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For Marti

21 Nov

I just found out that Marti Kheel died today.  I don’t know what to do except to write about her.

Marti was a supporter, a mentor, and a friend.  Like no other.  I met her at an animal rights conference.  I had known that she was the co-founder of Feminists for Animal Rights and I wanted to thank her, simply thank her.  Little did I know what would become of that thank you.

I owe so much to Marti.  She didn’t have to support me.  But she did.  I don’t know why she was so wonderful to me after we met.  I don’t know why she reached out to me with so much little-deserved support and respect.  All I know is that she’s the reason Connect the Dots is what it is.  She’s the reason the idea from 2005 has kept going, amidst major life changes, tragedies, and simply daily living and subsistence.  I feel like in a way she made sure that I didn’t give up on it.  I never saw that until now.

Marti is the reason that my dream is alive.

I don’t know how to cope with the loss of someone who I never thought I deserved the respect of.  I don’t know how to say goodbye to someone who believed in me in a way I never understood.  I just have no idea how to let Marti go.

So I won’t.  Marti lives on through Connect the Dots.  She lives on through my commitment to feminist veganism.  She lives on through my commitment to address sexual violence within the animal rights movement.  These are things she gave to me.

The wound of Marti’s passing is fresh and hurts incredibly deeply but I will make sure that her memory, her legacy, and her life is celebrated.

I will miss you Marti and my thank you extends forever.  You gave me courage, strength, and hope to no end.

(Post originates from Ashley’s Blog)


Response to VegNews: Empathizing with Slaughterhouse Workers

12 Nov

CtD’s own Stacia recently wrote a letter to VegNews:

I respectfully disagree with the person who wrote a letter in the July/August issue of VegNews stating that empathizing with slaughterhouse workers is akin to feeling pity towards the SS soldiers who worked in Nazi concentration camps.  No one wants to grow up to be a slaughterhouse worker.  There is little pay, lots of danger, and no status.  Slaughterhouse work is undertaken because of a severe lack of choices, or rather, privilege.  If one has the privilege to make other choices, one can consider herself or himself fortunate.  There are a myriad of reasons for working in a slaughterhouse:  trying to establish a life in a new country with limited opportunities, a stagnant local economy, lack of access to good education, poverty.  Being vegan is so much more than about what food you eat or what clothes you wear.  It is about trying to be kind to yourself, other people, animals, and the Earth.  Caring about people who work under perilous conditions for very little compensation is vegan.  It is also vegan to strive to get others to reduce the demand for such work and then to try to focus on improving conditions in other sectors of food production, such as for produce workers.  Check out the Food Empowerment Project to learn more about the perils of slaughterhouse work and produce work as well as how to eat more healthy and get active on this front.     

Stacia Mesleh

Somerville, MA

Don’t Expect a Pendulum to Swing to the Middle

24 Oct

By Stacia Mesleh

A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted something about putting together a “smack a white boy” music mix.  As I was contemplating this, I realized that if a friend had posted something about putting together a “smack a black boy” mix, I would immediately defriend that person.  I didn’t consider defriending the person in question.  I stopped to think about whether that was right, wrong or hypocritical.  It is socially okay one way, but clearly not socially okay the other way.  Did the pendulum swing a bit to the other side?  On the surface, maybe, but in actuality, definitely not.

Once I started working on the Connect the Dots concept with Ashley, I became aware of social matters that had rarely permeated my conscientiousness before, like heteronormative behaviors, whiteness as the norm, and white privilege.  It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s just that some things are invisible to us like the air we breathe because they so all-pervasively surround us.  If you are part of the “norms” group, they are easy to miss.  If you are not part of that group, they are impossible to ignore.  They impact every moment and can limit your choices, happiness, opportunities, and even possibly– your safety and life.

Since I consciously chose not to carry the racism, homophobia, and ethnocentrism of my family into my adult life, I thought I had done what I could and should to be a kind citizen.  It was definitely a step in the right direction, but there was more to learn.

We can’t simply look at matters on the surface or even evaluate them based on social acceptance.  I started thinking that it is easier to get offended by the knock on white people than it would be to suffer the cruelties historically imposed by white people.  Slavery, breeding programs for people (I’d never thought about this horrific aspect of slavery before reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved), the selling of adults and children, segregation, genocide of Native Americans, colonialism, and the devaluing all bodies and lives that are not white enough.  If you hold white privilege or identify as white, stop and think, really think, about what it would be like to have your child taken from you and sold; no way to protect the life that you would give your own for.  It is too terrible for me to take in.  Imagine (or maybe know) that your ancestors suffered this.   I’ve heard so many times, “That stuff is all in the past!!!  There is equal opportunity now!!”  Not really.  Everything builds on everything else.  Inequality has been woven into the social fabric of this landscape since the onset of European colonization.  Where we are now is the product of everywhere we’ve been.  There are many books that detail the lack of equal accesses to resources that plague people who are not perceived as white.  One that I found informative was Tim Wise’s Between Barack and a Hard Place.  I’m sure a simple Google search could reveal many more.  If you think that there is a level playing field now, please get to reading or just look around!

