Book Review: Divergent, Veronica Roth (2012)

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Starts With One

fiveout of five stars

Not so much a review as a random collection of thoughts (so many feelings!), but you get the idea.

  • The plot, in brief: Set in Chicago sometime in the unspecified future, the hallmark of Divergent is its unusual method of social organization. The population is divided into five factions, each of which embraces a different virtue: Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Erudite (knowledge), Amity (peacefulness), and Dauntless(ness) (bravery). Purportedly the faction system arose after the last major war; people blamed the conflict on different flaws fundamental to humanity, and adopted the opposing traits as a means of preventing future violence. Amity, for example, signaled out human aggression and adopted a position of non-aggression coupled with forgiveness and understanding.

    A person’s life is all but dictated by her faction membership: faction housing is segregated, and different factions assume responsibility for those jobs appropriate to their skills (Amity is involved in agriculture; Erudite produces the city’s scientists and innovators; and, owing to their unrelenting selflessness, Abnegation is entrusted to run the government). Aside from political leaders, members from different factions rarely interact, and inter-faction marriages are unheard of.

    Those who find themselves without a faction – because they failed their chosen faction’s initiation, or later left or were cast out – compromise the city’s homeless, who rely on Abnegation charity and menial labor to get by. To be factionless is considered by many a fate worse than death.

    At the age of 16, children – who are raised (read: indoctrinated) in their parents’ faction – armed with the results of aptitude tests administered to determine which faction best suits them, can either choose to stay in their current faction or join a different one. “Transfers” are rare: those who leave their faction may never return, as the choice is a lifelong one. Since members of different factions have little occasion to interact, this often means saying goodbye to one’s family of origin. In more extreme cases, a transfer may be shunned as a traitor. Few adolescents even consider leaving, since they’ve been trained from birth to share in the hive mind of their own faction; different ways of thinking are foreign, even terrifying.

    Of course, not all of Chicago’s citizens can so easily be categorized and classified: unbeknownst to most, there’s a sixth “faction” (the factionless not being considered belonging to a faction, though we’ll see in Insurgent that this is far from the truth), that of Divergent: those rare individuals who demonstrate a flexibility of thinking and aptitude for two or more factions. Young Beatrice Prior is Divergent, in a time when it’s dangerous to be so.

    We meet Tris – as she’s later christened – as she’s on the cusp of choosing her faction. Told from her point of view in first-person narrative, Divergent follows Tris through the process: high-tech aptitude tests, choosing ceremony, and initiation. While her brother Caleb decides to leave Abnegation for Erudite, Tris chooses the daredevils of Dauntless, and the freedom they represent. In just a month, she must learn how to be Dauntless; among the skills she will need to master are weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, and strategy. She must also learn how to conquer her own most primal fears through a computer simulation known as the fear landscape. The initiates aren’t just working against themselves, but are pitted against one another as well: only the top ten initiates make the cut. The rest are cast out into the factionless.

    As if this isn’t enough for Tris, her initiation comes at a time when the gears of war have again been set into motion: led by the Erudite, several factions are on the brink of war, with both the Abnegation and the Dauntless – Tris’s home and chosen factions – caught in the middle.

    Oh, and she’s also got the hots for her instructor. Talk about yer teen angst!

    (More below the fold…)

  • Book Review: Sorceress, Celia Rees (2009)

    Monday, February 25th, 2013

    A satisfying conclusion to WITCH CHILD.

    four out of five stars

    Sorceress continues the story of Mary Nuttall/Newbury, a young Englishwoman who immigrated to the “New World” in 1659. Forced from her village after her grandmother is executed for practicing witchcraft, Mary’s mother sends her to America in the hopes that she’ll be safe from persecution. Stuck in the isolated settlement of Beulah, surrounded by Puritans so intractable in their beliefs that they proved unwelcome even in Salem, Mary’s existence grows increasingly perilous. Try as hard as she might to fit in, Mary is an outsider – and a young, intelligent, and independent female, at that – and when things start to go sideways, she proves the most convenient of scapegoats.

    The story finds Mary where Witch Child left off: slowly dying of hypothermia and starvation in the forest surrounding Beulah, after having narrowly escaped the town’s religious authorities. A she-wolf comes to her in the middle of an especially harsh snowstorm, caring for Mary until the morning, when her friend Jaybird and his grandfather White Eagle come to her rescue. Thus begins a rather epic journey, beginning at The Cave of the Ancestors and ending many decades later, in Canada. Mary marries (Jaybird, in a terribly bittersweet romance) and gives birth to and adopts several children, one of whom she buries much too early; becomes a pupil to White Eagle and, in time, a respected healer in her own right; establishes a secret medicine society, still in existence to this day; and travels ever northward, trying in vain to stay ahead of the escalating tensions between indigenous peoples and the French and English settlers.

    Unsurprisingly, it’s the colonialists she encounters who prove most threatening to Mary’s well-being: terrified of her skills and offended that she’d rather live with “savages” than her “own kind,” Mary is kidnapped not once, but twice. Whereas the French pirate Le Grand drugs, rapes, and threatens to sell or enslave her, the Mohawk warriors who seize her and her children adopt them into a village decimated by disease. Likewise, the English Captain Peterson attempts to “rescue” her from her Pennacook kin – by force.

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: Witch Child, Celia Rees (2000)

    Monday, February 4th, 2013

    “Words have power. These are mine.”

    four out of five stars

    Mary Nuttall was just sixteen years old when her grandmother Eliza – the only family she’d ever known – was murdered. Accused of practicing witchcraft, the old woman was tortured, stripped naked, bound, and “floated” – tossed into a river to sink or swim. Her buoyancy taken as a sure sign of guilt, Eliza was pulled from the water only so that she could be hanged in public. Once trusted to heal their loved ones, Eliza’s friends and neighbors in this rural English town proved eager witnesses to her execution.

