This Is Why I’m Not #2: Intersectionality

Another wonderful post about my vegan send off. People seem upset, almost as if I nailed my resignation to the door of a church or something. Suddenly, I’m a monster (you know, because I came to know The Truth and turned my back on The Way). But I was always a fan of the monstrous. Anyway…

An anonymous responder said:

So you have the luxury of being “every-other-issue-but-veganism”? I didn’t think intersectionality was about creating detours and roadblocks because one liked to take the scenic route now and again. I thought intersectionality was about removing obstacles, taking on more causes and not less, adding instead of subtracting, expanding ethical praxis rather than selectively contracting it to fit a theory or a desire to eat flesh, rationalized ex post facto.

Why move one step forward and one step back? There are bloggers here that have gone beyond vegan to, say, raw veganism. That’s ‘beyond vegan’. But going beyond vegan by eating nonhuman animals is like going beyond liberal by voting Republican.

Luxuries

Is it a luxury to be “every-other-issue-but-veganism”? I don’t really care. Veganism was never one of my issues. I never gave two shits about vegans. I was vegan because I once believed it was the only way to fight speciesism. I stopped believing that long before I stopped following an explicitly vegan diet.

Vegans have got to stop conflating veganism with speciesism. The veganism should never have been one of the issues I was fighting for. Vegangelicals make me nervous.

My intersectional processes sometimes enjoy taking scenic routes, especially when those routes give me time and things to think about. I never concieved of intersectionality as an act. It is a description of the world as it appears to be–interconnected and interdependent. It certainly does not mean that there is one path.

Perhaps it is impossible for an orthodox vegan to see, but eating flesh does not preclude any expansion of ethical praxis. I can’t believe folks think theory came after the act for me… I’ve been imagining non-vegan, post-vegan, and alterna-vegan modes of ethical praxis for years. It was just time for me to step foward and create new avenues, because no one else seemed willing to.

One Step Forward

I’m not a believer in progress. That narrative hasn’t sounded believable to me for a long time. So it is hard for me to take seriously anon’s position

Why move one step forward and one step back? There are bloggers here that have gone beyond vegan to, say, raw veganism. That’s ‘beyond vegan’.

I don’t think I’m walking a step backwards or forwards. I’m walking, running, dancing all over the place.

But to anon there is a line, obviously, an ethical evolution. From omnivore to vegetarian to vegan to raw (or fruitarian or anyother diets that are vegan-but-more). If that’s the case then to eat flesh after being vegan is an abomination, a regression, a moral crippling. For this mindset to go “beyond veganism” can only consist of progressing on the line, to go raw, etc.

I’ve been a raw foodist. I’ve flirted with fruitarianism. They were interesting, and I certainly felt more pure. But I’m not interested in purity.

I don’t see myself as walking forward or backwards. I’m taking steps forward, back, left, right, up, down, and every which way, because standing still wasn’t solving anything.

Beyond Liberal

But going beyond vegan by eating nonhuman animals is like going beyond liberal by voting Republican.

I just have to say to everyone that doesn’t subscribe to political liberalism–that is to those of us who are libertarians, communists, anarchists, fascists, monarchists, or true-blue conservatives that is a nonsensical example. Republicans and Democrats both subscribe to political-economic liberalism.

But since I know what anon was trying to say: sometimes conservative thought and action is exactly what an individual needs to move beyond liberalism in whichever direction they want to move beyond.

Intersectionality

I don’t think a political intersectionality that seeks to create a better world requires an every-issue-including-veganism. Vegans aren’t oppressed. Animals are. I’m against cages, against slavery, against abuse. I’m for freedom, for partnerships, and for care.

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7 Responses to This Is Why I’m Not #2: Intersectionality

  1. Jeanette says:

    Two things really stood out to me in your post: “sometimes conservative thought and action is exactly what an individual needs to move beyond liberalism in whichever direction they want to move beyond.” and “I don’t think I’m walking a step backwards or forwards. I’m walking, running, dancing all over the place.”

    I agree completely! I’m friends with lots of people who’d identify as “radicals”…I think they think I’m a sell out because I’ve moved away from some of the ideas that brought us together in the first place. But yes, I feel like I’ve moved beyond in whatever crazy direction that happens to be.

    • Royce says:

      I totally get that. I’ve expanded my political/philosophical reading list from marxists and anarchists to include conservatives, proto-fascists, monarchists, and classical liberals. Regardless of if I agree completely with any of them (which I don’t) I feel that my own analysis has become enriched.

  2. PJ says:

    Interesting blog you got here. I admit until this evening I’d never even thought about any connection between issues-of-color and issues-of-animals.

    I tried to grab the RSS feed but I can’t find a link to it on the site. You might want to add that.

    • Royce says:

      Thanks for the tip, I’ve never really understood the point of RSS myself, but I’ve tried to add it to the best of my limited knowledge of wordpress.

  3. Kim says:

    Before I say anything else I’ll explain briefly what I view veganism to be. Veganism, for me, means aiming to not support exploitation in any way. It is, as has been mentioned elsewhere here, impossible to be 100% vegan in today’s world. For one thing, virtually everything in the supermarket involves animal (human or nonhuman) exploitation of some kind. So being vegan is really more about making the best possible choices, in a world where the only choices available all involve a little bit of evil at the very least.

