Thursday, August 8, 2013

Everyday Vegan Sexism: Well-Reasoned Vegan Bigotry and the Ruse of Free Speech

Trigger Warning:  Post contains quotes of hate speech, offensive language, and graphic images of violence against women from pornography (no nudity).  NOT SAFE FOR WORK.

The vegan skeptics/sexists are at it again, I'm afraid.

Some "men's rights" advocate (they tend to be attracted to the vegan skeptic boy's club where they can delight in misogyny in a protected environment; please see my other posts on this issue here and here) made some sexist and disableist comments on the Vegans for Reason and Science Facebook page.1  Some feminists responded, only to trigger a flood of additional sexist and disableist comments (why are we surprised?).

Well it was no surprise that the administrative team quickly sided with the bigot and began to defend his behavior, which included his cyberstalking one of the women to the point of knowing her age, ethnicity, linguistic abilities, where she went to school, etc. and trying to speak with her in another language to hide his abuse from other readers.

Repeatedly, women were called "insane" or "loons."  The administrator defended this language, insisting disableism was not what we "really" mean when we use these words, and that I was taking it too literally.  Interesting, because one of their administrator's once got into a 20 minute debate with me over his use of "twat" as a harmless insult.2  It doesn't mean what you think it means, it's just a figure of speech, don't take it too literally.  Uh, I take it literally, because you are using a vulgar description of my genitalia as an insult.

See notes for transcription.
See notes for transcription.  This post has been deleted by Facebook for violating community standards.
The night before this debacle, I had been at a session with some associates of mine (I wouldn't go so far as to call them friends, but people I have to work with).  In a group message prior to our meeting, some had started calling each other "gay" or "fag."  I announced that I wanted no part of the message, I didn't want to see their homophobic hate speech filling my inbox, and to please unsubscribe me and not include me in the future.  Well, in our session, all eyes were on me, the eyes of five 40 year old men and one 35 year old man, all trying to convince me, the only woman, the "kiddo," that calling each other "gay" or "fag" didn't really mean what I thought it meant, that they'd always used that word, that I was taking it too literally.  Lighten up, learn to take a joke.  That night I simply thought I was dealing with a bunch of rednecks, but after our encounter with Vegans for Reason and Science, it became clear it was not a redneck/hillbilly issue of ignorance, this was white, heterosexual men ganging up to defend their privilege and their right to insult and mock others.

While I don't know the identity of the specific admin quoted above, I do know (having collaborated with these folks in the past, once considering many of them friends) that many of the admins are indeed persons of privilege.  It is persons of privilege who get to decide what language is legitimate.  It is they who get to decide whose identity it is okay to use as an insult.  The persons of privilege get to decide when their own privileged language is discriminatory or not.

How arrogant and utterly backwards.

What's worse is that this hate speech and blatant discrimination is upheld and defended under the old slogan:  "Free speech!"  Free speech for who?  It's funny, it's so often persons of privilege shouting "free speech!" when they're criticized on their bigotry.  No one is censoring anything and Facebook is not the U.S. government.  We demand accountability:  Especially in a group that touts "reason" and "science."  How completely irrational to sit back and revel in bigotry and discriminatory attacks on vulnerable populations.

Here's the truth of the matter:  Free speech is generally a principle reserved for persons in power to maintain their power.  Straight, white, able-bodied men have free speech.  Heck, censor them on the Republic of Facebook, their speech will continue on in movies, television shows, music, radio, legislative floors, courtrooms, churches, and every other public space where speech takes place.  Free speech is on the books, but in actual practice, not everyone enjoys that right equally.

Patriarchy has legalized child pornography.  Patriarchy has legalized adult pornography (which involves the actual rape and abuse of women).  Men's right to "free speech" trumps the actual, real life crimes against children and women, as though the violence they endure is somehow abstract.  The whole basis of rights is to protect your freedom, so long as it does not impose on the freedom of others, because then their rights have been impeded.  I suppose that if pornography targeted men to the benefit of women, we would suddenly take issue with the pornographer's right to "free speech" trumping the victim's right to bodily integrity and safety.

Irregardless, patriarchy has deemed pornography, their instrument of misogyny and male supremacy, protected.  But what of hunter harassment laws?  Protesters who enter the woods to scream and make noise to scare away free-living animals who are at risk of being murdered by hunters do not have free speech.  Is it a coincidence that most hunters are male and most Nonhuman Animal rights activists are female?

Violent pornography that depicts actual rape and actual violence against women is protected under free speech.
Women who vocally protest against hunting to scare away Nonhuman Animals in danger of being murdered are not protected under free speech
Under a patriarchy, men have the right to violently rape women on camera, mass produce the images, profit from them, and masturbate to them.  Violating these women is considered "free speech," but I cannot walk into the woods behind my house and scream, or sing, or even talk loudly . . . if men should interpret that as my attempt to "harass them."  Please don't harass the hunters, but by all means, rape children on camera.  Free speech is upheld when it protects male supremacy and patriarchal oppression, otherwise it is liable to get lost in a loophole.

