Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 2.21

  • Chinese retiree leads crusade against fake products – “Here’s a bottle of walnut oil. The label says it fights against aging, it will help you lose weight, it will protect you against radiation and it will cure cancer. Bulls**t.” Transcript and audio of the Marketplace piece at the link, audio’s only ~4 minutes long so take a listen.
  • Indiana lawmaker calls Girl Scouts a “radicalized organization” – “A lawmaker has sent a letter to fellow Republican members of the Indiana House saying he will not support a resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts because he believes it is a “radicalized organization” that supports abortion and promotes homosexuality.” From Elaine (a proud former Girl Scout).
  • The 8 stupidest defenses against accusations of sexism – My personal favorite is the dictionary defense. Thanks to all the readers who sent this in.
  • Boyfriend went vegan PETA ad – Don’t all headdesk at once, we’ll cause an earthquake. (No gore, but a couple people in their underwear.) From Ashley.

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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41 Comments

  1. I think PETA is part of a carnivorous, critter-hatin’ conspiracy designed to undermine the more rational efforts to reduce meat-eating and animal cruelty.
    No, actually it is pretty obvious it is just in it for the attention, and doesn’t care what effect its behaviour might have on animals.
    Luckily, most people know not to judge all animal rights advocates by PETA.

  2. “8 stupidest defenses” is great, but it’s also a textbook example of why you shouldn’t ever read comments. My hope for humanity was briefly elevated by the article, then plummeted again immediately. Sigh.

    1. I must be turning into an old fart. I used to like Girl Scout Cookies as a kid, but now they just taste generic and stale. On the other hand I’d exchange one of my lungs for a brownie from Robin’s Chocolates!

        1. I solve this problem by just skipping the cookies and donating directly to the Girl Scouts (or whatever other worthwhile organizations one of the neighborhood urchins brings to my door.) Hopefully this results in more money going to their cause as well and less going to some nameless bakery. This year I too shall double my contribution.

          1. The scouts here can correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall that the Girscouts organization makes the cookies themselves. Or at least owns the recipies.

          2. Girl Scouts USA don’t make the cookies. They own the recipes, but contract the baking to different bakers across the country, I believe. When I was a girl scout in VA, lo these many years ago, the cookies were made by Fine Foods of Virginia. Little Brownie Baker was another company that had the contract for a time.

    1. I think it is very interesting, and one of my continual disappointments with the BSA. While there’s historical reasons for why it happened (short version: In the ’70’s, the Mormons bought them), I find myself unable to support or suggest the organization.

      1. I have a wonderful time as a Girl Scout, and if I have a daughter someday, I’d absolutely support her joining the Girl Scouts. It bums me out that if I have a son, I couldn’t support him joining Boy Scouts (if they would even take a kid with two atheist parents).

  3. I think the PETA video was just… weird. A bit creepy.

    Here’s my thing: There’s a strong puritanical streak among many vegans and PETAns that turns me the heck off.

    Do I think people should eat less meat? Yes.

    Do I agree that often factory farms are cruel? Yes.

    Do I agree that there are serious reasons to go more vegetable-heavy? Yes.

    So why do I always hate talking to vegans and animal rights activists about food?

    Here’s what I get — that is, the signals I pick up:

    1. I eat no animal products and that makes me a morally better person
    2. I will live longer (conflated with forever)

    Sound familiar to anyone? Yes, it’s a very religious-sounding thing. It’s awfully similar to religious people who say “I do X and I am a moral person who will live forever (in heaven).”

    That may not be the signal you want to send, vegans, but it is the one I (and many others I suspect) are receiving.

    As someone who cooks (and loves cooking) and cooks a pretty damned good vegan meal, I feel that too often vegans want to take all the pleasure out of food. So much of it is just plain awful, and avoiding animal products, while maintaining your health, only requires a little willingness to explore the produce section and try stuff.

    There’s also a ton of woo about health among vegans. Did the meat industry make some bad claims about its products? Yes, but woo isn’t the answer.

    The upshot is that many people I meet who are vegans and PETA people make me want to club a baby seal. I won’t say that is a good reaction, but I get the feeling it isn’t the one they want. Maybe I am wrong about that.

    Maybe it’s also because I used to live in a kosher house, and none of us said that being kosher made us better humans.

    (For those who do not know: Kashrut is a covenant with the Big Man. It marks you as a Jew, just as certain modes of dress do. The issue is IDing your tribe, not necessarily being morally better. Jews draw a much clearer line between sin and evil. Eating pork is a sin, but no Jew would call it evil. Christianity in our mainstream culture has conflated the two).

    1. I am not sure about this. If you think morality ia real (which no one needs to do) then being morally good of course makes you morally good! At least in this aspect.