    That said, under this definition of veganism, which is not one everyone would agree with, it’s not really about whether you eat meat or not; it’s about whether something is the product of exploitation, and whether you’re supporting that exploitation in any way.

    All animal products currently found in supermarkets, etc. are the products of exploitation. If you buy them, you support exploitation, and are not vegan. Eating animal products that are being offered to you for free can also support exploitation, if those products need to be replaced. It also reflects that you don’t take animal exploitation seriously, if you’re perfectly fine eating the products of it, and that does harm in itself, contributing to exploitation.

    That said, if in vitro meat hits the market, I see nothing inherently unvegan or immoral in that. Cell cultures are needed to make it, but these, from my understanding, can be taken from the animal painlessly at a regular veterinary examination. No problem there. There is no pain caused, no suffering, no life of misery. The flesh itself was never part of an individual. I can’t see why vegans should have any qualms about consuming this (other than from a health perspective, or a matter of taste: I have no interest in consuming the stuff myself), so long as the public clearly understands the difference between the two (meat that comes from exploiting and killing animals, vs. meat grown in a lab), why one is wrong and one is fine.

    ~

    I don’t see why you see the progression being from carnist* to vegetarian to vegan to raw. Raw isn’t a moral thing, it’s generally a health thing. And being vegetarian is not necessarily more moral than being carnist: it’s still about supporting exploitation. There is really just supporting exploitation (carnism, lacto-ovo veg) and not supporting it (vegan). People often do go veg in their own progression to veganism (I did), but that’s the product of ethical confusion.

    * We should say carnist, as opposed to omnivore. We’re all omnivores, closer to the herbivore end of the spectrum than the carnivore. We don’t choose to be omnivores, we just are. Rather, we choose to nourish ourselves on plant-based diets (vegan), or we choose to include flesh foods and believe exploitation is justified (carnist/vegetarian).

  4. Royce says:

    I guess I don’t understand your definitions of support or exploitation.

    I fail to see how eating flesh that is salvaged from a wasteful system of consumption supports exploitation in any material sense, which for me is the only sort of support there can be for a material condition.

    “So being vegan is really more about making the best possible choices, in a world where the only choices available all involve a little bit of evil at the very least.”

    I like that, though I guess it points to one of the reasons I stopped being vegan: I think it is impossible to know in a world of supermarkets and industrialized agriculture which is the best possible choice–because everything contains “evil,” and it is impossible to know how much.

    I just fail to see how consuming flesh that would be wasted, in situations where one does not contribute to the material conditions of exploitation, supports that exploitation. Which is why, fopr my definition of support, I don’t believe the act of consumption is the site of support.

    I don’t personally see any progression whatsoever. That was a reference to the line of thought multiple vegans gave in response to my moving “beyond veganism.”

    I also believe this is a false dichotomy:

    “Rather, we choose to nourish ourselves on plant-based diets (vegan), or we choose to include flesh foods and believe exploitation is justified (carnist/vegetarian).”

    We choose to eat a plant-based diet or we choose to eat a diet that includes flesh or we choose to eat a meat-based diet.

    We choose to believe exploitation is justified or we don’t, but I don’t believe that those beliefs are always reflected in which things we put in our mouths.

  5. Kim says:

    I’m not sure I’m understanding you. Are you saying then that you only eat meat that is being thrown away, that sort of thing? Strictly speaking, this could be said to not directly support exploitation. If no one saw you doing it, you didn’t tell, etc. then it couldn’t by any means be said to support exploitation. It would only support exploitation by implication, if for instance people saw you consuming it – by doing it we imply we think it’s okay to do it, etc. Eating a veggie burger could theoretically do the same thing, unfortunately, if no one knows it’s a veggie burger (my one issue with eating things that look like meat, dairy, etc.).

    As for buying animal products, if you do so then you directly support exploitation. There’s no way around that fact. Even though you can’t be sure how much exploitation was involved in any given product – food or otherwise – you can safely be certain that animal products involved at least a minimum degree of animal exploitation, plus possibly other types of exploitation (child labor, exploitation of minorities, etc.). In general, animal products are going to involve more exploitation than plant products, synthetics, etc. With plant products, synthetics, etc. the exploitation and abuse is not an inherent part of the system. Exploitation is not necessary in the production of T-shirts and soy milk, whether or not it in fact happens. Exploitation is necessary, on the other hand, in the production of burgers, dairy milk, etc.

    So someone who doesn’t want to contribute to exploitation can swear off animal products permanently, as (1) they will never be made exploitation-free (with the exception of in vitro meat, dairy, etc.), and (2) not using them / buying them is possible, and relatively easy, whereas ensuring there was no abuse in the making of one’s electronics, etc. is not so easy. Instead of saying “Living an exploitation-free life is impossible, therefore I’m not even going to try!” we should strive to find ways of making avoiding other forms of exploitation easier. Why not fight to have mandatory “sweatshop-produced”, etc. labels, or lists of types of pesticides used on produce in what quantities, etc.

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