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Honestly

This is not an issue that directly relates to any form of rights I’ve spoken about. It’s about boundaries, finding an ethical code that won’t tear you up inside with hypocrisy, and protecting yourself.

I was, like a lot of people, brought up to believe that honesty was one of the biggest virtues someone could ever have; at least where I grew up, kids were inundated with feel-good stories about “doing the right thing,” and not getting punished because they had the goodness of soul to stand up and proclaim The Truth. No, the world doesn’t work like that, which makes it an even shittier propaganda tactic to use on children, but the idea of honesty as paramount still looks awful good until you take a look at it in the context of reality—power, prejudice, inequality and defense.

Much like pacifism, the people most likely to benefit from widespread “honesty” are also the people least likely to have to practice it, because the power imbalance is heavily tilted to their side. The rich, the powerful, the white and the dickled have much less to lose from practicing (or not practicing) pacifism and honesty; there’s less of a line between a choice to do so or not to do so for them.

What’s the worth of a white person’s choice to be a pacifist in a society that does not target them with violence, inequality and disenfranchisement? It’s not like that white pacifist won’t be hurting the people of color who do suffer those things; they’re institutionalized. One white dude’s symbolic gesture of non-participation—especially while zie is still participating in other oppressions that highlight and entrench racism like capitalism, carnism, technocentrism, for a start—doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce the impact of racism on actual people. Not even talking about it will stop that shit; it’s not in your hands.

And what does pacifism symbolize to the power structure when taken up by a person of color, except a willing acceptance of victimization?

I’m not asking about the personal value of these beliefs, whatever they may be. I’m asking about what they do. I’m asking where these supposed “subversions” of the power structure become actual subversion, actual sabotage. Especially since I do want to enact violence against the power structure—I want to destroy it utterly. Again: I’m trying to chop down the tree of oppression. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell outta my way while I’m swinging the axe.

What effect does honesty have on the power structure? How does it help, or harm?

The first time dishonesty as a political act, instead of as simple self-protection, was driven home to me was when Aslan and I were homeless together, living out of a tent bought with the money I’d saved up as our last vestige of hope. We had an average income of $0/mo. I’m the black sheep of the family and have never had any kind of financial support from them; Aslan grew up on the streets under a welfare mother and zeir working-class stepfather was seven hundred miles away, assuming he’d be willing to help the kid he abandoned at four. No trustifarians we. So you can imagine how we got food. Not through a dumpster; they’re mechanizing them all nowadays. Anyway.

We ate better than we had in months, even walking a minimum of 30,000 steps every day. Not particularly because we got “a lot,” but because we managed to get enough. It helped that we’re vegan—carnist foods are much riskier to shoplift than anything else. Some karma thing, I dunno. But it struck me, the first time I went in with Aslan with a goal in mind, just how much capitalism has invested in imbuing this strange, distorted “honesty” into you: the entire structure of a corporate grocery store is designed to hide the underhanded shenanigans occurring on every level of the capitalist establishment while at the same time trying to make it so that you do not have the ability to hide anything from them.

And most of that attempt consists of psychological tactics. Most people don’t know not to twitch, to act as if you have a right to be there, and to do your best to remain as invisible, unforgettable, and impersonal as possible.

There is a direct line from one to the other here. You have to ask: who is profiting from these beliefs? In other words, who is profiting off of making you too nervous and guilt-ridden to ensure that you can eat, regardless of whether or not one of the upper caste will accept your petition to work? Because the answer is fairly clear. Instilling the belief that honesty is a necessity, even and especially when it harms yourself, in order for those who hold power over you to cement that dynamic straight into the ground.

Put another way: if you are honest, who is going to hurt you?

As a matter of policy, I don’t particularly believe that anyone is obligated to tell the truth when they are long the power imbalance. There are a few caveats to that—the consideration, for example, of whether or not you’re going to be directly hurting someone else by lying—but the rest stands. In many cases, I see lying as an obligation, such as with the quintessential “he went thataway!” misdirection of oppressors in search of a revolutionary. The only person you should ever make a policy of total honesty with is yourself. And maybe your best friend/long-term lover, but I’m pretty sure that requires negotiation. A lot of people start “opening up” and then take it way too far because they have no experience with what is an acceptable and desirable limit to that.

Question these social norms you are given at their premise. Why is honesty desirable? Why is pacifism? Why is femininity? Why is carnism? Why is nationalism? Why is the human race? Ask not just why but how—how are these things desirable, and whose interests do they serve?

Your ethical code needs to be informed of this, to be malleable, so that you needn’t sacrifice yourself to the power structure in order to live by your ethics, and so that you needn’t betray your ethics in order to protect yourself. Revolution is not an easy path to walk: you need to set aside a lot of your honesty for yourself, so that you will be neither willing nor able to tolerate or make excuses for yourself when you veer too close to being the kind of person you do not want to be.

