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Archive for August, 2013

Alas, blog friends, I haven’t written a personal post in ages. This update is long overdue! The big news in my life these days is that Courtney and I recently moved to Boulder, Colorado! We both work remotely and have flexibility with where we live (a major privilege, to be sure) and decided to move our life to the Rockies.

I’ve never lived in Colorado before, and I’d only visited Boulder a handful of times  before moving here, so it’s definitely been an all-new adventure!

So far, I’ve met some awesome new friends and gone on tons of hikes. And eaten some really yummy vegan foods!  Leaf Vegetarian is delightful; Native Foods has an outpost here, and the Farmer’s Market is brilliant. The Ethiopian restaurant Ras Kassa’s has tons of vegan and gluten-free vegan options, and there are a bevy of other places I’ve yet to check out that I’ve heard are amazing.

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Courtney hiking in the Anemone trail in Boulder, CO!

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A view of the Flatirons from North Boulder

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Yummy boba aka bubble tea at Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder, CO

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Vegan kale chips and hummus at The Kitchen Next Door in Boulder, CO!

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Fresh beets at the Boulder Farmers’ Market!

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Organic sunflowers at the downtown Boulder Farmers’ Market!

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Fresh green juice from Pressery sold at the Boulder Farmer’s Market

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Vegan and gluten-free Injera and Ethiopian food at Ras Kassa’s

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The yummy vegan Taco Salad from Native Foods in Boulder, CO

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A farm-fresh colorful vegan gluten-free meal I cooked in Boulder, Colorado!

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North Boulder Park in Boulder, CO

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A beautiful hike in Boulder, CO

Thanks for reading and checking out my pictures about my new life in Boulder, Colorado! I hope to continue to post more in the near future!

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Never Read The Comments On Queer Vegan Food

The infamous “Never Read The Comments” tote bag guest poster Jamie J. Hagen spotted after Vida Vegan Con this year.

Today, Queer Vegan Food readers are in for a major treat: a really amazing guest post by writer/activist and scholar Jamie J. Hagen. I’ve long been a fan of Jamie’s writing and strong feminist-vegan social media presence, and am SO excited that she volunteered to share this personal and important post about the feminist implications of comment sections on online articles and blogs.

Jamie’s discussion is drawn from her experience as an editor of queer lady site  Autostraddle, and other sites. As a speaker at Vida Vegan Con this year, Jamie led a discussion about how to keep comments sections respectful AND maintain healthy discourse. It’s got my wheels spinning; How do online communities enforce respectful commenting while simultaneously encouraging healthy debate?

I’d love to hear what others think about the comments sections in blogs and whether you think Jamie is right that feminist spaces can benefit from a well-enforced comments policy. Her great questions allow us to consider our own experiences with comments sections, and I’d encourage anyone who feels moved to share to do so.

And now, the post you’ve been waiting for… ~ Sarah

Why I Read The Comments: A Feminist Argument For The Value Of An Engaged Comment Community

By: Jamie J. Hagen

As a freelance writer I’ve received incredibly adamant advice to read the comments. I’ve also received incredibly adamant advice not to read the comments. The worth in responding to comments is a somewhat contentious and confused topic, often overshadowing the potential value of an engaged comment community.

During my time as a Contributing Editor to the girl-on-girl culture website Autostraddle I became a big fan of the potential for conversation and community in the comment space. As a regular writer and reader of the website, I value Autostraddle’s efforts to promote a “safe-space” conversation with a well thought out comment policy.

Their comment policy begins, “We have really funny readers, and we love getting to know you and hearing your opinions. Dialogue with readers is so important to us, in fact, that we are working hard to make sure that Autostraddle remains a safe place for discussion as we get bigger and better.”

Covered in their policy are issues such as bad faith, fat phobia, and trans* inclusion and this has led to many constructive, fun, lively conversations moderated by Autostraddle community moderators. Further vegan, queer food for thought: Some of the members of Autostraddle’s comment community became best friends and even lovers during Autostraddle sponsored events and other offline venues. Some readers aren’t out as queer anywhere but online. Some readers don’t find support for their thoughts and feelings as queers anywhere but on online. Knowing the editors, writers and the comment community are all invested in creating a space to support queer readers who may not find that type of support anywhere else is constantly lauded by many community members.

