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Feminism and Tea…. (Also other things)

Taking the Coloniser out of the Decolonisation: Gender and FeesMustFall

There is an urgent need for us to change the way that we speak about decolonisation.

 

More than anything we have to realise and be conscious of the fact that decolonisation is a gendered issue.

 

Now I know that earlier this year Vuyani Pambo addressed  the concerns of lgbt+ students calling for inclusiveness at protests.

 

However, that negates the existence of concerns regarding the movement and ideology separate from protest action.

 

Whether or not there is a space for women and the lgbt+ community at the PHYSICAL protests, there is still reason for concern around whether or not there is a space for women and the LGBT+ community in the dialogue around FMF and particularly decolonised education.

 

The discourse around decolonised education is too often a masculine one. Femininity is ignored.

 

We have seen comrades berate the topless wits protestors for issues concerning modesty.  I fail to understand how anybody can claim that they support the prospect of decolonising the mind, and then go right ahead and shame topless female protestors even though we know that in pre-colonial spaces breasts were not sexualized in that manner and often women went topless.

 

Furthermore, how can anyone claim to have the issues of black women at heart, then turn around to scream out their support for Skhumba and his body shaming tactics. As though a mans freedom of speech is more important than the voices and opinions of female protestors, whom he actively chose to reduce to mere bodily parts rather than viewing them as whole people, with real existences and important messages.

 

There is an obvious hypocrisy here.

 

A decolonised society would also need to be a more gender equal one. There cannot be one without the other. A society which liberates men but not women, is not yet a liberated society.

 

Its almost as though , in engineering the definition and redefinition of “decolonisation” that we aim ,with decolonisation, to drop all the parts of colonialism which impact negativly on men but we want to retain patriarchy and sytematic power over women which came with colonialsm.

 

The discourse around decolonisation is starting to sound a lot like aims to replace oppressive white men with oppressive black men.

 

For example, when we choose to celebrate African leaders why do we glorify people like Solomon Mahlangu, Robert Sobukwe and Frantz Fanon rather than people like Winnie Mandela and Albertina Sisulu?

 

The decolonisation discourse celebrates only the masculine attributes of Africanness. Which by default means that it refuses to embrace Africanness as a whole or what it means to be African without colonial impact.

 

Surely, women were effected by colonialsm in ways that men were not. Therefore, for us to unlearn colonialism, we need to also unlearn the sexism and misogyny which Europeans brought with them when they docked at the Cape.

 

Women often have a harder time at protests. We are more often attacked, more often asked to make sacrifices, more often blamed when things go wrong (See Nompendulo Mkhatshwa), more likely to be raped, harassed or intimidated by private security and police, more often ignored by the media and more often excluded.

 

The movement comes at the expense of female comrades bodies being put on the front line and yet women are excluded from its percieved outcome.

 

We know there is no such thing as decolonisation unless we are all sharing in the fruits of success, and yet we are still not making a space for the discourse of women’s issues in our hopes of a decolonised education.

 

If this decolonised education that is being sold is not intersectional than I don’t want it.

 

Female comrades need to stop being complicit in our own oppression.

 

We need to start being conscious protestors, critical of our own movement to ensure that it does not become derailed by our own prejudices and unconscious biases.

 

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Not a Feminist? Thats Okay!

Last week at an interview with BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Amy Schumer called everyone who doesnt call themselves a feminist; “Insane”. She then went on to define the word feminist as someone who believes  in ” social, political and economic equality”.

 

The rhetoric Schumer is a spewing is sadly not uncommon these days. But it is wrong. Not only is this way of thinking bad for the legitamacy of the feminist movement, its also regressive and a disgrace in the name of the movement.

 

The term “feminist” or “feminism” comes from the French word “feminisme,” first used by the socialist Charles Fourier, and began to pick up popularity with English writers and thinkers in the 1890s, in association with an unnamed movement that worked for womens equal political and legal rights.

 

Early feminists didn’t call themselves feminists. Simply anyone who advocated for womens rights was labelled a feminist by others.

 

Today, some of us choose to embody the term “feminist” because it holds close to its roots soliderity with feminists that came before us (the history of feminism), feminists today (revolution) and feminists in the future (visionary).

 

However, “feminist” still doesn’t absolutely imply the BELIEF in equality for the sexes but rather it refers to the ADVOCACY of gender equality.

 

This doesn’t mean that feminism is an exclusive group. Advocacy comes in all sizes and anybody can do it. To be an advocate for equal rights you could be anything from someone who chooses to talk about gender issues in general conversation to someone who speaks on gender issues to a audience of thousands of people.