For people who hold privilege around any identity, it is easy to unintentionally offend.  This is uncertain ground for our intent can be vastly different than our actual impact.  What do you do?  First, own your mistake and apologize.  Then, don’t expect the person you offended to teach you.  This is like putting the impetus for preventing a social problem on the victims of that problem instead of on the people who help keep the problem alive.  This may be something that is too painful for that person to do.  If the person does want to teach—listen please!  You can read and try to learn about white privilege.  Books are easy to look up and read reviews about.  Also, if you engage in an issue about race relations, wait before thinking you know the right answer.  Get a feel for what is going on.  Listen a lot.  Ask how you can contribute instead trying to lead the group.

This stuff gets even stickier when you consider the issue of shame.  None of us likes to be shamed and it is human nature to focus more energy on getting over the embarrassment than on the issue at hand.  If we lived in an ideal world, when we made an error based on a lack of knowledge rather than malice, we would get information given to us about how that affected another person without the virulent dose of shame.  But if we lived in that ideal world, unjust treatment wouldn’t be a part of anyone’s everyday reality and we certainly can’t deny that it is.  The bottom line is that it is easier to be hurt by shame than it would be to live in another person’s shoes who has born the impact of racism an entire life.  It is definitely easier than it would have been to have lived through slavery or segregation as a person of color.  As pendulums always do, it has swung past the middle—by a bit.  And keep in mind that this is just in the realm of social media, and leftist social media at that, not in access to desirable jobs, education, housing, a clean environment, healthcare, or healthy food.  Now, imagine if it had swung all the way to the other side.  What would you do with all that anger?

What’s The Official Story? Cultural Change for a Connectionist World

20 Oct

Dr. Will Tuttle wrote a fabulous article for One Green Planet in which he discusses the fact that the Occupy Wall Street movement has included industrial animal abuse in their list of concerns.  While we wrote about that exciting phenomenon in a recent post, we want to highlight his article for another reason – culture.

In this article, Dr. Tuttle talks about the fundamental cultural change that needs to take place in order for us to create a truly peaceful and just world.  He focuses on the plight of cows in industrial agribusiness and connects that with the pharmaceutical-medical complex in what he calls, and what truly is, a poignant riddle.  

We love this article because it focuses on cultural change and asks what is it about our culture that perpetuates violence, abuse, and exploitation?  We at CtD believe that we need to fundamentally change culture to promote the health and well-being of ALL.  We believe that we need to challenge norms, or standards of behavior, that fuel violence and exploitation.  We need to replace these norms with new, healthy, positive norms.  Dr. Tuttle promotes this when he states:

We can free ourselves when we awaken from the cultural food trance and its official story line—that meat and dairy are natural for us to eat—and switch to a plant-based way of eating that frees the animals, ecosystems, and people enslaved by this official story.

What stories have we been told?  What stories do we buy into?  And who profits?

Guest Post: Why I’m Vegetarian

18 Oct

i wrote one poem, drew one bar napkin sketch, and wrote one essay. one of those was academic, one honest, and one angry. and those were probably in a different order than you’d think.

i kept thinking about when my mom got food stamps and she’d give me the book, and we didn’t know a bunch about food like i do now, but i did know a thing or two about quantity and also about being kinda hungry, so in short order i got good at understanding bargains.

so when i think about being vegetarian now part of me i guess is still 6 and embarrassed with my stupid purple sweatpants and 5lb chub of ground beef. but another part of me loves that 6 year old more than any resentments he can plant, and out of love for him, i can’t suffer the work of the InHuman on quarterly rushes to define a product chain that requires a separation from the reality of the inhumanity of production simply because we’d collapse into a moment of authentic experience if we saw it; authentic experience which for some would be not dissimilar to recognizing other deals we make or were made for us.

similar grinders INVISIBLE inVISIBLE inVISIBLE, peach skin and straight sex and easy bake oven bullshit is easy for me to understand once I saw a couple of cracks; i still can’t intuit the relative ethical proximity  of eating a hamburger to killing a human.  but I think it might be a stupid question because i am missing something really obvious. ­

i don’t eat meat because i really like people. and I’m afraid of what we have to give up to consume autonomy of any kind.


Connectionists Take On Occupy Wall Street

16 Oct

We’ve seen a lot in the online world lately using a connectionist perspective on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.  While some literally use the OWS message to represent the plight of non-human animals:

…others write about why the movement should include issues beyond a human-exclusive focus.  This article on One Green Planet, for instance, delineates a 4 clear arguments why food policy should be a part of the OWS movement:

  1. The food industry is a monopoly
  2. The food industry mistreats farmers, its own employees, and the environment
  3. Wall Street leaves millions to starve
  4. Politicians are in bed with agribusiness

Please read and share the article for an explanation of these points as well as several relevant links.

Here at CtD, we hope to encourage, support, and build capacity  to advocate for more connections in movements like these.  Regardless of the strategy, we are thrilled to see a push for a connectionist approach to a very, very popular human-focused social justice movement.  It is through efforts to be inclusive to ALL that we will truly attain a peaceful and just world.

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.