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Archive for the ‘Ableism’ Category

Fat, Brown and Animal: Being Other

When people want to insult a fat woman, they say, “she’s such a cow.” Well, and even if she doesn’t fit any cultural definition of fat—though it’s usually accompanied by a verbal illustration of how said Cow Lady is fat-like, e.g. she breathes heavily or is clumsy. Similarly, a man who’s fat is said to be a pig.

Insults aimed at fat people have more to do with the inferiority and deficiencies ascribed to animals than they do with humans or body fat. A cow is supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy and gluttonous. Pigs are also supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy, gluttonous and messy/filthy/unclean. Are they any of these things? Probably not to themselves, or another pig or cow; they are to us because they are patently not human, though, in a similar way that non-Westerners are assumed to be immoral, filthy, scheming and/or barbaric. They refuse to play by our rules, because they don’t look and act like us.

Am I getting this through yet? Patriarchy, as we know, is a proselytizing religion: infidels are to be converted or used as hunting-sport with which our patriarchs can prove their masculinity by destroying. As is heterosexism; the Abrahamic West imported homophobia (as well as misogyny to a large degree) into Japan as it did with leftie hatred into China as did the Romans import a new and even more abusive form of slavery into Kemet. White westerners have very typically assumed that because they were, well, them, their culture, their beliefs, their history, their politics and their actions were better than anyone else’s, ergo anyone who differed in any of these things could be justifiably enslaved, imprisoned, killed, ripped off, or just generally treated like crap without qualm or consequence.

Carnism is a proselytizing religion, too. I have never met a carnist that, hearing I was vegan, didn’t try to convince me that veganism was too extreme, too privileged or too unhealthy. (Naturally, you want to defer to people who personally and economically benefit from carnism on the subject of veganism vs. carnism.) WIC emphasizes a diet heavy in dairy and devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, and by the same hand gets rid of a good amount of the unsellable dairy in the country. Heifer Int’l imports the European reliance on animal products into poor, non-white, non-Western (UK, US, AU) regions, starving them by taking away food, poisoning them by introducing nonhuman-to-human pathogens and parasites, and rapidly increasing the speed and spread of desertification through killing off grazing foliage and drinking enormous amounts of water. I shouldn’t have to go further. The subversion of non-Western cultures by the Western Three relies a great deal upon the importation of animal product-heavy diets.

At the same time, patriarchy didn’t get as far as it has by merely vilifying and maligning women. It had to convince men (and women) that being a woman was a horrible fucking thing to be, since they were so… inferior and childbearing and yucky. Part of the slanderous misinformation against oppressed groups was making sure that those who weren’t oppressed wouldn’t sympathize too much with them, or they might be them. So too with animals. Animals are routinely used as a placeholder for every vile human on the face of the Earth: they’re animals, they say, like animals construct fucking rape prisons. I’m not arguing animals are innocent or pure or whatever; I’m just arguing that they haven’t constructed a proselytizing culture that actively traps, imprisons, and punishes those who don’t fall into the “right” categories and belief systems, so they haven’t given themselves nearly as many opportunities to fuck themselves up. Trust me, were, say, finches doing what humans were right now, they’d be just as fucked up too—although I guess that presupposes that you can do what we’re doing without being fucked up.

Effective oppression requires that you not just place the oppressed group within a property category, but that you convince anyone not oppressed just how unworthy of help they are, and how much like them—and therefore a target—you will be if you actually try to do anything meaningful for them.

And if they want to treat you like property, all they have to do is compare you to someone who’s already property. Fucking listen to me! If they want to treat you like they do animals, all they have to do is compare you to fucking animals.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have imprisoned and forced to labor have been compared to farm animals and beasts of burden? Pele’s exploding tits. Black people were shown off at what were essentially latter-day livestock shows. Black people were said to be animalistic: stupid, large, clumsy, lazy, gluttonous—like cows. Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have wanted to exterminate have been compared to—drawn as—”pest animals”? Japanese, rats. Ditto for Chinese. Vietnamese, dogs. Mexicans, rats, dogs. Arabs, snakes.

