Book Review: Everything Belongs to the Future, Laurie Penny (2016)

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Entertaining and thought-provoking, this novella left me wanting more. (Sooooo much more!)

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for rape.)

“All I wanted was to make something small and bright and good, something that lasted a little while, a little while longer than I did. All I wanted was to push back against the darkness just a little bit. To live in the cracks in capitalism with the people I care about, just for a little while. But it turns out I can’t even have that. And now I just want to burn shit down.”

It’s the turn of the century – the 21st, to be exact – and humanity has finally discovered the fountain of youth. It comes in the form of a little blue pill that will cost you $200 a pop on the black market; a little less, if you’re one of the lucky few who has insurance. Most don’t, as this “weaponization of time” has only exacerbated class inequality.

Only the wealthiest citizens can afford life-extension drugs; regular folks deemed “important to society” – scientists, artists, musicians, the occasional writer – may receive a sponsorship to continue their work, but ultimately they live and age and die at the whim of those more powerful than they. Show a modicum of concern for the working class, and you just might find your sponsorship revoked.

Alex, Nina, Margo, Fidget, and Jasper are a group of artist/activists living in a dilapidated, mouse- and mold-infested flat in the underside of Oxford city. They work day jobs where they can find them, but their real passion is playing at Robin Hood. A few times a week, they load up their food truck with cheese sammies or mystery stews made of reclaimed food, and distribute free meals to Oxford’s neediest citizens. At the bottom of each foodstuff is a happy meal surprise: a little blue pill, most likely stolen. One per person, no second helpings.

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Book Review: A Bollywood Affair, Sonali Dev (2014)

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

A Fun, Sometimes Over-the-Top Madcap Bollywood Romance

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Goodreads’s First Reads program. Also, there are clearly marked spoilers towards the end of this review. Trigger warning for rape and child abuse.)

Like tens of millions of her peers, Malvika “Mili” Rathod is a child bride.* In a bargain struck by her grandmother and the groom’s grandfather, Mili was married off at the age of four; she has spent the past twenty years waiting for her husband to return to Balpur and claim her.

Unfortunately, hers was not a meeting of the minds, in even the loosest sense of the term: a year after the marriage, her betrothed’s mother packed up Virat and his younger brother Samir and moved the family to Nagpur, away from the clutches of their abusive and controlling grandfather. Not long after, Lata sent notice to the Balpur village council to have the marriage annulled; unbeknownst to the Rathods, grandfather retracted the paperwork. For the next two decades, he led Mili and her naani on, milking them for her dowry in exchange for empty promises that this would be the year that Virat – now a Squad Leader in the Indian Air Force – would send for her. Grandfather passed away several years ago, and naani is starting to panic: when she’s gone, who will care for her granddaughter?

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Book Review: The Sunken (Engine Ward Book 1), S.C. Green (2014)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

“By Great Conductor’s steam-driven testicles!”

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaways program. Also, trigger warning for rape. I summarize some of the plot points below, but try to avoid any major spoilers.)

Set in London in 1820 and 1830, The Sunken imagines an alternate history in which dragons thrive in the swamps surrounding London; King George III is a vampire/cannibal/madman; and traditional, god-fearing religions have been abolished in favor of those that worship science. In this new old England, engineers, physicians, scholars, artists, and poets lead their own churches and sects, sermonizing on their latest theories and inventions.

The Sunken follows four childhood friends in boyhood (in 1820, they are fifteen years of age and on the cusp of going their separate ways) and adulthood (in 1830, they reunite in a London destined for radical change). The son of a Lord, Nicholas Rose is about to depart with the Royal Navy on a post bought and paid for by his cruel father – as is his adventure-seeking comrade, James Holman. Meanwhile, Isambard Kingdom Brunel is to continue studying engineering under the tutelage of his father Marc. Ditto: Henry Williams, who – as the descendant of the great dragon hunter Aaron Williams Senior – occupies one of the top social rungs among the lowly Stokers, the laborers who keep the great machines under London running. The day before Nicholas and James are to set sail, there’s an accident in Marc’s school which claims the life of Henry; Marc is tried for negligence and banished to Van Diem’s Land, leaving Isambard in the care of his abusive mother.

