Welcome to the first post in a series about lessons learned from human rights movements. These lessons are intended to shed light on the barriers and solutions to building a connectionist movement. We’re all working for justice, after all.
Why human rights? I’ve noticed in the connectionist world that I come from a fairly unique place in that human rights, specifically work to address violence against women, led me to animal and environmental rights. I just didn’t see how I could possibly end violence against women in isolation. I’ve found that those who work exclusively towards human rights are the hardest to engage in the idea of comprehensive, connectionist theory and work. This series is an attempt to further the movement by providing simple, short insights into what’s holding the connectionist movement, and ultimately all human-exclusive movements, back and how we can move forward to achieve lasting, sustainable change.
When work on Connect the Dots began in 2005, it was nearly impossible for me to tell co-workers that I am a vegan. You see, I work in human rights, specifically the movement to end gendered violence. You’ll get to a chance to read more about that in my essay on comprehensive violence prevention for Connect the Dots Essays. What I want to focus on here is how things have and have not changed and what I’ve learned so far.
First, as someone who came to this work from the human rights world, specifically from feminist movements, I am pretty unique. I hesitate to say “alone” because our numbers (or simply willingness to speak and/or visibility) are growing. Animal rights folks especially, in my experience, have always been more open to the concept that all oppressions are linked. Everyone I have worked with from animal rights movements has loved the idea of Connect the Dots and signed on right away. Human rights folks, however, not so much. I get more push back from human rights activists that from anyone else. Several of these folks actively rally against the connectionist philosophy, or even just veganism or vegetarianism, and try to convince me and the rest of the world that it’s simply wrong, wrong, wrong. It makes sense, though, when you realize that to buy into a connectionist perspective, you have to believe that speciesism is real. I would argue that the majority of folks within human rights movements don’t.
- Barrier 1: We need to legitimize speciesism.
- Proposed Solution to Barrier 1: Keep up the great animal rights work and bring it to human rights folks. Work with connectionist partners within human-focused movements to tailor messages and brands to the specific audience.
Hierarchies and Dichotomies
I was just watching a video the other day that lamented about the fact that there are more laws prohibiting violence against non-human animals than there are against women. I probably hear this about 100 times a year. While it’s getting less frequent, it’s still a very popular complaint. While human-rights movements often promote the dismantling of hierarchies and dichotomies, they also frequently replicate the very “us vs. them” mentalities they seek to eradicate. I’m told that we need to “have priorities” and that, come on, you cannot argue that non-human animals are as important as humans. It’s them or us. Why? The same oppressive mentalities that fuel injustices against all beings directly fuel the very roots that allow human injustices to occur. How does embracing a hierarchy of worth ever help us?
- Barrier 2: Hierarchies of worth openly embraced.
- Barrier 3: Dichotomies promoted (us vs. them, either/or)
- Proposed Solution to Barriers 2&3: Highlight and reflect the hierarchical and dichotomous thinking. Most human rights people are embarrassed* when they realize they are replicating the very core of what they want to dismantle. It will likely come out as anger first, but this is truly a point in which awareness raising truly is needed. Follow-up with connectionist education – attend to the particular human-focused issue being addressed and educate about the connections (for example, share information about the dairy industry with anti-rape activists).
Well, that’s quite enough for one post. What do you think? Are you a connectionist in a human rights movement? Does your perspective differ? Any other tips, tools, or insights?
A peaceful and just world for ALL – let’s work together to get there.
*Avoid shaming! It doesn’t work, it’s disrespectful, and there is no quicker way to lose credibility.