masculinity is enough to brand you as a wimpy leaf-eater, it seems — nothing in this story indicates that the men are, in fact, herbivoric in diet.

The story also demonstrates how manliness — or lack of — is tied to capitalism, economic productivity, & presumably providing for the family (& lustily creating one, of course): “But there are fears about the financial and social impact of herbivores. Their low levels of spending and lack of interest in sex invoke two of Japan’s biggest problems: its lackluster economy and declining birthrate.”

So if “herbivores” are men acting in un-manly ways, what about women acting in non-womanly ways? They’re carnivores: “economically empowered working Japanese women who know what they want.”

(Hat tip to Absolutely Fobulous for the link.)


The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl May 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:08 pm
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In the last post, Nadia questioned why some white male vegans harp on their suffering, as vegans, when actually, veganism & animal rights rightfully center the animals.

In response, Dave Warwak (the teacher canned recently for forceful advocacy of veganism to students in his junior high school art class) left this comment, saying in part:

How about we prioritize our time and energy by bashing factory farming instead of bashing our own kind for speaking out against injustice? I am all for pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and part of that is speaking out. Many silent vegans struggle with oppression – we all feel it, but to ponder about “why white guys feel discriminated against” does the animals a great disservice in these extremely urgent times when we could be focusing our energies on real good.

The essence of this comment is that those of us concerned with anything else rather than the suffering of non-human animals are divisive, are weakening the vegan cause, are traitors. And we should just stop complaining & hew to the vegan party line.

It sounds remarkably like white feminists castigating women of color for calling out the racism of mainstream US feminism.

Instead of critiquing white male privilege within vegan circles, let’s go do some “real good,” right? Because heaven knows opposing racism & sexism, especially if we — gasp — critique other vegans, is a time-waster, a distraction from the REAL issues.

We’re being asked to identify as vegans over any other aspect of our identities & our lives. Again, the parallels with the feminist movement are just astounding. Women of color get punished for speaking up about racism in feminism. Vegans of color questioning whitecentric vegans also are penalized for such heretic thoughts. Color me surprised (pun intentional).

Do (white, male) vegans see themselves as my ally automatically when they learn that I, too, am vegan? Do they assume we’re on the same side? (Is it even a conscious thought?) Such vegans divide the world into two parts: people who are vegan, & thus allies, & those who are not vegan.

Some of us don’t have the luxury of seeing things that simply. Some of us will never, ever have the privilege of ignoring, if we want to, the rest of who we are in favor of focusing solely on our diets. Why? Oh yeah, because the world won’t let us. Because being who we are — completely aside from veganism — can be very dangerous sometimes. Some of us are getting raped or fired for being gay or pulled over for Driving While Black or losing our homes due to gentrification or being harassed on the street or getting deported or being tortured or having the franchise taken away from us or struggling to get health care or…

Oh yeah, & how about how race & class affect who has access to affordable vegan food (among, you know, the many ways discussed on this blog that these issues intersect with veg*n ones)? Oh, wait, I’m being divisive again, aren’t I?

Warwak also says, “Veganism is for all animals. ‘All animals’ includes humans.” Yes. Then why should vegans pretend that the only oppression that matters is non-human?

The very idea that one should ignore the impact of markers such as class, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. is completely repugnant. Clearly this viewpoint is steeped in deep, unthinking privilege. It is no secret that a lot of people of color, for instance, are put off animal rights issues because of racism & colonialism in the movement. Women are put off when they see veganism used to encourage women to hate their bodies.

None of these critical issues are going to go away. They are all interconnected. To claim to be able to pull one strand, one lone form of oppression, away from the whole tangle, & to hold it up as the One Thing Worth Fighting For? Naive at best, & damned offensive & dangerous at worst.

And stifling dissent, as Warwak would have us do, is the mark of a cult. That’s no movement I want to be part of, & people who think that way are not my allies.


Two quick links before bed March 6, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:23 pm
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Feminist and Antiracist Arguments for Veg*nism is a round-up by pattrice jones of some interesting recent blog posts.

