A Vegan for Bernie: Reflections from a decade-long supporter

2016 is the year when either big change can happen or a huge opportunity will pass again. For the past few months, people have been discovering who Bernie Sanders is and he has generated a huge movement for change which is frightening the establishment candidates, the corporate media and their lackeys.

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Bernie’s ethics and integrity are nothing new to me. I first discovered him when he was a guest each Friday morning on the now defunct Air America radio station on the Thom Hartmann program. Thom had a special segment called « Brunch with Bernie » which I never missed. That was my radio program to listen to during work (back in my corporate days in Los Angeles). Listening to Bernie each Friday was like having fresh clean air blowing in my face from listening to someone with sane politics and a strong integrity of heart.

After all these years, I am still astounded at the degree of political ignorance in the general American public and what is being done in their names. Americans are champions at voting against their best interests. When Americans still believe that Democratic Socialism is similar to the Soviet Union, I am in disbelief. I didn’t realize that all Social Democracies (like France, Germany, Sweden and others) were like the Soviet Union or that our own Communist party had so much power. In the early part of the 20th century, Socialism was not seen as bad thing however; Upton Sinclair, the author of the Jungle, was himself a socialist.

Bernie has not suddenly just dropped from a tree, he has been around and fighting for us for a long time. One of Bernie’s first job in his life was registering people for food stamps. Before he was a politician, he was first a social justice activist. In 1963, as a Chicago University activist, he was arrested for protesting segregated schools. He traveled to Washington for the famous Martin Luther King Jr « March on Washington ».  In 1972, he was editing the Liberty Union Party newsletter « Movement » in which he was already talking about economic inequalities. In 1981, he was elected as Mayor of Burlington not long after Reagan became President and he kept getting reelected, proof that his brand of socialism obviously pleased people. In 1987, he was named one of the best mayors in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Then he went on the become the only independent in the Senate. And the rest, we mostly know. I just barely scratched the surface of Bernie’s bio.

Bernie is the one and only American politician who has never wavered from his beliefs in the little man, social equality and justice and his rejection of the greedy system. That is something he has done constantly during his 50 years of career. His current opponents have tried to grill him on issues like healthcare but they have failed because Bernie doesn’t flip flop on issues, he is constant.

Why does Bernie matter to a French Vegan like me?

In the past 30 years I have started noticing a slow but gradual degradation of the French social safety net. Unfortunately, in Europe, we have this tendency to always look towards the United States and import its worse aspects. We went from small farmers to American style industrial farming, from small traditional restaurants to McDonald’s, from mom and pop stores to large retail chains (we have the largest number of big malls in Europe) and our politicians have become corrupt neo-cons imitating their American counterparts (they all have money in Panama, right?).

Bernie reminds me of the old school politicians we used to have. They were strong social democrats, meaning they always stood up for the working class, the poor and against the greedy rich. A president Bernie would send a clear message not just to America but also to the rest of the world that good values are not hypothetical or utopic but should be the norm. A politician who is not corrupt and sold out to corporations, what a novel idea! And because we, in Europe, often look up to the United States (for better or worse, usually for worse), Bernie’s influence on the rest of the world would help remind not just Americans but Europeans too of what is at stake.

The French healthcare system is currently the best in the world (according to the World Health Organization) but it’s starting to be undermined from within by our neo-liberal politicians. The British National Health System is facing similar problems. This is all a result of neoliberalism. I want my healthcare system to not change, particularly after having tasted the American one for 18 years. Americans should revisit Michael Moore’s movie « Sicko » for a taste of European healthcare and they will realize that even Obamacare is terrible. This is a good movie to also revisit to see how Hillary went from supporting Universal Healthcare (like Bernie) to selling out to Big Pharma. Well, Bernie never stopped supporting healthcare for ALL. Of course, as Vegans, we are less likely to see doctors and end up in hospitals, but we are not immune to accidents and I would rather set foot in a hospital at low cost than with a huge bill.