The Monolithic Oppressed and “Consistency” in Product

A female-bodied friend of mine related to me something that happened to her the other day. She’d been waiting outside at the bus stop and one of her neighbors had come by; he had a friend with him. Apparently out of the blue, this neighbor turned to her and asked her, “You know how when a girl is raped the cops can tell because the vagina tears?”

My friend, understandably taken off-guard, responded, “Uh… sometimes…”

He insisted, repeating the question again. She repeated her response. Then, while he kept looking back at his friend, he explained that a neighbor of theirs had said one of their mutual friends had molested her. My friend’s neighbor didn’t believe her; his friend did.

“I wanted to tell them that they should believe her, because I’ve been there,” she told me later. My friend (who has given me her permission to post about this) has been raped before—but it was a “nice” rape, a father of a friend’s. He claimed that she’d “seduced” him, and… well. His wife told her that if my friend ever came near their house again, she’d call the police and have them arrest her.

No one believed her because she didn’t “act right.” She was punk in the first place, so “maybe it was some adolescent rebellion thing.” Or maybe she was just “a slut, you know how some cliques are.” And anyway, if he really did it, “why didn’t she go to the police? Why didn’t she tell someone?” Followed immediately, of course, by a parade of women saying that if they’d been raped, they would have gone to the police because, well, you can’t let them get away with it, now can you?

The neighbor kid didn’t know because she’d never told him. She got tired of being triggered every time she told someone because then they’d ask her those questions. She got tired of feeling like no one was on her side in the world, so she made a deliberate choice to not bring up the issue that would make her know they weren’t on her side.

“I figured it was a bad idea to like, go up to ask ‘Hey, are you really my friend or not?’ Because I never like the answer.”

What was worse was that her neighbor was asking her because she was female-bodied: he was trying to see if she bought into rape culture, if he could use her as leverage against other women. He was using her to cover his dick.

She told me it made her feel like he was violating her again by using her as a tool to dismiss someone else’s violation. “Basically,” she said, “you know how Carol Adams talked about the experience of rape victims being just, made into meat? Like objects? That doesn’t stop. We’re all just meat if some guy wants to use us that way.”

And it was an excuse to say that she wasn’t really being made into meat—she was just “crazy.” It was a bad excuse, but the flimsiest of lies will be seen as true if they defend rape culture.

Both of us know that checking for vaginal damage is in fact very rare, and largely occurs on Law & Order SVU, not in real life, a lot like the rape victim balled up in the corner crying. It’s an insidious form of rape culture: a “real victim” stereotype. No True Rape Victim goes out at night, or doesn’t starve herself to death afterwards, or doesn’t try to scrub off her skin in the shower. You think that trauma is something that makes you stop dead and just cry endlessly in the shower.

Me? I kept going to school; I kept functioning; I barely knew I hurt at all. Because my trauma was emotional, not physical, because I didn’t have bruises and broken bones, no one ever said something was wrong so I just thought it was… normal. And it was normal, to me: I barely existed. I didn’t feel hurt and I didn’t feel anything else, except an occasional thin wisp of amusement. Your body and mind is not meant to deal with ongoing suffering.

My friend said the same thing. “I just stopped feeling anything at all. No one wanted to see those feelings, anyway. I felt like I was intruding into someplace I hadn’t been invited if I got sad or angry or upset.” She said she became more like a robot than a living thing.

I felt happy and free and joyous every single day I lived in a tent, using my wits to get food for myself and my friend (and the neighborhood cats we made friends with)… It was world-changing. Those of you who have never had that experience, especially those of you suffering from a mental illness, don’t understand what it’s like to be happy, in totality, to have the thoughts and the feelings and the dull hard numbness just gone.

But even then, a month after I was forced back into civilization—into shelter—the memory of that freedom faded into only the palest idea that it had once existed. I only remembered that I had felt something much different, but I couldn’t tell you its heft, its color, its flavor, its quality and substance.

This is what trauma is like for the vast majority of people—it’s this hazy, heavy absence of self punctuated by sharp, stabbing pain. Anxiety. Triggering. Sadness. Loneliness. Worthlessness. Self-hatred. Rage. After a while, you can’t feel anything else anymore—you can’t envision a way out. Maybe it’s a blessing; maybe the memory of sunlight and ripe fruit would sharpen the hellfire of the brand and make us go insane. Nature isn’t cruel; there’s no reason for it to be, and plenty of reason to minimize pain and to not trap you into it. That’s also the driving behavior of trauma—that it is pain you can’t get out of; you’re trapped. Eventually, like the hum of electronics in the background, you just become numb to it.

But the lie that rape culture tells us doesn’t mimic reality, and so makes sure that as few people as possible are “genuine” victims. True Rape Victims do this, or that, and they’re virgins, and they’re good adherents to the patriarchy, and they would never have done anything to deserve male violation. Survivors are never allowed to be people: as Other, they have to be monolithic, because the more monolithic a group is, the easier it is to dismiss it. “Mother Nature” is monolithic. “African-Americans” is monolithic. “Children” is monolithic. “Animals” is monolithic. You can insert these words into your arguments and never have to ever question the assumption that the people that make up these groups are individuals that require an abandonment of exploitation—prison, pens, pastures, classrooms—in order to do justice to them. As people.

