Self-care and community

It was a rough fall back to virtual reality here after a refreshing immersion and too brief participation in an amazing black-centering conference, participation and presentation seemed diverse and inclusive – in ability (all visuals were described, also there were full scholarships), gender (3 transfolks presented and one was to center black transwomen’s history and trans lives) and sexual orientation (VINE is an LGBTQ-run animal sanctuary for one, a presentation covered sexual orientations and genders) and ethnicity of course. I won’t talk about points Jessica Rowshandel made in her presentation in the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter conference, which I had the privilege to attend thanks to Dr A. Breeze Harper (thank-you, forever!) I listened to most of the conference after writing this, I needed this out of my system. I must add that Paul Gorski mentioned a study among social justice activists of colour pointing out racism as the main cause of burn-out. No doubt additional levels of stress would be observed in women of colour activists, queer folks of colour activists and disabled activists of colour.

I have witnessed denial or at least a lot of apathy if not overt complicity with the oppressors of certain vegans of colour. Perhaps it was not her focus, Jessica did not mention disposability (Toi Scott had spoken about it the previous day, I hadn’t heard it yet), erasure, and slandering. This isn’t talked about at all in vegan communities, then again the local community of colour seems very happy to push white supremacist veganism (I doubt local white vegans here are responsible, rather PETA and other racist or otherwise misanthropic leaders are). I needed to start that conversation last decade – are some of these more commonly disability-specific or intersectional oppressions towards POC? In any case, privileged cis-gendered men vegan leaders love to carry them out.

Once I was ‘burnt out’, my process was respected, I was included (in spite of me being the only vegan of colour pointing out racial insensitivities in a white movement which is not a uniform one, there are several organisations in Capetown, and I had already been slandered once by a white vegan man not exactly involved with the orgs who were active in South Africa, their white colleague’s words also got recorded by accident and basically the very first hour when I met Michele Pickover and Steve Best, they were taken aside and I was slandered, they later told me and other Capetown vegans founders who were white). Later, I lost community to an alleged-intersectional vegan leader, a white man, and I got isolated. There is a pattern when I befriend local privileged vegans regardless of ethinicity (but they were all post-racial men or very closely linked to such men), I get used, erased and thoroughly excluded when my thoughts inconvenience them. Perhaps leaders are expert oppressors?

This is the first conversation I really ought to have with new vegans I’m getting to know in a country I haven’t lived in. Vegans I knew thus far think I need to put aside “differences” for the sake of the animals. So why do I get asked to stretch myself in ways humaneness wouldn’t allow, why not ask privileged vegans not to oppress, tokenise, use and slander others? I have hesitated to speak about one case because of threats issued to me by one influential man; and about the other because there was no interest (no responses from other moderators, almost no one I knew personally) or support in my favour. An AR activist who witnessed the latter was sympathetic but seemed on their side in the discussion. Later she became someone who was harassing and trolling me in other groups, in ways that can harm; and she threatened to gossip about my personal life if I unfriended or blocked her on social media. I blocked her as what she last did was completely unacceptable at any level. Let’s say I should’ve done more than a virtual measure to protect myself.

The issue which irritated Harry, founder (on FB?) or president of the Vegan Society-Mauritius was that I [a longer-term vegan, perceived as a WOC, who had more AR experience than him and moderated ‘his’ group as a favour (while living in another country)] dared criticise PeTA. He was really enjoying this PeTA ad that sexualises the abuse of women, posted it to the group -he’d- asked me to moderate and censored me repeatedly; at some point I wasn’t even talking about the ad but quoting beloved world leaders on censorship. So I wasn’t quoting radicals but Tata Mandela, I was censored and banned. In view of having to write to clarify on dietary needs in their local newspaper as I was no longer in contact with vegans there, I was sometimes observing the group from a fake profile because I saw him promote false and dangerous info on B12 in spite of learning facts (in a country where injections can only be had on the basis of a blood test to prove deficiency, this is an issue for non-vegans and anyone who takes analogues, which sell here, or anyone who is pregnant or have some illnesses); that profile, without saying anything, got banned too, much later. The poor fake person never even sought justice for this unjust unexplained ban. Does this happen to any local vegan who follows my facebook page? Lately I resumed contact with an ex-admin who perhaps could but never answered my important questions. I was asked to “put all issues with Harry behind me”, I was about to attempt a superhuman effort to create access for myself in spite of major odds, as in even provide a venue myself to join their Vegan Soc committee then Harry, whom I’d been told was no longer around, is suddenly their president (an oppressive man who lied to cover his mistake, that is all I could make out from admin responses, if any, back in 2012) I was told. I said nothing. In the weeks we have been discussing that, I got no response to update the only kind products list. I wanted to make it more usable, make leaflets; I didn’t get any feedback, product names, or acceptance to share or collaborate. I imagined my joining their Vegan Soc committee was the only way to get these simple things for the animals, with it likely to involve access creation from my side mostly.