Snakes, rats and dogs—animals who have committed the mortal sin of refusing to stay still and be exterminated because humans wanted them to, making them Incomprehensible!

How can people be this stupid? Do I really need to spell it out for you? Fine. Oppression of humans will never be fully eliminated without taking down carnism—the idea that animals are just fine to use as property and the actions underlying it—because there is still that fundamental exception. Carnism is the basis for humans’ belief that it is okay to treat someone who experiences their life as property.

It is a fucking excuse, and you fucking know it, or you would actually educate yourself about veganism, and not from carnists—people who benefit, personally and economically, off of carnism. You got exactly no right to be angry at me for tellin’ you the truth: were we in a different time period, you would be just fine with doing this shit to a given group of humans, because you believe this is okay, period.

Away from 101, back to fat. When someone is compared to a given animal group (quarry, farmed, pest, pet, and another group that’s “beautiful” and worthy of their habitat), the stereotypes from that animal group pass over to the brand-spanking-new fucked-over human group.

Fat people are compared to farmed animals: pigs (hogs), cows. Implicitly, then, fat people are what these animals are supposed to be—as I mentioned up at the beginning of the post. I am not saying these assumptions about fat people are justified—in fact, just the opposite, because I don’t believe those assumptions about animals are justified in the first place. Oppression justifies oppression. Farmed animals are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to do this to them; fat people are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to consistently fuck them over and shame them, etc. etc.

No oppression exists without another to precipitate that. Funny, that. Also, as an aside, humans are alarmingly unoriginal if you look at the history of oppression in the world.

Before I end this, I want to note one more thing, and that is another similarity in perceptions of farmed animals and fat people: they are seen as unimposing, impotent and non-threatening. Despite the fact that farmed animals are actually quite dangerous to humans in ways that suggest we wouldn’t be hunting them in natural circumstances, they’re essentially seen as ridiculous because we were able to dominate them. Fat people, too. A fat man, furious at being treated like an immoral, lazy eating-machine, only comes across as comic relief—a fat woman comes off as even less impressive than that, the most impotent and powerless of them all.

Oppression is oppression is oppression. Human oppressions are only branches of this oppression: carnism is the trunk from which all human oppressions are justified, and property status and human supremecism are the roots. I’m going for the roots. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell out of my way while I’m swinging my axe.

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Pathology Doesn’t Heal

Usually, when people talk about pathologizing, what they’re referring to is the emotional-abuse tactic of, “that’s crazy, you’re crazy,” to basically everything a person says. But the other day I had a discussion with Aslan about pathologizing as a defense tactic in social movements, however counterproductive. It began as a discussion about transsexuality in general while we were walking to the store, as Aslan is one of those lifelong genderfuckers you meet so rarely, and ended up on pathologizing as a pity-evoking attempt towards gaining rights.

That’s what I mean here: pathologizing not as something done to someone you want to dismiss, but as someone you want to support.

I got fed up with the gay rights tagline of no one would choose to be gay! when I was just a wee, barely pubescent little radical. My initial response was that it wasn’t true: I vaguely remember having a NM conversation on Neopets, back in the heyday where it wasn’t “family-friendly” and run by a bunch of people with a very poor opinion of anyone under 18, where I asserted that it was better to be gay because “you could understand each other more.” Mind, I was eight. However, I’d grown up all my life hearing about how men and women were so different that they basically came from different planets, and the only way for them to really get along was for one of them (generally the women) to start thinking and acting like the other. In other words, men and women, for all the talk about the glorious human species etc., were incompatible at their core.

I’m willing to wager that it wasn’t the message those assorted authors had intended me to take away.

The same influence also has some effect on the fat rights scene—sure, mostly by concern trolls, and not so much with the “fat rights scene” (it’s largely rejected by, well, everyone). The script goes pretty much the same way: “It’s so horrible to live a life that’s so fat and disgusting because of that fat and disgusting body. Haven’t they suffered enough? I mean, being fat is worse than anything!”

In a slightly different way, pathologizing children is used to “fight for their interests,” too. Look at how inferior they are! Look at how ignorant and illogical they must be to not know everything about civilization! Clearly, their brains just don’t work right, and that’s why they’re pure and innocent. And let’s not forget that many cultures assume that being a teenager is essentially an unfortunate temporary mental illness.