It’s a measure of the privilege afforded to white straight men that “white straight men” feel the obligation and right to protest when someone says anything about “white straight guys.” They tell us that not all guys are like that—that not all men are rapists, not all porn-watching men are sexually predatory, that not all white men are racist. They are also afforded the privilege to not have to prove it with actions instead of words: white straight men are assumed to be people—and actually, personhood is primarily defined by these visible social indicators. You can’t say all white straight men are like that—indignation, outrage—but you can turn to a woman standing at a bus stop, minding her own business, and ask her quite casually if she thinks that stabbing a woman through the soul is acceptable, assuming the entire time that if she says yes, then she is All Women, Everywhere, Because A Woman Said It; if she says no, then she’s just strange.

Meat is an object to be bought, after all. You should always shop around to try to get an object that meets your standards and specifications and, you know, it’s quite easy to find those if you look—all acceptable meat follows the same pattern. As an object—as someone transfigured into a number of objects—you, the consumer, are always the one whose whims should be obeyed and indulged. You can certainly pretend the meat wanted to be there, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Since meat shouldn’t argue back.

Being Trans Still Means You Got Gender Socialization

When I speak of MTFs with suspicion and wariness, it comes from the experiences I’ve had in real life with these same people. Apparently it’s rare for someone to have bad experiences with MTFs in real life—I should mention that every single MTF I’ve had bad experiences with spent an inordinate amount of time online. A lot of gamer guys get Inappropriate Asshole Syndrome—they rarely get that what they’re saying might be so inappropriate that it’s not funny or humorous anymore, even for shock humor.

Almost all the MTFs I’ve met suffer from these problems:

– They don’t identify as women; they identify as MTFs, and their transsexual identity is the most important part for them.

– They act like men, including:
a) throwing a tantrum when you disagree with them,
b) monopolizing the conversation,
c) ignoring discomfort signals and a noted lack of participation in a particularly male-privileged fashion,
d) acting entitled to your time, space, and praise. Tolerance? Yeah. Praise?… I only praise my cats, my friends, my garden and Pele.

– They become aggressive and threatening if you point out some way they aren’t acting like women—because they were acting hyperfeminine.

That last one—acting hyperfeminine, the way very few assigned at birth women act because they have to juggle their own personhood and identity and selfhood with that portrayal—is one that pisses me off the most. To my eyes, having grown up around women and loved them and as a practicing gynosexual, many MTFs act out the caricature of women that’s fed to men—because, having grown up as men, they have no ability to tell just how much horse dooky it’s made from. Correcting them isn’t policing: if you want to live and be recognized as a woman, the least you can do is challenge the patriarchally-filtered ideas of them you’ve been brought up in. The least you can do is not blatantly insult, objectify, and dehumanize them by acting out those outrageous fucking caricatures.

I’ve met women who happened to be born into a male body—but they were women: they grew up as girls, passing full-time from very early ages, often with help from their parents. One went to Thailand at 15 for SRS and had been passing from the age of nine—her parents helped her legally change her name to Christina. (She was thirty at the time.) They were women not because of their identified genitalia, but because of their socialization. They also didn’t just tell everyone in sight that they were an MTF—you had to get to know them, first.

Most MTFs, however, have male privilege embedded in their behaviors—you’re not allowed to criticize them unless they think they’re doing something wrong; you’re not allowed to feel unsafe because of their behavior, because you’re being “transphobic.”

Transphobic. Such a fucking joke. Apparently you’re transphobic if you ever do or think anything that one individual transindividual doesn’t like.

… A few years ago, in the Pacific Northwest U.S., I was almost raped by an MTF. Zie came up to me outside of the library and we started talking; zie seemed a little off—anxious, though I was sympathetic to that—but I ignored the misgivings and discomfort I was having (zie had basically trapped me into fifteen minutes of talking about zeir writing) because, honestly, I didn’t want to come off as a douche. I tried being tolerant and anyway, I like making new friends.

Zie invited me over to zeir place and I accepted—though, thankfully, I brought along Aslan. On the walk there, zie was incredibly inappropriate in a way that I have only known online-gamer boys to be. Several intensely lesbophobic jokes were made, including a reference to sex being penetration, with fingers if not necessarily dildos and lesbian porn. We got to zeir house and went in through the back; they had a dog, whose name I remember but won’t reveal, who was badly neglected and neurotic. The inside was—it’s not directly relevant, but the filth of the place creeped me out; I’ve only ever seen as mess that bad once, when I and some schoolmates volunteered to clean out an item-hoarder’s house so she could live in it again—and zie went upstairs.

It’s still unclear. I felt like I was in a haze: zie wasn’t being aggressive enough to trigger any of my defenses or fighting instinct. I do remember, very clearly, zie trying to get my friend out of the room—I tried to go with, but zie pulled me back and just kept… fucking touching me.

I remember there was a crucifix on the wall, and that zie kept talking about zeir computer and pulling me onto the bed. And wanting out.