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Book Review: Masque of the Red Death, Bethany Griffin (2012)

Monday, April 14th, 2014

“In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think.”

five out of five stars

Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s short story of the same name, Bethany Griffin imagines a world decimated by the plague in Masque of the Red Death. Seventeen-year-old Araby Worth knows too well the horrors of the Weeping Sickness; she lost her twin brother Finn to the disease several years ago, and still blames herself for his death. Their father, the scientist Dr. Worth, designed a mask that filters out the disease; but Araby accidentally claimed the prototype, which was meant for the frail Finn. The masks acclimate to their owners, so that sharing or trading is impossible. Before his father could make a second mask, Finn contracted the plague and died. Dr. Worth saved humanity, but was unable to keep his own family safe.

Araby now spends her days sleeping and her nights getting high in the Debauchery District. She considered suicide, once, but was rescued by her neighbor April. Now best friends, the two belong to the privileged class. High up in the penthouses of the Akkadian Towers, the two are sheltered from much of the poverty and violence below. And while they’re lucky enough to afford masks – a whole collection of them, actually – no one in this world remains untouched by the Weeping Sickness.

While she has resigned herself to life, Araby has taken a vow to eschew those things her brother will never experience: a first kiss. Learning to swordfight. Traveling the world. As romance and political intrigue seep through the walls she’s built around herself, Araby finds her resolve tested: first by Will, the dark and mysterious tester at the Debauchery Club, and then by April’s brother Elliott, who has rebellion on the brain.

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Book Review: White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2012)

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

American Dreamz (of “Good” Food)

four out of five stars

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.

When is bread just bread? After reading White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2012), you’ll realize that the answer to this deceptively simple question is likely “almost never.”

Tied as it is to issues of class, race, gender, and nativism, the history of bread – which types of bread are considered the healthiest, which are the most patriotic and “American,” what methods of preparation are considered safest, which loaves are most valued by the affluent, etc. – reflects changing social mores as much as (or perhaps even more so than) it does evolving culinary tastes. Focusing on recent American history – the past 150 years, give or take a few decades – Bobrow-Strain doesn’t so much trace the history of bread as he does examine how trends in bread consumption reflect deeper cultural ideas, fears, and ideals. Accordingly, the book is divided into six primary chapters, each dedicated to a different “bread dreams,” namely: purity and contagion; control and abundance; health and discipline; strength and defense; peace and security; and resistance and status.

The mass production of (the titular) white bread in factories, for example, was initially celebrated as a safe, scientific, and superior way of delivering bread to the masses, in a time when women were otherwise tied to the kitchen and many small, family-owned bakeries were run from unsanitary basement kitchens characterized by brutal working conditions. Now derided as “white trash” food – ironically, in part due to its success and ubiquity – industrial white bread was once considered a healthier, more sanitary, even elite alternative to home-baked, locally bought, and whole wheat breads. Oh, how the times have changed! Or not. What comes around goes around – America’s current love of freshly made artisan breads harkens back to the 1800s and earlier, before bread was made by robots and procured in giant grocery chains.

So too has the maxim of “knowing where your food comes from” changed with the times. Prior to the industrial revolution, this meant getting to know your local bread baker (and, more importantly, his kitchen) – or, preferably, having mom bake all the family’s bread from scratch. (No small feat when one considers that bread has long been a dietary staple: from the 1850s though the 1950s, Americans got an average of 25-30% of their calories from bread. While this figure began to dip in the 1960s, it tends to rise in times of war and recession, particularly among the poor.) Later on, “knowing where your food comes from” was presented as a benefit of buying industrial white bread produced by faceless bakery conglomerates – an idea that seems laughable to the modern consumer.

