Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: Fuck no.
Unfortunately, it seems that we might need a more in-depth examination of this quandary, because a vegan Twitter account with over 20,000 followers tweeted this recently:
If you claim to be a feminist but drink Cow's milk, you are another perpetrator of rape culture.#YesAllWomen
Research AI before reacting.
— Vegan Revolution (@VeganRevoIution) May 30, 2014
Before discussing why this tweet, which bears a sentiment I’ve unfortunately heard echoed by many vegans, is so terrible, I think it’s important to acknowledge that cows are indeed treated horrifically in dairy and factory farms. They are artificially inseminated (that’s the “AI” referenced in the tweet above), and then they have their calves taken from them almost immediately upon being born. Those calves are often sent off to be made into veal, and subjected to some of the most cruel practices in the industry. These acts are terrible, and they should be discussed.
However, a hashtag like #YesAllWomen is not the place for that discussion. Hijacking a conversation about the intrinsic violence, sexism, and misogyny that women are confronted with is the vegan equivalent of “What About The Menz?!” If a man were to come onto the #YesAllWomen conversation to say, “Yes, but men can also be victims of rape, sexual violence, domestic abuse, etc..” he wouldn’t be wrong. But that wouldn’t make his derailment of the issue at hand any more excusable. Commandeering the pain of a marginalized group to draw attention to your unrelated pet cause – no matter how important that cause may be – is unacceptable. We should demand better from our fellow activists.
Not only was @veganrevolution’s timing completely out of line, but using inflammatory language to “call out” non-vegan feminists hurts our cause as well. I’m a staunch believer in the intersections of veganism and feminism (something detailed wonderfully in Carol J. Adam’s The Sexual Politics of Meat). However, I strongly oppose the appropriation of feminist language, especially when it comes to highly-charged topics like rape culture. Comparing the rape of women to artificial insemination of cows is, first and foremost, insulting to rape victims. It’s also insulting to vegan activists. If we can’t make our points without employing hyperbolic rhetoric, what good is our cause?
As a feminist and a vegan, I expect more from the activists I work alongside. Continuing to use cheap political ploys like the one above will turn people away from the vegan lifestyle – but in this case it also hurts victims of sexual violence. If we want to improve ourselves and convince others to join our causes it’s important to discuss failures within our own ranks and take criticism to heart.
This post was originally featured on Be Vegan Anywhere, a site Surly Amy & I founded to help make veganism accessible to as many people as possible. Shout out to Bug Girl for linking us to this tweet!
Featured Image by John McIntyre
Rape Culture Image by Chase Carter