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organizing

A Roadblock in the Intersection

A Roadblock in the Intersection

I recently wrote to a popular feminist group about the intersection of sexism and speciesism.

Their response was problematic.

The group shares a great deal of analytical material on intersectionality within the humans species, and I was deeply disappointed by their unwillingness to consider the role of a widespread form of discrimination, dominance, and violence in patriarchal culture.

They chose to not critically analyze the status quo's position that might makes right, that sexual exploitation is okay (remember, the dairy industry actually calls it a "rape rack"), that killing someone who does not want to die for profit (power) is acceptable, and that domination is fine in the case of some groups of beings being victimized. Instead, they quite confusingly asserted that speaking up for ALL females is not intersectional, because that would infringe on the cultural norms of some violently dominant beings.

The subjugation of the human female body by the dominant male body will never stop unless we address the subjugation of the nonhuman body by the dominant human body. (Remember too that investigations of dairy farms routinely catch farmers hitting the female cows while calling them "cunt" and "whore" and other misogynist terms of subjugation. And what is a "bitch" but a being who resists the man trying to forcibly use her body for his profit?)

The person I communicated with wrote the following in response to my suggestion that they consider and share this article: "We are unable to post this article, because it does not support our mission of being inclusive and intersectional. We can't be prescriptive about eating, because meat-eating is important to a lot of cultures, and we're a global and intersectional collective."

Right, because nothing any feminist ever does puts the needs of the oppressed before things like "culture"?

And "meat-eating"? You mean "animal-eating." You mean "weaker-being-killing." You mean "speciesism." You mean "violence." You mean "dominance." You mean "subjugation." And you mean "patriarchy." Check that human privilege. Feminists must speak up against ALL oppression.

When we reduce animals to "meat" and talk about how (and "what") people eat, we set up a framing that allows people to perceive our assertion that dominance, violence, and discrimination are unjust as being non-intersectional, because they're not thinking about that dominance, violence, and discrimination. They're locked in their speciesist society's insistence that animals are ours to use.

NO ONE is anyone else's to use.

I hope that all self-indentified feminists will continue to speak up about the intersections of oppression, and further -- as this is the only way we will dismantle misogynist culture -- to come to speak up for all females, and against all subjugation.

And it is our responsibility as advocates of justice to always challenge ourselves, each other, and others to consider and combat the intersections of all oppressions.

-Kelly

When Passion Matters

When Passion Matters

There are times when we feel inspired. Times when we feel outraged. Times when we feel hopeful, and times, even, when we are afraid. 

But there are other times when our feelings shut off. And it is just as important, in those times, that we stay focused on the task at hand. As Priya points out, in this wonderful post, "Doing the small things can make a big difference." 

Even Three Can Change the World

It was pouring outside, and cold. Two key leaders and organizers were out of town. And they were operating in a city once called the slaughterhouse capital of the world. But three brave DxE Chicago activists still went out, and took a stand for the animals, as part of our Someone, Not Something day of action, with powerful words and images. 

You'll be astonished by how the people in the restaurant responded. 

William Lloyd Garrison, the pioneering antislavery activist, was once written to by an activist in another city in the early stages of the movement. The activist said that he was disheartened. He could only find two others interested in fighting for an end to human slavery. 

Garrison's response (paraphrasing): "Even three people, if they are fighting for what is right, can change the world." 

Thank you, DxE Chicago. Thank you, Teresa, Caesar, and Glenn. You make all of us better, and more brave. 

The Open Model

The Open Model

Our next day of action, Someone, Not Something, is just a few days away, and we are expecting almost twice the number of cities to participate. One of keys to that growth is that we use an open model of organizing -- that is, we default to inclusion and transparency in everything we do, and make it a highest priority to support other activists in getting active for animals, no matter their background, experience, or current moral convictions. Even where there are ideological disagreements, tactical differences, or personal inhibitions, we do our absolute best to include every activist in our communities in campaigns, in a way that empowers us all. 

We Must Have Hope

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Beautiful thoughts offered up by DxE's Priya Sawhney.

One of my professors in college once told me, “Guilt is a form of self-indulgence, it doesn’t do anything for what you feel guilty about. It only does something for you.” 

I remember days when I would lock myself in my room and turn on some horrifying video of animals in pain. One in particular tormented me for days—a video of foxes being skinned alive in fur farms. I still remember the eyes of the fox, haunted with madness from being kept in a small space. His frail body looked as though he had already died. 

I remember that night—I stayed up and cried all night and when I did sleep, I would wake up and look outside my window, trying to find a good enough reason to stay alive, with no desire to wake up tomorrow. My thoughts wandered to desolation for the remaining days of my life, and I felt agitated by virtually everyone around me. I would fall asleep to the screams of animals and wake up to their cries. 

I felt so enraged. I felt so angry. I felt so betrayed by the world around me. 

I felt so guilty. I felt such deep sadness. But most of all, I felt so hopeless.

I would seek feelings of guilt and sadness to validate that I was doing my duty for the animals. In fact, that is all I ever did—feel guilty, feel sad, and cry. 

It wasn’t until my professor’s words played in my mind again and again that the thought occurred to me, “I don’t think I’m actually doing anything.”

The fact of the matter is that it is easy to feel guilty and get stuck in a repetitive cycle of sorrow and solitude. It’s not effective for anyone—not for you and especially not for the victims. 

Having an emotional response to emotional subjects is reasonable and can be very powerful and evocative, if that emotion, whether it is sadness or anger, is the source of motivation to take action, to do something, to raise your voice. 