White Bread is an engaging look at a foodstuff that, until now, hadn’t received its proper due. Recent condemnations of industrial bread aside, historical and scholarly accounts of bread’s history have mostly been lacking; with this engaging, meticulously researched, and passionate tome, Bobrow-Strain fills in the void. Especially useful to food activists, the lessons found in White Bread are important ones:

Thanks to an explosion of politically charged food writing and reporting that began in the late 1990s, members of the alternative food movement have access to a great deal of information about why and how the food system needs to change. Much less is known about the successes and failures of such efforts in the past. Even less is known about the rich world of attachments, desires, aspirations, and anxieties that define America’s relation to the food system as it is.

The history of bread in America provides countless illuminating examples of how national crusades for “better” food (however you define it: safer, healthier, cheaper, etc.), while well-intentioned, often draw upon and feed into harmful stereotypes and work to perpetuate the very oppression and inequalities they seek to eradicate. Food must be taken in context: everything’s related. Food justice, feminism, worker’s rights, racial equality, immigration, environmentalism (not to mention, nonhuman animals and veganism) – intersectionality is the word of the day.

So why the 4-star rating? Exhausted by the bald speciesism found in so many books written by non-vegan environmentalists (culminating in the particularly awful Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage), I promised myself that I’d stop requesting such items from Library Thing, no matter how much they might interest me. While I expected that meat might make an appearance in White Bread – a status symbol, the consumption of animal flesh has long been linked with class, gender, and race – I didn’t anticipate that the author would be a former intern on a “kinder,” “gentler,” “sustainable” beef ranch. Bobrow-Strain peppers the book with anecdotes about his time as a purveyor of “happy meat,” grass-fed beef, and raw milk – all of which is presented as a “radical” new way of looking at food. Uh, yeah, not so much. Exploiting animals? That’s just business as usual. But rethinking who is on our plate, and why? Now that’s extreme. (Such bold proclamations bring to mind Red Lobster’s latest ad campaign: “We Sea Food Differently.” If by “differently” you mean “exactly the same.”)

And yet, the closest we get to any mention of veganism is Sylvester Graham, the 19th century Presbyterian minister and food reformer who advocated vegetarianism, temperance, and a return to “natural” foods as a means of achieving physical and moral superiority. Unfortunately, his vision of a simpler life was predicated on the genocide of indigenous peoples and the enforcement of rigid gender roles; and, in blaming the poor for their ills and ignoring larger social structures, his philosophy was classist as well. Not that I blame Bobrow-Strain for presenting this critique of “the father of American vegetarianism.” Quite the contrary: it’s essential for vegan activists to recognize, acknowledge, and overcome past wrongs – many of which are still in operation today. But in all his waxing sentimental about animal exploitation – on a book ostensibly written about bread – it’s especially irritating that an oblique discussion of Graham’s vegetarianism is the best – indeed, the only – counter to the oppression, violence, and waste that is animal agriculture. Slow, local, organic, and healthy foods – all receive their due. And veganism? Apparently that’s so radical a notion it’s not even worth mentioning. (But yeah, vegans are the ones always shoving their opinions down the throats of unsuspecting omnivores. Riiiight.)

While I think there’s a lot that vegans can take away from this book, the speciesism is at once asinine and infuriating. If you think you can handle it, by all means.

Read with: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy (2010).

2012-05-08 - White Bread - 0002

A page from White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf
by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2012)
Chapter 6: How White Bread Became White Trash; Dreams of Resistance and Status
“You’re scum, you’re fucking white bread.”
– David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

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(This review is also available on Library Thing, Amazon, and Goodreads. Please click on over and vote me helpful if you’re so inclined, mkay? I have a sneaking suspicion that this piece won’t prove especially popular on Amazon.)

Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo: Loud, Clueless & Proud

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Some of you may recall the animal rights bingo cards I made last year, namely: Defensive Omnivore Bingo II (inspired by Brian VanderVeen’s Defensive Omnivore Bingo, of course!), as well as the vegan-feminist Speciesist Feminist Bingo and Anti-Feminist Vegetarian Bingo cards. (No? Well, here they are!) Around the same time, I started working on a card dealing with racism and classism in the animal advocacy movement: Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo. A year later, give or take, and I finally filled in the few remaining squares!

