Something horrible happened on Sunday. 59 people were killed by someone with a gun. Hundreds of people were injured in the ensuing chaos. Terrifying. Unimaginable. But then, we aren’t unfamiliar with these stories in the United States. In the past 5 years, there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings (in which four or more people were shot). But we already know this. We know how the news cycle will go when a white man kills people. Calls for prayers, as if that will help. Calls to stop the politicization of death, as if death isn’t always politicized. Calls to band together as a country, as if that will change anything. Speculation about the mental health of the shooter. Use of the phrase “lone wolf.” Resistance by most politicians to any major political action. Mass shootings shouldn’t feel banal, but they do.
There is a concept called the Overton window that describes the relative acceptability of various political ideas. Ideas that fall within the window are generally acceptable according to public opinion. In a talk by Jaclyn Friedman, author of “Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World without Rape,” she urged progressives and leftists not just to hold the line of acceptable political discourse but to continually push it left, no matter how futile it feels. She said that to hold the line means to concede ground to those who would push it right.
Perhaps the financial power of the NRA combined with the passion of NRA superfan voters frightens progressives into taking timid, milquetoast positions on gun control. Perhaps Democrats truly do believe that “we can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe.” And increased regulation, banning assault weapons, and making it more difficult for people who are known to be violent (particularly with intimate partners) to obtain guns would certainly be better than nothing. But I think we need to push the Overton window further left. People who oppose gun violence must understand that there is only one way to end it: to eliminate all gun manufacturing and ownership. This is not a politically viable opinion in the United States right now, and it would involve a Constitutional amendment, something that feels like a nightmare to achieve. But most important things will take a long time and a lot of work. There is no other way. Continue reading let’s be anti-gun extremists
I’m getting pretty fucking sick of cisgender, heterosexual, professional/upper class white dudes lecturing leftists on how shit our policies are and how little we’ve done for the Democrats. It continues today in the New York Times, in an opinion piece titled, “Back to the Center, Democrats,” by Andrew Stein and Mark Penn. Here is a taste:
Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.
This piece is full of useful advice for Democrats, such as, “restore the sanctity of America’s borders,” “reject socialist ideas,” “give up on both building walls and sanctuary cities” (side note: pray tell when progressives were into building walls; pretty sure that was all conservatives, and frankly, fuck you both for equating xenophobic walls and sanctuary cities), be nicer to the Catholics, and back tougher anti-crime/pro-police bills. You know, if I were going to write a parody of the asinine think pieces about how Democrats really need to get back to the center, it would look a lot like this loose stool Penn and Stein managed to squeeze out. Continue reading the center is for suckers
Depressing stories about reproductive healthcare and rights routinely fill the news: four Planned Parenthood clinics close in Iowa due to targeted budget cuts, our ass of a president expanded the global gag rule that prevents organizations that provide abortions from receiving U.S. foreign aid money, the soulless ghouls who make up the U.S. Senate Republicans have created a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that targets reproductive healthcare, and the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale strikes fear into our hearts (I guess this one is only depressing because it’s “too real,” as they say). In the United States, activists and feminists continue to struggle just to beat back anti-abortion legislation. Unfortunately, this has meant that many of us are stuck in a reproductive rights paradigm. The reproductive rights framework for activism is generally limited to the legal sphere and focused primarily on the legal right for someone to have an abortion. This legal right is, of course, nothing to sneeze at, and reproductive rights are critical to reproductive freedom. However, as a paradigm for movement-building, reproductive rights lacks the capacity to effectively connect with other social movements, and to move beyond a narrow focus on choice and “women’s health.” Continue reading food justice is reproductive justice
Recently(ish), I wrote about how primarily animal-centered activists and primarily human-centered activists can and should be working together towards a future without oppression, violence, or systemic hierarchies and dichotomies. Despite the rampant racism, classism, and sexism in mainstream animal rights activism, I think that the principles underlying racial/gender/economic justice movements are present in some food justice and animal rights movements, and that those coalitions should be expanded.
I still believe that, but I want to provide a (semi-)topical example of someone who makes that kind of coalition-building difficult. Casey Affleck, Oscar winner, (alleged) sexual harasser and assaulter, and vegan/animal rights activist, represents a lot of the problems with mainstream animal rights activism and food-based social movements. It’s very hard for anti-racist and feminist activists to be open to food-based social movements that are truly progressive and radical when Casey Affleck and others like him continue to be the most public faces of veganism and animal rights activism. Casey makes this particularly difficult, both because his activism is simplistic and oppressive and because of the interpersonal violence he himself has perpetrated. Continue reading why i have trust issues with vegans
Thanks to Cosmo’s prolific readership, many of us may have already read at least one analysis of the two progressive white men who recently commented on the politics of abortion and reproductive justice, arguing that, to win elections, Democrats should back off on abortion to appeal to segments of the population that typically vote Republican. One of these men was a professor of theology* at Boston College (and is from Ireland, a notoriously anti-abortion nation); the other was Bernie Sanders (who is from America, also a notoriously anti-abortion nation) (LOL!).
But these are just a couple of misguided left wing white guys! It doesn’t mean there’s a deeper problem.
Sike!!!! Racism and sexism have been problems in leftist movements led by white men since modern leftist movements have existed. Leftist movements were supposed to be spaces that were supposed to be more progressive than the “real world.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible to leave the real world behind, especially when the power structures of that world were recreated within the movements, with white men leading and expecting people of color and women to do caring labor without credit. Identity politics were created in response to the oppression that existed within those movements.
Continue reading fuck a fake leftist
I had a phone call with my mom the other day, and she told me she had listened to a podcast that talked about the animal rights framework and the animal welfare framework. She said that she isn’t really on board with animal rights, if by animal rights, we mean that animals and humans are entitled to the same rights and that we should not legally or morally distinguish between animals and humans. She wants to prioritize humans; she thinks that because we have so many problems with each other already that need to be addressed, why add a whole other axis of oppression to fight? Continue reading resolving tensions between animal rights and human-focused social justice movements
Post-Women’s March, I’m disappointed in white women. Again.
At the marches this past weekend, millions of people turned out in Washington, D.C. and sister marches around the country (and the world!) to protest D.J.T.’s ascendance to the presidency, sexism, racism, economic injustice, xenophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and homophobia. Sounds incredible, right? In many ways, it was. It was likely the biggest protest in U.S. history, and while the march got off to a shaky start, the official platform of the Women’s March ended up being intersectional, radical, and inclusive.*
This intersectional and inclusive approach was reflected in some of the signs at the marches. Unfortunately, some of these signs were perceived as being too harsh and divisive in a time when unity is paramount. Signs with slogans like “White Women Voted for Trump” really rattled white women who thought the march, and feminism in general, was supposed to be about unity. Critique is uncomfortable, and I know it’s easy to be defensive. However, the white women who worry about the feminist movement becoming divided don’t understand that feminism has always been divided because feminist movements were started by wealthy white women, many of whom actively perpetuated systems of racism and classism.** Continue reading come ON, white women: part deux