    Rescued from similar persecution by her long-lost mother, Mary is sent away to the “New World” in search of a better life. She’s to travel with a group of Puritans bound for Salem, where they’ll join their brethren and pastor. Upon arrival, the group is dismayed to discover that their kin have moved on, to the isolated town of Beulah. After much deliberation they decide to follow, forging ahead into the wilderness with two Natives – of the Pennacook tribe – acting as their guides.

    Unsurprisingly, Beulah couldn’t be further from the safe haven Mary’s mother envisioned for her child. Ruled by a Puritan preacher so strict and demanding that he proved unwelcome in Salem, Mary is in constant danger, just by virtue of being a newcomer to the community. Though she tries hard to stay under the radar, her “transgressions,” real and imagined – which include befriending members of the opposite sex; spending time alone in the forest to gather food and herbs; harboring anything more than uncharitable thoughts about the “heathen” natives; and proficiency in transcription – don’t escape the notice of Reverend Johnson. When items suggestive of witchcraft are discovered in the forest and several of the town’s teenage girls start exhibiting strange behavior, Mary’s worst fears are realized.

    All of this we learn from Mary’s journal, which spans roughly a year from 1659-1660. Urged to burn it by her protector/surrogate mother Martha – its opening sentences (“I am Mary. I am a witch.”) alone being sure proof of guilt – Mary instead hides its pages inside a quilt. Discovered more than three hundred years later by one “Alison Ellman” (one of Mary’s descendents, perhaps), Mary’s journal stands testament to the horrors she and her kind endured.

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: Bumped, Megan McCafferty (2011)

    Friday, February 1st, 2013

    The SyFy Channel Does “Teen Mom”

    four out of five stars

    The year is 2036 and a viral epidemic is threatening the world’s population. Those infected with the HSPV – Human Progressive Sterility Virus – enjoy just a few precious years of fertility; starting around the age of 18, one’s ability to procreate dwindles and then fails altogether. What was once taboo – babies having babies – is now necessary to human survival.

    Consequently, teen pregnancy isn’t just commonplace, but encouraged – patriotic, even: in America, chain stores like Babiez R U market faux baby bumps to young girls, complete with matching stretchy tees that sport catchy, pro-repro slogans like “Do the Deed, Born to Breed”; the local high school openly hosts a “Pro/Am” club (professional “preggers” – i.e., hired surrogates – and amateurs, or those girls who partner with whom they choose and then auction off their offspring to the highest bidder – coming together to make “pregging” sexy!); and especially “desirable” teens are represented by cutthroat agents called ReproReps, who strive to earn them top dollar for their “deliveries” (never “babies”). And, oh yeah, condoms are illegal (presumably along with other forms of birth control).

    Whereas sex for reproduction (“bumping”) is practically mandatory, recreational sex is frowned upon for the high school set. Whether through carefully negotiated contracts or masSex parties, many young women strive to deliver at least one or two (or ten, in Zora Harding’s case) babies before their “fertilicious” years pass them by.

    Against this backdrop, protagonists Melody and Harmony are two young women whose divergent experiences with female objectification demonstrate the many ways misogyny can manifest itself. Adopted into separate homes shortly after birth, the twin sisters were raised in two very different cultures. Mel’s parents Ash and Ty are former economists who predicted the rise of the surrogate market and groomed their daughter to supply this demand from childhood. Meanwhile, Harmony became a ward of “The Church,” a fundamentalist Christian community that isolates itself from the outside world (“Otherside”) in a suburban gated community filled with abandoned McMansions (“Goodside”).

    It’s not until their sixteenth year that the two meet – Harmony, having just entered into an arranged marriage with fellow “unteachable soul” Ram; and Melody, on the cusp of “bumping” with famous “cock jockey” Jondoe, thus fulfilling her contract with the Jaydens – and, through a case of mistaken identity/fraud, both girls’ lives are changed forever. (I won’t reveal any plot details beyond this, since there are a number of twists – some of them expected, others less so – and I don’t want to spoil it for would-be readers.)

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: The Panem Companion, V. Arrow (2012)

    Monday, January 28th, 2013

    V. Arrow is the Fangirl on Fire!

    five out of five stars

    Witty, insightful, passionate, engaging, highly readable and with keen attention to detail: V. Arrow’s The Panem Companion is all of this and more. I usually enjoy the stuff that Smart Pop puts out, but they’ve really outdone themselves this time! Arrow approaches The Hunger Games trilogy with the unabashed enthusiasm of a true fan and the critical eye of an academic, resulting in a guide that’s everything I wanted – and more.

    In fifteen chapters, Arrow covers a wide range of topics – from gender roles to race and class to culpability for war crimes, not to mention all sorts of wacky fan theories:

    1 – Mapping Panem – Drawing on canon, textual clues, and scientific predictions about the effects of climate change, Arrow (with a little help from “geek friend” Meg) posits a likely map of Panem. The maps are printed on glossy, full-color paper, which I appreciate – but owing to the small size of the paperback, it’s also a bit difficult to make out the details. This was the only chapter that didn’t fully hold my attention, but I suspect that’s because I’m not a very visual thinker and had trouble picturing the geographic changes. Still, the map is integral to some of the later discussions (such as race, class, and immigration), so don’t skip it!