How did I get out? Aslan pulled me out. I only know because xie told me. Once we left, the MTF started stalking us and Aslan had to actually physically stand between us and threaten zem; I was on the verge of a panic attack, and once we left, I ended up having it. Zie called me transphobic.

I laughed it off, and I only realized recently how fucking angry I am about that entire… farce. Transphobic? I was transphobic for not just sitting down and letting zem sexually assault me, just like I’m misandrist for not letting men fuck me.

This might be fucked up, but outside of everything else, I can’t stop thinking about that dog, and if they’re okay.

Just because you believe you’re a woman doesn’t mean you act like it. Just because you’re on estrogen doesn’t mean you’re not a fucking rapist. The behavior and socialization—the lack of privilege—does not go along with the genitals: transsexuality is not something that determines what kind of person you are… it only focuses on your body and the way you are perceived.

The fundamental experience of women is global, in every civilization: as property. That is the fucking universal experience of women. I don’t understand much of this “cis privilege” idea because it seems to be the case that women are constantly suffering the same physical, sexual and emotional violence that MTFs are, all while being “cissexual.” I can allow that it might exist in some way that hasn’t been properly fleshed out yet, but as someone who’s genderqueer and always has been, I can tell you this: transfolk are not necessarily more right about oppression, transsexuality and transgenderism than anyone else is. Just because we know what we feel doesn’t mean we know, without a doubt, the truth of the naturalness and the nature of being trans.

I feel fucking alienated as hell when people openly mock transfolk, talking about how FTMs just want to fuck gay men with their vaginas (??? I have never known an FTM, other than that porn actor, to do that) and how those born male can never be women, no matter how early in life they pass and transition… and to a point I understand the impulse.

But I feel more alienated by a trans narrative that tells me that to be valid, for my identity to be genuine, it has to be natural—something inborn and inherent within me, a neo-essentialism. I feel safer in a room full of radical feminists, knowing that I have a better chance of having my concerns and arguments taken seriously, sharing an understanding that gender-as-sex and sex-as-gender is socially constructed, knowing that all of us are working towards gender abolition because that is the only way all of us will be seen as people… and that they won’t try to rape me.

The problem I have with MTFs is the problem I have with all men: they act like men. They are not safe. Reacting with hostility and calling me transphobic only compounds the problem by attempting to silence me.

Just because I disagree doesn’t mean I’m transphobic. I know next to nothing about the inherency and reality of trans within the world and the human population as a whole: only the experience. And if anyone tries to tell you they do know—they’re lying through their teeth.

What Does Life Say About Those Who Die? Submission and Ventriloquism

I found an article on Gary Francione’s blog, The Abolitionist Approach, a post entitled And What About the Four Other Dogs? In it, he talks about how five dogs were scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter; four died, but one—a puppy—was found to be still alive after being given two lethal doses of euthanasia medicine. The dog’s survival was posted by a veterinary technician on a pet adoption website, and hundreds of people over North America began clamoring to adopt the dog.

He asks, as with the title, what about the other four dogs? The ones who didn’t make some kind of miraculous escape?

This story is similar to the stories about farm animals who escape from slaughterhouses and are then given homes to live out their lives. They, too, are “special.” They escaped from the institutionalized exploitation that we have established. They have cheated death.

Many people think that when an animal escapes death in this fashion, it is some sort of divine sign. These sorts of events ironically reinforce our view that because there is no divine intervention for all the other animals that are killed at “shelters” or in slaughterhouses, then this is the way things ought to be for those other animals. They are killed as part of the “natural” order.

This is true. I have heard exactly this kind of “argument” used against veganism, although I last encountered it several years ago, perhaps because the most obvious inaccuracies are hard to ignore: “If animals cared about not being killed, why don’t they try to escape? [Kidnapped African] slaves did, after all.”

That’s paraphrased, but I did not actually add in the part about the kidnapped Africans. She put that in on her own. There’s the obvious problem with the argument, which is that many animals have escaped and that slaughterhouses are built to prevent that from happening—a la Temple Grandin—but then there’s something else wrong that she didn’t realize. The fact that most kidnapped Africans did not try to escape, or successfully escape, was used as evidence for the idea that slavery was perfectly fine.

I. After all, if the kidnapped Africans really objected, they would be escaping, successfully, in droves. II. After all, if she really felt it was rape, she would have fought him off. III. After all, if she really didn’t want to be beaten by her husband, she would leave him. IV. After all, if he really didn’t want to be bullied, he’d fight back or go to a teacher. V. After all, if zie really felt zie was getting cheated by zeir boss, zie would have sued. VI. After all, if zie doesn’t want to be poor and starving, zie would have gotten a job. Et cetera.

This is a variation of the No True Scotsman No True Rape Victim fallacy—the idea that if someone being oppressed really thought it was unjust, they would fight back against it. And they would win. But the idea of the Iron-Willed Escape invalidates not just those who can’t imagine fighting off their abuser—it invalidates the people who do successfully manage to fight off their abuser, too. Rape victims are discredited because, given that he didn’t really manage to rape zem, he’s still Shrödinger’s Rapist and therefore, not really a rapist. The question is always, “But how do you know zie was really intending to hurt you?” because any resistance against power is always seen as fundamentally unjustified.