It’s no secret that the Animal Rights Movement is tainted by hopelessness and sorrow, but it doesn't have to be that way. 

We are allowed to have hope, in fact, if we are going to create change, we must have hope. There is no denying that we have compelling reasons to cry over and to feel deeply afflicted by, but if we truly believe in our vision, our community, and our actions, we have many reasons to celebrate over as well. 

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So don’t let the world bring you down, not everyone here is that fucked up and cold. Remember why you came and while you’re alive experience the warmth before you grow old.” The Warmth, Incubus 

 

 

Be Brave

Music video by Sara Bareilles performing Brave: "Let your words be anything but empty." 

Direct Action Everywhere is not an organization. It's not a non-profit. It's not even a campaign. It's a vision. A vision of people from all different walks of life, all different races and nationalities, willing to say what they believe, in their heart of hearts, and say it everywhere our friends are being tormented and killed. Say it everywhere the hateful idea -- that those who are weaker than or different us deserve their nightmarish torments -- has taken hold. Say it everywhere, loud and proud: every animal deserves to be free. 

We all have different personalities and backgrounds, different strengths and weaknesses. But whatever our differences, this movement needs to see all of us be stronger and more hopeful. To be true to ourselves and to our greatest dreams. And, above all, to be brave

Be true to yourself, and the world will follow.  

 

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
I wanna see you be brave

Effective Meme Spreading (Video)

Effective Meme Spreading (Video)

In disciplines ranging from economics to history, the cognitive revolution has shown that ideas that spread -- so-called "memes" -- are perhaps the most important forces in social change. But what causes some ideas to spread more effectively than others?

In this talk, activist, lawyer, and trained behavioral scientist Wayne Hsiung discusses three principles of "Effective Meme Spreading." Among other things, you will learn:

- why generating conflict and controversy (such as that created in the Civil Rights Movement, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring) might be vital to an effective meme; 
- why convincing a person's friends might be more important than convincing the person herself, if you want the idea you're spreading to stick; and
- how strong and supportive communities provide the necessary "fertile ground" for memes to grow, survive, and reproductively flourish. 

Slides for the presentation can be found here.  

About the Speaker

Wayne Hsiung is a lawyer, writer, and organizer for DxE in the Bay Area. Prior to entering the practice of law, Mr. Hsiung was a National Science Graduate Fellow researching behavioral economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harry N. Wyatt Scholar and Olin Law and Economics Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. He served on the faculty at Northwestern School of Law, as a Searle Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, from 2006-2007, where he focused on behavioral law and economics, free speech, and environmental law.

Mr. Hsiung has worked on social justice campaigns since 1999, including campaigns against capital punishment and on behalf of low-income youth, and has been a grassroots organizer in the animal rights movement since 2001. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his two dogs (Lisa and Natalie) and two cats (Joan and Flash).

 

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The New Frontier

The New Frontier

Chipotle is one of the largest and fastest-growing restaurant chains in the world. Its market capitalization is over $15 billion. (A single share of the company’s stock, as of today, is a whopping $511.) And in its most recent 3-month quarter, it took in an incredible $827 million (18% growth from the year before), at a time when comparable restaurants are struggling (e.g. Ruby Tuesday’s comparable store sales declined by 11.4%). In the words of the prominent investment report, The Motley Fool, it was a “killer quarter” for Chipotle.

The investing community is right to describe Chipotle as “killer” – but in a decidedly less metaphorical way.

Here is the truth. Chipotle, despite its professed concern for animals, is on a genocidal mass murder spree

This weekend at Chipotle, we had six cities across the country participating in a dramatic and provocative “die-in” against violence. We need many more cities and activists, however, to create the national dialogue that the animals so desperately need. The humane myth can be popped. But only if we come together, in a strong, confident, and uncompromising message for animal liberation.

Stay Inspired

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 People, especially in my family, often ask why I gave up academia, or some other more lucrative and prestigious career path, to do this "animal thing." No one in my family respects it. Neither do my former economics graduate school classmates (many of whom are now professors at distinguished universities) or law school colleagues (almost all of whom told me, "You should stay away from this animal thing. It's not a good path"). 

The answer to their questions, though, is simple: I've been in that place. Cowering in fear as a mob of more powerful men beats your face into the ground. Scared out of your mind that death is nearly upon you, but almost hoping that it will come, so it will finally be over. Even a moment in that place is too much... enough to almost drive one insane with despair. A lifetime of it, even just one lifetime, justifies every sacrifice in the world. 

And while it's sad and terrifying, at times, and endlessly frustrating, at others, a life for animal liberation is a beautiful and meaningful life. The despair that I feel over animal holocaust, is matched only by the hope and joy I feel when I see a world where my animal friends are safe and free. Even just thinking about it brings a trembling of hope up my back, and tears of joy to my eyes. 

And if we accept the lessons of history, it's closer than any one of us thinks. 

I love you all (even my fiercest critics) for being part of that struggle. For taking even a brief glimpse into the mind of an animal suffering under human tyranny. For allowing yourself to feel her pain, and cry her tears. 

Keep fighting the good fight. Find people you believe in, and who believe in you. And, above all, stay inspired. The dream of animal liberation is worth it, and it's within our grasp. 

Measuring Progress in Activism

From DxE's open meeting this past weekend. 

 "What does measurement have to do with the animal rights movement? What should activists measure, and why? When is measurement useful? When is it misleading? How can activists weigh the costs and benefits of spending some of their time, energy, and resources on measurement?"

PDF of the presentation can be found here