Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is one of the first researcher to have coined the term « Intersectionality » to describe how various discriminations are all connected with each other and not separate. Of course, she was mostly using the term to talk about racism and white privilege.
French feminist author Christine Delphy explains that sexism is first and foremost a women’s struggle as racism is first and foremost the affair of « racialized » people. Men who address sexism must first re-examine their male privilege and white people should reexamine their white privilege. In other words, it’s mostly the victims of either who are best able to obviously talk about their experience and fight for their rights.
The problem with non-human animals is that we have taken the stance of being their voice. In all matters of human privilege over non-human animals, it is us, the privileged, who act on their behalf and we have no other choice but doing so. Our actions are, however, done through the filter of our own chatter of human privilege and constructed speciesism. Believing that going Vegan is instantly going to make us antispeciesist is naïve. Veganism is only the beginning of our understanding and duties on behalf of other animals, not an end in itself. The goal is to improve constantly on ourselves and not just content ourselves with not eating them (even if that is huge!).
Each of our actions has to be self-examined at every point at the risk of finding that they are all accomplished within the unvoluntary filter of human privilege. For example, whenever people talk about other animals, their language is (without them realizing) speciesist. I’ll give you a situation:
You are distributing vegan leaflets on the street to create awareness for the plight of « farmed » animals.
« Hi, would you like to help animals »?
« Oh I don’t know », might respond the person. « I don’t have time to care about animals ».
The term « animals » is misleading. We are all animals. Shouldn’t we say « other animals » to recognize that we shouldn’t be this special species who keeps wanting to distinguish itself of all others on the planet? This is unconscious human privilege. We separate ourselves from other animals. That’s what we’ve been taught.
Someone hearing « Hi, would you like to help other animals? » is more likely to be taken aback by the question and not dismiss the activist. I’ve seen it happen. It is forcing the person to think, not just react because no one ever refers to animals as « other animals » including us in the equation. It also implies that we are not superior to them, since we are animals too, therefore reducing any notion of human privilege.
Second example of our constant bias at work is the fact that we keep using (in the English language that is), the pronoun « it »*, which (being French) I can’t stand. « It » designs things, objects, even babies!
Example of situation:
« This poor pig, it is suffering so much! » yes SHE or HE is. Speciesism equals human privilege. We assign this (pro)noun to a living being who has so far been mostly considered a thing by our culture, conditioning, our human privilege.
Every day, our behavior is conditioned by human privilege and sadly, speciesism is the only discrimination which cannot be fought by the victims themselves. We have no choice than to constantly deconstruct our human privilege in order to give more « voice » to our non-human brothers and sisters. What we eat, like calling vegan meat, « faux meat » or « fake meat », is also speciesist in itself because it tells us that what non vegans eat is the norm when it is the anomaly. I address this a bit longer in a talk I gave in 2014.
The essence of the problem with human supremacy is that we have to destroy it in ourselves because, unlike other supremacies, this one cannot be fought by the victims as discriminated African-Americans or women might. This is the one battle which requires a true questionning of who we are as a species in regards to all others.
The good news is that the more we look at ourselves to destroy our privilege towards other species, the more we can evolve in our (un)conscious discrimination of other humans as well.
This is true intersectionality.
* »It » is a pronoun when it is used to design something even a dog as in the article here: « Is the Word “It” a Noun? »
Photo: « Junction », courtesy http://www.Pixabay.com free photos
- « L’autre versant du racisme : le privilège blanc » (the other side of racism: white privilege), by Ségolène Roy on the French independant media Médiapart
- Amazon’s English page for the author Christine Delphy
- Wikipedia page for the Civil Rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
- My talk in Los Angeles on Conditioning, History and Science, my YouTube Channel
- What is racialization, Wikipedia
- What is intersectionality, Wikipedia
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