TWO things that you can find a lot of in Portland, Ore., are vegans and strip clubs. Johnny Diablo decided to open a business to combine both. At his Casa Diablo Gentlemen’s Club, soy protein replaces beef in the tacos and chimichangas; the dancers wear pleather, not leather. Many are vegans or vegetarians themselves.
But Portland is also home to a lot of young feminists, and some are not happy with Mr. Diablo’s venture. Since he opened the strip club last month, their complaints have been “all over the Internet,” he said. “One of them came in here once. I could tell she had an attitude right when she came in. She was all hostile.”
Mr. Diablo isn’t concerned with the “feminazis,” as he calls them. As a vegan himself, he says he hasn’t worn or eaten animal products in 24 years and is worried about cruelty to animals. “My sole purpose in this universe is to save every possible creature from pain and suffering,” he said.
Except for women, apparently.
I am glad, however, to see feminist vegetarians, vegans and animal rights activists speaking out against sexism while still promoting animal liberation theory. I’m happy to see that they don’t buy the line that any means to promote veganism are a-ok.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a cookbook author, is among those who believe such images twist the vegan message. “As a feminist, I’m not keen on the idea of using women’s bodies to sell veganism, and I’m not into the idea of using veganism to sell women’s bodies,” she said.
Ms. Moskowitz is the host of an online forum, Post Punk Kitchen (www.www.theppk.com), some of whose members are debating Mr. Diablo’s vegan strip club. (Last week Mr. Diablo put the club up for sale, although not because of the criticism, he said. He may have overestimated the appeal of stripping to vegans, or of vegan cuisine to striptease fans; an earlier vegan restaurant he ran was poorly received.)
The issue of sexism in vegan circles is “extremely polarizing,” said Bob Torres, an author of “Vegan Freak,” a guide to living a vegan lifestyle, which generally means avoiding the use of animals for food, clothing or other purposes. Mr. Torres, like many vegans, disavows the “essential idea at the heart of some animal rights activism that any means justifies the ends,” he said. Certain activists, he added, care only about “animal suffering and ignore the suffering of humans,” a category into which he would put women who are exploited.
But not all feminist animal rights activists seem to get it, and some are totally willing to sell women out in order to promote animal rights:
Elaine Vigneault, 32, a vegan and former women’s studies major who lives in New York, doesn’t have a problem with a vegan strip club or a recent PETA protest in London in which a pregnant woman got into a cage in her underwear to draw attention to the treatment of pregnant pigs. “I think it’s really important that when reviewing and analyzing images of women, we take into account their perspective of what they’re trying to say,” Ms. Vigneault said.
That’s all fine and good, and we should take into account what women are trying to do and say, but just because a woman chooses to partake in something doesn’t automatically make it not-sexist. For example:
Contributors to the popular feminist blog Feministing have criticized the emphasis of the “Skinny Bitch” books on weight loss, noting that some women with eating disorders use vegan diets to restrict their food intake. Ms. Freedman isn’t buying that critique. “It’s not politically correct to suggest women should be thin,” she said. “But it is healthier.”
It’s not politically correct to suggest that women should be thin? Uh oh, someone needs to tell fashion magazines, TV and movies that they’re totally counter-culture!
I understand the intersections between animal rights and feminism. I think it’s important to explore those intersections. But it’s also not ok to ignore feminist theory or throw women under the bus in order to promote animal welfare. And “But women themselves are doing it!” isn’t the greatest of excuses.
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