And to another point, it’s something that pisses me off a lot in the “pro-choice” community. Nobody ever wants an abortion; it is a horrible, bad, wrong thing that we’d absolutely do away with if we could figure out a way to stop women from whining about their rights. Because, really, come the fuck on—it goes beyond adoption, beyond financial and emotional means, beyond every ridiculous fucking excuse out there: sometimes, you just don’t want your genes to go on. Sure, 99.999% of everyone with a uterus would prefer “not getting pregnant in the first place” to having an abortion. But pathologizing abortion—and the choice to have one—is just more support for the concept that abortion is a horrible, shameful thing, no matter who you are.

The pity game isn’t something that pleases me. It’s obviously counterproductive—arguing that you should be treated equally because you aren’t really equal people, but it would hurt your feelings not to be isn’t the most brilliant tactic to take—but even further than that, it’s wrong.

Carolyn Gage points out the same thing I’ve been saying for a while: that, basically, so what if it is a choice? I’ve always admired radical feminist-lesbians for saying, straight out, that they do choose to be lesbians. It’s fucking awesome. Fuck you, I like liking girls. Gayness not as a horrible, dreadful affliction, but as a part of your life that brings you joy, companionship, and love. (Also orgasms. Can’t forget that.)

If something is inherently painful and distressing, it stands to reason that it should be fixed—erased out of existence, merely because it inevitably causes pain to the people bearing it. Not as a judgment, but as a mercy. Pathologizing works on the part of your enemies—as a means to seem “compassionate” for wanting you to be eaten by a pack of wild Sheens—and not ever for you.

I Ain’t Dumb II: Accents as Racial Discrimination Justifications

Re-reading my I Ain’t Dumb: Language Fluency and Perceptions of Intelligence post previously, I was inevitably reminded of the race and class issues on the same subject. You can see why: one of the stereotypes of Black people, historically—it was used as a justification for slavery—has been that they aren’t intelligent because they don’t talk right. Nevermind that it was the best that kidnapped Africans could do under the circumstances and it actually ended up being perfectly adequate—it was taken as something inevitable.

Slaves couldn’t speak right because they were too stupid to talk “proper English,” regardless of their native tongue, regardless of the fact that they were deliberately manipulated to be that way—given a chance to decide between whether it was biological or cultural, white people chose to believe that it was biological, because it shored up the power structure. And if it hadn’t been speech, it would have been something else—said kidnapped Africans being hard workers was used to justify their lack of intelligence, as was the fact that most Africans weren’t Christian. It would have been something, but because it was so obvious, the fact that they couldn’t talk right became the figurehead for everything that was stupid and ignorant and uncultured about African-descent people.

And it still exists, too, though now it’s oftened defined by negative space—an African-descent person who speaks with a middle- or upper-class accent is “articulate,” and “well-spoken,” even when there’s virtually no difference in wording.

The tradition has been faithfully upheld, too. I’m sure you can come up with examples just off the top of your head, and so can I—when the Chinese were shipped and kidnapped to be used in U.S. labor, the heavy Chinese accent was taken as evidence that they were extremely stupid, albeit cunning and manipulative. Irish and Italian immigrants, often used the same way, were seen as stupid for the same reasons: they couldn’t speak English fluently. The Polish were stupid, too—good for nothing more than manual labor. The Russians were stupid, enormous behemoths, and thugs on top of that. Blind people are stupid, as are deaf people and those with speech disorders. Et cetera.

Some are even less concrete than that—floating ideas, representations of the preality—an animated cartoon of a Native American, raising his hand and saying, “How.” Speedy Gonzales. Sven and Olga jokes. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Tonto (“stupid” in Spanish), who was cowardly, too.

Face it: Western society is all kinds of hung up on how you talk.

And a lot of that has driven the anti-Hispanic sentiment lately. How likely would it be that “LEARN ENGLISH, MORANS” would exist if Mexicans were portrayed as speaking midwestern English? And how much of the resentment aimed towards Mexicans is based on the idea that they speak broken, unaccented English?