Have you ever seen the classic Frank Capra movie gem « Mr. Smith Goes to Washington »? It’s one of those movies you want to be real. James Stewart is a young politician who is confronted to the corruption of Washington in the 1940’s (the movie is from 1939). If Frank Capra thought it was that bad then, I wonder what he would think now. Bernie Sanders is Mr. Smith, except older. But he shares with the Jimmy Stewart character the same characteristics of integrity and willingness to fight for the common man/woman. Bernie, just like Mr. Smith, also conducted a historic filibuster when he became Senator which lasted over 8 hours. Bernie’s historic speech is reprinted completely in the book « The Speech: on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class ». When Bernie did his 2010 filibuster, it was followed by so many that it crashed the Senate server! What was Bernie filibustering about? The deal between President Obama and the Republicans which would give more tax breaks to the rich. I rest my case.

Bernie is popular with young and old alike because he stands up for us all, not for the 1% as he has consistently done so for 50 years. He never changed his opinions to fit any party lines and that is why he has remained independent and, like a modern Elliott Ness, incorruptible.

Bernie Sanders is also not a war monger (which is not something I can say about Hillary or the Republicans) and has always believed that war should be a last resort. He has voted against the Gulf War war and the war in Iraq and history has shown that he was right. I don’t know about you, but I want a President who is not trying to make the Military Industrial Complex even richer while chasing oil in foreign countries. His Foreign Policy is based on diplomatic solutions, and not war as a first resort.

Is Bernie open to animal rights?

Yes, he is already opposed to factory farming. My friends at Direct Action Everywhere have already understood this by confronting him at one of his rallies just like the #BlackLivesMatter movement did (and to which he responded).  I doubt Bernie would ever support ag gag bills and other anti-activist bills. On the contrary, he has always stood against big money which is what this bills defend. Bernie is already pro women, anti racist, pro-gay and pro-environment. He has voted against the Keystone XL-pipeline and fracking while Hillary was supporting both. He has voted against NAFTA and the TPP, and pretty much all the so-called free trade deals which are destroying jobs for the middle class in either the United States or Europe as well as hurting the planet and all life. Hillary, once again, was for them until she changed her mind because it was politically convenient for her to do so.

Bernie may not be Vegan, but he is the best candidate we have in terms of animal welfare. As much as I would like to see a Vegan in the White House (we had our chance with Kucinich in 2008 but people chose Obama), our humane candidates will never get as close to the White House as Bernie is doing right now. Therefore, we have to keep pushing him in the right direction. Bernie has consistently voted in favor of animal welfare: He is against commercial breeding, for applying some humane care to farmed animals (ok not perfect obviously but the others don’t even give a damn at all). He is opposed to cruelty towards animals in captivity or in the wild. He is also a strong defender of wildlife including the Endangered Species Act. And let’s not forget his strong environmental record.

As Bernie Sanders said, this is a revolution he can’t create alone. If he gets elected, we need to keep him accountable and keep pushing him to meet even greater expectations. He has showed that he could not be corrupted (50 years of proof!) and that he was willing to learn (as seen with the #BlackLivesMatter movement) but one thing is clear, he will always fight for the poor and the middle class, never for the rich and powerful. That is a constant record we need to keep in mind if we want to create a society of justice.

As Cesar Chavez connected the dots between social human justice and justice for non-humans, I believe Bernie could also eventually make the same connections but we have to have his back first! When people keep voting for the lesser of two evils, nothing ever changes. As Vegans, if we didn’t believe we could create a Vegan society, we would have given up a long time ago. So let’s not give up on this either.

 

Photo: Bernie Sanders – Courtesy Pixabay.com (Free photos)

Sources:

 

© Copyright April 2016 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

A Message to my Vegan/Animal Rights Sisters (and brothers)

oppression-458621_1280 I have to ask you: when did we become just pleasure dolls for men and forgot that our history, or should I say our HERstory is rich in great, intelligent and peace loving women who have been put to the side of humanity’s knowledge by the patriarchal rulers?

It first starts in our childhood. We are given Barbie Dolls, we dress them up, they wear makeup, and we make sure they get married to Ken because that is all that a young girl should apparently expect, make sure Barbie gets as much stuff in her home, because we are brainwashed to be consumers of useless crap and if Barbie was « born » today, she would probably get breast implants, facelifts, and surgery to make her buttocks bigger.

