“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from the motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton
I was born a feminist. I’m not sure where it came from – perhaps my dynamo of a grandmother, confident to the core – but growing up, I never thought that I was anything but a complete equal to everyone else. I was a natural feminist and when I learned that there were was a real need for it - that there were those who believed in arbitrary, illogical and repressive hierarchies - the fire within me to correct injustices was found its fuel source. When I saw kids throw rocks at squirrels, heard people make bigoted remarks, witnessed others being treated unfairly, my hands would involuntarily ball up into tight little fists. Even if I wanted to keep quiet, to not attract the ire of that bully down the block who threw rocks at the squirrels or the loudmouth at the bar years later, I physically couldn’t do it. It’d be like asking a volcano to please not explode. My feminism and my passion for equality and fairness were always fully interwoven and integrated.
Now here is the sad part, the whole falling out between me and mainstream feminism that left me so disappointed. I will concede that maybe I’m naïve. It’s quite possible that I’m just out-of-synch with the world around me. I have come to accept that I am stubbornly idealistic sometimes. This is all possible.
When I came of age as a feminist in college the idea of intentionally adopting a patriarchal system of oppression was unthinkable. This is not to say that I was perfect by a long shot: I have a virtual walk-in closet chock full of skeletons just accumulated from the Booze Era of my life that lasted from ages 19 to 26. Even with a mean hangover, though, the idea was that I was trying to dismantle vicious systems of tyranny, not benefit from them. The thought of consciously participating in a fundamentally unjust and violent power structure once I knew about it would have been akin to keeping slaves simply because I could.
Animal agriculture is a historically and essentially oppressive one, one that asserts at its very root that “what’s yours is mine” if you don’t happen to be a human. Your milk, your eggs, your life. This is an entrenched patriarchal conceit, born of domination, and the idea that women, feminists at that, would accept this particular status quo is strange and troubling to me. That they would adopt it and wrap it in the parlance of quasi-feminist empowerment is especially unsettling. Yet I see photos of women with weapons standing over dead animals, grinning victoriously. I read grandiloquent accounts of slaughter, including one in which a woman was quoted as saying that she felt like “a goddess, an Amazon” after killing a chicken with her own hands. (Oh, and a knife.) I hear women speaking with obvious pride about shooting deer, killing the animals they have raised, taking them apart from limb to limb. Less overtly inspired by bloodlust, I know of avowed feminists who could “never” give up “their” cheese, who don’t pause to reflect on the lives of the chickens on the plate in front of them at their favorite Thai restaurant, who say that they consider their preferences first as a matter of self-empowerment.
Here is the thing: when feminists are accepting and embracing the tools of oppression, it’s time to reevaluate things. Ladies, you have co-opted your own feminist principles and replaced them with maintaining your comforts instead.
Feminism is a social justice movement, one that asserts at its core that females are equal to males. No one deserves violence, injustice, suppression, and inequality simply because she was born with X and Y chromosomes, just as no Jews deserve persecution just because of the lineage they were born into or people of color deserve it because they are not Caucasian. We know this. Why are the animals people exploit and kill – those who were born to circumstances outside of their own control, just like all others – excluded from the sphere of consideration by otherwise thoughtful, kind, and progressive people? Because unrestricted access to animals is their right, damn it, and they will guard this privilege to the finish.
Feminism is about many things and it differs from interpreter to interpreter. I get that. If feminism implies through word and deed (or is also complicit by the lack thereof) that some females are more equal than others, though, this crosses into the troubling mentality that supports slavery and selective, self-serving habits over moral consistency. When females of different species are forcibly impregnated and have their babies and milk taken from them in an enforced cycle of pregnancy and birth until they are considered worthless, that is a crime against them and it is gendered. This is institutionalized, state-sanctioned violence and exploitation. Wouldn’t a feminist naturally take a stand against such abuse? Wouldn’t a feminist naturally not aid and abet such heinous cruelty? Wouldn't a feminist naturally disavow such distinctly unenlightened and unnecessary violence?
I am a feminist because I believe that all beings were created equal. I am a feminist because I reject the common practices of patriarchal violence, no matter how culturally ingrained they are and beneficial they might be to me. I am a vegan because I am a true blue, proud feminist. We have to be honest to ourselves and honest to each other: are those of us who believe in social justice going to go the distance for others or are we just going to remain in our own comfort zone? Are we going to be fearless as we create this new world order or are we going to accept business as usual, choosing comfort over challenging ourselves to be true champions for sovereignty of the body and spirit?
Despite how disappointed I have felt by other feminists over the years, I am still one in my heart and soul. This won’t ever change. I am just ready for other feminists to step up to the plate and take the animals off of it. We have to never let go of a commitment to tenacious compassion.
We are the ones. The future of the world rests in the hands of the powerful and fearless vegan feminists.