A Space in our Movement for Unsafe Spaces
by Priya Sawhney
There is so much value in making animal-eaters feel absurd. You are eating a child, a mother, a sister, a brother. You need to be told that you are doing something wrong, something immoral, and it's my duty to tell you that. There is so much necessity for honesty and confrontation in this movement.
I've been way too comfortable lately. My Animal Liberation family understands me--they get it when I am frustrated about family members eating animals at home. They get it when my co-workers are making snide remarks at work. We respect each other’s sensitivities to these situations because we all share the same values. This safe space we've created for ourselves is so helpful, almost too helpful. We have created a community of activists, of people who understand the importance of justice and equality towards everyone, especially non-human animals. It's such a relief knowing that even if I feel alone and isolated amongst co-workers and family members, I can come back to my family of activists, who will concur with my views. I find such solace coming home to a group of people who share a vision of Animal Liberation.
So why am I presenting this as a problem?
I am presenting this as a problem because as important as safe spaces are, there is so much need for us to be present and active in unsafe spaces.
Unsafe spaces provide a platform to disrupt social norms:
Oppression communicates itself through the use of language. The language of speciesism is what allows speciesism to flourish. So when you hear animal eaters talk about animals as objects (i.e: "eating meat" or "wearing leather"), you remind them that they are eating and wearing a "someone" not a "something." They may laugh at you, but your voice will have made this issue that much more serious, that much more relevant, and that much more important.
Unsafe spaces as a platform for motivation:
"I can't believe we still live in a world where people think of non-human animals as things," is the harsh reality I am confronted with every time I am eating lunch with my co-workers or family members. Exploitation of non-human animals is not some abstraction. It's happening every minute, every hour, every day in front of us. Speciesism isn't just something which we talk about. We see it every day, and our society is infected by it.
Unsafe spaces as a platform to find change in the most uncommon faces:
We used to be animal-eaters. We are activists today. Just yesterday, unexpectedly, a much older co-worker came up to me and told me about how our talk about Animal Liberation inspired him to call in to NPR and share his dog's story with Jeffrey Mason. This is not exactly someone who I expect to be sympathetic to the animal rights message, but he found something about what I was saying compelling enough to think further about Animal Liberation.
We grow when we interject our perspective in spaces where our voices are usually marginalized. We incite change when we disrupt the otherwise normalized violence in spaces which are not expecting us to speak up. Most importantly, we remind ourselves why we are here when we risk our social standing to speak up for those who have been silenced for way too long.