As the artist Daena Title said: « In my « DROWN the DOLLS » series, the formal compositions of refraction and reflection mirror the way women see themselves reflected and distorted, for better or worse (I believe for worse) in the image of the Barbie doll. Pervasive societal standard, indoctrinating tool, or « just a doll, » this 51 (and counting) year old icon presents a view of women that is as relentlessly fake as it is unattainable. »

The other way to know why it is so is to look at who controls the medias: 80 to 95% percent of all medias are controlled by mostly white men.  » Our columnists are still overwhelmingly old white men. There are four times as many male columnists as female columnists at the three biggest newspapers and four newspaper syndicates. (The Washington Post has 25 men to 7 women, and The New York Times has 10 men to 2 women.) The median columnist age is 60, while the median age for the American population is only 37. » ~ Time

And it’s not just the media; it’s also the movie industry. Even actress Kristen Stewart recently called Hollywood sexist.

And of course men know women better than women themselves: « In media coverage of women’s issues such as abortion, birth control, and Planned Parenthood, men are doing most of the talking, a new study has found. Men are quoted around five times more than women in these stories, according to the research group The 4th Estate […] Among 35 major national publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, men had 81 percent of the quotes in stories about abortion, the research group said Thursday, while women had 12 percent and organizations had 7 percent. «  ~ The Daily Beast

And some people say that « male (mostly white) privilege » doesn’t exist? As Barry Deutsch points out in his Male Privilege checklist « Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to soldiers selecting male civilians to be executed, to male workers dying of exposure to unsafe chemicals – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also immeasurably harms boys and men. However, although I don’t deny that men suffer, this post is focused on advantages men experience. »

Do you also remember this great Howard Beal moment from the movie Network in 1976?

“We’re in a lot of trouble! Because you people and 62 million other Americans are listening to me right now. Because less than 3% of you people read books. Because less than 15% of you read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole and entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel. The ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers. This tube is the most awesome goddamn force in the whole godless world and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people!”

“And when the largest company in the world controls the most awesome, goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network! So you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television’s a goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business.”

“But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing! We are the illusion!”

What kind of women and messages are allowed on TV? People like Kim Kardashian, represent the worst of womanhood by using their bodies as a sexual tool and sending the message to other women (of course with the happy assent of men) that it is all that women are worth.

Is this what we have become? Sexualized constantly beyond any sense where we don’t even have any role models anymore for young women to emulate who represent the beauty, intelligence and ideals of most women? Is it any wonder that the rap culture calls women « ho« , « sluts », etc…? while young girls put on tiny skirts and dreams of having big breasts, big behinds and looking like Britney Spears, Kim and others like them?

One of my biggest wake up call, besides the World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle and The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams, on the state of how women are perceived and manipulated in our culture, is the documentary Miss Representation which interviews leading women (of all stripes and political views) about their struggle to be recognized as intelligent leaders and having to work twice as hard as men to achieve it.

During the last election campaign, any time Hillary Clinton (whatever you think of her) was appearing on television, the media was only interested in her looks, the fact that she liked wearing pants and so on. And they did similar non-sense to then Senator Barrack Obama with blunt racist remarks. When does it stop? How many (white) men you see criticized for their clothes or looks on TV? The media is made of ultra-sexists corporate owned old white males. And they hate change in society. So they control what we hear, see and think.

I found a wonderful blog by an unknown woman (she doesn’t identify herself in it) who said: « Although men who commit sexual assault are in the minority, their actions occur within the larger context of a culture that relentlessly commodifies the female body at every possible turn. From bikini contests to strip clubs to the use of supermodels to “sell” consumer goods, the message is clear: the female body exists for the sexual gratification of men. Thinking, breathing, feeling human beings are reduced, in our consumer culture, to a means to someone else’s ends. This hypersexualization of our bodies creates a tremendous amount of pressure on us to look and act sexy all the time, because we are told (implicitly and explicitly) that our primary measure of worth lies in our ability to please men. »

We can’t turn to the media without seeing this hypersexualisation/commodification of women’s bodies. There is nothing about their feelings, their intelligence, their inner beauty, and their aspirations. They are treated no differently than the cows whose bodies get abused and their babies stolen constantly. The fact that we see women getting implants for bigger breasts (because they now value themselves on the size of either their breasts or butt) mirrors what we do to cows. As Will Tuttle always says, « what we do to animals, we end up doing to humans ». But it could be also said that our treatment of animals mirrors how we value ourselves as human beings.