    2 – How Panem Came to Be – Using modern history as a guide, Arrow considers how the dystopian society of Panem might have risen from the post-apocalyptic ashes of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

    3 – Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Panem – This is the discussion that THG fans – rightfully upset over the whitewashing of the film(s) – have been waiting for! Arrow presents a cohesive, convincing argument that Katniss (and her fellow Seam residents) are, if not persons of color as we understand the term, then most definitely “not white”; “other” – at least on Panem’s terms. Taking care to distinguish between race and ethnicity, Arrow examines how race and class intersect to create a society divided into multiple levels of “haves” and “have nots.” She also addresses the fan theory that Katniss has Native American or Melungeon roots.

    4 – The Socioeconomics of Tesserae – In a chapter that can be seen as an extension of “Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Panem,” Arrow examines the ways in which the tesserae system – which disproportionately affects the poorest of Panem’s citizens – deepens race, class, and culture divisions. In addition to providing an awesome show of the Capitol’s power and brutality, The Hunger Games also help to quash rebellious leanings by pitting members of the working class against the merchants.

    5 – The Curious Case of Primrose “Everdeen” – Is Prim really Mr. Mellark’s daughter? Probably not, but Arrow has fun entertaining this fan theory anyway!

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: Saints Astray, Jacqueline Carey (2011)

    Friday, December 21st, 2012

    Lacks the urgency of Santa Olivia.

    two out of five stars

    * Warning: minor spoilers follow! Also, trigger warning for discussions of sexual harassment and assault. *

    The follow-up to 2009’s Santa Olivia picks up almost exactly where its predecessor left off. Saints Astray finds Loup and Pilar fleeing into Mexico. Behind them is Outpost 12, known to its residents as Santa Olivia – an occupied military “buffer zone” in Texas that’s long been isolated from the rest of the world; ahead of them: freedom.

    After Loup’s escape from a military prison – with the help of John Johnson, a fellow genetically modified organism (GMO), as well as an extended family of GMO cousins living free in Mexico – Loup receives a hero’s welcome in Mexico City. Already overwhelmed by the relative luxury and vastness of their new surroundings, Loup and Pilar are pampered, treated to shopping sprees and rich meals at five-star restaurants. The two women take meetings with Mexican officials; network with Timothy Ballantine, a United States Senator who’s trying to start an inquest into the US Outposts and the military’s conduct there; and receive a job offer from Magnus Lindberg of Global Security, an international firm providing security for obscenely wealthy clients.

    With these formalities out of the way, Loup and Pilar travel to Huatulco, Mexico, to (finally) meet her kin. Here Loup finds true freedom. Because of the questionable status of “GMOs” in the United States (not to mention Santa Olivia’s own precarious existence), Loup was forced to hide her powers – superhuman strength, agility, and speed – for most of her life. That is, until the fateful boxing match that ended in Loup’s bittersweet victory – and her subsequent imprisonment and torture. But in Mexico, the existence of GMOs is an open secret, and in the tourist town of Huatulco her “wild” cousins (all boys – curious, that) are allowed open displays of their powers. Her relatives welcome her with open arms; in Loup’s words, her days in Huatulco are “idyllic.”

    Happy as she is in Mexico, Loup cannot – will not – let herself be lulled into complacency. Haunted by thoughts of her fellow Santa Olivians – still eking out a meager existence in the shackles of poverty and oppression – Loup vows to make her second chance count. Somewhat reluctantly, she and Pilar accept Lindberg’s proposal. He can offer them fake passports, a steady income, connections, and – perhaps best of all – a hands-on education. The two are whisked away to Scotland, where they’re trained in self-defense, firearms, surveillance, security, research, even manners and poise. A natural (or man-made, if you prefer) fighter, Loup excels at the physical challenges, while Pilar’s social skills lend themselves well to her role as a personal assistant. They work a variety of jobs: concerts, birthday parties, weddings – and are in high demand, owing both to their abilities as well the “novelty” and “prestige” that come with Loup’s GMO status.

    Eventually their contract is sold to Kate, an English pop rock trio that hopes to capitalize on Loup’s image. After Loup makes several on-stage appearances to remove unruly fans, she becomes known as the “Mystery Girl”; fan videos of her go viral, and soon concertgoers begin rushing the stage just for the privilege of being manhandled by Loup. Lead singer Randall, who’s trying to push the band’s sound in an edgier, more mature direction, finds inspiration in Loup and Pilar’s life stories. Of course, this only helps to further cultivate interest in Kate’s seemingly superhuman bouncer.

    As Loup and Pilar’s careers heat up, so too do the congressional hearings in the United States. Miguel Garza, who received his promised ticket out of Outpost 12 after all, is called to testify – and then is kidnapped and held for ransom by a casino owner. When the US government fails to secure his release, Loup does the unthinkable: she returns to the United States (where she’s considered a fugitive, and possibly not even a human one at that) to rescue him. With a little help from Pilar and Kate, of course.

    – end spoiler alert! –

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: Boy of Bone, K. R. Sands (2012)

    Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

    Her Dark Materials *

    five out of five stars

    If a collection of short stories “inspired by the mütter museum” strikes you as something that would lean inexorably toward the morbid and gory – the stuff of campfire ghost stories and Halloween horror tales – you’d be half right. While the twelve tales found in Boy of Bone are at turns gruesome and macabre (at times intimately so), author K.R. Sands exhibits great empathy and compassion for her subjects, despite having only conversed with them in her imagination. The result is a collection of fictional stories, inspired by real people and events, that manages to imbue “mere” museum displays – objects and artifacts – with a touching dose of humanity.

    Through Sands, some of the “dead voices” who inhabit the Mütter Museum are given the means to speak, to tell us their stories, filled as they are with pain, grief, sadness, suffering – and, joy, peace, and divinity as well. From a man mourning the loss of his conjoined twin (“The Pump Twin”) to a scientist who has fallen “in love” with one of his own medical devices (“The Face Phantom”), the characters you meet within these pages will not soon be forgotten.