 

However, this is differant from belief because unlike just believing something to be true or accurate, advocacy requires that in some way you are actively making an interferance in the stream of normality.

 

Its like the differance between being a christian (someone who believes in christian doctrine) and being a preacher (someone who advocates for Christian ideologies).

 

If everyone called themselves a feminist, the word would lose its meaning. People who are not helping to enhance the movement who then call themselves feminists run the risk of draining the movement of any symbolic meaning. If everyone was a feminist, that would imply that everyone is actively practicing gender equality and there would be no need for feminism. The fact that sexism still exists logically tells us that not everyone is working towards a more egalitarian world.

 

Furthermore, nobody HAS to be a feminist. Its not a good or a bad thing. If you want to join the movement because you see it as useful you will and if you don’t want to you wont. It doesn’t say anything about you as a person. There ia no binary, you’re not either a feminist or a sexist. You can believe in equality for the sexes without wanting to call yourself a feminist.

 

If we are to look at feminism as a progressive movement than we also need to realise that progress is a natural process and therefore we can’t force it onto people. We can only hope to get more and more people to pick up the term by continuing to spread meaningful information.

 

Manic Pixie Dream Girl – Tropes That Need to Die

A “trope” refers to a common or reoccuring theme or device often used in movies, works of literature, games, etc.

 

 

One very common trope is that of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The term was first coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in 2005. Rabin described the Manic Pixie Dream Girl as a character who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures”.

 

 

In simpler terms, this refers to a female character who serves the sole purpose of entering the lives of boring white men and through her child-like and bubbly personality makes him enjoy life again. The Manic Pixie Dream girl has seemingly no future plans of her own, no family, no job, no fears, no hopes… She seems to exist purely to help men find their way about the world. This reinforces the stereotype of women as caregivers always ready to give and expect nothing in return.

 

 

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is not a real, complete person, she’s a collection of male fantasies.

 

 

In Elizabethtown, Drew Baylor loses his job, his girlfriend and decides to commit suicide. His plans are interupted when he gets a phone call announcing his fathers death, urging him to return to his home town. Enter our manic pixie dream girl; a flight attendant named Claire who helps the down and out white, male protagonist to once more embrace life.

 

 

Other examples include Kate Hudson playing  Penny Lane in Almost Famous (2000). Rachel Bilson in The Last Kiss (2006) as Kim. Zooey Deschanel playing Allison in Yes Man (2008).Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway, Charlize Therone, Natalie Portman… the list goes on and on.

 

 

The trope has been around for far longer though. It began around the 1930s. With Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby (1938) and even Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot (1959).

 

 

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl has succeeded in perpetuating the stereotype that women cant do great things, they can only help men do great things. This is otherwise knows as a muse. A beautiful, interesting woman who helps and inspires men to follow their dreams and achieve things.

 

 

This mis-represents women as not full human beings. It insinuates that women are incapable of also having dreams and hopes of achieving things.

 

 

Its the reinforcment of the lie that women are not complete human beings.

Dear Politicians, Please Shut Up…

As if the silencing of rape complaints at Rhodes University, the fact that Jacob The-Polygamist Zuma was made to be key Women’s Day speaker and of course the mute nature of candidates on women’s issues during the recent election campaigns wasn’t enough of a slap in the face to South African women; On the anniversary of one of the most important days in South African feminist history; Helen The-White-feminist Zille decided to take to the podium to announce to young girls all over the country that a woman’s worth is in her uterus.

 

We’re all sluts that deserve to be sterilized according to Zille. Of course she didn’t say it like that but I struggle to see the difference between her saying “I’d suggest any women that passed matric and has never claimed a child grant can get free higher education.” And Tertullian saying: “In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you.”

 

What’s even more amusing about Zille’s comment is that she thought she was providing a feminist stance even though her only concern in the matter was that maybe men might feel left out.

 

How does a woman of this stature not see that her comments are incredibly misogynistic?

 

Women’s Month is a circus. It’s the one month a year that all politicians come out to demonstrate how ignorant they are about women’s rights and it is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me to live my life with the entire parliamentary cabinet’s middle fingers up my vagina. How does a girl get around to kicking the patriarchy like this???

 

Telling a woman that she needs to defy institutionalized sexism to get a bursary is like telling a blind person to read a book in order to get eye surgery. Education is supposed to help women get out of situations where they are vulnerable. If poor women already had complete control over their bodies, they wouldn’t need anybodies help to get an education.

