Sexism and racism within the vegan movement are increasingly publicized and criticized - and with good reason! I know you've probably read some account, written by a white vegan, that compares the treatment of animals to Jewish peoples, Black Americans or Canadians, or people living in non-industrialized, non-Western or Westernized places͓. Mainstream veganism is often centered on whiteness and the 'vegan community' is largely occupied by white folks who live in gentrified areas, and whose general attitude towards anti-racist sentiments is dismissive, at best, and racist, at worst.
I have spoken about this before, but I'll mention it again. When I went vegan everyone around me who was already vegan went on about how it was going to make me so healthy, how it was going to clear my skin, get me fit...etc. But going vegan actually triggered chronic acne rosacea, which I am dealing with to this day. Every time some vegan activist starts criticizing a non-vegan's body or skin, I admit I get a little hurt, because I do not fit their mold of what a vegan looks like. This is the case with so many young women in the vegan movement who are not thin. People like Freelee crap all over non-vegans who are 'overweight' and claim that going vegan will solve everything. So when a chubby girl goes vegan and doesn't drop the weight, how do you think that makes her feel?
Recently I've been increasingly confronting my own values, beliefs, and protest methods as I become more aware of issues faced by marginalized people, and more aware of the negative impact that certain animal advocacy methods can have on vegans and non-vegans alike.
Audre Lorde wrote this great essay called the Hierarchy of Oppression, in which she calls into question the notion that at any point she can see something from a single position - as a woman, as black, as a lesbian - and she finds that she cannot, because regardless of the topic at hand - black oppression, women's equity, homophobia - she is always all three.
Within the lesbian community I am Black, and within the Black community I am a lesbian. Any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because I and thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. Any attack against lesbians and gays is a Black issue, because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black. There is no hierarchy of oppression.
So many people I've spoken to in the vegan community, though they disagree with some of the methods used by folks like Vegan Gains, see the service they are providing as useful to the vegan movement. These hyper-macho, sexist, racist, folks appeal to a portion of the population who are unlikely to come to veganism due to the stereotype of the wimpy, feminine vegan man. So, to get them to stop eating animals hyper-macho vegans tell you that going vegan will make you better at sex! It will give you clear skin! It will make you thin (if you're a woman) or jacked (if you're a man)! And then they insult all these people that the hyper-macho non-vegan feels comfortable insulting - fat women, feminine men, followers of Islam...
How is it useful to empower a bunch of racist sexists to stop eating animals, when they continue to direct hate towards humans? There is no hierarchy of injustice, as Lorde tells us. And this applies to the vegan movement as well. Veganism is a gender issues, a race issue, a sex issues, a LGBTQA+ issue. If your methods further disenfranchise or harm an already marginalized group of people, then you are not doing the world any good.
Happy Tuesday, everyone.