Unlike the other cards, I feel as though PWV Bingo requires more of an introduction – but every time I sit down and put fingers to keys, the words that appear on my computer screen seem trite, inadequate and lacking in eloquence. So rather than keep struggling along, instead I invite you to read this FAQ by Tim Wise, as well as “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack,” by Peggy McIntosh – the first few paragraphs of which I’ve excerpted below:

Through the work to bring materials from Women’s Studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over-privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to improve women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials which amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages which men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened or ended.

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege which was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless backpack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

For me, filling in the 24 squares of the PWV Bingo card was an exercise similar to that performed by McIntosh – that is, recognizing the many ways in which my racial and ethnic makeup help me navigate the world of veganism and animal advocacy, unhindered and unmolested. Whereas – as a woman lacking in gender privilege – I was able to complete the two feminist-themed cards with relative ease, it took me – as a vegan benefiting from race and class privilege – months to finish the PWV Bingo card. In short, it’s much easier for me to identify sexism, misogyny and anti-feminism, since I’m marginalized by them; harder still to identify racism and classism (particularly less overt examples of each), since I’ve been taught to take white privilege for granted – to see right through it, as though it doesn’t even exist. An eye-opening task, and one I highly recommend – no matter the privilege in question: race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, dis/ability…species, even. No, not even – especially.

Additionally, I should note that while I use the terms “racism” and “classism” in conjunction, this isn’t to suggest that they’re interchangeable. Related, yes – inasmuch as people of color are disproportionately represented among the poor and working-class, and a number of variables, structural and otherwise, work to perpetuate the status quo – but not the same. However, rather than make a card each for racism and classism, I decided to combine the two in one for simplicity’s sake. All forms of oppression are intertwined, and sometimes it can be next-to-impossible to separate all the tangled threads.

Also, I almost named this card “Cluelessly Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo” – since recognizing one’s privilege doesn’t automagically dispense with it – but decided against it, seeing as “Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo” is already quite the mouthful. I specifically chose not to call it “Racist Vegetarian Bingo,” as labeling one a “racist” tends to shut down civil, productive discourse in a way that “speciesist” (and even, to some extent, “sexist”) does not. Plus, racism isn’t an either/or proposition; as Wise explains, we’re all socialized and/or programmed to be racist – to think in terms of in group/out group membership – to some degree. The challenge, whether you choose to accept it, lies in using our oversized primate brains to overcome these outdated, retrogressive, lazy ways of thinking.

As with the previous cards, I’ve included a plain-text version of PWV Bingo after the jump. At the time of this writing, most of the squares contain links to refutations and debunkings; for those that don’t, I plan on either finding an appropriate response or writing my own in the (hopefully near) future – so check back often!*

In addition to the articles by Wise and McIntosh, I also highly recommend that you check out the resources linked to in the plain-text version of the card. Vegans of Color, The Vegan Ideal, The Food Empowerment Project, The Sistah Vegan Project, L.O.V.E. – all have been instrumental in challenging and shaping my views on race and class privilege (etc.), particularly in relation to the animal advocacy movement. Many of the squares were directly inspired by things read and seen on the pages of these blogs and websites.

Of course, PWV Bingo is equally applicable to vegans as well as vegetarians. Sad but true, people. Sad but true.

Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 22: Shegans, unite!

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Raising her sword to Grayskull, LOL She-Ra demands, “I Can Haz Equal Rights?” & as long as we’re taking requests, the lady would like a NOMy vegan meal, too. (She’s a Shegan, yo!)
CC image via Brett L. on Flickr.
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The Boston Globe: Men leave their own mark on veganism and

vegansaurus!: He-gan woman-haters club!

Men + vegans = hegans. (Get it!?) Specifically, hegans are “men in their 40s and 50s embracing a restrictive lifestyle to look better, rectify a gluttonous past, or cheat death.” (Or, alternately, hegans are the latest faux-trend created by the newspaper industry in order to 1) hawk their wares and/or 2) avoid reporting on actual news. Be your own decider person.)