 

As peculiar as this all might seem, we need to look at it for what it is, Zille’s comments are nothing more than a rich, white woman’s attempt to physically control the bodies and lives of working class South African woman.

 

Teenage pregnancies are one of the leading causes of girls dropping out of school and women leaving tertiary institutions and work places early. This is true. However, the problem isn’t that woman get pregnant. It’s that woman are responsible for child caring. Where males get off easy, a woman is expected to drop her whole life to take care of a child. This is a gross inequality which is encouraged by South African institutions. Take for example the gender wage gap. If a man is more likely to earn more by working, he would likely be the parent who gets that opportunity to earn a living, making the mother dependent on him for her financial well-being. But has anybody ever heard Zille address the issue of the wage gap?? Has Zille offered incentives to companies that hire more female workers?? Why it is that only two out of eight of the Democratic Alliance’s national leaders are women??

 

We cannot forget that working class women are at a major disadvantage compared to men or elite women such as Zille herself.

 

South Africa has failed to provide women with basic health care; that being access to safe abortions and methods of contraception. Rich woman are at an advantage because they are granted access to these things at private health care facilities. Poor woman are forced to go to public hospitals and clinics which are usually over crowded, understaffed and lack medical supplies and funds. These state run clinics are generally inaccessible for people living in rural areas and townships. Nurses and doctors are also often negligent and are not held responsible for their actions if something goes wrong. State run hospitals and clinics are simply not safe and nothing is being done to change this.

 

This is coupled by the deplorable state of sex education in public schools. Teenage pregnancy is more likely to occur in places where abstinence is promoted over sex education. This means that by telling young women to “just don’t have sex” is only going to make matters worse. We need to be implementing spaces of learning, where young people can go to get information on methods of safe sex and responsible sexual activity.

 

Rape is another major issue in poor communities. According to the Saartjie Bartman Centre for Women and Children, a woman is either raped or beaten every four minutes in South Africa. If we started handing out bursaries to individuals that are not mothers, we would be discriminating against rape survivors.

 

I’m not trying to be the voice of working class women and i’m definitely not attempting to take away their agency. However, I believe that it is important for people like me and Helen Zille and all the other privileged, educated women of South Africa to realise the harm that we are doing by treating working class women as subjects of experimentation rather than our equals. How can you expect our demands for gender equality to be reached if we are treating the vast majority of women in this country as talking points and props? Why does Helen Zille, who was a working mother for most of her life, think that her freedom to take control of her body is any more important than that of a poor women’s rights to her own body.

 

We need to realise quickly that bursaries are not like gold stars you hand out to kids for good behavior. For some, bursaries are the difference between a life of poverty and a life of prosperity. If government officials have the ability to grant bursaries to well deserving disadvantaged individuals, they should be doing so indiscriminately.

Letting Down My Hair

Growing up, my hair was always kept short. I was the only girl I knew with a pixie cut. I’d dream of having long hair like my blonde Barbie dolls. But regardless of how much I protested, each month my mother would drag me to the hairdresser were I would be reduced to looking, once more, like that one Barbie who didn’t have hair because of that time I got bubble gum stuck it. Mom knew what she was doing, she was saving herself the hassle of having to have to help me take care of my curls; a struggle she never had to battle with any of my siblings.

 

When I finally gained autonomy over my own head, I was 10. What I knew I wanted to do was grow my hair out until it reached below my buttocks. However, it only reached about mid shoulder blades before I cut it all off. My self this time, with a pair of blunt scissors, in front of the bathroom mirror.

 

I hated my hair. It was too thick. Too heavy. Too curly.

 

In the Princess Diaries, an average curly haired girl, straightens her hair and becomes a princess. In the Harry Potter series Hermione goes from being a curly haired genius to being a straight haired Girlfriend-Of in just two movies. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, starts off having perfectly normal hair to having hair that looks like when you’re a prostitute who falls in love with a rich white capitalist.

 

After you watch enough of these movies, Curly becomes synonymous with Unwanted, Unnecessary, Ugly.

 

When I finally got the courage to grow it out again, I was thirteen, determined that I would succeed this time because I was armed with a flat iron my dad bought for me for 99 bucks at Checkers. And so began my abusive relationship with Flat-Iron Fascism. I would burn out my insecurities every morning before school. It would take three hours, sometimes longer. Even when my hair started falling out in chunks and the ends became damaged and broken, I continued. It was an identity war, with myself.

 

But eventually, I won.

 

The best way to wear curly hair is with confidence. It was like an epiphany, only obvious. One morning I decided to just stop fighting it.