Given how much and they don’t even speak English! is used as a constant refrain in anti-Hispanic rhetoric and opinions, I’m gonna bet that language bias is a huge, enormous part of that. Having the right accent decides so much of your worthiness and value in a community that if you don’t have it, you’ll be looked at with suspicion and wariness a priori—as a likely thief, lazy sonuva, con artist and general good-for-nothing.

And look at that list: how many of those stereotypes do we regularly apply to Mexicans? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to shift uncomfortably while a neighbor starts ranting about those thieving Mexicans will steal everything you have because they’re too lazy to work for a living—lol—and try not to interrupt with, “Um, my grandfather was full-blooded Mexican. My dad’s an ex-patriot. My brother’s visibly Hispanic. I have a Hispanic last name. You’re talking about me and my family when you say those things.”

Actually, my roommate, who’s half-Hispanic and passes depending on who’s looking at zem, has done that. Zie even used to have the stereotypical “Hispanic” accent, because zie grew up in the inner city in a largely Mexican and Latin@ area—but zie was moved by family out into the suburbs and had to adapt out of that accent to pass. I’m sure you’ve already realized the response zie’s gotten: “Well, you don’t sound like them.”

… Accents are a class and racial cipher key in modern-day U.S. to determine how worthy the person is of being around you, and being in the U.S. at all.

In Defense of the Rights of Brutes

It still shocks me when a carnist tells me that “carnism” isn’t a real thing, but veganism is—like I’ve stepped into an alternate, topsy turvy universe. If someone told you that “sexist” wasn’t a real word or term, I bet you’d be pretty shocked too. Seriously, what rock has this person been living under?

As a vegan, I see and experience the reality of a society completely obsessed with carnism every damn day. It’s everywhere: nine out of ten food products are made from the forced labor of farmed animals. The forced labor itself is hidden, invisible: you can’t apply those words to non-human animals. You can’t say they’re oppressed. People even like to pretend that saying non-human animals are oppressed is actually oppressive to humans—like pointing out that it’s an ideology itself takes away from justice for oppressed humans. As if helping one set of people achieve liberation would ever harm another.

Carnism is the name of an ideology. That ideology states that non-human animals are less worthy of consideration than human animals, and that because they are less worthy, they are property.

Imprisoning, breeding, milking and killing non-human animals for something we can get, or believe we can get (in the case of strength and mental health) is carnism in action. It is the system that carnism, as an ideology, upholds—that even if animals matter, they don’t matter so much that we should actually, you know, stop using them as property.

Those of you who are hip to property status analysis will be able to see the catch in that—no amount of welfarism matters if you are property, because if you are property, there is no violation that cannot be justified; and if you are not, then no one would dare violate you.

If you are, right now, saying to yourself, “I’m not a carnist!” and you’re not vegan, yes, you are a carnist. That is what the word means: that you are willing to use animals as property. If you are not vegan, you are using animals as property—thus, carnist by definition. And if you are not willing to be called a carnist—what? it’s only a few letters away from con carne—then go vegan.

All of the -ism words were made up out of whole cloth at one point in time. They were created to describe a concept, an ideology, that was dominant and thus invisible, because to get people to recognize an ideology you have to name it. Sexism was named because feminism would have been flailing in the dark without it: all social justice movements begin as ridiculous until they name the oppression they fight against. Without being named, those paradigms remain invisible and thus invulnerable, because it’s just normal, it just is. Oppressive power structures that are not named remain unscathed because they are unseen.

The ease with which carnists take for granted their carnism and the blind urgency with which they passive-aggressively attack vegans even for existing—cue umpeenth repetition of, “Oh, I could never do that,” or “I’d just die without [dairy product],” just because you awkwardly refused the damn cheese tray—is in itself indicative of privilege. It’s fine if you freaks want to name yourselves; you’re different. We’re normal. We don’t need a word.

And personally, I think carnism as a word describing power has an advantage over most other -isms: it describes actions as well as thoughts, as well as an embedded status quo. Vegans can be carnists: all they have to do is still believe that animals are property, and that veganism is a “personal choice”—that humans are the only ones that matter. But all non-vegans are carnists. A (vegans) may also be C (carnists), but all B (non-vegans) are C (carnists).