Thus, if zie was able to fight him off, zie couldn’t really know he was actually going to rape zem—he didn’t, so therefore he’s not a rapist! But if he does succeed in raping zem, then it wasn’t really rape because zie failed to fight him off so zie wasn’t really serious about not wanting it… so therefore he’s not a rapist!

That’s what rape culture is. That’s what victim-blaming is: placing the onus of rejecting violation on the victim instead of the violator. It is Lierre Keith‘s perfect philosophy because, no matter what, the oppressor is never to blame for oppressing. An abuser can’t be held responsible for their actions: you just let it happen. You just let him sell away your children. You just let her beat you. How were they supposed to know it wasn’t okay if you didn’t force them to stop?

“If you don’t like me hurting you, then you shouldn’t let me hurt you.”

The oppressor becomes invisible and the oppressed becomes solely responsible for their own oppression. If they don’t like it, then they should have tried harder to keep it from happening. Somehow, the abuser is never held responsible for their decision to abuse and never expected to actually treat anyone like people. The victim is portrayed in a black room, empty save for zem, shuddering as an unseen hand batters zem—something that is assumed, because of the absence of any visible perpetrator, exists entirely in zeir own mind, that zie is submitting to. A personal pathology. An individual flaw. No atrocity to see here, folks; move along.

You should perhaps question why it is easier to hold the victim responsible than the one who victimized zem.

I draw together all these examples not to show similarities between different forms of oppression, but to show how all oppression is fundamentally the same. Oppression and its justifications are all the same—they’re utterly unoriginal, just a repeating pattern of the same thoughts, the same arguments. Every carb-starved fuckneck thinks that “but plants are alive too” is a unique and compelling argument against veganism, and so does every porn-addled fuckneck think “women’s choice” is a unique and compelling argument against anti-exploitation, consideration of abuse, capitalism, coercion, reality. Then they wonder why they keep hearing the same rebuttals in response, over and over again, and conclude that those desperately trying to scrape their way out of a fucked-up, oppressive world and into a new one, those people simply have nothing else to offer.

It’s the other way around. Being aware of oneself requires an accounting of one’s bigotries, one’s life, one’s actions. It requires a vicious, snarling demand for self-inflicted honesty and ultimately, honesty requires change.

In a society that wants to view oppression as normal, as neutral, as right, it becomes much easier to blurt some self-indulgent nonsense and let yourself fall into the ensuing applause.

Of Men Covering Their Dicks

It’s been my experience that when white men are called out on their privilege, regardless of what kind of privilege it is, they have a few select response patterns. First is the “quote me,” phenomenon, which assumes that he’s the one who gets to decide whether or not he’s privileged or if the caller-out was just “mistaken”; next is Appeal to Authority, especially when employed in the “show me studies!” shtick; last, though, is that a man will bring in someone of an underprivileged group and assert that because this person agrees with him, he couldn’t possibly be wrong.

I like to call this tactic “covering your dick.” By choosing someone who belongs to an oppressed group that agrees with them, he can pretend his beliefs are vindicated by the very fact that someone underprivileged agrees with him. Metaphorically, by using an underprivileged person to back up his privilege, he’s placing their face in front of his dick so everyone will be tricked into believing that it’s an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person speaking instead of, well, him. From his dick (privilege).

It can be used by privileged people of all stripes, but overwhelmingly it’s used by men, and even more overwhelmingly by white men. This stupid tactic has a long-ass history and many, many permutations.

Some of the most easily recognizable ones, I’m sure you’ll know them, are variations of, “Well, my black friend says he doesn’t mind racist jokes…” and “Some of my best friends are gay.” They get much more complex than that, though.

Christianity has been using the “cover your dick” tactic for centuries via flamboyant, dramatic conversions and confessions. Proclamations of, “I lived a life of sin,” do more to reassure the current followers than they do to convince the unbelievers. The evangelical Christian set in the U.S. still uses this tactic; I have little knowledge of its use in other countries.

Some underprivileged people, enjoying the admiration and honorary dick points that being used as an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person, deliberately set themselves up as unlike those meanie-head rebels, strictly pro-status quo. Phyllis Shafly played this role during the ’70s feminist movement, advocating against women’s rights and liberations—and being picked up by male mainstream media. Dr. Laura has made an extremely lucrative career out of shaming women, as have many pro-forced birth “feminists.” Sarah Palin et al. continue this thread of anti-women women.

The same has been borne out with people of color—whether pro-U.S. Rez residents, anti-hate crime/affirmative action Black people, or anti-immigrant Hispanics. (I can’t give sources for these; I’ve met them personally, and wouldn’t endanger their privacy no matter how much I may disagree.)

