I spent September 12th- 16th at a grantee meeting and then the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC). Like last year, the conference sparked a lot of thought, made a lot of connections, and was a fabulous learning experience.
Going to the conference, I was excited because I just knew that I wouldn’t be the only vegan there. The lonely days of explaining why I’m such a freak were over! And while those days were more over than ever before (I hang out with awesome people – Jenny, Bethany, Kat, Jonathan – that’s you!), I still felt quite alone. Perhaps with a utopian bend, I looked forward to informal gatherings of all the feminist vegans at the conference, meeting, celebrating our community, and indulging in our feminist veganism to its fullest extent. What I found was one other fellow vegan…as I left a restaurant that served far too much veal (and isn’t any too much?).
I also found so very many friends and colleagues who completely respected my veganism. That’s how things are getting better, and fast. This is the first time at a human-focused conference that anyone wanted to walk a mile to go to a vegan anarchist café with me. Thanks Kat and Jonathan!
As like last year’s conference, several speakers and workshops made connections between various forms of human-focused violence and oppression. Sessions addressed pretty much every form of oppression…except speciesism. So what this tells me is that while we aren’t there yet, the anti-violence against women movement(s) is ready for a connectionist perspective and approach. Interestingly, I can look at the stages of community readiness and see this movement on the spectrum – I can see how it has changed positions over the years. Consistent with the lessons I’ve learned from human rights movements, we must tread lightly. But people are ready – they are asking questions, they are taking our stickers and pens, and they are reading this blog (hi!).
A key tenant to any social justice work is to know our audiences and to start where they are. I’ll leave you with this – if you’re not at an anti-violence against women table, why? If you are, how? We shouldn’t storm in demanding soy creamer. We can’t yell at everyone using a plastic bottle. But we can be there. We can build relationships and community. Fundamental social change happens slowly and strategically. Thank you, NSAC, for providing a venue in which to take steps towards a peaceful and just world for all.