That recognition—that the obsessive consumption of animal products happens, that it exists, and that it only happens at the expense of all non-human animals—is a necessary process, because consuming animal products is otherwise normalized into invisibility. It is also something I wish the feminist and anti-racist movements had—the description of a behavior.

But the extent of the oppression of non-human animals, while monstrous, is also relatively simple on the surface because non-human animals largely do not participate in humans’ everyday lives. It’s very difficult to argue that using animals as products—making them into products—for consumption is not treating animals as property, because that is the definition of property status. It’s telling that the argument becomes significantly more complicated when you involve companion animals: we want to believe that our friends, our family, the people we love want to be with us to, and that they derive joy from us as much as we do from them. But that desire to see ourselves as good for them too is belied in the fact that companion animals are acceptable sacrifices for junk science, breeding, and profits—ultimately, the fact that humans’ interactions with them are still about humans’ comfort, convenience, entertainment and profit proves their property status, too.

Animals don’t participate. Women do. Nonwhite people do. And as much as participation in your own oppression doesn’t mean that you’re not oppressed, it does make it more convoluted. When you have been taught all your life to relish being treated as a valuable piece of property—as women are with cultural tropes of marriage and sexual attraction—you aren’t nearly as able to see that you’re still property. When you’ve been taught all your life to feel triumphant about being promoted in a system where you and everyone like you are still just fucking monetary values—as nonwhites are with capitalism—you’re not able to see just how much the whole system fucks you over. And the more you believe your oppressor when he says that you do have a chance at his approval and the power that entails, the less willing you are to fight the fact that you have to get down on your knees and remember to swallow at all.

The fact that you have to suck dick at all is normalized to the point where it isn’t really there anymore. By contrast, the fact that most animals never have to suck dick doesn’t seem bad at all, provided you’re ignorant of their lived reality enough to trivialize the constant soul-destroying torture simply because no one ever expected them to like it. No one ever expected Black slaves to like it, either, or women with marriage; that your consent is not valued is in itself sign of oppression.

Treating anyone who experiences their life that way is wrong. Not because they look enough like you or are “intelligent” enough, but because they experience what you’re doing to them. That is the baseline—I do not demand literacy tests and poll taxes before you get to claim you deserve rights. And the fact that you do for those you want to be able to use as property, but not the ones you have no interest in, is telling. And unacceptable. Very unacceptable.

Men fucking wrote satirical articles about how animals deserve rights too so they could mock women and nonwhites. It isn’t so fucking funny now, you fucking assholes—you fucking carnists.

Oppression is not acceptable, no matter who it is or what their genetic code looks like. Veganism is a way to emphasize that point, as is feminism, anti-racism, anti-capitalism and open support of unschooling—it’s baseline. Not being an oppressive douche is baseline. Not perpetuating someone’s property status is baseline. Changing your behavior so you do not perpetuate property status or oppression is baseline, not for being a good person, but just for not being a bad person.

And no matter what excuses you give for continuing it, you will still be a carnist, and it will still be fucked up that you think that’s okay.

Veganism isn’t extreme: it’s baseline.

I Ain’t Dumb: Language Fluency and Perceptions of Intelligence

It seems really obvious to me, having been a child, that children are not property. They’re not particularly intellectually or emotionally inferior, either—I have vivid memories of my childhood, actually. Ones where I can actually remember my own thought processes at the time. Most people don’t. They have vague memories of events: sights, sounds and feelings, but not of their thought processes.

At five years old, I went on a field trip to Six Flags in TX along with a Little Peoples’ Landing day-trip group and went on a roller-coaster, which basically made me hate the damn things for the rest of my life. As we were going up, I was sitting next to one of the women who worked at the LPL and I was nervous as hell; the shocks of our cars being levered up were rippling through my chest and I was so… focused. I decided, quite deliberately, to speak because I thought it would relieve some of the tension, so I mumbled over and over again: “I want my mommy.” I never called my mother “mommy;” it was completely unlike me to do this (to an observer)… it felt awkward calling her what I did at home (momma) and I wanted to convey it outwards: that I was freaked out. I did it fully aware of the social connotations of what I was saying—in part because those things were what I wanted anyone hearing me to think. All of this shit, going on inside my head.

