My foray into animal rights activism has really opened my eyes to the amount of injustice in the world. Rather than ranking the needs of non-human animals over those of humans, I have been as vocal about racism and sexism (including cissexism) as about speciesism. Unfortunately, many in the animal rights community don’t see the predominance of white male leaders as a problem, whether or not those leaders give lip service to intersectionality.
Recently, Ruby Hamad wrote about racist and sexist messaging by white male vegans, citing as examples Durian Rider, Gary Yourofsky, and Gary Francione. Francione responded with a lengthy, ego-ridden display of white fragility in which he was “astonished” to be lumped in with people like Rider and Yourofsky, and accused the writer of “lumping all men in the same group.” Francione accused Hamad of criticizing his views simply “because some white guy promotes [them].” He also discredited the work of black vegan feminist scholar Dr. A. Breeze Harper based on selected comments from one of her talks.
Here’s the thing. All men benefit from the patriarchy. All white people benefit from white supremacy. As I’ve written previously, saying “not all men” or “not all white people” assures the reader that the charge of racism or sexism is not being levied against them. But dismantling oppression is more important than protecting fragile white male egos. Rather than defensively respond to accusations with “I am not a racist/sexist,” the person accused ought to reflect on their privileges and carefully examine why their statements might be harmful to a member of an oppressed group. What is racist is not up to a white person to decide, and likewise with sexism and men.
Normally I would just ignore Francione (I wrote up a detailed account of my troubles with him previously), but I cannot ignore the deliberate suppression of vegan women of color like Dr. Harper who have done so much work to promote both animal and human liberation. And now Francione’s influence has extended to getting another vegan woman of color, Sarah K. Woodcock of The Abolitionist Vegan Society, removed from VegFest UK. Apparently Tim Barford, who battled publicly with Francione in the past, has now bought into “Frabolitionism,” and didn’t like that Woodcock has been critical of Francione. Nevermind her unwavering dedication to abolitionist vegan advocacy; the crime of being “rude” to a white man is apparently unforgivable.
White men aren’t going to let go of their power and influence in the vegan and animal rights movements without a fight. Choosing which battles are worth fighting is necessary to prevent burnout. I’m realizing the wisdom in Aph Ko’s plan for Black Vegans Rock: “Stop deconstructing white uncritical spaces, and start (re)constructing more black progressive spaces.” As this article promoting Black Vegans Rock states, veganism has a serious race problem. And white men are not the ones who are going to fix it.
10 thoughts on “The vegan white boys club continues”
What do you think of Francione’s attachment to the phrase ‘moral schizophrenia’ despite people with mental illnesses saying they feel it is ableist and alienating?
I think he has decided that he is the sole arbiter of what is ableist, racist, or sexist despite being an able-bodied white man himself.
Ha, yes. This.
Pax, you may want to consider what feminists you cite.
You cite this article( http://mediadiversified.org/2015/12/16/veganism-has-a-serious-race-problem/)
about racism in veganism. The authour is Claire L. Heuchan, a Black radical feminist, who I believe, based on the article below, is one of the trans-exclusive radical feminists (TERNs). I’m not sure, but I don’t think she’s vegan, just having a go about racism.
It shows up a problem, the willingness to cite someone in order to make a point, or because they are black, without looking at what the person says and does beyond the bit you focus on. Please be more careful, not all radical feminists are inclusive, and there are major conflicts over trans inclusion or sex worker inclusion within radical feminism. I’m sure there are articles by people who are more in line with your overall position.
Thanks for your comment Polly. I had heard that Claire Heuchan was not vegan, but I was not familiar with her views on gender. I definitely do not support TERFs; I have spoken out against their ideology on numerous occasions (here’s one example). However, I don’t see Heuchan’s name on the second article you cite. Is there mention of her being a TERF (or “gender critical” feminist as they call themselves) elsewhere?
I’m inadequately informed about the issues referenced by Polly Morph. While trying to become less ignorant I did find this writing by Claire Heuchan that might be of interest.
Thank you for this post.
Thanks for the detective work. Heuchan’s dismissal of cisgender privilege is borderline TERF-ish, but from glancing at the comment section I don’t have the energy to go there today.
I did want to express to you how much I appreciated this post.
The points you make are excellent and thought provoking. I was just thinking the other day that most (not all…but almost all) of the useful and insightful writings I’ve found online about the various entanglements of oppression and veganism have come from humans who were members of one or more socially constructed groups that had been (and currently are) targeted for subordination here in this patriarchal white supremacist society (the U.S.). I have much gratitude and appreciation for their courage and their cogent insights. I thank you all.
Way too often statements of opposition to the “isms” of oppression turn out to be hollow slogans…which is terribly disheartening.
The vegan movement is very much fragmented already. Most movements are not monolithic so it doesn t concern me at all because it s already split.
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