 

The first time I got a compliment on my natural hair, I was at a charity store. I had gotten to the counter when the woman serving us looked at me and said “wow, you have beautiful hair” and I stood there, ceramic turtle in one hand, a pairs of worn out jeans in the other wondering if this hippie was being sarcastic or if she was high on something.

 

But then, it happened again, at a jewellery store with no hippies in sight, and from teachers at school, and waiters at restaurants and friends and random people in the street. You stop hearing these compliments when you start believing them. Even the bad comments are good now. It becomes enjoyable when someone says “you look untidy” or “unprofessional” and you smile because well it just feels good to get on peoples nerves being loud and obnoxious and true to yourself.

 

It feels good to know that you are actively taking up space in the world. You learn that blending in rarely means standing out. I wear my hair like my mane, like I’m king of the Jungle. I laugh now thinking about the silly things I did trying to achieve mediocrity.

 

I think everyone should feel this way about themselves.

 

So to hell with society’s standards. Let go of your insecurities. Don’t let them cage you. Be an identity rebel. Be annoying and unapologetic. Be hysterical in your individuality. Let the world know who you are and then laugh in the face of uncertainty. You were made to be fierce and brave and free. Let everyone know.

The Solution to The “Gender Segregation in Mosques” debate…

I live amoungst conservative Muslims, in the shadow of the four hundred thousand mosques that exist within walking proximity from my house. It therefore does not come as a surprise that I have encountered not one, not two but five Muslim men berating gender integration and obsessively demanding an end to vaginas at the mosque entirely. And all this just in the past week.

 

The conversation is always the same. The arguer (him) will begins with a nudgingly annoying and all too familiar plea to the arguee’s (You) inner misogynist. Thereafter, the arguee (you) will attempt to change the subject to something less likely to end in bloody murder such as the Pistorius case. This will only succeed in angering the arguer (him) by which time he will begin to thrust out cherry picked hadiths and remind the arguee (who is now hiding under the coffee table yelling “TAKE WHAT YOU WANT AND LEAVE, JUST DON’T HURT ME!”) that if a woman takes two steps out of her home without a clump of testosterone in her handbag it is guaranteed that she will be attacked by 40 rapists, 78 serial killers and 20 zombies all at once.

 

I just merely survived one of these incidents when it occurred to me that this had gone too far. Enough is enough. It’s time we find an end to this insanity.

 

My solution: We segregate Muslims from the rest of society.

 

Now before you cry fire and ship me off to Weskoppies, think about it. Yeah it seems like something Hitler would do and maybe it’s a little bit unethical and would probably end in inequalities that would continue to haunt the world for hundreds of years and maybe it’s true that separate can never really be equal. But if we call it a religion that would change the dynamic entirely, because nobody really has the guts to criticize a religion, even if it is exploitative or genocidal.

 

So this is the plan. You know that area between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, we’ll give them that free of charge. The locations currently called Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Oman, Egypt, Yemen and everything else within the vicinity can join their counterparts on condition that they provide us with an everlasting supply of oil. Okay, I know what you’re thinking we are going to hit a bump…but I thought about it and its okay. It would be only a minor sacrifice if we bombed the whole country. I mean, it’s fine because they’re God’s chosen people and that’s like a guaranteed entrance to heaven anyways.

 

Now if you’re wondering why the Muslim part is smaller than the non-Muslim part just remember that it doesn’t matter. If anybody questions it we can always just tell them something like “Muslims don’t like to go out much” or “Muslims prefers smaller homes” or we can make up some elaborate rule stipulating who is and who is not allowed to leave their homes for work purposes. That way, when we meet our critics we can simply yell out our own made up rule as if it is the gospel. We’ll say “Muslims can work from home and Non-Muslims have to work outside their homes, it only makes sense that we get a bigger area.” Then when they tell us that the rule itself is unnecessary we will simply claim that it was created for the protection of the Muslims themselves “We love and care for the Muslims so much that we have forbidden them from ever leaving their homes”. If it tickles your fancy, you could even play victim and claim to have it harder because we have to leave the house every day and go out into the dangerous world while Muslims get the option to stay home all day, lounging in comfort and being supporting by us.

 

With regards to the spread of information, because you know I’m sure the Muslims will also want to share in OUR scientific and technological knowledge, we will devise a system that allows for Muslims to receive the information through means of large and sometimes annoying speakers placed on street poles all around the Muslim side from which the Muslims can listen to US lecture about things that WE know because we are better at knowing things. If they have something they want to share they will be given two options:

 

One: They could speak amoungst themselves in secluded areas, but only on topics which we deem acceptable first. Or two: They can ask questions by writing it on a piece of paper and then sending the piece of paper to our side from which end our speaker will laugh loudly and then proceed to waffle by repeating some out of context quotes over and over again without ever actually answering the question.