When writing for other websites I seek to bring this same ethic in responding to the comments. For example, while writing for PolicyMic.com it was made clear that promoting our pieces by engaging with the commenters was encouraged, essentially required, to be a successful writer for the site geared towards a millennial crowd working to create a bi-partisan political dialogue.

From the perspective of someone who has been involved in Autostraddle and other feminist comment spaces I pitched the “Comments Are Your Friend” workshop for the vegan blogging conference Vida Vegan Con II conference in May of this year. As I imagined the workshop, it would offer a space to create a conversation about whether people read the comments, why or why not, and how we can make sure we participate in self-care when writing and commenting about the personal as political. Only after learning I’d be welcomed to host the comment conversation at Vida Vegan Con II did I discover the “Never Read the Comments” tote for sale at Portland‘s vegan grocery story Food Fight – so there‘s that!

At the workshop I opened the conversation for all to share their experiences with comments. Many attendees spoke to the difficulty of discussing vegan politics on personal spaces such as Facebook, but agreed there was a valuable opportunity to educate readers on the web about veganism by simply responding with a non-judgmental factual comment when possible. Attempting to change the minds of those trolling websites to get a rise out of writers certainly seems a fools errand, but a well-articulated comment left in response to a nasty or confrontational comment may reach dozens or even hundreds of readers.

Jamie Hagen and Laura Beck of Vegansaurus and Jezebel At Vida Vegan Con Conference

Jamie Hagen, Laura Beck of Vegansaurus and Jezebel and panel participants at Vida Vegan Con Conference

It’s hard to ignore the impact of gender-based and homophobic attacks endured by female and queer writers online. The recent campaigns by Facebook and Twitter to address violent and repetitive rape threats and the posting of rape videos on their networks speaks to the extent of the problem. Because of this reality, I feel those of us with the ability to build and structure a more feminist space in a blog’s comment community should consider and explore taking the time to do so.

Writing about queer politics, vegan politics or any other ethically charged topic can lead to some difficult and exhausting conversations. Creating a valuable comment space requires work, a well-developed comment policy and the ability to enforce it.  Whether a writer chooses to read or engage with the comment community will vary on context, time commitment to community building and meeting the needs of her own self-care.

Do you have experience engaging with constructive conversation in your comment space? If not, do you think a comment policy and more active engagement from regular readers and writers could shift the tone of a comment space?

Jamie Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen is a writer and doctoral student of Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts, Boston with a focus on gender and feminist security studies. As a freelance writer Hagen has covered queer and vegan politics, news, and culture for publications such as RollingStone.com, One Green Planet and Autostraddle

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The Vassar Eat Issue

As an alum of the college, former assistant staff writer at the publication, and ethical queer vegan, I’ve been pretty heartbroken since I received my copy of the Spring/Summer 2013 Vol. 109 Issue 2 of Vassar, the alumnae/i quarterly of Vassar College. I got chills when I saw the theme of the issue was “Eat.” Before perusing, I sensed that there was a significant chance that this issue theme would be grossly mishandled. I suspected that Vassar would likely glorify eating (and exploiting) non-human animals by highlighting the work of notable non-vegan alums like Anthony Bourdain, and other so-called food celebrity alums.

It turns out I was right about my suspicions: “Eat” issue is one of the most troubling things I’ve ever seen branded with Vassar’s name. There’s too much offensive material in this 91-page volume to cover all of it, but I’ll share some highlights:

On page seven, the article “The Gritty Life of a Food Activist” profiles a white male alum with a five-o-clock shadow staring at a dead pig head, ostensibly of one of the “heritage” varieties he purports to care about saving through–you guessed it–raising them to be slaughtered:

“[Heritage Foods]’ mission is to preserve rare breeds of turkeys, pigs, cows, lambs, bison, tuna, salmon, chicken, ducks, geese, and goats by creating a market for them…Martins believes that eating heritage breeds is the only way to save them.” (p. 7, Vassar,  “Eat” Issue).

Anyone who has read Carol J. Adams’ work The Sexual Politics of Meat can understand the unique sexual politics related to a (white) man presiding over a dead pig’s head, ostensibly one he’s helped kill in order to “save” it. Hmm.

