Connectionist Reflections on the 2011 National Sexual Assault Conference

26 Sep

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.



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