 

Since that’s settled we should probably decide how governance would work. Since they cannot take care of themselves (I mean, just look at the Muslim world and how they’re always being bitchy and killing each other) we would need to send some of our people over there to help take care of them. It will require one Non-Muslim Volunteer to take care of four Muslims each. Of course we will give the Non-Muslim Volunteer the option of choosing whether they want one, two, three or four Muslims under their care. The Non-Muslim Volunteer will be responsible for providing the Muslims with a shack as well as one loaf of bread a bottle of milk a day. The Muslim’s duties would be to keep the home looking like a mansion and cook a six course meal each afternoon for when the Non-Muslim Volunteer gets home from the congregation at which he or she was tirelessly spreading the word of Darwin all day.

 

See this way, it won’t matter that the schools on the Muslim side will have a lower standard of education and Muslims will be paid less than non-Muslims for their labor because we will be providing the Muslim with a home and food through our Non-Muslim volunteer. I mean, why would they need a proper education or a decent salary if they will just end up being taken care of by their hardworking and caring Non-Muslim Volunteer anyway.

 

The question then arises as to what will happen to those individuals who are born Muslims and then later in life begin identifying as non-Muslims.  You see, we don’t recognize those individuals. Trans-Religionism is not a real thing, kind of like religious fluidity. Religion is a binary, you are what you are born as. Simple as that.

 

Am I concerned about the mental health and psychological well-being of young children who are forced to live in this ideological setting without their consent, you ask?

 

Of course not. It’s better for them anyways. By the time they are grown, we will have taught them to support this decision and if they don’t support it, we can always just threaten to burn them alive in a fiery pit of demons.

 

You see, this solution might seem crazy but it’s the best shot we have to ensure that our Non-Muslims, who are vulnerable and innocent, yet seemingly unable to control their own feelings, are protected from being seduced by the Muslims and their enticing and sultry ways. This segregation is necessary to ensure that there is no mingling because mingling leads to sex and sex is the worst thing in the world unless We do it in which case it is therefore perfectly normal and natural.

 

Now, you might say “What about the Muslims? What do they think?” Surely we could ask the Muslims through an elaborate voting system, but that’s not really necessary because I know one Muslim guy and he’s fine with it. Also, they don’t really know what they want. Muslims are indecisive, it’s in their nature. What we need to do is take control of this situation. We need to take care of them because they can’t take care of themselves. We need a full on segregation.

 

What do you say people, are you with me!

Busting the “Loose” Vagina Myth?

We’ve all heard it before; The insistent rattle of noise makers shamelessly shaming people for their vagina’s. Perhaps it’s a commonly held misconception of female anatomy or maybe it’s plain old misogyny back at it again. But does it really matter? Anywhoo, let’s bust the myth.