And no, it wasn’t as laid out as this—that would have taken too long. All this recall-recognition thinky shit was going on inside my head all at once. Fucking simultaneously. That’s what I’m trying to convey—that my thoughts were incredibly intricate and self-aware, even from an age that adults think is basically drooling and pulling shit off shelves becuse it’s fucking shiny. I was calculating as hell, deliberately so.

I wasn’t a sociopath, however. When I was four, in Kindergarten, previously in the same school year (deductively; never had a head for timelines, but we moved out of TX after that), I got a “black card” one day at school. In a way that to this day, because of still wanting to rip my lungs out and throw them in the trash they feel so dirty from thinking about it, I have no qualms at all labeling “sexual abuse,” my mother came into my room, laid down behind me in my bed… and told me that she was either going to spank me or that I wouldn’t get to go to some amusement park in the area the next day with them.

And you know, that’s a pretty prime opportunity for a kid to be completely fucking self-centered—the war over not wanting to feel pain right now and wanting to go to Distracting Stimulation Fun Fun Land tomorrow. But I wasn’t having an issue with that, really—at least, that wasn’t all (or even most) of it. I was torn between several much stronger feelings: having her behind me, knowing I couldn’t escape, and feeling completely exposed and trapped and… pinned down. Wanting her out of my room as soon as possible because of how threatened I felt. And what finally made the decision for me—I didn’t want to inconvenience someone else, because although I knew the adults didn’t feel the same about the amusement park as I did, I didn’t want to force someone to miss out and have to stay home to take care of me.

That’s not what I’d call self-absorption, there. I fucking fought off feeling profoundly unsafe around my mother because I didn’t want to inconvenience somebody else. And remember: I was four. This was Texas. Supposedly, I wasn’t yet capable of such advanced powers of empathy. Or, at least, that I could convey via language—it’s a common mistake that people assume that if you do not speak their language fluently, you’re actually unintelligent.

But this is my point: my mental and emotional processes have not gotten more complex as I’ve gotten older. Because they were always complex as hell; years have added new intersections of conflict—sex, are there men around, will men judge me and threaten me, who’s seeing me, will somebody start a fight, tension, confrontation: avoidance/conscience, what about the cops, what if I can’t get away, will I lie awake all night brooding on this, will I be able to live with myself after this. But those intersections haven’t increased the intricacy of my thoughts; they’ve only made them more confused and less likely to move into action. More hesitant, not more intricate.

My thought processes—a lot of them, anyway, in the realm of critical thinking and not-believing-you-until-you-fucking-show-me—actually got more simplistic inside, and because of, school. I wasn’t supposed to question capitalism, or colonialism, or even the two-party system. I certainly wasn’t supposed to question the authority of my mother or my teachers.

So excuse me if, based on my vivid memories and experiences, I doubt the intellectual and emotional inferiority of animals. As a child, I was told that I was inferior, too, even when I could argue logic better than the goddamn adults—but my experience as an adult hasn’t borne that out: it’s proven it irrevocably wrong. I have no reason to believe that this prejudice against animals is right, and every wasn’t-handed-down-to-you-by-a-privileged-douche reason to believe otherwise. They said the same things about me, and I know they were wrong; and the way animals act, they’re wrong about that, too.

And, here’s a thought—maybe if your thought process wasn’t all that complex as a child, you’ve just deluded yourself into believing it’s gotten moreso because you think you’re smarter now, and you were never really all that complex or intelligent a person in the first place. That might be a bit offensive, but it’s a helluva lot better than deciding children deserve to be treated like property because they are Inferior Things.

Also, I refuse to believe that I am in any way a genius. It’s not that I rock—you just haven’t stopped sucking long enough to catch up to me. (Furthermore, it’s an interesting and useful way to defuse any latent I Am So Much Better Than You smuggity smug smugness. Angry I may be, but the anger kind of defuses my potential smugness when you are fucking torturing people to death because you think you’re so much better.)

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