    While it’s difficult to pick and choose favorites, I especially enjoyed:

    * “Madame Sunday’s Horn” (a woman comes to accept and even embrace the unicorn horn growing from her forehead as a sign of god’s grace);

    * “What Is Written, Sweet Sister?” (a young Union nurse requests the skin of her deceased soldier brother, so that it might be used to bind a prized family volume – not a Bible, but a book of Poe!); and

    * “Boy of Bone” (the sister of a boy – long dead, suffocated by his skeleton’s skeleton – finds solace in the exhibition of his remains at the Mütter Museum).

    Set in the antebellum south, “Black Bodies” is particularly raw and devastating. Here we meet an aging, paternalistic doctor who literally builds his career on the backs of black bodies. Though he fancies himself a “savior” of sorts to the poor African Americans he “serves” (dubiously so), he finds his narcissistic self-view challenged when he accepts an interview request by an out-of-town journalist. (A woman, at that!)

    I must confess that I was unable to finish one piece – “Do Not Feed.” Inspired “by exhibit on lead poisoning and dog skulls,” the story – or what I could gather of it, anyway – centers on the moral crisis of a technician at an animal research facility. There in the soft comfort of my bed, surrounded by my own pack of seven rescue dogs, “Do Not Feed” (the title of which refers to the practice of starving vivisected animals prior to “euthanizing” [read: killing] them, so that they’ll leave less of a mess for the humans to mop up) proved just too much to bear. No doubt influenced by Sands’s experiences as an animal laboratory technician, I can only hope that the story’s ending reflects her own changing attitudes toward the necessity and humanity of animal research.

    Boy of Bone is a gorgeously written, gorgeously illustrated tome – a work of art. Jon Lezinsky’s illustrations complement Sands’s words beautifully. Although … I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed to find that Boy of Bone doesn’t contain a single photo from the Mütter Museum. While I understand that the museum is fiercely protective of its exhibits (see, e.g., its strict photography policy), are a few pictures in a book that arguably helps to promote the museum too much to ask? One “inspiration” photo per story, perhaps? Especially considering that Sands is married to the director of the museum!

    My only other complaint is that the author doesn’t go into much detail about the exhibits behind the stories; the only information we get about Sands’s inspirations amount to not-quite-one sentence blurbs sandwiched in the table of contents (e.g., “…by old photographs of medical subjects” [“Black Bodies”] or “…by the exhibit of a giant colon” [“Freddy Chang’s Live-Die Museum Restaurant”]). Coupled with the lack of information on the museum website, and you’re left to fill in the blanks with your own imagination.

    Strong trigger warnings for violence, rape (including incest), racism, sexism, speciesism, and cruelty to animals.

    * Also, how can I help but love an anthology whose forward shares a name with my favorite trilogy?

    (This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined.)

    Book Review: I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore (2010)

    Friday, July 27th, 2012

    Four stars for I Am Number Four

    four out of five stars

    Not so much a review as a random collection of thoughts, but you get the idea!

  • The basic premise of the Lorien Legacies series is this: we are not alone. Besides Earth, multiple planets capable of sustaining life exist in the universe. Among these are Lorien and Mogadore, whose contrasting pasts and presents reflect two possible futures for Earth.

    Much like Earth today, in its early history Lorien was faced with ecological collapse. Caused by greed and fueled by rapid technological advancements, the Loric people were quickly depleting their planet’s resources, driving it ever closer to ruin. Rather than continue on this self-destructive path, the Loriens chose another way: they simplified their society, living sustainably and in harmony with nature. (Just what this entails isn’t clear. For example, there’s no indication that the Loriens are/were vegans, nor do they seem to have renounced their “ownership” of nonhuman animals.)

    In thanks, the planet endowed the Loriens with special gifts. While all Loriens are stronger, faster, and more powerful than the average human, roughly half of the population have additional, supernatural abilities: Telekinesis. The ability to control the elements. Invisibility. The gift of flight. Imperviousness to fire. They are members of the Garde, the superhuman – or rather super-Lorien – protectors of the planet. Behind the scenes, the Cêpan manage the society and act as mentors to young Gardes who are just discovering their Legacies. At the time of our hereos’ births, Lorien is a veritable Eden, with everyone coexisting in peace and harmony.

    Mogadore offers a terrifying glimpse of the road not taken by Lorien. Faced with a similar fate, the Mogadorians deplete their planet’s resources, turning it into a barren hellscape – and then set out to conquer other planets and plunder their resources as well. The first of these is Lorien, which is caught with its guard down and is taken easily. Save for a lucky few, all of the Loric people are slaughtered. Lorien is laid to waste.

    Obvious moral is obvious, though no less true. We are at a crossroads; will we emulate the peaceable Lorien, or – be it through, antipathy, stubbornness, or privilege – go the way of Mogadore? Human history, rife as it is with genocide, colonization, slavery, and wars of convenience, does not speak well of us.

    (More below the fold…)

  • 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

    ——————————

    (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.)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 25: Vegan nomz & Bowl-a-thons!

    Sunday, March 6th, 2011

    Vegan cookies are distributed

    Vegan cookies are distributed at a Prop 8 rally in Riverside, CA, circa 2008.
    CC image via Flickr user lierne.

    For this edition of Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, let’s start with some shiny happy news for a change, shall we? Namely, cross-movement bridge-building with vegan nomz and bowl-a-thons!

    (Take note, carnists and defensive omnivores: vegans are not, in point o’ facts, all single-minded activists who prioritize nonhuman over human animals. Also: we are quite capable of multitasking, thankyouverymuch.)