Page 16 features a recipe for Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) complete with shrimp pictures, courtesy of Vassar alum/cookbook author Penelope Casas. Yikes. No vegan option in sight, no explanation, just meat-eating continuing to be perpetuated as the norm and something to be celebrated.

Next, on page 17, there’s an article called “Conscience in the Kitchen” discussing how chef Seth Caswell cooks “fresh oysters right from the shell.” I couldn’t believe the article title. Where, exactly, is the conscience in Caswell’s cooking? I can only assume the writer is referring to the fact that Caswell works in a LEED-certified kitchen when he serves “ever-popular chicken Parmesan” The truth is, meat is not conscionable on any level, and certainly not to the chicken who needlessly gave his/her life.

Page 18 features an alum who runs a restaurant called “Fish Fowl Beef Pork”–I’m gagging. Of all the amazing work Vassar alums are doing in the world, they have to feature someone whose work glorifies killing fish, birds, cows, and pigs? There’s even a mention of this guy’s “grilled Sullivan County fois gras” — besides being incredibly cruel, I have to ask: is Fois gras even legal anymore?

Perhaps the worst article in this issue is “Greener Pastures,”on p. 21 featuring Justin Leavenworth ’96, who is characterized as an effeminate “skinny jeans-, hipster glasses-wearing guy” who somehow finds a way to get along with his fellow “macho men” of the meat industry. If this isn’t a classic sexual politics of meat trope, I don’t know what is. The message is, look, even effeminate Vassar men can be “manly” by showing they know what’s what about killing animals. There is so much wrong with this article, I don’t even know where to start. How about this:

“Some ranchers mistrust the grass-fed movement, considering it a way to move the country one step closer to the ‘liberal vegetarian ideal.'” (p. 21). Side note: Vassar editors, who, exactly, do you think your readers are?

Then there’s a fudge recipe with animal products making up about 50% of the ingredients hailed as “Vassar tradition,” no vegan option included. One could easily substitute coconut milk for the butter and cream and it’d be amazing. Why wasn’t a vegan option even considered? There’s way more offensive material in this issue, but I’m exhausted already. And yes: Anthony Bourdain gets his obligatory profile as well.

Based on my experience working for the Quarterly during my Senior year of college, I recognize that the primary function of the publication is to inspire alums to donate to Vassar through emotional stories relating to the school and its notable attendees, faculty, staff, and community members. What better topic to relate to our emotions than our food, our sustenance, our culturally-linked second heart? I get why the editors of this magazine chose this theme. But writing about food in a way that completely ignores vegan perspectives is really limited, and ignores the great work Vassarians do in this arena.

Couldn’t Vassar editors have chosen to profile even one vegan perspective? We have many notable vegan alums, including but not limited to: Haley Burke, a cancer center doctor living and working in Texas; Pulin Modi, a force for good in this world at Change.Org; activist Lauren O’Laughlin, and on and on.

There are also lots of other incredible current Vassar student vegan activists, like Ali Seiter, Alan Darer, Rocky Schwartz, and more. I met some of these activists at the Marti Kheel Ecofeminist Conference at Wesleyan, and THEY are what makes me  proud to call myself a Vassar alum. Vassar does great work in the field of human- and non-human animal welfare; why not highlight it, or at the very least, refrain from mocking it?

I’m pretty happy to report that there was at least one vegan mention in the publication–my contribution to Defiant Daughters: 21 Women On Art, Activism and The Sexual Politics of Meat gets a nod in the Mixed Media section on p. 40.

Final words: I am really disappointed by this issue of Vassar. It doesn’t include or recognize perspectives that are central to many Vassar community members’ activism. It certainly doesn’t make me feel inspired to pull out my wallet. Despite this, I am going to remain hopeful that the good work Vassar students, faculty, alumnae/i and others continue to do in this world for human- and non-human animals will ring far louder than puff pieces aimed to rake in donations.

I encourage anyone interested to e-mail the Director of Alumnae/i Communications, Editor Elizabeth Randolph and let her know what you think about this issue. She can be reached at elrandolph@vassar.edu.

Thanks.

UPDATE: Lagusta Umami of Lagusta’s Luscious has confirmed Foie gras is currently legal in New York State, but banned in California.

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