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Posts Tagged ‘carol j. adams’

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The book Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat, to which I contributed an essay, was published this month. Centered around the work of one of my all-time favorite authors and thinkers, feminist animal rights scholar Carol J. Adams, this collection of 21 essays by diverse women celebrates the legacy of Adams’ book The Sexual Politics of Meat and discusses new perspectives on these topics.

Writing my essay for the anthology was an incredible and challenging experience. It enabled me to reflect on the history of my personal coming out, including times that felt confusing, difficult and only sometimes hopeful. Being completely open about my sexual orientation has been a challenge at times and I’ve struggled with closeting myself in scenarios I discuss in my piece. Writing about coming out as vegan and LGBTQ for the book felt like another coming out. As many of us know, coming out is a lifelong process. Coming out in this essay was a gift and a powerful experience for which I am grateful.

In honor of the launch, various contributors, folks at Lantern Books, and Carol J. Adams hosted readings and events across the United States. Due to several happy coincidences, I was able to attend three of the readings/events to celebrate Defiant Daughters: a reading at The Last Bookstore in LA, attended by my brother Asher–the subject of my essay; a party at Mooshoes in New York, attended by some awesome New Yorkers and Carol J. Adams herself; and a reading at The Wooden Shoe anarchist bookstore in my current hometown Philadelphia, attended by a childhood friend and some rad Philadelphia vegan Twitter friends.

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That’s me with my brother Asher at the Defiant Daughters reading at The Last Bookstore in LA.

The thing is, while I had written about personal sexuality topics before, I had never read my work to crowds in-person prior to these readings, and this experience was scary for me. I have found that it is a lot easier to hide behind a byline or podcast interview than stare into the face of a crowd and speak openly.

Though I’ve said the words “I’m a lesbian vegan” so many times in writings and podcasts and to my nearests and dearests, reading them to strangers and loved ones aloud, in-person at the various Defiant Daughters events felt surprisingly vulnerable and scary. Everything about the readings was exciting and terrifying, like getting swept up by a gust of wind and falling in love and suddenly realizing I forgot to wear pants all at once.

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Contributors to the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals and The Sexual Politics of Meat

Seeing my fellow contributors looking dapper and speaking with confidence, I mistakenly assumed that I was the only one who felt so nervous about reading (I’ve since spoken with fellow contributors and we’ve realized we’re not alone in having felt nervous!) Since there were so many of us who contributed to this anthology, we never got to have a “team huddle” so to speak, save for mass e-mails of encouragement from Lantern editor Kara Davis. This morning while listening to contributor Jasmin Singer’s take on the launch on the Our Hen House podcast this week (Note: all proceeds from the book go to the invaluable work of OHH, yet another reason to order your copy if you haven’t already done so!) including a discussion about how nervous she was before this reading, I realized that even those who seem completely outwardly confident can feel butterflies when it comes to public speaking on tough personal topics.

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Carol J. Adams, author of numerous books including The Sexual Politics of Meat speaks at Bluestockings Bookstore in NYC.

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Mooshoes Defiant Daughters launch party sandwich board advertisement.

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That’s me, reading my essay “Brother Knows Best” at The Last Bookstore in LA–in front of my brother!

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Defiant Daughters Contributor Jasmin Singer at Bluestockings Bookstore in NYC.

Anyone who’s listened to Jasmin speak over the past decade at myriad vegan events or who has heard her on her podcast knows she seems at home in front of an audience. This is why I found it so powerful and brave for Jasmin to admit that she also felt so vulnerable reading her essay, which touches on some of the same coming out themes as mine.

I am definitely a beginner when it comes to performing in public, and feel much more comfortable hiding behind a podcast or the written word. Sharing our personal truths in front of a group of people–strangers or otherwise– is intense. Public speaking expert Josh Pais did a great video interview with his B-school mogul wife Marie Forleo on how to overcome fear of public speaking. Pais described the “rush” of energy that we feel before we get in front of a crowd as part of the excitement and energy inherent to delivering our truths to a crowd. Pais’ advice–to let ourselves feel our fear and emotion fully to allow it to pass naturally–has been helpful for me in the three speaking events I’ve done for this book.

In a way, publishing with so many wonderful women has been the most humbling experience. Many accomplished speakers, activists,  PhD candidates, artists and writers are among those who grace Defiant Daughters‘ pages. In my rush to appear like an “author,” I felt shame that I wasn’t already comfortable in my skin in front of a crowd like so many of the other contributors. I shuddered at a lot of the pictures and videos of myself from the events. I felt body image issues come up when I saw unflattering images of myself, mouth agape while speaking, and cringed when I saw myself on video. I’m afraid I’m not as suave as I’d have hoped, but I’m learning to sit with the discomfort of these feelings. They are my own issues to move through, of course, and I didn’t realize how much I still have to work on in the public speaking, body image and self-love departments. This realization of what I still need to learn is one of my biggest blessings of this work.

Though I blog at Queer Vegan Food and am out to everyone I know, coming out to new people does at times still feel intense for me. What this experience of being involved with Defiant Daughters has taught me is where I am as well as where I want to be. I want to be able to overcome my shyness so that my work can focus on helping human- and non-human animals. I am committed to overcoming my personal insecurities around being visible in order to be a more effective voice for the voiceless.

Have you ever felt nervous about speaking in public, or coming out in any context? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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When Lantern Books asked me submit a piece to the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat (Lantern Books, March 2013) I was thrilled to put to paper some of the many ways that Carol J. Adams’ work has impacted my life and activism career, and to share how my relationship with my brother Asher grew due to our mutual love of Carol’s book The Sexual Politics of Meat and shared commitment to veganism.

The anthology, edited by the fantastic Kara Davis and Wendy Lee with a foreword by Carol J. Adams, features 21 pieces by women artists, feminists, vegans, chefs, professors, and writers from all backgrounds. All proceeds from the anthology go to the wonderful vegan multimedia collective for change, Our Hen House. Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House and I actually share a section in the book entitled “Fish and Frog,” and I recently did a piece for Our Hen House’s online magazine that relates to my essay in Defiant Daughters, which you can read by clicking here.

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Here is the description of the book Defiant Daughters from Lantern Books’ website:

One writer attempts to reconcile her feminist-vegan beliefs with her Muslim upbringing; a second makes the connection between animal abuse and her own self-destructive tendencies. A new mother discusses the sexual politics of breastfeeding, while another pens a letter to her young son about all she wishes for him in the future. Many others recall how the book inspired them to start careers in the music business, animal advocacy, and food. No matter whether they first read it in college or later in life, whether they are in their late teens or early forties, these writers all credit The Sexual Politics of Meat in some way with the awakening of their identities as feminists, activists, and women. Even if you haven’t read the original work, you’re sure to be moved and inspired by these tales of growing up and, perhaps more important, waking up to the truths around us.

My chapter, entitled “Brother Knows Best,” includes the ways in which my coming out as vegan and queer were interconnected, and how Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat helped me recognize these interconnections. It also discusses the ways in which my friendship with my brother Asher and our mutual commitment to helping animals helped me through it all. Here is an excerpt from my piece:

Unlike his hand-me-down t-shirts and jackets that ended up in my closets, my brother’s vegetarianism fit me well, and I made it my own. When he went off to college, Asher granted me access to his bookshelf, which included his treasured science fiction and war books, french novels, and dog-eared copies of classics we were made to read in high school. Many of his books collected dust in his absence, but when I reached the end of high school, one precious book on his shelf shifted everything in my world: The Sexual Politics of Meat.

The red cover immediately stole my attention. A striking image of a woman in a sexualized pose, with portions of her body demarcated as cuts of meat, was both familiar and disturbing. Its cover offered an immediate opportunity to consider the connection between the consumption of women and animals.

Reading the book at age seventeen, I realized that it was hypo-critical for me to be vegetarian and not vegan, since I believed so deeply in animal welfare and human welfare (my primary reasons for abstaining from animal flesh). I knew that eating cows was out of alignment with my ethics after my brother helped me to see how meat comes at the price of animal suffering, but this text illuminated an entirely new way of understanding how animal agriculture of dairy products reveals the ways in which females are particularly exploited.

Understanding the mechanisms of privilege and power that reinforce the eating of animals helped me recognize how I, a woman coming into my non-normative sexual orientation, related to the animal agriculture industrial complex. As I uncovered universal truths about the connections between oppression toward women and animals, it was in no way coincidental that I came out as a vegan and a lesbian the year I turned eighteen.

Thank you for reading! I am so honored to have been a part of this collection; the other writers are incredibly talented and truly carry the torch of Carol’s work, more than 20 years after The Sexual Politics of Meat was first published. I hope you’ll check out the book when it comes out in March. You can pre-order by clicking here. Additionally, you can “like” the book’s Facebook page and stay tuned for excerpts posted by other contributors in anticipation of the launch.

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Finding a Niche For All Animals: A Conference honoring the ecofeminist work of Marti Kheel held at Wesleyan University

This weekend, I attended a conference honoring the life and work of late vegan ecofeminist scholar and activist Marti Kheel. The conference took place at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and was organized by Wesleyan professor Lori Gruen and one of my personal heroines, Carol J. Adams.

Marti was the author of the classic ecofeminist book Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective, which, according to Marti, “seeks to heal the divisions between the seemingly disparate movements and philosophies of feminism, animal advocacy, environmental ethics, and holistic health.” What drew me to Kheel’s work as an undergraduate at Vassar is that it outlines an ecofeminist philosophy that acknowledges the crucial roles of empathy in activism. It has always made intuitive sense to me to apply my “feeling” self to my activism.

The late ecofeminist vegan Marti Kheel.

I love how Marti explained that killing animals is wrong on “logical” grounds, but that we can also argue that one’s feelings about animals, compassion for their lives, and empathy for others’ suffering are valid reasons to be in favor of a plant-based diet.

Marti was a fantastic, determined, strong-minded activist, and a cherished friend to many within this movement and beyond. It was inspiring to see the ripples of her influence through the words of many of her friends and colleagues who spoke at the memorial the first evening of the conference. After a documentary shown about her life and work and a wonderful speech by Marti’s friend and colleague, The Sexual Politics of Meat author Carol J. Adams, other folks stood up and spoke about their personal connections to Marti. Many at the conference had worked very closely with her, including those who were active with Feminists For Animal Rights (FAR), a group Marti created based on her vision. Others had volunteered with Marti for animal rights causes or had been influenced by her during their academic and activist careers. While I did not speak at the memorial, I am lucky to say that I did have the privilege of meeting Marti several years ago while I was living in the Bay Area (she was a raw vegan and we met at an Oakland raw foods event organized by a mutual connection) and we kept in touch as I worked at a raw vegan center which she had visited before we’d met.

Just after meeting Marti, she instantly connected me with queer vegan women’s events she organized in the Bay Area, and we corresponded over e-mail about holistic health, and things related to a book project my partner and I were (and still are) working on about the intersections between holistic health, veganism and LGBTQ communities. The last time I heard from Marti was on October 5, 2011 in an e-mail letting me know she was sick with cancer and that she wanted to help more with our book, and that I should e-mail her questions and ideas quickly because time was of the essence. A few weeks later, on November 19, 2011, I got news that Marti had died. While I hadn’t known Marti as well as others in attendance at the conference, and we were only beginning to discuss and collaborate on ideas, I have been so humbled and grateful that even while sick and facing the end of her life, Marti was immensely committed to helping others and advance the vegan movement.

Heartwarming stories were shared at the memorial portion of the conference including a beautiful story Carol J. Adams told about how Marti began her animal activism as a young person refusing to pose in the family photos unless her family’s pet cat could be included. Several members of Marti’s family were in attendance, and shared how her compassionate approach to veganism influenced them and made more inspired to question aspects of their own lives.

Carol J. Adams speaking at the Marti Kheel Conference.

Panels at the conference referenced Marti’s Ecofeminist work and discussed how Marti’s compassionate approach to activism was infused in every aspect of her life.While the conference was primarily academic in nature–terms like “praxis” and “problemetize” were included in many panelists’ talks based on papers they’d written for the conference–there were great inclusions of practical approaches to activism that I found heartening and inspiring. My friend Lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition gave a great talk about how her work with FEP considers food justice as a complex issue that requires looking beyond simply checking to see if ingredients are vegan. We must ensure that they are ethically sourced, as in the case of her nonprofit’s commitment to identifying truly ethical vegan chocolate companies that do not trade in child slave labor. (Note: Please sign the petition asking the makers of Clif Bars to disclose where they get their cocoa beans!) Lauren also discussed the importance of a vegan activist approach that is respectful to the needs of diverse communities.

Absolutely inspiring, witty and brilliant vegan duo Mark Hawthorne and Lauren Ornelas.

Theorist Greta Gaard spoke about ecofeminist theory and practice, and mentioned queer sexuality in the context of animal rights (which I loved).  Other talks I found inspiring included pattrice jones’ discussion of her queer-run animal sanctuary Vine Sanctuary, and about how they have all of their important meetings standing up in the barn while surrounded by animals. patrice said a line which really rang true: “All the stuff we really want is free.” patrice said to share with paleo dieters and purported feminists who eat meat: “Tell them that eating meat is something you do to someone else’s body without their consent.” What a powerful and accurate thing to say!

The first evening of the conference was catered with delicious vegan sushi, appetizers and gluten-free vegan treats from a local Connecticut vegan bakery:

Vegan sushi and chocolates served at the Marti Kheel conference.

Mushroom polenta cakes served after the memorial portion of the conference.

Lunch on Saturday was 100% vegan and delicious.

Ivory of vegan myths debunked fame (who is an all-star, best ever vegan conference buddy, the best a gal could ever hope for!) and I met in NY Penn station (I came from Philly, she from Brooklyn) and traveled to the conference together. We had the amazing good fortune of meeting some really wonderful new friends Andrea and Danielle at the conference who convinced us to stay with them in Branford, CT (near Wesleyan) and have a late-night persimmon and almond milk Greek yogurt party instead of staying at a hotel. It did not take too much arm twisting ;) We had a wonderful time bonding, chatting about our paths to veganism and how we all love plants (PLANTS!)! It was amazing to find some queer vegan women kinship and make incredible, thought-provoking, hilarious new friends!

Vegan lady friends! L to R: Danielle, Andrea and Ivory!

All-organic, fair-trade coffee was served with some soy mylk on the side.

Ecofeminist Greta Gaard speaking about Marti Kheel.

Wesleyan University’s beautiful campus.

Posing after lunch with my heroine and friend Carol J. Adams.

I got to meet Ali, fellow Vassar woman and author of the fabulous vegan food blog Farmers’ Market Vegan!

Ivory, Andrea and I had a great time at the conference!

One activist spoke about her ethical dilemma in not being able to find a vegan infant formula and needing to procure one immediately for her infant in the ICU. She said the D3 in the product was sourced from lanolin, which is from sheep, and that choosing that product was very difficult for her but ultimately was what was necessary to save her son’s life.

After the panel, I commended the activist for finding compassion for herself in this difficult situation, and I suggested the option of reaching out to infant formula brands that use all-vegan ingredients except for the non-vegan D3 and asking them to use vegan D3 in products now that it is available. This was something the panelist had not considered doing, and I think it’s a good example of where businesses and academics can work together to find solutions to problems.

I currently work for a vegan business and have worked for other vegan businesses in the past. I believe in the importance of academia and the influence of scholarship in shaping ideas that later become practiced throughout activist movements, however I also feel it is crucial that we connect the dots and work with businesses to provide vegan alternatives. I think a more vegan-friendly marketplace is a great goal for academics and non-academics (lay people?) alike, and was grateful for the chance to discuss this with her.

My former professor/friend Jill Schneiderman and others admiring the next generation of vegan activists.

For me, Finding A Niche For All Animals involved honoring Marti Kheel and celebrating her legacy, meeting new friends, seeing old friends, connecting with visionaries and a rare and incredibly sweet private lunch with Carol and Ivory in which we discussed our work and plans for the future. I leave with a renewed inspiration that vegan activism must always come from the love and empathy we have inside us that extends outwards to those around us. Thank you for reading.

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