    Vegan Protest Fuel: Feeding the protesters in Madison, WI

    Vegan Protest Fuel is the first of two projects I’d like to share with y’all (and, if you happen to have a little extra scratch laying around, encourage you to contribute to). Started just last week in response to the ongoing protests in Wisconsin, the good folks at Vegan Protest Fuel deliver vegan food to peaceful protesters defending their rights – because “Everyone Needs to Eat.” Naturally, their first campaign is feeding “the tenacious heroes in Madison, WI, who are fighting to preserve their precious collective bargaining rights and for economic justice in their state against a radical conservative governor and assembly.” Over time, they hope to expand their program throughout the United States and, possibly, the world.

    Powered by tofu: it’s not just a slogan on a tee, yo.

    See also: Food Not Bombs, Food for Life Global, HIPPO, A Well-Fed World and Ample Harvest.

    Team Vegan Vixens: Bowling for abortions in the National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon!

    Team Vegan Vixens needs your support in the National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon! Held throughout the month of April,

    The Bowl-a-Thon is a nationwide series of local events that allow community members (you!) to captain your own bowling team, participate in a kickass national event – and raise money to help women and girls pay for abortions they couldn’t otherwise afford.

    Abortion Funds are local, grassroots groups that work tirelessly to help low-income and disadvantaged women who want an abortion and do not have enough money to pay for it. Abortion Funds help women pay for their abortions, help them buy bus or plane tickets, and even offer women a place to stay when they have to travel for an abortion. Abortion Funds make a difference in women’s lives…and you can join them!

    With $236 raised so far, Team Vegan Vixens is currently the top fundraiser for the Chicago Abortion Fund, which ranks #8 overall. Help Team Vegan (Vixens!) represent by pledging your support. Or sign up to participate your own bad self!

    Fuck yeah, pro-choice vegans.

    (More below the fold…)

    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

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: Between the Fences: Before Guantanamo, there was the Port Isabel Service Processing Center, Tony Hefner (2010)

    Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

    An engaging, if frustrating, story of government corruption & abuse

    three out of five stars

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

    In BETWEEN THE FENCES, Tony Hefner tells a harrowing tale of corruption and human rights abuses, committed by both the United States government as well as contractors tasked with fulfilling governmental responsibilities (in this case, caring for detained, undocumented immigrants). Employed as a prison guard at the Port Isabel Service Processing Center – an immigrant detention center in the South Texas’s Rio Grande Valley – from 1983 to 1986 and again from 1988 to 1990, Hefner either witnessed personally or was privy to first-hand accounts of various crimes that took place at Port Isabel, including the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of detainees, both male and female (and sometimes, children); the sexual harassment, assault and rape of female guards; the physical and emotional abuse of male employees; drug trafficking; blackmail; nepotism and racism in hiring and firing decisions; and countless other illegal and immoral activities, including repeated cover-ups of these incidents, and the protection of those involved.

    Hefner’s account of these human rights abuses is both engaging and enraging, but his constant digression into his own life history detracts from the story. For example, as a child Hefner himself endured physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his stepfather, who thought him worthless because of his Mexican parentage. Although I sympathize with his plight – no child should be bullied, hit, or made to feel worthless, and certainly not by adults – Hefner repeatedly points to this abuse as one reason (“excuse,” you might say) for his relative inaction on behalf of abused inmates. While Hefner’s power to intervene directly was no doubt limited, he also didn’t do much behind the scenes; for example, he might have clandestinely collected hard evidence in order to build a case against his superiors, and/or anonymously leaked this information to the media, thus remaining an inside whistleblower at Port Isabel – but he didn’t. While Hefner did record those abuses that took place out in the open (in a notebook, after the fact – not exactly irrefutable proof), he also didn’t go out of his way to uncover the hidden, more egregious cruelties that were kept from him and others. Too often, he seemed content to go about his own work, nose down, ears closed – see no evil, hear no evil.

    Many guards and employees tolerated the abuse of both prisoners and, not uncommonly, their own persons because of financial hardship. In the 1980s, at least, Port Isabel was one of the largest employers in an economically strapped area. Far removed from the situation, it’s easy to sit in judgment of guards who refused to speak up in the interest of self-preservation. But this unfair at best; no one can really know how he or she would react in a similar situation without actually living it. Here, though, Hefner makes frustrating excuses as well; if he had simply chalked his lack of action up to poverty, I might be able to understand. But he claims to have stayed on at Port Isabel in order to keep his ministry, the Bearing Precious Seed Ranch, viable. In other words, he was content to proselytize to vulnerable children on the one hand, while utterly and spectacularly failing to live the actual tenets of his religious teachings on the other. “Do as I say, not as I do.” In the name of “caring for” some people’s children, he ignored the abuse of other people’s children (some of them, it’s worth noting, actual children – minor boys raped by fellow inmates while indifferent guards looked on, or underage girls forced to dance naked for the possibility of clemency).

    The many, many pages Hefner devoted to writing his own autobiography would have been better spent, I think, placing the abuse at Port Isabel in context. According to the book’s promotional materials, 400,000 immigrants are detained by the U.S. government every year; these individuals are held in a number of jails across the country. How do the conditions at Port Isabel compare to those at other centers? What steps, if any, are the INS and the U.S. government taking to ensure that the individuals detained in these facilities – and the guards employed therein – are treated humanely and respectfully? How does the government justify its lack of action on the complaints lodged against Port Isabel officials? What steps do Hefner and his allies plan to take next? And how does our broken immigration policy, too often marred by racism, sexism and xenophobia, contribute to these horrific conditions?

    (This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 24: Three months o’ links!

    Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

    Considering I haven’t posted a link roundup in more than three months, this one actually isn’t all that long. What can I say; I’ve used what little free blogging time I’ve had to prepare for the upcoming Vegan MoFo madness. Speaking of which, brand spanking new graphics and an up-to-date press release are now available. Go grab some and spread the word! 400 participants and counting – let’s make it 500, kay? Come November 1st, you can follow the fun on Twitter (VeganMoFo, #veganmofo), the (new!) PPK forums, and Vegan MoFo Headquarters International. See y’all then.

    Joel Burns tells gay teens “it gets better”;

    Stephanie @ Animal Rights & AntiOppression: “You Coming Out or What?”; and

    The Bullies Suck T-shirt

    In the wake of a spate of suicides, committed by gay teenagers who were each the target of homophobic bullying, the LGBTQ community and its allies celebrated National Coming Out Day on October 11. Together, these events have focused attention on movements to prevent bullying – particularly those aimed at LGBTQ (or perceived LGBTQ) youths – including the It Gets Better Project and The Trevor Project. The former invites members and allies of the LGBTQ community to upload encouraging videos to its website, the message being that “it gets better”; the latter operates a hotline for LGBTQ youths and young adults in crisis, and also provides resources to parents and educators.

    As part of this anti- anti-gay backlash, a number of celebrities and public figures have shared their own experiences publicly – including Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, whose heartbreaking speech went viral and was aired in full on various media outlets, including CNN (where I first saw it). I’ve embedded the video above; even though it’s rather long, clocking in at almost 13 minutes, I urge you to watch the whole thing. It will bring you to tears.

    And, while you’re already a sobby, snotty mess, head on over to AR&AO, where Stephanie shares her own “coming out” story. These issues – homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and the like – are relevant to animal rights activism simply because so many activists belong to marginalized groups; nonhumans are not the only animals exploited and mistreated en masse, for no reason other than the simple fact of their birth. All oppression is bad oppression, and all forms of oppression harm individual activists, as well as social movements and the beings for whom we advocate. These are not “special interests,” to be addressed only after the “important” work is done; these are our interests, to be tackled in concert with other “isms.”

    To this end, Ari Solomon of A Scent of Scandal, Josh Hooten of The Herbivore Clothing Company and Jennifer Martin of Ink Brigade created a line of t-shirts to show solidarity with the victims of anti-LGBTQ bullying. Called “Bullies Suck,” the tees are available for purchase through Herbivore (just $20, with kids’ sizes, to boot!); all proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project.

    (More below the fold…)

    more randomness: food, needs, food needs, dairy/rape, dennis kucinich & dogs

    Sunday, August 15th, 2010
  • After a nearly six month hiatus, I have a new post up at Animal Rights & AntiOppression! In an interview with humane educator Zoe Weil, we look at the connections between our treatment of nonhuman animals, the earth, and one another, and explore humane education as the bridge between seemingly disparate social justice movements – and the solution to our many (many!) human-made ills.

    Check it: “The World Becomes What You Teach”: An Interview With Humane Educator Zoe Weil

  • Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (psych101 students, represent!), Ellyn Satter developed a corresponding hierarchy of food needs, arguing that one cannot “choose” to consume healthy products unless one’s more basic needs – such as having enough food to eat, having acceptable food, and having reliable, ongoing access to food – are already met.

    Satter's Hierarchy of Food Needs

    Satter’s Hierarchy of Food Needs:
    Bottom to top, the six needs are as follows: Enough food; Acceptable food; Reliable, ongoing access to food; Good-tasting food; Novel food; and Instrumental food.

    The choice to consume vegan food (vs. the necessity of consuming vegan food) seems to rest at the apex of Satter’s hierarchy, and as such, can only be made “when all underlying needs are consistently satisfied”: “The person functioning at the apex of Satter’s Hierarchy of Food Needs reliably gets enough to eat of rewarding food and has food acceptance skills that are good enough to allow him or her to eat a variety of food. That person is thus in a position to consider choosing food for instrumental reasons: to achieve a desired physical, cognitive, or spiritual outcome. This description is analogous to Maslow’s concept of self actualization.”
    ——————————

    While this hierarchy is primarily being discussed in relation to our consumption (or lack thereof) of nutritious, healthy food, i.e.:

    The graphic suggests that getting enough food to eat is the most important thing to people. Having food be acceptable (e.g., not rotten, something you are not allergic to) comes second. Once those two things are in place, people hope for reliable access to food and only then do they begin to worry about taste. If people have enough, acceptable, reliable, good-tasting food, then they seek out novel food experiences and begin to make choices as to what to eat for instrumental purposes (e.g., number of calories, nutritional balance).

    As Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist writes, sometimes when a person chooses to eat nutritionally deficient or fattening foods, it is not because they are “stupid, ignorant, lazy, or just a bad, bad person who loves bad, bad food.” Sometimes, it’s “because other needs come first.” (Source: Sociological Images)

    it’s equally applicable to veganism and vegan foods: obstacles such as hunger, poverty, food insecurity, lack of access to food, etc., severely constrict people’s ability to choose a vegan diet, on multiple levels (e.g., individual, community, population). As long as we’re serious about creating a vegan world, we must address these human inequities as well. (That, and it’s the right thing to do.)

    Check out the Food Empowerment Project for more.

  • (More below the fold…)

    randomness: dicks, donuts, girls, books, ice creams, pigs and pizzas!

    Thursday, August 5th, 2010

    Fan Junk Shots - Ralphie 01

  • www.schlongs4seals.com is now open and ready for business!

    Currently, only the blog – where I’ve already logged more posts in August than I managed to write for this here blog in the entire month of July – is fully functional. I’m still working on the promised interactive photo gallery and discussion features, but hope to have these done soon. (To this end, WP-compatible software recommendations would be most appreciated!)

