This article has been written to explain why the #notallmen argument is unhelpful and the way in which it derails the feminist movement, making it all about men. Thus being, ironically, #yesallmen again.
Firstly… I need to explain why I, a vegan activist, am writing about this:
When you go vegan and are opened up to the awful truths of our society, it creates a shift in consciousness that can’t be reversed.
Your eyes are well and truly open and you notice a lot of other injustices you may have previously brushed off as ‘just the way things are’ – but these things now rattle your cage and you start challenging society (and yourself) more.
Inwardly and outwardly.
I was having a conversation with a fellow unschooling friend the other day and it was so lovely to have a ‘real-life’ conversation with someone who is on my wavelength.
We were talking about just that – although it is amazing to have ‘woken up’ and see things for what they really are, it is also pretty isolating.
Conversations with friends who are still happily going along with what everyone else thinks/does, aren’t as fluid as they used to be.
So many things are said, even seemingly insignificant things, that you feel completely different about now – but if you say so, it alienates you even further and you don’t want to ruin a long-term friendship… so you awkwardly smile and nod through gritted teeth, rather than counter argue everything they say with a ‘yeah but…’.
When it comes to our turn to talk, it’s not that we don’t have plenty to say (we really do) it’s just that we know we are going to create an awkward situation by bringing up the fact we want to go ‘poo-free’, mentioning the article we read on ablism and recognising our privilege or perhaps even talk about how veganism is very much a feminist issue… we know that is going to push the wedge further between us, so we don’t.
But chatting about Kim Kardashian, the new i-phone or Jackie from down the road really isn’t important to us anymore.
But we participate.
Basically, once you are ‘woke’ you end up appearing weirder and weirder because now, when you notice an article about going zero waste, you read it with an open mind… and then, because you can see that that shit matters and a lifestyle change doesn’t seem that daunting anymore after going vegan, you go zero waste.
Another bit of weird on top of the weird.
Another thing you ‘bang on’ about.
You end up accidentally becoming one of those ‘bloody hippies’.
But even vegans are still in different places along their journey.
Vegans still disagree on many things, debate certain issues and change each others minds.
Some vegans focus only on animals and don’t give two hoots about the human race.
I understand that, after seeing the awful things we do, I despise humans sometimes too.
But for me, all injustices are linked and should ALL be challenged.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”
Martin Luther King Jr
So the other day, I noticed something that had been staring me in the face since I went vegan.
As I mentioned above, it is widely known among the vegan community that veganism is a feminist issue.
Vegans use that as a valid point when talking to non-vegan feminists.
If you are not a vegan, you are (knowingly or unknowingly) pro animal abuse.
By the same token, if you are not a feminist, you are (knowingly or unknowingly) against women having the same rights as men.
Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes – Oxford dictionary
Now, feminism isn’t totally black and white.
It is more complicated than simply asking for women to be respected as equals.
Feminism ultimately benefits men too.
In the same way as veganism ultimately benefits humans.
Feminism is for everyone.
I am still learning new things everyday and you’d think, as a woman, it would be pretty simple for me to understand!
I implore everyone to do some research on the subject.
A website called ‘Everyday Feminism’ is a fantastic place to start!
So the other day, I noticed something that had been staring me in the face since I went vegan.
I threw the question out onto my personal Facebook profile to see if anyone else had noticed this or had any thoughts on it.
“Interesting question – open for discussion:
The vegan activist movement is very male dominated, the most well known outreach activists are male: James Aspey, Joey Carbstrong, Hench Herbivore, Earthling Ed, The Vegan Activist etc…
Which I find interesting when you see that the vast majority of vegans are women, women make up around 80% of the vegan movement.
Why do you think the most well known are male?”
I was really happy to see that people were interested to discuss it and it set the ball rolling for other women to question the issue.
After being tagged in my post, fellow online activist Sonia Sae, then put the question out to her followers and ignited more debate.