Part and parcel of the “cover your dick” tactic is actually intense contempt for the AEOP they’re holding up as better—because they are holding up that person as better. The one covering his dick is implicitly stating that an oppressed person’s worth is directly proportional to how much they agree with him, and if the AEOP he’s using is of the same status of the person he’s defending against, it gets even more bitter and hateful.

It doesn’t necessarily need to happen. There’s also a certain system of equivalence involved: a non-white man is worth more dick coverage than a white woman, but a non-white woman is worth more dick coverage than a non-white man (unless she’s Hispanic). An unpretty white woman’s dick coverage worth (DCW) is approximately equal to that of a visibly disabled man, unless said man is also openly poor. And an Asian kid dying of cancer speaking out against socialized health care is worth approximately 400,000 glods.

I had a conversation a while ago with a man who refused point-blank the idea that he could be privileged for consuming animal products, and he held up Lierre Keith as proof and said, straight-out, “Lierre Keith has done more for the world than any vegan has.” While I doubt that all vegans (an example) in social justice movements have been useless, he was expressly privileging her over every vegan woman and radical feminist—because she agreed with him. It was as simple as that: she backed him up when he didn’t want to let go of the idea that he was too “radical” to have missed the fact that he had privilege. He used Lierre Keith not because he valued Lierre Keith, but because he could cover his dick with her; he, a white rich man, used her, a white rich woman, as a weapon against every woman who was vegan and every person of color who +vwas vegan and every vegan who has ever fought for human and animal rights.

He used a woman as a weapon because she agreed with what he wanted to believe.

That’s the essence of “covering your dick.” By taking someone who’s grown up underprivileged in a fucked-up society and positioning them as an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person, by using them as a weapon against everyone who might disagree with him and prove him wrong, by using their oppressed status to cement his privilege of defining reality, he covers his dick so that no one notices it’s still his dick that benefits.

No Word for Young Rebels

Still thinking about love, this time in the context of Western language norms and prejudices.

It’s been apparent to me for years that English is a language made by the powerful, for as much as many survivors’ words have been co-opted into the language for use by “regular people.” It’s ridiculously strict and shallow: a word can have many meanings, but there are no words for the depthless things.

I can describe joy in terms of behavior: that joy is a feeling that resists being kept private, a feeling with its own impulse to share, with generosity implicit in its nature, not of the thing that gave you joy, just of joy itself. That joy creates this radiant aura so you think you’re grinning out your eyes… When I hear capitalists speak of “joy” as a private experience, I know they’ve never experienced the thing I have. It transcends happiness. But in the wake of a society that cripples your emotions with civilization, imprisonment for indoctrination, carnism and technological mind-thinning, people apply the word “joy” to the only experiences they’ve had—ones that, to me, seem pathetic and muted, although I used to think the same things when I accepted and submitted to the system.

The value of limited vocabulary is something restricted to the privileged and powerful, because it is a privilege associated with power to be interpreted in the blandest and least-incriminating way. The words of those who aren’t white, who aren’t male, who aren’t rich are looked at with an eye that is thousands of times more critical.

A white man is allowed to say, “White people are privileged, and this privilege is killing people of color.” He’ll even be applauded for it in many circles. But Pele forbid a Black or Hispanic woman say the exact same thing… because that white man’s very whiteness and maleness suggests that he is not a serious threat to the system—he is part of the system, and those benefiting from a power structure very rarely actively dismantle it. The same damn words will get a woman of color FBI notice.

Those holding power are given the benefit of the doubt: their words are taken at face value. Look at the interactions between MRAs and feminists—when the MRA says he’s not a misogynist, that he doesn’t hate women, it’s taken as truth even when he goes on to call women whores, manipulative fuck-holes; when the feminist says she’s not a misandrist, she’s assumed to be lying for the benefit of her feminazi agenda, even repeating over and over and fucking over again that men are people too, she just wants them to act like they are—for them to act like they, too, are bound by all the interpersonal responsibilities and care that women are.

Words mean all of jack shit for those fighting the system. Truth means all of jack shit, because someone who is fighting the kyriarchy is automatically assumed to have sinister ulterior motives. People who suffer from the system are untrustworthy. People who want to fight the system are absolute liars.

It’s a remarkable self-perpetuation scheme.

Words mean different things depending on who uses them. What does love mean when a man says it, as opposed to a woman—what if they’re white, Hispanic, Black, first nations?

My experiences have taught me that words mean a whole fucking lot when white men use them, because they can correct someone who “misinterprets” them and be taken at face value—oh, that’s okay then, it was just a misunderstanding. People who challenge this—um, you say that, but your actions and other words prove you do actually think that—are taken as so mean, so unreasonable, so volatile, so angry.

Because they’re allowed to tell someone seeing the truth that it’s all a “misunderstanding,” words essentially mean whatever the powerful—white, rich men—want them to. It just compounds the problem of a limited vocabulary.

The oppressed aren’t allowed words for their experiences, thoughts, feelings and beliefs: I’ve had people argue with me that Biting Beaver’s Rapist Checklist wasn’t right because of the definition of rape that was in the dictionary. He actually pulled out a dictionary and showed me, as if it meant anything—as if it weren’t constructed by white men, as if it meant more because it was constructed by rich white men.

A dictionary could wipe out an entire populace’s experiences because the book meant more. I realized then that words—not the use of them, but their definition and their limitations—can be genocidal and gynocidal. You don’t kill someone by using words. You kill them by making it so that there are no words for them. You just… erase them, make them stop mattering. Words mean so fucking much in Western cultures: sometimes your entire value can rest upon using them correctly, in a way and a manner that the kyriarchy is sympathetic to. You need to be “articulate” and “well-spoken” if you’re not white; “rational” and “logical” if you’re female. Without words that win over the kyriarchy, your value is nil.

An absence of words doesn’t stop the experiences that would be named by them: they just stop those experiences from mattering. Do I need to point out how this benefits the power structure, again? Lacking words for my gender doesn’t stop my “flavor” from exiting the mainstream entirely. It’s never stopped anyone from feeling anything, but it’s stopped them from being heard.

So love means what it is appropriate to mean for the kyriarchy: ownership, a power dynamic, sexual preoccupation. It’s popular in the BDSM community to think they’re “deviant.” I could laugh until I coughed blood. There are no words for the feelings I have for my friends and my lovers: in the face of the overwhelming glory and intensity of those sensations, “love” is pale and anaemic, washed out. The Japanese color (roughly) for death is white; for life, red. My love needs a red word, my life a new language.

It’s why words need to be made up. The English language has no words for these things. But making up words and changing the meaning of existing ones is a power given only to the privileged and even then, only to the most privileged. I have been told so many times that “carnism” is not a word by carnists who thought they were radical and anti-oppression. If we didn’t make up words where there were none, no oppression would ever get noticed. Ultimately, their resistance to carnism was the same as the resistance to sexism and racism… they benefited from it, and they didn’t think it should matter or be heard: so any word that named it for what it was had to be inherently illegitimate. Rape has always been illegitimate… from its very beginnings, rape was about men. A property crime: rape was about men. It’s still about men; to make it about those who survive it and those who don’t has always been illegitimate.

Love has always been a privilege of the powerful, too—its definition and its use. Love your wife; serve your husband. Love is not necessary from an inferior; after all, it’s not like you have a choice. And while they may want to force you to love them, the fact that you can’t escape—you can’t escape from their love—is enough.

The more I think about this, the more convinced I become that we need a new language, one full of red words to give voice to all the brittle and tender nuances of thought and feeling that are the right of all animals: the birthright of experiencing your life.

Keith’s Myth: Supports Eating Disorders, Supports Suffering, Supports Murder

Note: These are Aslan’s words, tightly transcribed.

Spark was fourteen when I first met her. We were on a popular eating disorder forum that will remain unnamed, and she was a lot like me—there for the community, but not very active on the forum. She was also too political to be widely accepted. The things she took an interest in on the forum were the music and the other kinds of “fun games,” especially since the forum wasn’t exactly opposed to illegal music downloads. She turned fifteen about six months after I joined the board.

She was anorexic with orthorexic tendencies; she would only eat foods of a certain color if they had “too much” sugar in them, and she refused to eat anything that “felt” stringy in her mouth because it made her feel unhealthy. Her eating disorder didn’t include anything bulimic, though—for Spark, “binges” consisted of eating a normal amount of food. Spark was also vegan; she posted in a thread posted about vegetarian recipes, I private messaged her, and we started talking.

Spark lived in Washington State and had a controlling, narcissistic mother; she was an only child and her father was a cop who died in a car crash (off-duty) when she was four. Her eating disorder first showed up when she was five. She was still underweight at the time, at 103lbs. at 5’4″. So despite the whole “severe eating disorder” thing and being on the eating disorder boards, the reason I kept in contact with her was that she wasn’t the stereotypical “ana,” as they like to call themselves. Spark was relatively happy (or at least cheerful) and she didn’t use her eating disorder to make herself a martyr. She was self-analytical. So we started talking.

Her eating disorder started getting progressively worse over time because her mother wanted her to graduate highschool by the time she was sixteen, and to go to a hoity-toity college by the time she was eighteen. Spark didn’t want to go to college; she wanted to drop out and get her GED. Spark liked the idea of living a life that was simple—but her mother wanted her daughter to be rich so that she could hold Spark up as a status symbol.

So when Spark hit 98 lbs., she shared with me that she’d found out about this new and awesome thing called fruitarianism. (I’d been raised by a vegan Buddhist, my brother, and a fruitarian Marxist, my cousin, so to me, it wasn’t new information.) She told me she’d stayed up all night reading the Wikipedia entry on fruitarianism and going onto forums to find out how she’d do it.

She told me that, it being Seattle, it might be a bit hard to do, but I told her to just be careful and not let anyone bully her. And to not eat a lot of nuts, or her teeth would go to shit.

Spark laughed and told me that’s why she liked me—because whenever she talked to me, there was no condescension and that unlike everyone else, I never told her that her veganism was a bad thing and that if she’d just eat meat or a slice of cheese her eating disorder would just magically go away. I understood that there was a reason she was doing everything she was.

