I often get the feeling that feminism doesn't have time for veganism, or at least that some feminists would like to tell me that. According to the women's collective at my university they have limited members and resources and right now they'd like to just focus on humans. I replied that it's just as offensive to say that they'd rather focus on human over non-human animals as it is to say that they'd rather focus on white people over black people. I never received a response from the women's collective, they probably decided to take the 'high road' and not reply. That's a very loaded situation though, and as a feminist myself I can't help but be left with questions.
Did the women's collective think I was attacking them? How did they not realize that I was using their own slogans to show them that their labels are just as arbitrary as race? Were they too comfortable labeling others as oppressors that they couldn't accept the reality that they might be oppressors as well? Why did they dismiss me so quickly? If I've learned anything from feminism, which I would like to think I have, the number one rule is that if someone tries to dismiss you (by calling you a bitch, saying you have no credibility or even just stifling your voice like they did to me) they think you are a threat.
I didn't call the women's collective on their lack of response. I had been helpful and polite. I had told them I'd be happy to help with any issues that didn't pertain to veganism, as long as veganism wasn't completely ignored because it's a big part of feminism. I pointed out to them that ignoring something is just as bad as disagreeing with it. I was done playing the nice vegan, the politically correct perfect adversary that takes your opinion into account when it's just damn speciest and offensive. Perhaps I'll write them an email later, take one for the team and practice my 'manners' (read censoring yourself to get what you need for the sake of animals everywhere), but only when I've answered some questions for myself.
I hate to generalize and attempt to be objective, but I can't imagine a non-vegan feminist. Feminism, as I've experienced it to be, is challenging a patriarchal culture to liberate the oppressed. This oppression may be obvious (such as the woman who is denied a position because she is a female) or unobvious (such as the male heterosexual who is confined to the culturally created box of sex and gender). Eating and using animals is the very unobvious, to some people anyways. It is the domination over other animals and placing them in a category of lesser being. It is saying their lives are worth less than yours, changing them from subjects into objects that can be traded and sold like slaves. It is removing their identity and agency from the body, removing it so successfully that when people think of cow they think of its flesh before they think of it as a feeling, moving, animal. When they think of it as alive they think of it as born to die, smiling, and accepting its fate as a servant to our desires and wants.
My rant goes on. How can anyone call themselves a feminist and then sit down at a dinner table and pay for the enslavement and murder of a non-human animal? Skin colour, height, weight, sexuality, and disability are not reasons to discriminate against someone. Why are amount of legs, size, fur, and cuteness suddenly acceptable categories to discriminate against? They are all the same – arbitrary labels made up by the colonizer to justify unjustifiable oppression and violence on a people labeled as 'other'.
I am not saying all feminists must immediately be vegan. I am not saying that I will judge all feminists for not being vegan. Society is very good at hiding oppression, and to be quite frank we don't always know the truth. I spent seventeen years not being vegan. I am however saying that feminists have an obligation to listen to vegans and an obligation to include veganism in their feminist ethics as soon as they are made aware that they are contributing to oppression. They don't need to be vegan immediately, but it needs to be something they hold as an ideal limit to suffering that they actively work towards in hopes to soon achieve.
So perhaps the next time I see a feminist I'll ask if they're vegan. If they aren't I'll ask why not. I will inform. I will be polite. I will also stand up for myself though, and when feminists resist veganism for no damn good reason I'll tell them they're being speciest. We can't be too comfortable being an activist that we forget why we're activists at all.
I am a feminist because I want to work against oppression, and I only hope that if someone knew I was causing oppression that they'd tell me.