I will no longer hesitate to express my wish to stay very far from such a community, this will be my tough love for them and vital self-care for me. What about the animals? The choice ought not be between self-care and a pretense to help them, the better I am the better an ally I can be but why don’t these humans who are after selfish gains and narcissistic image-building see at least how bad the widening gap between us looks? It’s no longer simply differences but them having oppressed me and cut ties or it was dangerous for me to keep communicating with them. Thank-you Laura Schleifer (for the terms ‘narcissistic anger and pity’). Not only certain white folks have narcissistic anger, perhaps certain whitened folks or well, this is a country where men of colour run many things.

What the WOC AR activist did which made previous in-private support futile, is try counter-argument in a violence against women discussion in a serious group explicitly saying that she enjoys making porn that depict violence against women, and it’s all well and good but when I was among the respondents because after all I was already commenting in that discussion before she joined, she used slurs towards me, trying to shame me publicly online in an open group of thousands of local activists who were paying attention.

I lived in 2 locations, having recently moved to my country of origin where I’d only met the oppressive vegan MOC and his vegan of colour girlfriend who was supportive of his oppression against women (let alone against me). I trusted them and the AR activist I have never met, based on our shared allyship to animals. That is a very common mistake we do as animal allies? We see A LOT of violence constantly experienced by animals, some of us get burnt out or triggered from that, many analogies get used to explain violence on animals to others who don’t get it and yet some AR/vegans want to oppress or erase marginalised people of colour they call friends.

When it is racial insensitivity POCs are guilty of, should we be lenient thinking of it along the lines of perpetrator induced trauma (a concept I didn’t know mentioned in the context of slaughterhouse work by Christopher McJetters in the same conference)? I don’t think so, when people use any opportunity to slander and erase. Maybe it says something on why they lack real-life members (I was told when asked to join their committee this time). What wrongs they have done so far doesn’t seem to be something they must do to put tofu on the table!

I have to stress that it is hurting animals in very obvious ways. In the absence of volunteers or information, I have 1-2 comrades and momrades (linking for the word coinage, I wish my momrades were on twitter) on the task of helping me with the kind products list. They’re not vegan, they’re not comfortable hearing about animal testing on the products they can afford, they’re 60 something or 80. I won’t show them violent photos, I share recipes, we’re trying to work out cost differences, I share health issues related to commercial products; these aunties, while raising their own grandkids and helping their communities, appear to be driving part of this movement here, until someone indicates otherwise or volunteers. I need to give them AL/vegan allies awards, their love actually has more to do with loving our Earth and loving me with all my allergies. In a way, my momrades still seem to be doing more than the AR activists and vegans I’ve known here for the past years in this country.

things ive noticed: conditionally white poc are white when they align w whiteness and poc when they reject it –@Izz145

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Sexism and domestic violence glorification

My reponse article published on Women24, March 2012 (with their editing). Note that PETA is also racist and ableist but I focused on their sexism here, however their cultural insensitivity is not accidental.

Advertisers usually have certain ethical guidelines, but not for PeTA, as they keep creating controversial ads that get shared virally online. They sometimes use the V-word but their only relationship with vegan organisations is they give them a bad image.

Jessica from the PeTA advert discussed, synopsis in end quote.

T.O.F.U puts it all too mildly. I’d say if PeTA is the perverted sociopath that gives my town a bad name, then Jodi Allemeier (whose article this responds to) is a strange neighbour who enjoys their sick jokes. Being vegan does not automatically cure one from other prejudices based on arbitrary differences; similarly being a feminist often doesn’t challenge other prejudices, and doesn’t erase all the sexist ones.

The advert (synopsis below) starts with Jessica limping on a cold day after, one would guess, being attacked – she looks bruised and seems to have lost her clothes and some of her jacket fastenings (Anyone with a painful neck would close their jacket around it for warmth, she’s holding it with her hand). Domestic violence is hinted at, in jest, and the 32-second clip ends with the implication that her head went through the wall during sex and the intended lack of clarity should raise concerns. A simple web search indicates that anti-violence advocates, feminists, and vegans alike, as well as vegan magazines and non-vegan mainstream harshly criticised PeTA again.

Audience reactions that I observed ranged from disbelief that this is in fact a real advert from an organisation, to disgust mixed with surprise/shock/anger, and profound disgust. At the very least, disapproval was characteristic of every reaction when I questioned a small group of ‘sex-positives’, tantric adepts, BDSM practitioners who had in common the lack of heteronormative prejudice and knowing what PeTA is, although not being familiar with their campaigns. Lili Radloff’s personal twitter reaction, while I’m not condoning it, was not atypical – people who equate PeTA with veganism may well now hate vegans. Prominent voices for animal rights seemed not only worried about this reaction to vegans or their cause as a result of the controversy, but were concerned about the anti-women sentiment itself.