      If you’re vegan for moral reasons and believe that speciecism is wrong or generally believe that creating animal suffereing when there is no need is a bad thing, then of course people engaging in these behaviours do things that are morally subpar.

      Now if you don’t believe that causing suffering to animals for food is wrong, that’s a whole different thing. But if accept this premise, I don’t see how it could not follow that people who don’t do this act morally wrong in this field of actions, depending on how strong your convictions are.

      You think it’s wrong that people judge other people, so you feel these people act wrongly. You think it’s wrong that people kill other people for no good reason, so you think these people act wrongly, etc.

      Now, just to clarify: I am a) a vegan and b) a moral relativist, so I try not to think too much in “wrong and right”, but emotionally we all do to some degree, don’t we?

      1. I admit I react mostly to the puritanical streak a lot of vegans show, when I think about it. And I also frankly feel that veganism as it manifests in the US, UK and other first-world areas fairly drips with privilege.

        Unlike a lot of other moral choices, food can be constrained. I mean, if you are allergic to wheat gluten or something staying healthy on a vegan diet is harder to do.

        But too often I see a lot of hard-core vegans ignore that point. (I think you know the kind of vegan I am talking about).

        Then there’s the pleasure aspect. I’m not sure how to articulate this well, but let me give an example. I come from a family that told me that part of appreciating another person’s culture is to share their food with them. And I’m not talking about going to some exotic locale either. Think of it as a variation on DBAD.

        Plus, I noticed that most vegans I know can’t cook. Really. Look, folks, if you can’t cook a vegetable, don’t go for substitutes, and if you need a ton of vitamin supplements to stay healthy you need to adjust your diet. If you’re food is no fun and tasteless then FFS, see a doctor because you may be missing you sense of taste and smell :-).

        Food is not penance. But too many vegans seem to see it as such — like you’re doing some kind of penance for being a human or trying to take on self-flagellation. That’s the quasi-religious bit I start getting creeped out by.

        Now, when I cook for other people I am aware of dietary constraints. I ask people if there are things they object to eating or are allergic to. (A dinner guest who drops dead of shock from peanut sauce is no fun, you know?) But the whole point is to share, to have fun, to bring people together. DO you keep halal or kosher? Fine. I can definitely work with that. Vegan? I have a peanut stew recipe you’ll love. I fry brussels sprouts with orange juice and it is great.

        But then I met this one woman who was doing PETA work in Covent Garden, in London. She was doing the usual passing out of leaflets and had the usual out of date pictures of animal experiments (a lot of the grosser ones they use are decades old). But I struck up a conversation. She mentioned traveling to the Inuit region of the far north of Canada. Wow I said, that’s cool. She mentioned that she and her beau brought up their own food, because of course in the far north vegetables are kind of not an option.

        She then mentioned that an Inuit family essentially offered her dinner. But she couldn’t do it, she went and brought her vegan food.

        Am I the only one here who thinks that’s insulting? That it underlines the privilege?

        I disagree with a lot of things my wife’s family, for instance. They are more religious than either of us. But I don’t go in and tell them they are a bunch of ignorant savages for being religious, or go on a rant about how awful the Church is and how they are stupid for believing in God.

        The above video illustrates to me, all the problems with PETA and a large section of the vegan movement.

        1. I think it’s a bit problematic saying it’s negative that veganism/most vegans come from a privileged background because while it might be true, it does not really say anything against the argument for animal rights. Enviormentalists, political activists, etc, they almost always come from educated background and for a reason.

          Now, if vegans are prejudiced against non-vegans, that’s bad. But prejudice is hardly just on the side of vegans, I find most people at least as much prejudiced against vegans, too. I think part of the whole “us vs them” thing is that vegans are a minority and I think a lot of people react this way, too. They feel attacked (because they are attacked) for their choices and react with more negativity. And I think it’s really hard not to when you are so convinced by something.

          Think of something you are completely convinced about, say, that racism is wrong, then it will difficult for you to be completely calm and friendly to openly racist people, even though you think in principle all people are the same, and the racist might come from a poor neighbourhood and have no chance in life, etc.
          In a perfect world we would always be calm and just present our arguments and if someone is incapable to argue, we would stop, but it’s not like this.

          “Then there’s the pleasure aspect. ”
          I don’t know any vegans who don’t want their food pleasurable. And if they do miss bacon and cheese, they might still think animals rights are more important than this. As a really good cook I find the notion that vegan food is not pleasurable pretty old-fashioned and absurd. You can eat crap, you can eat healthy food, you can eat low-carb, low-fat, you can eat Indian, Chinese, etc. Most countries have vegan food or food than can be easily veganized, as poor people generally didn’t eat meat on a day-to-day basis.