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Do vagina’s stretch during penetration?
The vagina is made up of muscle and is elastic in nature. When an object is inserted into the vagina (tampons, etc.) the muscles in the vaginal walls move and part to create space for the object to enter. Thus the vagina stretches to accommodate the object.
After penetrative sex does the vagina remain stretched?
Absolutely not. After the inserted object is withdrawn the vagina would likely go back to its initial size as the muscles close together.
This is necessary for the vagina to protect itself from germs and infection.
If the vagina recoils why do some vaginas look or feel larger?
Many people seem to believe the vaginas of people who have never had sex are smaller than those of people who have had sex.
However this isn’t true.
Like penises, vaginas come in different sizes. It’s ridiculous to assume that all vagina’s are made the exact same size.
Another reason why some vaginas might seem tighter is that during first time sex it’s common for a person to feel nervous or anxious so they would likely clench together their muscles which would result in the vagina feeling tight. Once a person becomes comfortable and they stop clenching their muscles it might seem as if the vagina becomes looser.
Believing that a vagina becomes loose after sex is a fallacy. The size of a vagina does not correlate with the amount of sex a person has.
Do vagina’s stretch out after child birth and why do some people claim that this happened?
During child birth the vaginal walls contract to allow for the infant to leave the mothers body. After the child is born the vagina retracts back to its normal state.
Some women claim to have had the experience of finding their vagina to be looser after childbirth.
This has less to do with the stretching of the vagina and more to do with age or number of children.
Like all the other muscles in our bodies, as we get older our muscles become weaker and start to droop or appear loose (e.g. wrinkles). This means that the muscles in the vaginal walls would not be able to do their job as well as they would earlier in life.
Are there any occasions on which the vagina might become looser by itself?
Yes. Like I mentioned during childbirth the muscles contract and become loose to allow for the child to be born.
Another occasion is during sexual intercourse. When a person is turned on the muscles in the vagina would naturally loosen to allow for penetration. This means that if the vagina feels loose during sex, it’s probably because the person is feeling relaxed, turned on and really enjoying themselves.
Where does the myth stem from?
Naturally it comes from the comodification of the vagina. When women were viewed as objects of their husbands or fathers, a vagina was assumed to be a product which could be used or “used up” and therefore would be measured as such.
Why is it wrong to assume that vaginas stretch out?
Simply because this is factually incorrect and shows a lack of understanding of female anatomy.
It’s also misogynistic. It goes back to the idea of the objectification of women. Assuming that a “good vagina” is one that has not been “used” and that this can be tested by means of assessing tightness or looseness.
Something that we need to realize collectively is that the size, shape or appearance of a vagina does not define a person and should not have to power to make a person feel insecure.
The idea that a penis has the power to damage or break a vagina seems really violent and is just another attempt at controlling what women do with their bodies and how they conduct their sex lives.
Is the obsession with small vaginas the same as the obsession with large penises?
Although both of these “standards” are problematic, it’s hardly the same thing.
When people refer to large penises as the ideal it usually is a conversation dominated by men as it speaks to their own gratification and self worth.
However when people speak about loose vaginas the conversation is not dominated by females. Having a small vagina is not something that women value in themselves but rather something that men demand of women.

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Check Your Privilege Vegans

So as some of you may know, I recently gave up my meat-free diet for health reasons and while some of you have been very supportive there have been a few incidents of people lashing out at me from the vegan/vegetarian community(whatsupwiththat?!). I understand that some of these people don’t have any ill intentions and really do think that they are doing me and/or the world a favor. However toxic it may be to ‘bully’ people for their personal choices, I know that it is not the fault of any individual but rather the mainstream vegan community at large who promote misinformation. We need to remember that veganism like any ideology is bound to have propaganda to fuel it, how else would it gain support. A lot of ridiculous notions have been being promoted by the forerunners of this community and I do feel as if it’s my duty to call out issues like this when I see them. So, I’d like to start off with this thought…

Veganism is a privilege.

I know that this word “privilege” has been thrown around a lot lately and as a result it has become somewhat overused and the meanings behind it has been forgotten. However, I think it’s still necessary to think about privilege and how much of it we have or don’t have before reprimanding or perceiving certain people differently based on their ‘choices’ or inability to make choices.

 

I felt as though I needed to write this blog post in order to help vegans and non-vegans to understand both ends of the debate properly as well as break down some of the lies told by mainstream vegans and used to force lifestyle choices onto others. At a certain point, Vegans got the idea that everyone can and should be vegan and that any person who is not vegan is therefore evil somehow. So, I did a lot of research (because I’m privileged enough to get hold of books and have access to the internet. Hah see what I did there) and I’ve decided to break down Vegan Privilege into different arenas of thought.

Class is a massive problem in the world and yet it’s least likely to be spoken about we speak of privilege. I’ve heard a ton of vegans make the argument that a plant based diet is cheaper and more accessible than an animal product based diet. I will admit that I too believed this notion for the longest time. This very flawed argument is everywhere, consistently being promoted by the vegan community, so often when someone says they are unable to make the diet switch because they do not have the financial ability, they are shunned by vegans as liars making up excuses because they are addicted to animal products.

There are hundreds and thousands of people across the globe whom are entirely placed at the mercy of other people. These include war victims, refugees, homeless or displaced people (often youth), unemployed people, and so many more. These people are usually entirely dependent on others people or aid organisations to provide them with food each day in homeless shelters, refugee camps, etc. They don’t actively make the choice to eat meat and dairy products; they have no choice in the matter. They have to eat what they are being given in order to survive. Humanitarian aid schemes like the World Food Program that has helped over 12.7 Million people in over 50 countries by granting them seeds to plant and animals to use for milk and eggs, or organisations like UNICEF who provide impoverished infants with cows/goats milk to boost their health are really doing a lot more for the world than any vegan individual. The people receiving this aid don’t get to make dietary choices, they take whatever they can get. You need to realize that if you can afford to make choices about what you eat each day than you are in a highly privileged position.

