Nature is an ecoterrorist!

Posts tagged ‘intersectionality’

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.

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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.

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