And over on Vegan FAQ, this great post addresses meat-eaters who bring up the line about how the Indians used the whole buffalo. Then the omnis claim that they are honoring Indians, & Indian traditions, when they eat meat. In short: um, no.


skinny (white) bitches February 1, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:40 am
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Love it or hate it, the Skinny Bitch thing has gotten a whole lot of people talking. Sometimes even about veganism, har har!

I’ll be up front: I haven’t read the book. I don’t plan on it (so many books, so little time…). My thoughts are based on the reactions I’ve heard, both pro & con, & on the very fact that a book with such a title & design is such a hit. I feel like analyzing the reception it’s gotten, & how it’s being talked about, is pretty telling in itself.

In the recent New York Times article about sequel book Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, one explanation for the popularity of the Skinny Bitch phenomenon is given:

Kimberly Latham, a fashion publicist in New York, said: “I would never have read ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma.’ I’m not even sure I know what an omnivore is. But I know what a skinny bitch is, and I know I want to be one.”

That’s right. Let’s prey on women’s fears about being (gasp) fat, & on the catfighting among women that comes of insecurity about one’s appearance. Never mind that fat & health are not as intricably linked as most people believe, anyway (check out the Illustrated BMI Categories — pretty eye-opening, especially the “morbidly obese” triathletes!).

Is shaming women into going vegan a good idea? I feel like the idea behind the book, & certainly how it’s being talked about, definitely plays the shame game. And competition & jealousy — I mean, women who don’t care about animal rights are picking this up because they want to be skinny. The kind of skinny that makes other women hate you. How… healthy. And life-affirming. Right.

I’ve heard folks defending the book by mentioning an epilogue that says basically that the authors don’t care about being skinny, they think everyone should just eat healthily. Well, I flipped through the book yesterday at a store, & this epilogue is about 3 paragraphs long. Not only that, I almost missed it — & I knew it was there & was looking for it! It’s hidden among the endnotes & resources & all that kind of end-of-book stuff. Funny, usually epilogues come right after the text. Could it be that they didn’t really care if people read this one? And how persuasive is it likely to be, since the very title of the book (& presumably everything else in the book) argues to the contrary?

I’ve also heard folks arguing that this is a good way to get the “chick lit” crowd interested in veganism. Stealth conversion, like Latham’s quote above would seem to indicate. But from my own experiences, & from what I’ve heard other folks talking about, those who convert to veg*nism for health reasons (I’m being generous & putting the “I want to be a skinny bitch” crowd under “health” although really it’s more about appearance & weight loss) are less likely to stick with it, unless they also have a strong ethical reason for eating the way they do. Is this just going to end up with a crap ton of ex-vegans in a few months? (& we know what a pain in the ass they can be.)

Even if readers do become interested in animal rights issues as a result of the book, I still think framing it generally as a weight-loss plan is a bad, bad idea. Not all vegans are skinny, & not all vegans would be better off “skinny.”

And what about the subset of young female veg*ns who do it to lose weight? I’ve heard a lot about how sometimes this is used to mask eating disorders — not that every teenage female veg*n has an eating disorder, of course, but that because veg*nism has a reputation as a way to lose weight, sometimes it is adopted specifically for this purpose. Isn’t Skinny Bitch-ism playing right into this? I bet the pro-ana crowd loves Skinny Bitch.

Oh, & the parenthetical word in my blog post title up there? Lately I’ve had an even lower tolerance than usual for the overwhelming promotion, & preference, of white skinny conventional standards of attractiveness to the near-total exclusion of anything else. And now Barnouin & Freedman, who exemplify this really narrow standard of beauty, are the new faces of veganism to American society. (Yeah, there’s the “vegan” football player — but he eats fish.)

Meh. Go vegan because you know you can live a life full of delicious food without killing for it. Go vegan because you care about animals. Love yourself even if you’re not a “skinny bitch.”

(& please, yes, I know that men have eating disorders & body image issues too — but it seems pretty obvious that the brunt of the Skinny Bitch thing is playing to women.)