Though I prefer the term “hegan” to its predecessor, “femivore” (which, as a word, makes zero sense), it’s still kind of bullshit: in describing this ‘new breed’ of manly vegan men, Pierce is setting up a false dichotomy that portrays ‘regular’ vegan dudes (and women, too) as effeminate, weak and sentimental (‘pussies, queers and commies,’ as hegans might say). Also: paint with a broad brush much? Veganism is a diverse movement, and any attempt to pigeonhole such a large segment of the population is misguided at best. (See above, re: creating news where there is none.)

That said, I have a counter-proposal: shegan. More complex an equation than “women + vegans = shegans,” shegans as I envision them are feminist vegans of all sexes and genders (and/or feminist-allied vegan men, if you prefer) who reject sexism and misogyny as vehemently as they do speciesism. Dog knows we could use a little more sheganism, particularly since this is quickly shaping up to be the summer of the hegan douchebag.

Vegan Feminist Agitator: The PETA Effect

A lovely essay from Marla in which she manages to deconstruct the bulk of PETA’s campaigns in one fell swoop. To wit:

The PETA Effect has come into existence because they have cynically decided to not only accept the terms dictated by the worst aspects of the mainstream world, but to be a part of it. Instead of questioning misogyny, they wallow in it. Instead of thoughtful, insightful analysis, they have women citing statistics while stripping on camera. Instead of rejecting the notion that we all need to be young, slim, and, more often than not, surgically enhanced to be attractive, they embrace it fully, and they also tell us that objectification for the “cause” is a worthy endeavor. They tell a nation already deeply battered by this message that if you are not young, slim and conventionally attractive, you are worthless and disgusting. What does this have to do with compassion to animals? How does this improve a battery chicken’s life? How does this make the skeptical public more receptive to questioning their values? It doesn’t.

Seriously, go read the whole piece. I can wait.

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If you fuckin’ with this bitch then you betta’ be paid.*

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Mars, Inc. wants you to know that a bitch is a bitch is a bitch – and, whether she be digging for gold or for bones, that bitch ain’t shit.

Mars Petfood Frolic - Pool

Mars Petfood Frolic - Hotel

Mars Petfood Frolic - Limo

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Ask not "Are Animal Lovers Sexist?," but "Can Animal Lovers Be Sexist?" (Answer: duh.)

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

lol kaylee - just needs a hammer

Don’t fear, Ms. Kaylee is here! lol dog sez, “wonder beyatch – be hear 2 smash ur kyriarchy, mkay?” She brought her Wonder Woman undies, but she’ll need to borrow a hammer. You got a problem with that, human?
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Last November, I penned a brief letter to the editors of VegNews, in which I questioned Rory Freedman’s casual use of the term “fur hag” – “hag” being a sexist, ageist and lookist slur. (VegNews subscribers can read the exact quote in context in Freedman’s column, “Prison or Bust,” which appeared in the December 2009 issue.) Fast-forward several months; my letter was published, albeit with several edits, in the March+April 2010 issue.

Not surprisingly – given the popularity of the term, as well as PETA’s “fur hag” campaigns – some readers disagreed with my comments, including Annie Hartnett of change.org’s newly-rebranded Animals blog. (Many thanks to Marji of Animal Place for bringing the post to my attention!) In Are Animal Lovers Sexist?, Hartnett argues that, ahem, attacking women for their femaleness is not sexist because most fur-wearers are women.

While I have previously deconstructed the term “fur hag” – as well as the campaigns’ associated imagery – what follows is a line-by-line response to Hartnett’s piece. Rather than rehash points that I’ve made elsewhere, however, I’ll use this as an opportunity to build upon my previous argument. If you haven’t already, please go read last January’s On “fur hags” and “fucking bitches.” before continuing on; doubly so if you’re surfing on over here from change.org. (Also related, and referenced in passing below: ARA PSAs: Women, Men and Fur and ARA PSAs: Attack of the Killer Cosmetics.) (1)

Before we begin, though, I’d like to reprint my letter, as Hartnett did not/would not do so, even upon request.

