Common ground


This post deserves a lot more attention than I’m going to give it right now, but I did want to get the thought out there while it’s still fresh in my mind.

My friend Paul, who runs the fat acceptance web site Big Fat Blog, recently posted about the lack of men and people of color in the fat acceptance movement.  Another friend routinely blogs about homeschooling and how he’s always battling the common misconception of homeschooling as the sole domain of far right-wing religious zealots.

It occurred to me that all of these movements are facing some very similar issues, all based around either shattering misconceptions and fighting stereotypes or encouraging the involvement of groups that are not well represented.  In the AR movement, it’s always been disproportionately white, at least outwardly.  This issue is covered in-depth by long-time veg blog reader johanna (and others) over at Vegans of Color.  And while there are plenty of men involved in animal rights, caring about the welfare and rights of animals are still largely viewed by mainstream America as feminine.   I don’t even need to mention the stereotypes we deal with every day, do I?

It’d be nice if there were a larger movement–perhaps that grand “progressive movement” I hear so much about–that would let smaller groups work together to figure these types of issues out.  Activist activism.  Or something.  A place where groups with seemingly different agendas can use their common ground to work towards a greater overall activist involvement.  (I went to such a gathering in Portland last year and it was excellent.)

Any thoughts?

8 Responses to “Common ground”

  1. Paul

    Yeah, that would be very helpful. A lot of what the fat rights movement is going through now is stuff that, I’d think, had to have been a part of the history of other rights movements.

  2. vegoftheweek

    I think it may have at least something to do with our country in general. I spoke with a woman from Canada that said they don’t divide things so much into groups like Americans do. It’s also a regional thing…Friends from California, East Coast aren’t nearly as straight thinking as some of the people I know from other parts of the country. (I must be careful or I’ll end up sounding like I am grouping as well:)

    Finally, I think the answer in general is just better education. When people have data and that data is published for the masses, we start to think differently. For example, some data shows that homeschoolers routinely have better tests scores on standardized tests than school attending counterparts. This alone could change the mindset of those who think the only things these kids are studying is the book of Genesis.

    On the Fat Movement: It has been documented that people of color in general have a healthier body images than their Caucasian counterparts. I don’t remember anything specifically about men, but I would image they are easier on themselves and thus these groups might not have a personal need for a support such as this.

    I could go on on, but in general, yes, a Progressive Movement sounds sweet! I’d like to think of it as a “retreat” for those of us battling the non-progresseives regularly.

  3. Becci

    Interestingly enough, I read that there are far more female vegetarians than male ones, but when we are talking about vegans, the gap closes significantly. I think there are still more vegan females than males, but not by much.

  4. vegoftheweek


    That’s interesting. Do you have any idea (or speculate) why? Hope we’re not straying too far off the subject…I think it may have to do with the reasons people go veg-maybe men who do it do it more so for environmental/activism reasons and therefore going all the way vegan would be the #1 choice whereas woman are more into it for health/physique reasons and aren’t as concerned with particulars like rennet, etc. and stop at vegetarian.

    Again, it all goes back to what motivates people to do things-there would be better representation of everyone across the board if perhaps we could appeal to the motivations behind the choices they make. Different reasons, same cause, same goal…

  5. johanna

    I feel like a lot of the difficulties in building a broad-based movement stem, on the non-veg*n side, from the belief that devoting energy to animal rights of necessity means that we’re abandoning human rights–the old “humans come first” thing. On the veg*n side, I am often alienated by folks who do the “humans are scum, we don’t care what happens to them” thing (or the “humans have the law to protect them, animals don’t”–thus assuming equal & efficient protection, if nothing else).

    I really like the arguments in Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights for both groups working together on each other’s issues.

  6. Becci


    I don’t think it’s that exactly, because if that were the case, there would be more female vegetarians but more male vegans. I think you’re right to some degree, though–that women might be more likely to go vegetarian for health reasons. I think that’s definitely part of it.

    The other part, I think, is that often when someone goes vegetarian, they do it out of sensitivity to the idea of killing an animal. They don’t look into the industry that kills the animal; they just know that meat requires an animal to die and they don’t like that. They go with their feelings. A lot of the time they are very young. They aren’t exposed to much information about factory farming; they just know that they love animals and don’t want to hurt them.

    Men are taught to some degree that sensitivity is a feminine thing, and so is worrying about animals. My guess is that there are boys who feel a little uncomfortable about eating meat, but our culture doesn’t really allow them to express or deal with it as easily. Or maybe men really ARE, on the whole, less sensitive than women. I sort of doubt it, but regardless that’s not really the point, haha.

    However, when people go vegan, they are dealing far more with facts–whether the facts have to do with health, environmentalism, or animal suffering. And both women and men are obviously swayed by facts in the same way. Obviously veganism can be emotional, but the whole basis for it is a lot more complicated than just, “Meat is a dead thing, and that’s gross.” Again, there are a few more female vegans than male ones, probably because meat is seen as such a necessary part of what it means to be manly.

    Just theorizing. :) And not to go off topic, but I just had to answer you!

  7. VegChb

    Becci–*are* there more female vegans? I had heard that there were more female vegetarians than anyone, but that there are more male vegans than female vegans. I could be remembering incorrectly, but I certainly know more male vegans than female vegans (though I know even more female vegetarians).

    Veganism is the logical extension of vegetarianism. The male vegans I know were persuaded by very logical reasoning. Ovo-lacto vegetarianism is more emotional than logical–as far as reducing suffering goes, it may make more sense to cut out eggs and dairy first, and meat after. But emotionally, it makes more sense to cut meat out first. I don’t want to pander to stereotypes–I am a pretty logical-type female by nature myself–but of course males and females are encouraged to make decisions in different ways.

  8. Becci


    Well, in Vegnews, it SAID there were more female vegans, but not by much–they didn’t have any numbers, though:

    “Women are twice as likely to give up meat-eating than men, though the gender gap closes as more animal products are removed from the diet.”

    The impression I get from that is that there are still more female vegans, but not by much, OR there are equal numbers of female and male vegans.

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