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I tried making this argument once before only to have the girl tell me that she knows a woman who maintains a vegan diet on food stamps. The problem with this argument is that it’s ignorant. Living in a country where you receive social benefits like food stamps is already a privilege. For example, where I live in South Africa, there is no help granted to people in financial crisis, people are plunged into poverty and have to rely off of the mercy of others just to get a little bit of food each day.

The second type are people that may have the ability to make some choices but are financially dependent on others. For example, disabled people, children under the age of 15, elders who have retired or live in the care of relatives, women who live in situations where they are not given the opportunity to find work, etc.

All of these people are therefore depending on other people to provide them with food. If they do not have financial freedom chances are they will not be making decisions as to what is being bought and consumed in the household.

Thousands of LGBT+ youth are displaced every year and are forced to live on the streets, in shelters or with friends and relatives which makes them dependent on others for food. Women in some countries are forced to be dependent on their husbands again making it hard for them to become vegan.

Veganism is easiest when you have the freedom to make such lifestyle decisions without any restrictions. A person needs to have enough financial freedom to feel able enough to make the switch from animals to plants. It’s probably not a surprise than that the top five vegan friendly cities in the world are Berlin, New York, Oregon, San Francisco and London all of which are in first world countries and have a large Caucasian population.

Now, I have come across a ton of vegan people that seem to believe the logic that if poor people in Asia are able to follow vegan diets as a part of their religions than any person can do the same. This is just pure cultural ignorance.

 

For example, most Indian people are not vegan. Indians who are practicing Sikhs and Hindus, etc. usually are vegetarian, practicing a form of pescitarianism, ovo-vegetarianism and lacto-vegetarianism. Most also consume animal products like honey, gelatin and animal fats. Brahman Hindus who make up the largest proportion of vegetarians in the country are the richest in Indian society thanks to hundreds of years of castes placing Brahmans at the very top of the social hierarchy. This means that usually richer Indians are vegetarian.

It’s also a lot easier for people in India to eat more plant based foods because it’s readily available and inexpensive. Indian society has the privilege of quick, cheap vegetarian street food which people in other places don’t have.

Another area of concern is Food Deserts. Food deserts are areas or geographic locations in which it may be difficult for a person to obtain healthy, nutritious foods; usually big cities dominated by the fast food industry. When I started cutting out certain foods from my diet it was easy to replace them with other foods. Cow’s milk to almond milk, meat to lentils and beans, vegan alternatives like vegan butter came in handy and a multi vitamin each day was useful. However, not everyone has the option of just going to a supermarket or grocery store and replacing certain items with other items. Some people don’t even have access to grocery stores at all.

 

Now remember if someone takes on a vegan lifestyle we want them to do it in a way that is good for their health. If you’re taking certain things out of your diet these need to be replaced. It’s not worth becoming a vegan if you are going to harm your health because you’re stuffing yourself with chips and Oreos on a daily bases.

A vegan diet can be really good for your health. It can reduce risk of a number of illnesses and can even cure some, but this is in the case that a person is eating a healthy vegan diet. If someone cannot find access to healthy vegan food or if they cannot afford to eat healthy it would be better for their health if they steered clear of veganism and kept a healthy balanced diet instead.

 

I’ve heard a number of vegans point out some ridiculous reasons why it would be healthier for every person to be vegan. These people don’t know every single person’s body and most of them don’t have any qualifications to be dishing out health advice. People like FreeLee are problematic because they’re encouraging unhealthy eating habits which may result in deficiencies or eating disorders. FreeLee herself has admitted to suffering from Orthorexia which is a major red light that nobody should be taking health advice from her.

 

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FreeLee the White-Wealthy-First-World Banana Girl has a nasty habit of harassing people for their dietary choices something I refer to as “unethical veganism”. There is never a good enough reason to harass someone for eating a meat and dairy diet. Telling someone that they shouldn’t be eating meat and dairy because you don’t is like telling someone that they should give up their halal or kosher diet because you feel uncomfortable about it. Funnily enough, the Muslim and Jewish communities are often shunned by animal rights activists. It has a weird colonialist feel to it. You can’t force your beliefs onto people just because you feel overly self-righteous about what you believe; it creates a sense of superiority over others. That’s exactly what privilege is.

 

There is also a ton of conspiracy theory being promoted by vegans stating that medical sciences can’t be taken seriously anymore because it’s being “funded by the meat industry”. This is entirely untrue. There is no proof to back it up and it seems somewhat impossible if you consider how medical sciences work differently across the globe.

