This is how it goes: I get angry. I write about it. I calm down, and try to pretend I never got angry. I try to tone down what I wrote, but rereading it makes me all righteously angry again. Cycle continues. Case in point: If you click on this post, you will see that the address of it is

whereas the post title is In Which I Am Relentlessly Negative About Things You Would Think I Would Love.

The first one is, of course, my hotheaded first title, which WordPress keeps as the address even if I change the title.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, and I’m not using it as an excuse, but here’s the deal: my dad is this giant asshole who gets insanely, violently, terrifyingly, shockingly angry at nothing all the time and terrorized me, my brother and my mother for eighteen years (in my mom’s case, 22 years). I no longer speak to my father, and this is a great joy of my life. My mother and brother no longer live with him, and this also brings me joy. But even though I try to forget the horrible person from whom I am descended, I sometimes feel his blood in my veins, and more of my life than I would like to admit is spent dealing with this genetic gift. I don’t get angry for no reason that much though. I don’t get angry at my loved ones. I get politically angry. And when you know you are right, it’s so easy to get angry. And I’m really good at getting angry, especially on paper. And by paper I mean: the internet. And thus, the aforementioned post (and too many others).

And so, here’s my attempt to calm down and complicate and insert some nuance into my remarks last week.

The impetus for this nuance injection is that I just got off the phone with Jenny Brown, director of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. She saw the post below (poor girl—her mother came across it and forwarded it to her) and was, rather understandably, hurt by it.

We had a good talk.

I still stand by the original post, but I’d like to make a few additional points:

I love the WFAS and believe in their mission 100% and it was not in any way my intent to tear them down with my ultra-exhausted post about how much I can’t stand Rory Freedman and my wonderings about what vegan gift bags are doing to stop animal cruelty. I did not make it clear enough that I adore them and I think there is a super vital need for the work they are doing. I absolutely think everyone reading this should donate all of your money to them right now!

That said: though infighting is always detrimental to any movement, I’d like to think that the animal rights world is big enough that we can have honest discussions about strategies and best practices without believing it will hurt us as a whole. Jenny and I had a productive discussion about strategies in the a/r movement, and though we see things slightly differently, I respect her and the sanctuary’s way of operating.

Of course I do see the logic of gift bags and am appreciative to WFAS for promoting vegan businesses. I voluntarily agreed to donate truffles to them out of my fervent desire to help them succeed and spread their mission. But I also think it’s natural to sometimes doubt the efficacy of donations that do not seem, for a vegan chef impatient for revolution today (preferably Revolution Grrl Style Now), to be doing as much as they should to completely change the way we see animals in our culture. Is it so much to ask for everyone who tastes one of my truffles to become vegan immediately? I’d like to think not…which is why the world disappoints me on a daily basis.

And Rory Freedman.

Jenny told me that Rory Freedman has been a wonderful advocate for her sanctuary and animal rights in general, and spoke at length about what a lovely, hilarious, and sweet person she is. I do not doubt any of these things.

I spoke about the animal rights world I loved when I first got involved in it seventeen or so years ago—it was a world of ideas, where we debated real issues and read intellectual books (like Animal Liberation).

We talked about the connections between feminism, racism, and animal rights. We truly believed they were all of a piece. We were not the most effective movement in those days, that’s for sure. The movement does seem to be much more effective lately. I will freely admit that Rory Freedman has converted more people to veganism in the few years since her book has come out than I have in my fifteen years of shouty, polarizing activism.

But you know what? I’m OK with that. Because I’m a means-are-the-ends kind of gal—I refuse to use misogyny to advance an animal rights agenda. I’m not the most effective activist, I am aware of that. But I’m willing to trade a little efficacy for a lot of cleanliness. I’ve got my priorities straight—intersectionality.

Animal rights is human rights is women’s rights is environmentalism is anti-racism. I’m not good at compromising, and sometimes I am happy that there are groups and people and books out there that are—Rory Freedman has turned a gigantic amount of meat-eaters into vegans, and for that I truly thank her. I think her methodology is completely and totally fucked up, but if you only cared about the ends and not the means, then she’s doing a great job and deserves kudos. I thank her, but I do not in any way respect her or think she should continue.

I’m childish like that, I know it: I want perfection. I refuse to compromise, I want everything done perfectly, and I am unwilling to accept that perfect purity is impossible. I will never be President of the United States. I want to keep my hands clean.

This severely limits my effectiveness, but through writing about my choices and how I navigate the tricky tightrope of wanting perfection in an imperfect world I hope to inspire others to work a little harder and want a little more out of life. I hope to inspire other animal and feminist advocates to stretch themselves and see the connections between their work and force themselves to advance all progressive causes at once without using one to hurt the other.

We are all inching along a continuum—I have enormous respect for WFAS, none whatsoever for Rory Freedman, but we are all doing good work with good hearts.

2 Responses to “nuance”

  1. Barb

    One thing that troubles me, as someone opposed to the skinny bitch idea, is that after people read Skinny Bitch and go vegan, maybe they learn to not trust “the system” so much (after all, it lied to them about factory farms and health, who knows what else), maybe it starts something good in them. I know many people who started becoming radical by going vegan, and then that led to questioning many other things. I don’t want veganism to be about purity because the animals don’t care about purity, they care about suffering and death. Effectiveness is super important. Purity is self-indulgence.

    I don’t know though. Vegan doesn’t equal skinny by any means, and promoting junk food veganism or veganism to be skinny might just make a lot of people go vegan temporarily. Sexism and racism and all the isms are interconnected and because of that, you won’t get good or worthy ends by ignoring those connections. It also makes non-white or (happily) fat women feel unwelcome. So maybe that book isn’t very effective in the end, only time will tell. Will there be vegans in five years who say they started out with Skinny Bitch? I have no idea.

    Just throwing out some thoughts–this is an important discussion for the movement to be having. I’m happy that you wrote that initial blog post. I feel that awful book doesn’t get questioned enough. But I do love that they got all those people to read the dairy chapter. If only the authors had read Carol Adams… and gave a shit.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: