How I Got to the Podium: Ivy League Vegan Conference, Breastfeeding in Public, and Being Professional

This past weekend I gave the keynote talk at the Princeton University hosted Ivy League Vegan Conference. My talk was titled Oppositional Bodies of Knowledge: Black Feminist Perspective on Race, Gender and Embodiment in Vegan Politics. Here are my thoughts and the recorded talk.


Below are the notes I wanted to use to start an interactive dialogue around [invisible] whiteness. However, I didn’t get a chance to do that but wanted to share the notes with you anyway. These notes are the vegan oriented version of Peggy McKinstosh’s famous essay about white privilege (Also, for more thoughts on this, look at Emptying the White Knapsack that was just posted.). Let’s use these tools to continue the conversation, okay?


3 thoughts on “How I Got to the Podium: Ivy League Vegan Conference, Breastfeeding in Public, and Being Professional

  1. Good list! The first three make sense to me, but I have some questions about point 4.
    “When I decide to go vegan it is for the single reason of animal rights.”
    I’m struggling to understand how this is connected to white and/or middle-class privilege?
    Not saying I disagree, but the connection doesn’t jump out at me.) I know there are other reasons for going vegan – the environment, health, human hunger. I’ve known white vegans whose primary reason for being vegan wasn’t animal rights but one of these other issues.
    The “human hunger” issue is the only one that strikes me as something that relates to race and class, since most of the world’s hungry are people of color and all of them are poor. Is there some other reason for going vegan that you think is particularly connected to class and race?
    I only know four other vegans of color (two Indians, one Black, one Latina) and all of them their main reason is animal rights. Anecdotal I know, and I’m not using them to try to contradict your statement, but I’m just struggling to see how their motive would be seen as ‘white’. (Though admittedly none of them are poor.)
    “I do not have to understand that I should be in solidarity with anti-racist organizing.”
    My friend recently said to me that animal rights activists should also be anti-racist activists because he said that abolishing racism will help us abolish speciesism. I’m not sure if I agree with that. However, I do think that animal rights activists should be anti-racist activists, not because I think it will further the cause of animal rights, but because I think it’s a moral obligation and just the decent thing to do.
    So I’m not sure what your point is here – are you trying to say that anti-racist activism helps the cause of animal rights activism? Or are you saying that there’s an overlap between the two? Or something else?

  2. Hi there UV — The way I read point four is that it is a privilege to think in terms of single-issue agendas rather than being intersectional in one’s analysis. So if one is only concerned about nonhuman animal rights, and not liberation for all those who are oppressed including nonhuman animals, it is possible to continue to unwittingly and wittingly act out injustice in the middle of the movement. So for example PETA has done some amazing work for nonhuman animals *but* it often comes at the expense of women by sexist. Or for example, it is possible to host a vegan or animal rights conference that is ableist and racist in its construction. Being able to make connections across issues and to work against oppression across species is necessary in order to abolish all forms of exploitation. However, resisting single-issue thinking is a skill that is especially lacking in contexts where one uncritically embodies multiple forms of privilege. That is not to say that other groups don’t falter at being intersectional as well. However, people who are conscious about the multiple forms of oppression they experience also know they can’t afford not to be thinking about how animal liberation relates to their experiences across race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, etc.

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