I didn’t hear from her for another two months after that, but that was normal for me. I wasn’t online all that often—still don’t do it much, ’cause I like living my life in the real world.

Next time I got in contact with Spark, she was 108 lbs. and she told me that it felt amazing to actually gain weight for once in her life instead of being in a constant battle to lose it because it made her too much of herself to actually have weight on her. She said that she’d been eating a fruitarian diet and she’d been following my advice and not eating nuts, and that her hair was shiny again and that it wasn’t falling out in clumps anymore. She told me that most of her obsessions with food and all that were gone. She was able to eat without crying, and even though she started out eating only 1,000 calories a day because the idea of more scared her so much, she’d actually been able to work her way up to eating 2,500 calories a day. On fruitarianism, her anemia was gone. That was just in two months.

She said, however, that her mother had started to become more violent towards her since she went fruitarian, because she was fruitarian, and that her mom hadn’t liked the idea of Spark being vegan in the first place because she said that Spark being vegan made her look like a bad mother. Even though there was no reason for her to worry about that, since everyone thought she was just a normal mother.

It took about another month, but Spark had gotten to the point where a lot of her really strange eating behaviors (like having to separate food by color, or having to cut it up into extremely small pieces) just stopped, and she gained another ten pounds. By the time she turned sixteen, seven months after she became fruitarian, and she told me that she now had a heatlhy BMI according to the doctor. Her period hadn’t yet returned, but she didn’t care, and it was basically fine because she wasn’t anemic and was still gaining weight. She had gone up to 120 lbs. and told me she’d stopped having mood issues where she would switch from one mood to the other. Spark said she used to have issues where she would be hanging out with her friends and just snap at them for saying something completely inoffensive—and Spark didn’t know why; their voice just irritated her. Then about ten minutes later she’d feel okay again and be acting like it never happened. She stopped doing that, and she stopped being depressed any longer; and she didn’t obsess about her dad being dead any longer.

She felt good. She told me that; she said she just felt good for the first time since her dad had died.

So what happened was, she said it just felt good. And I said that was awesome and asked her what she was eating. Spark said that her main diet during the winter was mainly bananas and oranges and sometimes kiwis when they went on sale, and that she ate about two avocadoes a week, because she liked them.

After that, she PMed me and asked me, “What do you do if your mom is going to refuse to feed you?” And I told her, “A hunger strike usually works, and if nothing else… get her angry enough to hit you just once and call the police on her.” Her mother was known to hit her, so it wouldn’t have been very hard. She said, “Okay, because my mom just tossed out all the fruit in the house and she said I had to eat her food, because this was all part of my eating disorder and I needed to get over it.” And so I told her that I didn’t really know what you could do in that circumstance except just refuse to eat… because that’s what I used to do when Kelly tried to starve me into eating non-vegan too, even though it would kill me because I’m allergic.

So she did. Spark went on a hunger strike and after about a week and a half her mom relented. But she wouldn’t let her be fruitarian. Spark’s mom said that she could be vegan and have fruit juices but, “she couldn’t go back on that silly little diet she had been on,” the one that had been curing her of her eating disorder.

Spark was willing to deal with that, but she was drinking mostly fruit juices at first and subsisting off of mostly those because she still hoped she could be fruitarian, but mostly because she’d tried to eat a bowl of rice and it had given her crippling stomach pains. And so she started eating gentler cooked foods at first, like cooked potatoes, and she subsisted mostly off of mashed potatoes for a couple months. And she started eating more cooked foods and dropped back down to 110 lbs., and she became lonely and depressed again. And from there her and I lost contact except through MySpace pages because I had moved out on my own away from my abusive step-dad and left the eating disorder forums because someone was ranting about veganism and I told them they were stupid and the mods told me I needed to be “nicer” and I don’t do that.

The next time I saw anything of her was when she was seventeen and she told me she had moved out and that she was going to college and had her own place and her own job. And she broke contact with her mother and it was just her and her ferret. She moved from Seattle to a suburb of a fairly large college city elsewhere in WA. I didn’t check my MySpace again for two more years because I living in a tent with my best friend and I was like, “screw you, civ!” So, came back, and the last picture I saw of her was when she was nineteen and she looked like she was on death’s door.

And that’s what happens when you mistake what’s normal in our culture as what is right and everything else as an eating disorder. You kill teenaged women who never even read The Vegetarian Myth. Fruitarianism would have saved her life but her mother thought she was right because she was the mother and Spark was the child and animal products had to be consumed to the detriment of everyone. And that what’s Lierre Keith believes, that’s what Atkins believes, that’s what these paleo-dieters believe, that’s what WAPF believes. That if you’re at the top of the totem pole, you get the right to kill whoever is not you and whoever disagrees with you. Because might makes the property status, and that makes you right. They don’t see they’re hurting people and killing people because they only want what they want and they want everyone else to agree with them that it’s right. So they killed Spark.

And that’s all really.

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