The women who get naked during PETA‘s actions are doing it « willingly » obviously but as the blogger above said, « And that’s exactly why it’s absurd to claim, as some do, that women can empower themselves by participating in their own commodification. Sure, the woman at the strip club ‘chose’ to work there. But that ‘choice’ was made in the context of a culture in which women do not have the economic resources that men have; in which she was taught, from a young age, that it is her job to please men; and in which the men who pay to watch her degrade herself have been taught, from a young age, that they are entitled to sexual privilege over women. Victim-approved exploitation is still exploitation. » It’s no more a freedom than claiming that we « choose » to eat meat, dairy and eggs. It’s exactly the same: a conditioned false « choice ». It’s a choice made before we were born by this male dominated world of might makes right.

Women like Eleanor Roosevelt who oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been relegated to the pages of history while the only examples of intelligent women (which we agree with or not) in our time are few and between and get ridiculed by the sexists of the world and constantly told to shut up. One example: Hillary Rodham Clinton took her husband’s last name because of social pressure to conform. As Rudy Moore of the New Yorker explains: « She did not do so much on the campaign trail that year. A woman was expected to smile, and not give speeches. And the name issue was in the forefront. »

Other important women include: Senator Elizabeth Warren, a strong advocate of the poor and working people, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Vandana Shiva, a champion of seed rights, anti-GMO and women’s rights activist, Gloria Steinem, who always fought for women’s rights and the most recent Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, who fought for the right of girls to be educated. But what role models young girls and young women see constantly? None of them. Instead they get the « selfies » of Kim Kardashian, the rap videos of male singers with women drooling over them, the latest sex scandals, and why Oprah is suddently so fat. Yes, that’s what we give as role models to young girls in the male dominated media.

My current favorite peace activist woman at the moment is Leymah Gbowee (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) who started a sex strike to force men to act on the violence in her country of Liberia and managed to avoid a war. Nothing works better than threatening men with the one thing most of them care about: their sexual male privilege, or genitals’ use over women (hence the rates of rapes and subjugation against women in the world which are at an all time high).

In the vegan/animal rights movement, vegans are not immune to this male privilege and I found it to be pervasive in our movement. Yet the majority of these men (and women) don’t even see it. Our movement is 80% female. Yet the majority of animal protection organizations are controlled by men. PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk is one of the rare females who leads one but she buys into what I described above. I might as well ignore her on this.

Yet, in the history of the movement, it’s mostly women who have started the fight for other animals and that is conveniently forgotten for the most part. If it were not for my friend Carolyn Mullin’s National Museum of Animals and Society in Los Angeles, I would never have known about these pioneering women: Margaret Cavendish (Writer, anti-vivisectionist -1623–1673), Jean Clemens (Daughter of Mark Twain – she was the founder of several animal protection societies – although I coudn’t find a reference to which ones – 1880–1909), Frances Power Cobbe (Founder of the National Anti-Vivisection Society and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection – 1822–1904), Rukmini Devi (Dancer, founder of the Animal Welfare Board of India – 1904–1986), Nina Douglas-Hamilton (Co-founder of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society – 1878–1951), Lizzy Lind af Hageby (Founder of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society, known for the Brown Dog affair – 1878–1963). Who even knows these pioneers? And there are many others. And some of them were also abolitionists who fought against African-American slavery.

The philosophers of the animal rights movement are plenty. But the ones always in the limelight (although justly) are mostly men: Gary Francione, Peter Singer, Will Tuttle, Tom Regan and a few others. Most of us have read any of their books, maybe all of them and they have accordingly influenced our thinking. Gary Francione and particularly Will Tuttle, talk about sexism or as Will refers to it « the suppression of Sophia » and recognize our feminine values of caring, compassion and inclusion should be at the forefront of this movement. Yet, despite all this, there are a number of men in this movement who still don’t see or recognize their male privilege in this society. That is the taboo they refuse to talk about.

And what about our women philosophers? Most of them are cast aside, or simply ignored. I bet there are some of them whose work you don’t even know. I’ll throw some names here: Carol J. Adams (Eco-feminist writer, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990)), Brigitte Bardot (Former model, animal rights activist, founder of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation), Sue Coe (Artist, illustrator, author of « Cruel: Bearing Witness to Animal Exploitation » (2012)), Karen Davis (President of United Poultry Concerns, author of The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale (2005)), Joan Dunayer (Author of Animal Equality (2001) and Speciesism (2004)), Maneka Gandhi (Politician, founder of People for Animals), Lee Hall (Lawyer, legal director of Friends of Animals), Marti Kheel (Ecofeminist writer, founder of Feminists for Animal Rights – 1948–2011), Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Hope Bohanec, Judy Carman, Emily Gaarder (who wrote the book Women and the Animal Rights Movement), Corey Lee Wren (and her website the academic abolitionist vegan) and so many others.

As women (and men), we have to stop always accepting that only men can write about animal rights or vegan philosophy. And as much as I respect their work, some women deserve to be at the forefront as well. Shouldn’t we be represented by women as well since our movement is mostly female? I embrace the works of the men above but I wish more space was given to the recognition of all the women pioneers and those who fight in their corner of the world but get no credit. Men get the credit for the most part.

The vegan/animal rights movement is still based on the inequality of the current world where men still have all the privileges and power while women are relegated to just followers or even told to shut up. I had recent experiences with vegan men who basically told me that they knew better than me on certain issues. The message was clear: you’re a woman, so shut up. Well, no, that’s just it. I WON’T.

Women make the majority of people on this planet and we also live longer. Maybe it’s because we’ve had the endurance to bare all the bulk of violence from the wars and abuses of men over the centuries while they congratulate themselves on their achievements. The Nobel Peace Prize has only 47 women winners in its over a 100 year history. They give peace prizes to men who are war lovers: We know about President Obama but did you know that Hitler and Mussolini, themselves, almost got one? At the same time, women peace activists have been denied that honor for the most part.

In most war torn countries, the tactics of raping women (and children) are used to silence them. Even in the western world, most countries, even when they have equal pay for equal work laws for women, don’t enforce these laws. Yet, despite these statistics, there are still men in the animal rights/vegan movement who still deny that women have it bad in the world, believe there is no problem and turn the other way on the issue, the same way we currently don’t want to reconcile with the predominant racism as we’ve seen in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Let’s not forget again that everything is connected. When you have millions of cows, hens and other female animals whose reproductive systems are being used and exploited forcefully, is it any wonder that we see it done to women too? It is not. Because we are not separate beings, we are all part of the same whole.

As long as some refuse to acknowledge that sexism (and even racism) exists in our movement and are unwilling to be part of a real, practical and just consciousness shift, nothing will ever really change. Animals will continue to be abused, women, men and children killed. Removing the blinders about the reality of the objectification of women and female animals is the next step to real justice in the world.

Personally, instead of women falling into the trap of being sexualized and used, I would love to see all of them start a sex strike around the world to force men to stop with their insanity. After all, we have control over that.

Sources: – Talk by the Nobel Peace Prize: Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls

– How Liberian Women Organized a Sex Strike and Helped End a War (with video of the Colbert Report) – The Institute for Inclusive Security

– The documentary Pray The Devil Back to Hell recounts the struggle of the women of Liberia and how they succeeded.

– The news program Democracy Now! from April 27, 2015 highlights the work of three Women Nobel Loreate.

– Actress Kristen Stewart on Hollywood’s sexism.

– 9 Depressing Facts From the Latest Women in Media Report – Time – Even more depressing, Men Rule Media Coverage of Women’s News – The Daily Beast

– Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to women – Nobelprize.org

– Amazing Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: Malala Yousafzai

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Daena Title – Brooklyn Museum

– Interesting article on Male Privilege: The Male Privilege Checklist by (yes a man!) Barry Deutsch – Alas a Blog

– Also see the report The Status of Women in the US Media 2014 and a report from The Global Movement: Who Controls the Media?

– Who are The top 25 influencial women in the world today? – the blog An Armenian Journalist’s Notes

– Dr. Vandana Shiva talks about how women do most of the farming in the world and Ecofeminism

– My article about PETA: Deconstructing PETA’s thinking.

– From Free from Harm, this excellent essay by Lee Hall: Why I care about Animals Rights.

– Great speech from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: From Excuse-itarian to Vegan

– Article on Care2: 5 Reasons Why Women Make Great Leaders for the Animal Rights Movement

– From the Vegan Pensive blog: Striking at the Roots of Patriarchy.

– The must see documentary Miss Representation: An overlook at the Hegemonic society that utilizes the media as a tool to dictate gender expression. This sets into motion the subordination of women in our society and the value that they hold as individuals politically and socially.

Photo: Barbie crushed – Courtesy of Pixabay.com (Royalty free picture website)

© Copyright May 2015 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content