    That said, the template and static/informational pages are all finished and look, if I might say so myself, kickass. I found a template that mimics Facebook almost to a M (for misogyny, natch), so it’s almost like we never left. (And by “left” I mean “were kicked off.”)

    Additionally, I created a temporary set of photo pages to house all the “man meat” I’ve “processed” thus far: VAPETA PSAs, promotional materials, junk shots, celebrity cock shots, South Park avatars, brother campaigns, etc. Browse, bookmark and check back often, because there’s more in the pipes.

    If you’re still out there and, um, excited to participate (excited! get it!?), send me your package at schlongs4seals [at] gmail.com and I’ll be equally excited (tee hee) to feature it on the appropriate page.

    Also, if you visit the front page, you’ll see a little Facebook “like” button in the left-hand sidebar (right under the hot white torso wearing the hot red boxer briefs). Click it, won’t you? We need friends! And sharing! On Facebook!

    Fan Junk Shots - Baby Kelly 02

    I’ve been a connoisseur of men’s briefs since early childhood.
    Behold the rapturous glee on my chubby chipmunk cheeks!
    ——————————

    SeaL Shepherd may have succeeded in removing our page from Facebook, but he can hardly prevent us from sharing content in the form of links.

    Can’t stop the schlong, yo.

    (A note for the newbies and occasional readers: if all this cock talk has you flummoxed, go here for some background.)

  • Tofurky Pizza with Daiya Cheese has finally made its way to Kansas City!:

    2010-08-05 - Tofurky Pizza - 0003

    The Whole Foods in Overland Park, to be more specific. And now it’s in my freezer. Nom nom nom.

  • As if this isn’t already more awesomeness than the KC metro area can handle, Kansas City is now home to a brand-spanking-new vegan bakery. Gluten-free, to boot. And, if you live in the KC area, they deliver!

    Shane ordered a box of Golden Girls – the vegan feminist version of “real” Twinkies, if you will – for delivery to his office Monday.

    2010-08-02 - Golden Girls - 0010

    They are super-yummy – a little denser than Twinkies (according to Shane; I’ve never partaken), with a sponge- or angel food cake-like consistency. The creamy filling is the bestest, though methinks the cakes could use more. I say the same of Ronald’s Donuts and Newman’s O’s, so grain of salt.

    Egads. In all my excitement, I almost forgot to name drop. Brody’s Bakery is the name of the biz – hit ’em up on Facebook, and if you’re ever in the KC area, shop team vegan, mkay? Jasmin of Our Hen House also did a nice writeup on Brody’s this week; see Brody’s Bakery Bakes Up Compassion. (Color me jealous, btw.)

  • (More below the fold…)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 23: lolz the douche away

    Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

    lol batman - get that dood-elle

    lol batman – get that dood-elle!” – Running through the streets of Gotham, a cheesy, live-action, retro ’60s Batman and Robin try desperately to apprehend a certain sexist blogger before he can unleash any further douchebaggery upon the women of Blogville. “HOLY FUCKING PATRONIZING SEXISM,” goes the refrain of this lol batman.
    TV still via the internets; quote via Stephanie; and photoshopping via moi.
    ——————————

    Though I haven’t been posting much ’round these parts lately

    [and have all but abandoned ship over at AR&AO, for which I apologize to Stephanie & Co. profusely, and pledge to do better once things calm down here at Casa del Garbato-Brady, otherwise known as the Garden of Vegan, a title which I swear I will one day have posted at our driveway’s front gate, threats of TP and eggs be damned]

    rest assured that I’ve been busy, busy, busy, namely: working on several projects – including developing a website for my fledgling business

    [Remember my – by which I mean Shane’s – pizza press idea of last October? We are totally doing it! Slowly but surely, anyway. Our website isn’t quite ready yet, so if you’d like to follow our progress, like us on Facebook, mkay?];

    revamping another

    [POP! goes The Vegan., whose database of vegan reviews should really be on the front page, with the blog in an ancillary position, seeing as the database is the main f’in attraction. What I was thinking by reversing their positions, I know not.];

    and launching yet another brand-spankin’ new website

    [Schlong4Seals! OMG, just reflecting on all the man-sausages and dick jokes waiting in the wings is enough to bring a smile to my normally frowny face. (I almost always look annoyed, even when I’m not; it’s must be the humorless feminist in me, I guess.) I was a little incensed when the Fraternal Order of Facebook killed my SCHLONGS4SEALS group, but in retrospect, I think they did me a solid. A solid I shall return by plastering FB with links to all my super-awesome crotch shots and “seven ways to save the seals using only your cock” posts! Oh, I cannot wait. *Channeling the spirit of Will Ferrell*]

    – the height of insanity, since clearly I already have more blogs than I can keep track of. Silly, silly rabbit.

    Oh, and the zazzle store! A few designs for which I still need to create. Yeah, let’s save that for later, shall we?

    Anyhow, on to issue #23 of “Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs.” On accounta me being in a mad hurry tonight, I’ve forgone most of my normal commentary in lieu of excerpts. That’s okay, though; I’ve got a great batch of links to share with y’all, so best to let the individual bloggers speak for themselves.

    Browse, share, enjoy – and then blame and smash. Go!

    lol-psycat - narcissus

    lol-psycat – narcissus” – Apropos of the dood-elle mentioned above, “narcissistic cat is his own screensavr.” (For those who can’t view the image, a black cat lounges atop a computer monitor, which currently displays a photo of…a black cat!) Not super-relevant to the rest of the post, but I felt like I needed a break between my semi-coherent ramblings above and the über-awesome link roundup below. Anal, who me?
    ——————————

    INCITE! Blog: Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements

    To save our movements, we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male privilege, and the strategies that informants (and people who just act like them) use to destabilize radical movements. Time and again heterosexual men in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence as a threat to the survival of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved.