Here is the original letter, in its entirety:

As a vegan feminist, I’m increasingly disturbed by the number of animal advocates who are willing to engage in sexism (and other “isms”) in the course of their advocacy – “for the animals,” of course (as if women are not sentient beings as well). Take, for example, Rory Freedman’s use of the term “fur hag” to describe those who wear fur (“Prison or Bust,” December 2009 issue). “Hag” – a gendered slur that is synonymous with “witch” – literally means “an ugly old woman.” While fur-wearers may indeed be ugly on the inside, a person’s gender, age and physical appearance say nothing of her character. If Ms. Freedman – or any other animal advocate – feels the need to resort to insults, please keep them “ism”-free. “Jerk,” “loser,” “asshat”: all convey a point – without further marginalizing already-marginalized groups of animals, human or non.

Kelly Garbato
Kearney, MO 64060

kelly.garbato [at] gmail.com
http://www.easyvegan.info

By the way, I wrote a lengthy piece on the term “fur hag” last year, wherein I expound upon the sexist, ageist and sizeist nature of the phrase in much greater detail than is possible in 250 words or less. Additionally, I employ PETA’s associated “fur hag” campaign imagery to further illustrate my point. You can read the post in its entirety at http://bit.ly/vl8sB

Seriously, tho’, enough with the misogyny!

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 16: Breast is Best (and Vegan!)

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

“IMG_1805”: Snout covered in milk, pink tongue flicking from her mouth, a young cow suckles her mother’s teat. CC image from destinyuk on Flickr.
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Julie Urbanik @ Humanimalia: “Hooters for Neuters”: Sexist or Transgressive Animal Advocacy Campaign?

In the inaugural issue of Humanimalia, Julie Urbanik explores animal advocacy campaigns that trade in gender-based stereotypes in order to promote compassion. These include “Hooters for Neuters” events held by, among others, Best Friends Animal Society (et tu, Best Friends!?); LA-based Friends for Animals’s “Pimp Your Pit”; NYC’s Rescue Ink; and, of course PETA. (PETA, PETA, PETA!) While I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s conclusions, it’s a thought-provoking analysis nonetheless.

Mylène @ My Face Is On Fire: Fur and

Gary Francione @ The Abolitionist Approach: The State of the Movement

In a much lengthier post about single-issue campaigns (namely, anti-fur campaigns), Mylène refers to Professor Francione’s recent critique of PETA’s racist/sexist State of the Union Undress video. Both posts are worth a read, so rather than quoting gratuitously, I’ll just copy the point to which I responded in Mylène’s piece:

But is the fur industry really any more worthy of such ire? As one advocate recently pointed out Twitter, for instance, ‘fur’ is skin and hair while ‘leather’ is skin. To obsess over people’s wearing of fur while turning a blind eye to others’ wearing of leather (which is much more common and involves so much more loss of life) seems odd and illogical. Furthermore, as Prof. Francione often points out when discussing anti-fur campaigns, considering that a large percentage of those who wear fur are women, fur becomes a convenient and sexist target. After all, when’s the last time you saw PeTA demonstrators bombard a leather-clad biker with paint-balls?

Pause and savor that image for a moment, if you will, before we move on to less savory stuff.

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 14: Human(ity, or lack thereof)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

King Kong (2005) - Kong & Darrow 02

Bitch Magazine: Trans Spotting—The media’s myopic vision of transsexuals

Not exactly “new,” but this piece from trans activist/artist Julia Serano (http://juliaserano.com) is an excellent complement to the “Our Bodies and Lives” series posted by Ida at The Vegan Ideal several weeks back (see Transsexual Knowledge and Resistance; Transphobic Trauma, Transsexual Healing; and Questioning Cissexual Politics). Serano directly challenges feminist stereotypes which hold that male-to-female transsexuals serve to reinforce the gender binary with their uber-feminine wiles. She also offers a few choice words for defenders of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s “womyn-born-womyn only” policy.

The article isn’t available online, though, so you’ll need to order a back issue of Bitch (Issue 26, Fall 2004: The “Fake” issue) to read it. Or, for just a few bucks more, check out Serano’s Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, published in 2007. It’s on my wish list!