          “Plus, I noticed that most vegans I know can’t cook. Really. Look, folks, if you can’t cook a vegetable, don’t go for substitutes, and if you need a ton of vitamin supplements to stay healthy you need to adjust your diet. If you’re food is no fun and tasteless then FFS, see a doctor because you may be missing you sense of taste and smell”

          Well as far as anecdotal evidence goes : Personally the vegans I know are better cooks than the non-vegans because they had to stop relying on fast food and having the opportunity to eat everywhere, etc.
          But sure, there are vegans who can’t cook. But I’m pretty sure you’re not going to argue that most people in general are pretty crappy cooks these days..?

          Vegans certainly don’t get any less pleasure from food that omnivores in general. It is not some weird diet you have to force yourself to do every day again. Once you’re used to it, that’s just how it is. And dairy products aren’t even appealing to most vegans, also because it becomes very difficult to digest once you stop eatint them.

          “Food is not penance. But too many vegans seem to see it as such — like you’re doing some kind of penance for being a human or trying to take on self-flagellation. That’s the quasi-religious bit I start getting creeped out by.”

          Well, I hate dogma as much as the next person on here, but trying to live a life that goes well with your own morals is not being dogmatic.
          If you buy food (I’m going to think of the general go-to-supermarket-to-get-stuff person here because it needs to adjusted for people who slaughter their own animals) then you do make a moral choice in the same way you make a moral choice when you buy tons and tons of crappy electronics, when you buy from companies who do thinks you’re not behind (whatever that is). Putting your money somewhere is moral act. When I buy my stuff from a neo-nazi clothing company, I give money to something I despise. When I give money for foods that causes an animal to feel pain and suffering, then I give money to something I despise.

          It’s not “right” because someone tells me to do it, there’s no higher goal then trying to live by what I believe is right, which I examine again and again and derive from logical thinking and my own life philosophy. I do believe pain and suffering is a bad thing, maybe that’s the most irrational I get, but I’m sure that’s an instinct I don’t need to defend, really.

          “a lot of the grosser ones they use are decades old”
          I don’t see how that lessens their point, especially considering how it’s harder to get photographs nowadays, as most companies like this would not let you in anyway. And getting in without permission makes you a terrorist (ha, at least in the USA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Enterprise_Terrorism_Act).

          “Am I the only one here who thinks that’s insulting? That it underlines the privilege?”
          I don’t know. I think both are logical reactions. Eating it for the people’s sake or not eating it and sticking with your principles. Would you eat human flesh if you visited a tribe who did this in a ritual? I’m not sure if I could.
          But clearly, this is not the point of veganism. The point is to cause as little suffering to animals as possible. If you think in this situation it’s impossible to say no to the meat, sure, go ahead and eat it (though of course, there’s not just the part about sticking to your morals, there’s also feelings like disgust of eating it, and also digestion problems).

          “I disagree with a lot of things my wife’s family, for instance. They are more religious than either of us. But I don’t go in and tell them they are a bunch of ignorant savages for being religious, or go on a rant about how awful the Church is and how they are stupid for believing in God.”

          I don’t really see how this has much to do with the other example. She didn’t go up to the Inuit and tell them their actions were wrong, she merely didn’t want to participate in their actions. She did not say they were stupid for being omnivores.

          Anyway, would you not say anything to someone who does something that harms other people? I’m sure that could be criticized, too, even though it might be polite.

          “The above video illustrates to me, all the problems with PETA and a large section of the vegan movement.”

          You are quite misinformed if you think most vegans agree with PETA and their actions/can be represented by them.
          I also don’t see how PETA being shit diminishes moral arguments for veganism in any way.

          1. It’s not problematic that people come from privileged backgrounds. It is when you don’t take a step back and say, how does this affect my ability to do X. My issue with the vegans I often met — not all of hem — has been that they seem unwilling to get past the hurting-animals-is-evil thing. Like they think that people who do it take some kind of delight in it (see my example of calling people ignorant savages). I only ask that when you talk about why everyone in the world should be vegan, you think it through a bit. Inuits don’t eat a meat diet because they have a choice. Poor people who don’t eat healthy stuff don’t do it because they are fools or ignorant, even. Too often the folks I ran into didn’t think it through.

            And while at one level you are making a moral choice when you buy stuff, most people haven’t got any choices at all, not really. I can go to Whole Foods. Most people I know can’t afford it.

            That’s why my instinctual reaction — born of a twisted sense of humor, admittedly — is to say I want to go club a baby seal and eat its beating heart.

            Maybe a better way to say it is I can’t abide self-righteousness. That’s not unique to vegans. But it crops up a lot. And lord knows I was vulnerable to it when I was younger, and it made me a pretty obnoxious prig, so maybe I am oversensitive to it in others — especially when there are things I agree with them about, if you see what I mean.