Other women mentioned that they had already noticed some outreach activists (women) in videos being frequently interrupted by male activists whilst discussing veganism with a non-vegan, perpetuating the silent and unspoken view that men can debate better than women.
Men are more ‘level-headed’ and should be listened to, over women.
Unfortunately, though most people saw the issue for what it was, there were a few (men and women) who completely missed the point and accuse me of actually being sexist myself quite aggressively.
Some said we shouldn’t question it, because they were doing good things for the animals and that was all that mattered.
As if I should pick one type of victim of oppression and only speak out for them.
Injustice is injustice in my eyes.
All this chat provoked me to share some articles on feminism.
Then came the inevitable #notallmen brigade.
When will it end!?
I shared this fantastic article with them, but I still got an onslaught of mansplaining.
These were vegan men.
Our entire ethos is about fighting oppression and creating a world where ALL BEINGS have their rights respected.
I couldn’t get my head around the fact they didn’t understand why #notallmen is just null and void and completely unhelpful, and by saying #notallmen you are, in fact, one of those men to some degree!
One of the strengths I have, is that I get inspired when i’m cross!
I internalise things and think about it for days.
I figure things out in my head and then – whilst going about my everyday life and encountering random situations – BOOM!
There it is!
This is how I can explain it!
It’s now such an obvious comparison!
After reading this, as a vegan, you will have noticed something I said at the beginning that had you nodding in agreement and empathy, because you also feel the same way sometimes.
This illustrates my point perfectly!
You’ll find out what I mean soon!
Yesterday, my eldest son and I walked to the local supermarket to pick up a few things.
On our way back, we came across a woman walking her dog and got chatting.
My son, though he has been told many times to ask first, immediately reached out his hand to stroke the dog.
The dog was clearly startled and nervous and shot backwards to avoid my son touching her.
My son snatched his hand to his chest and apologised.
‘Ooh it’s ok!’ The woman explained. ‘She is a rescue, so she just needs a bit of time to make sure you are safe.’
We chatted with the woman about her experiences rescuing her lovely dog.
After a while the dog warmed to my son and let him stroke her.
We said our goodbyes and carried on walking home.
‘So, when someone says they have a rescue dog, do you know what that means?’ I asked.
‘That their dog helps rescue people?’ He guessed.
‘It does sound like that, but what it means is, that dog has been rescued from a bad life. Generally, they have had horrible owners who did some nasty things to them, so when they see new people, they feel scared and worried and don’t trust them at first.’
‘But I was only going to stroke her, I was gentle, I am really nice to animals!’ He reasoned.
‘Well yes, you know that, but she doesn’t. All she has ever known until now, is humans being nasty to her. So she has learned to be fearful of those she doesn’t know. We all look the same to her, she doesn’t know if you are going to be a nice one or a nasty one. She doesn’t know if you are going to trick her into thinking you are nice and then hurt her later. Does that make sense?’
‘Yeah, I get it. I’ll be slower in future and remember to ask.’
When we got home, he told his younger brother about it.
My son is 7.
He gets it.
Most of the vegan men declaring #notallmen understand this concept too!
It’s the context that is the problem here.
This was about a dog, not a human woman.
So, let’s imagine a world in which animals can talk.
If a cow updated her Facebook status with a rant about humans, let’s be honest… that would be pretty understandable right!?
Do you think that there would be vegans commenting with ‘Er… excuse me, that’s speciesist! Not all humans are like that!’
Yes, we know… not all humans participate in the abuse of animals.
As vegans, we saw what we were doing was harmful, changed our behavior and now speak up for the animals.
We didn’t realise what we had been doing before.
But we listened.
Accepted we were the problem.
Learned ways in which we could help.
And now we stand with them.
As allies in the movement.
It doesn’t stop there!