The ad does not refer to consensual BDSM. No one argued that it makes a modern reference to Gorean cults (the good slave-girlfriend with a severely-injured neck goes to buy food; did any advert supporter argue that she is wearing is all that she owns?) but most, and I assumed well over 70%, see the link with abusive relationships, and it certainly makes reference to violence or the criminally abusive parts of some BDSM scenes (whatever those are called). To correct Jodi: sex sells but violence-with-“sex” sells particularly well – ask the mainstream porn industry of which these characters are a by-product. Sex is not something that gets done to a woman (or women – if we consider other BWVAKTBOOM videos where all the women are serious casualties and the men are not injured in any way), which Jodi should know for quoting Les Mitchell on oppression and discourse.

There is Women24’s flavour of mainstream ‘feminism’, Radloff’s falls within the 66% if not the 60% of this poll, and within the 34% lies Jodi’s version – Jessica may well love that Popeye pounds her head into a wall when he ‘knocks the bottom out of her’ (credit to Austin J. Austin for the Popeye phallic-muscle analogy). While it is, Jodi argues, a valid personal view, I doubt it should be aired without stressing on consent and psychological clearances, not when it helps perpetuate myths that easily affect not only her, but other women. Not only women but everyone is affected by the harmful myths we let circulate, men are too.

Furthermore, I asked for reactions of tantric adepts with no historical background in tantra or a related culture, although some were acquainted with Buddhism. In other words, they had a different bias than I, yet they echoed my view that it promotes an anti-tantric sentiment. A woman of colour and a white American male felt it was apt to call it racist for appropriating the word. What is suggested is the very anti-thesis of tantra which in fact, does not require penetrative sex. The mis-use in “tantric pornstar” distorts the traditional meaning to an extent that it erases and replaces it with another. Austin found the use of ‘tantric’ “disrespectful of a culture, ignorant, and focused on one superficial aspect of mainstream media i.e. that tantra is merely something that makes [men able to engage in penetrative sexual activity with women for long periods of time, which is a sexist construct of male sexual prowess]”.

Like rape, this ad isn’t about sex. Jodi’s comment “Why is consentual BDSM offensive? Some are offended by gay sex, should all ads showing happy gay couples also be banned?” went unchallenged and I’ll end by saying that I find her analogy offensive, I don’t have to be gay to find that politics of substitution insults my intelligence and hurts people. I support feminism as I support struggles against sexism or any prejudice. There is a pressing need for not only feminism but social and environmental justice, for all. We – men, women and intersex – are a part of this ‘all’.

Synopsis of the ad: “The thirty-two second commercial begins with a head shot of a thin, light-skinned woman with arm-length wavy brown hair and bangs. She is wearing a blue and white plastic neck brace, holding a dark green coat together with one hand. She is almost limping along a sidewalk, towards the camera, with a blank look on her face. A voiceover goes through the commercial**. After four seconds, she winces. After a side-facing close-up shot, the camera pans out to watch Jessica (the character) walking to the left of the frame. She is also wearing black and white sneakers and does not appear to be wearing pants. She carries a plastic bag in her left hand, containing vegetables. She climbs a set of outdoor stairs slowly, her face and movement express pain as she holds onto the railing with her right hand. A lower shot from behind follows, where her pink-and-orange-polka-dotted underpants are the focus of the frame, lit up by the sun which comes in through her legs. For less than a second, there is a flashback to a shot of Jessica with both hands up against a red interior (bedroom) wall, looking over her left shoulder – facial expression suggesting intense penetrative sex with someone behind her. The frame becomes Jessica indoors, having returned from the store (and the hospital?). The walls are blue, yellow and red; the place is furnished and has a sari curtain, picture frames, a chess set, a lamp, etc.

Jessica removes the coat to reveal a light-pink patterned bra. The frame changes to her view: a guy is shown applying white spackle/caulk paste to a (skull-sized) hole in the red wall, that was ostensibly made during the sex act and that caused Jessica’s neck injury. He remarks that she is back. The frame shifts back to Jessica standing in the bedroom doorway, leaning against the right side. Her underwear is inexplicably pulled in between her buttocks on the left side, revealing her most of left buttock. Celery and red peppers are visible in the bag, and there is a yellow elastic bundling the celery (it is printed, and might indicate that it is organic). The light-skinned boyfriend is thin, with short dark hair, and is wearing striped grey and black boxer briefs and eyeglasses. He asks if she is feeling better and she tosses the bag to him abruptly. He catches it and looks down into it. The commercial ends with Jessica looking past the camera at the boyfriend, with a slight smirk on her face.”

**”This is Jessica,” the narrator, Kevin Nealon, says. “She suffers from ‘BWVAKTBOOM,’ ‘Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom Out of Me,’ a painful condition that occurs when boyfriends go vegan and can suddenly bring it like a tantric porn star. For Jessica, it was too late. Go to bwvaktboom.com and learn how to go vegan safely”

I adapted the version Austin kindly wrote for access purpose, original version here

PETA, misogyny and harm.

Amanda Palmer wrote PETA a letter about yet another misogynistic campaign. PETA harms the image of vegans and they’re not vegan or pro-vegan, they shouldn’t be using the term ‘vegan’. Everytime we meet someone whose sole conception of vegans is informed only by PETA, we find ourselves needing to reclaim veganism. The Vegan Option discussed […]