    (Hat tip, Jenna at L.O.V.E.)

    Vegan Feminist Agitator: Exploitation + Objectification = Conklin Farms. (In other words, business as usual.)

    The process through which we make peace with the inherent injustice of how we treat non-humans occurs because of objectification, the largely unconscious fragmentation system through which sentient beings are turned into objects. It is easier for the mind to integrate the misuse of objects than the abuse of living beings. Through this process, individuation collapses: all cows, all hens become a single entity to be turned into product. Those who are in power have their interests interpreted as a natural right rather a personal desire. When our interests require the subjugation of another, objectification makes the acquiring of what we want that much easier.

    Digging Through the Dirt: Promotion of Veal on Columbus Day Adds to Insult

    Because we think of ourselves as exceptional, we view “the other” as inferior. Descendents of native peoples and of African slaves are still regarded as inferior in this country, in general. And animals are treated as such, too. They exist for our purposes; they have no value except that which we bestow upon them, usually in the form of dollars. It’s all about what we can get from them — their flesh, their milk, their eggs — just as it was for Columbus. What could he get from the native peoples?

    (More below the fold…)

    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.
    ——————————

    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.

    (More below the fold…)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 21: Campaign WIN/FAIL edition

    Saturday, May 15th, 2010

    MTV's Retro Hit Girl Poster

    “MTV’s Retro Hit Girl Poster”: In a reimagining of J. Howard Miller’s iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, a purple-wigged Hit Girl flexes her bicep, gun in hand. The purple bubble emanating
    from her head reads, “We Can Kick Ass!” Message brought to you by the Women’s Ass-Kicking Committee. (This photo has absolutely zilch to do with today’s post; rather, it just makes me smile. The warm and fuzzies, I sure needed ’em after wading through not one, but two PETA campaigns. Maybe you will too?)
    ——————————

    Okay, so there’s much, much more FAIL than WIN in this edition of Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, but seeing as I’m all about the power of positive thinking, half-full beer steins, and all that fluffy fun stuff (sike!), I had to lead with WIN. In the title, anyhow. Had you fooled, didn’t I?

    The Discerning Brute: Rape of Africa in “A Bid to Save the Earth.”

    So this is…interesting. In honor of Earth Day, Christie’s hosted an auction to benefit several environmental organizations. One of the art pieces – David LaChapelle’s “Rape of Africa” – is unsettling, to say the least. Click on over to the Discerning Brute to view the image (which is totally NSFW as it depicts, among other things, Naomi Campbell’s bare breast). Joshua Katcher’s interpretation of the photograph is worth a read as well, particularly as he links the exploitation of farmed animals to that of human women, to wit:

    [S]itting beside Naomi Campbell are farm animals, which suggest the failure of programs like Oxfam and Heifer International as well as making the statement that, like domesticated farm animals, Naomi is a chattel.

    WIN or FAIL? Well, I dig the piece, though it’s not exactly something I’d hang over the fireplace, if you know what I mean.

    Catholic Vote - Earth Day 2010

    Her Authority: Women’s Bodies Are… Pieces of Land?

    In this Earth Day-themed ad, the anti-choice group CatholicVote.org links women (particularly mothers, o givers of life!) with the natural world by superimposing an image of the earth over the womb of a heavily pregnant woman. A cute (read: white, blond-haired, appropriately feminine, etc.) little girl rests her head against her mother’s belly; index finger pressed to her lips, she seems to be saying, “Shhh! My little sister is trying to sleep in there!”

    With this imagery, CatholicVote.org is romanticizing two “homes,” if you will: that of the developing fetus (baby!), i.e., a womb which belongs to an adult human female; and planet earth, i.e., home to all of humanity (and a trillion other creatures, as well). Women are not individual beings with their own thoughts and desires, but rather pieces of land. And what do we humans do with land, the earth, and the natural world, class? That’s right – we conquer and dominate them! Nice.

    Which makes the romanticization of each – women/mothers and the earth/nature – all that much more distasteful and disingenuous. Throw me on the bottom of the shitpile and tell me that I live on a pedestal, why don’t you?

    (More below the fold…)

    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

    (More below the fold…)

    Race, Gender, Food: More Videos from The Sistah Vegan Project

    Friday, April 16th, 2010

    It’s been several – well, okay, seven – weeks since I posted Breeze Harper’s video introduction to Sistah Vegan, her newly released anthology on race, gender and (vegan) food from Lantern Books. An increased workload, mild-but-chronic health problems (me) and unexpected and urgent health scares (Kaylee and Ralphie), an utter lack of inspiration and motivation – all have conspired to keep me from blogging in the new year. Consequently, I haven’t given this video series a fraction of the attention it deserves. It’s high time we remedy that, dontchathink?

    As I said before, many of the videos are on the lengthy (10 minutes+) side, so most likely you’ll need several sittings to view each set. (Hint: many are just the right length for a midday snack break!) They’re all well worth a watch, and together provide an excellent supplement to the Sistah Vegan anthology. (Regrettably, I’m not aware of any available transcripts, nor will I be able to provide any, due to the length of the videos.)

    In addition to Brief Intro to My Consciousness Formation (view Parts One and Two on YouTube), we have:

    [An Introduction to The] Sistah Vegan Project – Here, Sistah Vegan project founder/anthology editor Breeze Harper discusses the genesis and development of Sistah Vegan, touches upon the project’s and book’s areas of interest, and shares some of the reactions her work has generated among vegans and people of color.

    (On YouTube: Part One and Part Two.)

    (More below the fold…)