            I do cook a load of vegetable stuff, BTW, and have made a conscious effort to eat less meat. And I have had a lot of fun cooking in the process.

            (I still think rice cakes are a crime against nature :-) )

            As to the morality of animal eating, look, I’ll say up front that for you to live something has to die. Plant or animal, take your pick. And no, I haven’t got a ton of sympathy for Wilbur. But I don’t believe in torturing animals either.

            As to conflating vegans and PETA< I know that isn't necessarily so, but the ad above does so and in a pretty problematic way.

          2. She then mentioned that an Inuit family essentially offered her dinner. But she couldn’t do it, she went and brought her vegan food.

            As to the morality of animal eating, look, I’ll say up front that for you to live something has to die. Plant or animal, take your pick. And no, I haven’t got a ton of sympathy for Wilbur. But I don’t believe in torturing animals either.

            As a vegetarian, I think about this in terms of environmental impact. I don’t cook much and eat a lot of fast food. So I wonder if my fast-food vegetarian diet carbon footprint is larger than that of (say) my roommate’s locally-grown, home-cooked meat diet.

  4. The PETA ad reminds me of the scene in Scott Pilgrim where Brandon Routh’s character has superpowers because he practices veganism.

    Did PETA see that too, but fail to realize that it was a joke?

  5. A Jewish girl at work explained to me that the taboo against pork arose because pigs “cleaned up after you” in the desert.

    Aussie commandos lived with the natives of Borneo in WWII, under appalling conditions of semi starvation and filth. To defecate you hung out over the balcony of the stilt hut under which lived the pigs and dogs.

    The descriptions of the taste of boiled pork are vivid enough to put you off for life.

      1. There are a lot of explanations for why kashrut arose, and all of them have some merit. I’d guess it was to do several things:

        1. Identify who is your tribe.
        2. We don’t know what the incidence of food-borne illness was back then, but pork — which would have come from a rather different kind of pig than the ones we eat now — tends to need thorough cooking.
        3. Shellfish: ditto.

        Now, there are other components to this. For example, the Jews of old were NOT sailors, by any stretch. The Ocean (i.e. the Med) was the domain of chaos, of Tiamat. In older Middle Eastern myth, that represents the realm of the gods, an you stayed away from it. Shellfish beyond steamer clams are deep-water animals, in large part (and remember, we are talking about breath-hold diving, so 20 feet down is a lot). So there might have been strong taboos there.

        As to behavior, remember also that there was no such thing as a military uniform then. Imagine a battle and you and your buddies are hacking away. How do you not hack at the guy on your team? This is one reason (it is said) that Jews don’t do tattoos. That is, in the heat of battle, where you can’t see anything well (along with all the screaming) hit the guy with the visible markings and odds are you’ll get it right.

        People needed ways to identify each other in the old days, and the guy who scarfs up the “bad” food was an enemy, like as not.

        Anyhow, there are many reasons these cultural practices appear, and not all are “just so” stories. Some of it is accident. After all, some species of insect are in fact kosher.

          1. Yes, that’s the point. We have all sorts of things we do to mark our identities. DO you wear a nose ring or affect a deliberately “alternative” style? Do you wear a shirt and tie to work all the time? Do you listen to a certain brand of msic? Teenagers in particular are attuned to such tribal markers. :-)

  6. Making fun of the Cracked commenters in the way that he did isn’t just an ad homenim. It also plays into the very phenomenon he is battling. Feeding the macho vision of a man being judged by his ability to get women into bed only bolsters the objectification of women.

  7. Am I the only one who was absolutely horrified by that commercial? Are we to believe that this woman is such a slave to her libido that she is ok with being put in a neck brace? I think I’m going to go throw up now.

  8. I’m envious of the Girlscouts, because Campfire never had that kind of issue. But don’t be fooled into thinking Campfire is some kind of conservative cousin–my Campfire camp always had a lesbian leader, and weekly “women’s retreats.” It was the best week to work at camp ever. The food changed from burgers and dogs to Hot ‘n’ Sour soup and lobster rolls.

    (Plus, Campfire changed to coed over 35 years ago.)

  9. The PETA thing made me so so angry. In one vegan community I said something like “hey, peta still using the old sex and violence sell route, how innovative” and one guy responded with this whole cliché thing about how I’m boring and sex-negative, etc etc. I actually didnt reply because it triggers me too much.
    But really?

    Hey, I’m passionate about animal rights, very much so, so when someone comes and tries to represent what I believe in by using sexism and images that trigger me horribly and remind me of my rape experiences I don’t react well, what a surprise.

    And how often do you have to tell people that:
    being against sexism =/= sex negative

    and also

    being against the sexualisation of bloody everything =/= sex negative.

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