 

One of the biggest reasons I went vegan and continue to support the ideology of veganism is because I really despise the meat industry. I’ve done a ton of reading and I know that there are major concerns about the meat industry being unethical and harmful and I agree on some form of boycott. However, to create lies like the one I mentioned, discredits the medical sciences and medical professionals who dedicate their entire lives to the well-being of others. When it comes to health it’s important that we trust people like doctors and nutritionists instead of people like FreeLee the Banana Girl.

These forerunners and propagandists are also guilty of promoting issues with regards to body image which explains why statistically first world women make up the bulk of vegans worldwide.

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The mainstream vegan community has a reputation of being insensitive with regards to things like rape, murder and especially slavery. On a number of occasions famous vegan individuals and organisations have made comparisons between animal cruelty and slavery. Not only is this insensitive, but it’s also a factually incorrect comparison. It shows a lot of ignorance on behalf of the vegan movement.

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Vegans are not morally superior as much as they may think they are. Plant based foods are not 100% cruelty free. Thousands of people across the world are exploited for their labour on farms. Child labour and unpaid or underpaid labour on farms in the third world is not uncommon. The people harvesting fruits and vegetables in Latin America and Africa are practically slaves to their economic circumstance. This is why comparing slaves to animals is problematic.

I believe that the mainstream (and I mean mainstream) vegan movements are really insensitive to intersections. It doesn’t consider people of different races, people who come from different socio-economic backgrounds, sick or disabled people, the LGBT+ community, women and so much more. To say that everyone should be vegan is to say that you want to force your very white, very first world, very heterosexual, very cis gendered, very PRIVILEGED ideologies onto other people by criticizing and harassing them. Whether or not you agree with peoples decisions, you need to respect their freedom to make those decisions.

 

 

That being said I think that veganism is a wonderful lifestyle choice and much like giving in charity people should consider doing it because it’s an honorable thing to do. I know of some amazing vegans out there doing wonderful things for their health and the planet. I’m not trying to criticize or generalize all vegans with this post, but I do believe that there are some serious problems within the vegan community and that they need to be spoken about so that we can fix them. For a start, bullying and harassment need to end.

The Black and White of Feminism: A Commentary on Mabel Jansen, Racism and White Feminism.

 

Within light of Mabel Jansens racist comments , I thought I’d do a post on White Feminism. We currently exist within a culture that regrets and denies us the right to speak about race issues within the movement.

The term white feminism itself has created quite a stir from both feminists and non feminists. Most complaints come from white women who feel that they’ve been generalised or discriminated against. What a lot of white women need to realize, however is that although they are disadvantaged as women,  they are in a privileged position as white woman. Just like with white men,  white women need to unlearn racism.

The problem with white feminism is that it creates the illusion that feminism is a Eurocentric ideology. This doesn’t only chase women of color away from the movement,  but it also pushes the idea that feminism is an exclusive movement reserved only for white women.

Issues with white feminists begin with othering and end with the “saviour complex”, assuming that white feminists from the Third World have the duty to save non white women from their “oppressive and subordinate” position in non white communities. If you haven’t already realised what’s wrong with this, let me spell it out for you; We are tired of being treated like children. Women of color are not incapable of defending themselves, in fact we are more than capable and have been successfully doing it for thousands of years. The history of gender equality movements didn’t start in Europe or as a result of white women, in fact they existed long before the first wave of feminism in Europe.

Honestly, If you feel the need to help amplify the voices of w.o.c that’s all well,  but it’s not okay to assume an authoritative position over the lives of these women.

Another thing that white feminists need to realize is that its not okay to force your brand of freedom onto other women. While mini skirts may seem liberating to you,  burkhas might be liberating to another.

This is why we are tired of you using us as a reference point in your arguments or the default definition of oppression. Saying things like “feminism is necessary because women in Nigeria can’t go to school” is problematic because by saying that you are not helping Nigerian women and neither does that comment reveal that you have any plans to help those women, you’re simply using their oppression to make your point.
You have a problem if you can’t formulate a simple opinion without trampling over other women.

 Mabel Jansen is a perfect example of white feminism. In her racist rant she repeatedly referred to ideas of othering; pointing out rape in someone else’s culture and then assuming that your culture is somehow superior is by definition racism.

It’s odd, if not absolutely absurd, to say that you believe in gender equality while being a racist.

I feel that it’s extremely important for us to create dialogue around race in order to maintain both relevance and unification in the movement. It’s of utmost importance to move away from classical and harmful ideas of feminism in order to build and better and more equal world.

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