We make sure that we are all continuing to be the best vegans we can be. We make mistakes, talk about it, educate each other on products that we may have not realised were tested on animals etc and continue to change our habits accordingly, recognising that it is our duty, as human beings, the ones with the power, to do so.
We don’t stand around the cube of truth with signs saying I’m a kind person and show footage of us being lovely to animals!
We hold signs up saying truth and show footage of the animal abuse.
We speak out for the animals, because it isn’t about how amazing and perfect we are.
It’s about using our *privilege (*our voices because they have none) to change the way others see animals and to show them what they probably don’t realise they are participating in.
We call them out on their behavior and encourage them to think about the way they could live their life without perpetuating this cycle of violence.
We speak out about injustice because we know it is the right thing to do.
Remember earlier when I told you you would realise you had been nodding and agreeing with something that would illustrate my point perfectly?
“Some vegans focus only on animals and don’t give two hoots about the human race. I understand that, after seeing the awful things we do, I despise humans sometimes too.”
Quote from above
Even WE talk about how disgusting the human race is.
We don’t all pipe up with #notallhumans then do we!?
In fact, we recognise that it is us, as a species, that causes the destruction of Earth and everything in it.
By simply being human, we are part of the problem.
It sucks, but it’s true.
By agreeing with the fact that ‘humans are idiots’ we are not admitting that we personally are responsible now, we know that we are doing all we can to help and all we can to change, we don’t need to shout out to everyone ‘ahem… not me thanks very much, I am actually pretty awesome as humans go!’ because that would be making it all about us.
It’s not about the animals then anymore is it?
The conversation would lead on to how great or selfish that particular human is for declaring that they are not ‘one of those humans’.
We recognise that the important issue is the ways in which animals are still oppressed, and that is what needs to be said.
So instead, we tell others that they could avoid being as much of an arsehole if they listened to what we had to say and looked into it a little.
Non-vegans then take that as us telling everyone we are vegan because we think we are superior to them.
Much the same, men (and some women), feel offended when we try to explain the hidden ways in which women are oppressed and assume we are trying to tell the world that women are supposed to be superior…
We aren’t, we are just trying to explain that they could avoid being as much of an arsehole if they listened to what we had to say and looked into it a little.
#notallhumans makes it about… the human ego, as if it doesn’t apply to you and you don’t have a duty to demand change!
#notallmen makes it about… the male ego, as if it doesn’t apply to you and you don’t have a duty to demand change!
It’s down to EVERYONE.
All of it!
Over the last few months, I have grown to realise (with the help of a very dear friend) that I hold a lot of social power, a lot of privilege.
The only way in which I do not hold privilege, is the fact that I am a woman.
I am white.
I am able-bodied.
I live in the 1st world.
I am cis-gendered.
I am an atheist.
I am Heterosexual.
I don’t have an ‘accent’.
My parents are still married.
I come from a middle class family.
I am educated.
I am neurotypical.
I am human.
I am fairly certain that there are many more ways in which I hold privilege that I have yet to discover.
Due to my privilege, I simply won’t realise that I am privileged in certain areas because I will never have come across it as an issue.
Until it is pointed out to me, I will be blissfully unaware.
That is the nature of privilege.
But I know now that it IS my responsibility, once I am aware of it, to accept it.
Once it is pointed out to me, I will recognise it, ask questions, empathise and point it out to others who may not have realised they were also accidentally discriminating against a minority group.
Because that is what equality is about.
It’s not about you being a hero and getting a pat on the back.
It’s about recognising those who are being discriminated against and being an ally by changing behavior that contributes to the problem and educating others on how they can avoid that behavior as well.
So instead of proudly proclaiming that you are not one of those men that contributes to the dehumanisation of women and therefore inadvertently silencing us when we have the courage to speak up… try actually being one of those men who contributes to the feminist movement.
There is something worse than just complicity in silence, there is selfishness in ego.
It’s not. About. You.
Stop making it about you!
Just think about the #notalldairyfarmers argument…
I rest my case.