The Vegan Ideal: Mirha-Soleil Ross on Justice for Sex Workers and Nonhuman Animals

In honor of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17), Ida highlights the words of Mirha-Soleil Ross, “a vegan, transsexual and sex worker justice advocate.” In snippets from several interviews, Ross addresses the topics of (radical) feminism within the animal rights movement; similarities between society’s demonization of prostitutes and coyotes; and the objectification of women and nonhuman animals – from all corners.

Johanna @ Vegans of Color: Don’t Use Classism and Anti-Sex Worker Rhetoric to Protest Fur;

The Vegan Ideal: Class Privilege in Anti-Sex Worker, Anti-Homeless Activism;

The Vegan Shoe Lady: Fur is for Beautiful Animals and Scary Hookers; and

Taste Better!: On framing fur

Johanna and Ida critique a recent anti-fur post written by The Vegan Shoe Lady (and later picked up and enthusiastically expounded upon by Taste Better!) in which the author encourages readers to engage in classism and sexism, as well as the shaming of sex workers and homeless people, in the course of their anti-fur activism. Because this just what the animal rights movement needs – to be perceived as a monolith of exclusionary white elitists, yes? Lovely!

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 12: The Wordy Vegan

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale (BBC Radio 4, 2000)

The Vegan Ideal: Our Bodies and Lives

In a series of posts, Ida dissects and rejects the cissexual “colonization” of transsexual bodies and experiences. While transphobia and cissexism are primarily linked with physical violence and systemic discrimination, discounting and silencing the voices of transsexuals – often in favor of cissexuals’ own mis-/un-informed theories and assumptions – is problematic as well. Unfortunately, transphobia and cissexism are all-too common in a number of “progressive” circles – including animal rights and vegan communities. Here, Ida takes vegetarian-ecofeminists to task for their transphobic attitudes.

This isn’t exactly light reading, but I encourage y’all to read each piece anyhow, and with an open mind. If you find transsexuality a difficult concept to grasp, consider this: given your position of not-knowing (read: ignorance), isn’t it best, then, to trust the thoughts, experiences and feelings of those most intimately affected by transsexuality – i.e., transsexuals themselves – and to place their voices in a position of primacy?

Part 1: Our Bodies and Lives: Transsexual Knowledge and Resistance;
Part 2: Our Bodies and Lives: Transphobic Trauma, Transsexual Healing; and
Part 3: Our Bodies and Lives: Questioning Cissexual Politics.

Steven @ L.O.V.E.: Toward vegan language and

Stephanie @ Animal Rights: Not It and That and What — She and He and Who and Whom

The importance of language – including word choice, pronoun usage, framing, writing in the active vs. the passive voice, etc., etc., etc. – is a subject we haven’t discussed nearly enough on this blog. Fear not; a review of An Introduction to Carnism – in which language assumes a starring role – is forthcoming, and once I’m able to return to Animal Equality: Language and Liberation (a year after beginning it, perhaps? oy!), I expect that you won’t be able to shut me up with the language “policing.”

Until then, Steven outlines four reasons why animal advocates should – must! – concern ourselves with language. Also check out Stephanie’s piece on pronoun choice and objectification.

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Another twist in the Obama family doggy drama.

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Update, 1/22/09:

Now that this post is making the rounds (which is to say, a few bloggers have mentioned it – lolz on me!), I want to make the following clarifications:

1) As I said at Change.org, I don’t think Obama is a misogynist. In calling his “girly dog” remark sexist, I’m not grouping him with hardcore misogynists like Ann Coulter, Joe Francis, Rick Warren and the like. Rather, I think that Obama occasionally engages in the sort of casual, softcore sexism that’s all too common among men (and women!) who have been raised in a culture steeped in misogyny. An occasional slip is understandable and excusable – after all, we’re all socialized with certain prejudices, which we have to unlearn – but only if you’re willing to recognize, apologize and learn from it.

Here, Mrs. Obama offered her husband several opportunities to reconsider his comments – and he didn’t. To me, his failure to recognize how this gendered stereotype might offend his wife and daughters is worse than the comments themselves.

2) Upon re-reading the post, I see that I conflated “small dogs” with “girly dogs” – my bad! While I think there’s a strong correlation between a dog’s size and his/her perceived “girly”-ness, there are exceptions. The standard poodle, for example, is a larger breed, but might be considered “girly,” inasmuch as it’s “high maintenance” (i.e., is rather well groomed). “Girly doesn’t necessarily equal “small,” but the two are somewhat related.

Nor do I have a problem with Obama preferring a large dog; indeed, as some have pointed out, large dogs are overrepresented in shelters, at least in some areas of the country, and thus it might do more good for Obama to adopt a large breed. That’s fine by me – but he can do so without denigrating “girly” dogs (and, by extension, actual girls and women).

3) Enumerating the consequences of gender-based stereotypes and insults on human men and women is well beyond the scope of this blog.

However, if you:

a) Don’t understand why the term “girly” might be perceived as an insult, and a gender-based one at that;

b) Don’t see the links between misogyny and homophobia; and/or

c) Don’t recognize the practical, real-world effects of gender stereotypes and gendered slurs on men and women (and girls and boys), or understand how men and women (and girls and boys) receive different, gendered socialization, then

I highly recommend adding some feminist blogs to your reading list. For a primer, start with Finally, a feminism 101 blog. As far as non-AR feminist blogs go, I also like Shakespeare’s Sister and Feministe, both of which are relatively light on speciesism.

If you think I need to “lighten up” or “get over myself,” you really need to do some feminist homework!

4) Finally, I’d like to add that the term “girly dog” also invokes class and race stereotypes. When you think of the quintessential “girly dog” and her “owner,” probably you think of a small, white, yappy, puffy little dog with bows in her perfectly groomed hair. The dog – being a lap dog, as Obama also said – is most likely pictured lounging on the lap of an equally perfectly groomed woman, who is either prissy and “diva”-ish, like Paris Hilton (another blogger’s term and example), or older and regally respectable, like Ms. Walters. Either way, she’s white and upper-class. At least, that’s my take on the term.

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Oy. After months of equivocating on the dog issue, the Obama family has announced that they’ve narrowed their choice down to two breeds: the Labradoodle and the Portuguese Water Dog. Unfortunately, as Adopt-a-Pet.com reports, while these are not the only two “hypoallergenic” breeds available, they are harder to find on animal adoption websites:

You recently signed Adopt-a-Pet.com’s petition on www.Presidential-Pooch-Pardon.com asking Barack Obama to adopt a shelter dog. He is interested in adopting, but has narrowed his search to uncommon breeds that are difficult to find in a shelter. Now, on the President-Elect’s website, there’s a section where people can vote for their favorite ideas, and the top vote-getting ideas will be directly seen by Obama. One of the animal shelter workers who posts pets for adoption on Adopt-a-Pet.com has posted an idea urging the president to consider finding a mixed breed dog with the right individual traits that meets his family’s needs.

You can make a huge difference by voting one more time here. If this is your first time on the site, you’ll be asked to create an account, which is super simple. After you create your account, click the link above again to locate the suggestion.

Thank you for being part of this non-partisan effort to promote homeless pet adoption please spread the word to your friends!

Indeed, a search of Petfinder for “Labradoodle” currently turns up zero results, while “Portuguese Water Dog” uncovers seven purebred dogs.

Additionally, in selecting a purebred dog, the Obamas are practically inviting greedy breeders to cash in on their (hopefully) compassionate choice by sexually exploiting and selling the “Obama dog.” (Doubly so if they adopt a breed that’s hard to find through adoption routes.) A mixed breed or mutt – particularly one of unknown heritage, which can’t easily be reproduced – would help minimize this risk.

Also on the Obama dog front, Adopt-a-Pet.com has some crazy cute graphics you can download, encouraging the Obamas to adopt a mutt.

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They’re available at muttslikeme.adoptapet.com, which is a riff on Obama’s observation that “A lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.”

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