Vegans for Reason and Science sit back and gleefully provoke bigotry on their page, defend disableist comments, and then declare "free speech" as though free speech means free from criticism.  I don't think so, buddy.  It doesn't work that way.  "Rights" are a patriarchal creation, just as science:  They are institutions designed to uphold male supremacy and legitimize oppression.  Surely, if used appropriately and fairly, free speech and science can liberate.  More often, the people of privilege who dominate the fields of "rationality" forget that not everyone is equally bestowed with the same privileges.  Women, people of color, Nonhuman Animals, disabled persons, homosexual persons, transgender persons, etc. are at a distinct disadvantage.  The blog Left Eye Right Eye sums up this disparity in a post titled, "Liberals Need to Have an Honest Chat about Free Speech":
Liberals so protective of their own free speech that they never noticed some people don’t even have language for what they need to say, let alone a space to say it in. 
Free speech is necessary and must be defended but free speech is not enough. If your voice is louder than mine, free speech won’t solve that. Free speech is a starting principle, not a solution to injustice. 
[ . . . ] the irony is that when free speech is restricted, yours usually survives anyway. 
Last week I updated the community guidelines of this blog to reflect my commitment to creating a community of accountability.  In this white-centric, sexist, and often misogynist movement, I believe it is vital to create safe spaces where activists can collaborate, share opinions, and actually be heard.  The rest of the movement silences and bullies us, but at least here and on our sister website Vegan Feminist Network, people with good intentions can come to discuss, debate, write, laugh, and just be safe and comfortable.  Yes, we love a good debate as well, but we want to maintain respect for one another.  In my Republic of Facebook, anyone who intentionally uses disableist, misogynistic, derogatory, or oppressive language gets banned.  Go spread your "free speech" elsewhere.

Notes
1.  I have not included screenshots of the offending posts as to not lend any further platform to them.  I will release the screenshots to anyone interested.  You can contact me by the email posted below.  The comments may still be posted on the Vegans for Reason and Science Facebook page, though their other Facebook projects are renowned for blocking feminists, so it is unlikely they will remain indefinitely.
2.  This is a common British slang word used to insult someone's mental ability.  Incidentally, "cunt" is another popular slang word in the UK.

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Vegans for Reason and Science Alright, I think that's enough. This conversation (if you can call it that) has completely degenerated into nastiness, personal attacks on both sides, and general unpleasantness. As such it is not in the least productive, and, if I may say so, incredibly tedious. No one here is clarifying their position in any meaningful way. In any event, I haven't seen any evidence that Thor is a member of the Men's Rights Movement, and where Maya went to university or how rich her parents may or may not be is utterly irrelevant. 
If you want to have a civilized debate about feminism, have it. But this is rubbish.
Katherine, I'm sorry but to brand someone "ableist" because they call someone "insane" seems illogical and far-fetched to me. Let's not be disingenuous here. We all know exactly what someone means when they call someone insane. It's a reaction to a statement, and it's a pointed remark, not one meant to literally question someone's brain capabilities. To charge people with discriminating against another for calling them insane is ludicrous. It's no different from calling someone stupid. It may be mean or a distraction from an argument, but it's not an insult indicative of someone who believes that bashing people with mental retardation is okay. 
Thor, "emasculated pets"? Seriously? We could spend an inordinate amount of time deconstructing the underlying problems with that statement, but let's just say that someone who is agreeing with another feminist is not somehow "emasculated" -- way to assume that masculinity is contingent on disagreeing with a feminist.  
Katherine, yes, this page is anti-censorship, which means that some unpleasant things will be posted here. That's what happens in free societies. People disagree with each other, say some ugly things, swear a lot, and - if so have anything to do with it - they are still entitled to have their say. No one ever died from being insulted. The alternative is far more problematic.
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Vegans for Reason and Science  Interesting that you should make such assumptions out of the blue, Corey.  I am, in fact, neither male nor straight.  I am very privileged, yes, in so far as I am a Westerner.  I do not employ or condone the use of words such as "gay" or "fag" or any other derogatory term often used casually.  Indeed, I always take people to task for doing so.  I do believe there is a difference between calling someone insane or stupid (not that I necessarily think it's advised or helpful) and calling someone a fag or a nigger.  There is a difference, and if someone refuses to see the nuances there, well, I'm afraid that we will disagree.  That doesn't make me a hate-monger, nor does it mean that this page supports any form of discrimination.  I have opposed discrimination and inequality since I was 16, and that's not about to change now. 
As for words killing kids:  I am talking about adults holding an animated, even offensive verbal exchange.  If you think that words kill, do you also then think that hate speech should be criminalized, Corey?  Years ago, I remember being outraged by Jamaican rappers whose lyrics included hate speech (specifically, inciting people to kill gays).  I supported OUT!Rage's campaign to have them criminally investigated for incitement to kill and hate speech.  Today, I am horrified that I used to think that way.  While Elephant Man and other homophobic rappers disgust me, if someone listens to a song with homophobic lyrics and then kills a gay person, the culprit is the murderer, not the song writer.  Otherwise, where does it end?  Who decides what speech is hate speech and what speech is acceptable?