Intersectionality: a movement whose time has come
“You can’t be a meat-eating environmentalist”, says a well-designed graphic on Instagram.
“You can’t be a milk drinking feminist”, says another blog post shared on Facebook.
Don’t call yourself a woman if you have no inclinations towards motherhood and child bearing, suggests society. As a woman, how can you not want kids? After all, you’re the chosen gender. The one “God” sent to fill the earth with humans. Isn’t it?
Here are 10 classic comments women get every time they tell someone they’re not interested in kids. A screen grab from the same blog:
There couldn’t be a better time in history where you won’t be pelted with stones for standing up for issues that shed light on the intersectional nature of oppression, and how it has quietly pervaded our societies and penetrated our daily discourse. In fact, it’s for this very reason that we need to stand up and talk about it.
Today, we’re going to discuss the similarities between feminism, veganism and antinatalism. And how they all intersect at the crossroads of intersectionalist equality.
Let’s first define they mean before revealing how each movement interconnects with the other two:
Feminism is the war cry of a generation of women who are fed up of being treated as objects of patriarchy: symbols of wealth, success and status. Some proponents of the movement say that we’re in the third wave of the movement right now, aptly titled “third wave feminism”. Contrary to what misogynistic Facebook posts and men rights advocates claim, feminism fights for equality and equal status among all sexes, regardless of orientation, expression, race, gender, colour, religion, or ethnicity. Feminists also campaign for sexual equality and sexual rights. Being a feminist means being fair to all genders.
“Antinatalism, or anti-natalism, is the ethical view that negatively values procreation. Antinatalists argue that humans should abstain from procreation because it is morally wrong (some also recognize the procreation of other sentient beings as problematic).”
Rather than breeding ever more humans into dilapidated broken systems, we should be aiming to fix those systems. Rather than aspiring for the family way of life, we should be aiming to eliminate homelessness and shutting down orphanages for good (or have them act like temporary holding centers at best). Rather than trying to feed the best (or rather richest) minds of the planet so that they can start their own families and thrive, we should be aiming to evenly distribute food so that the poorest of the poor can survive.
“Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.[c] An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan.”
From the above definition, it naturally follows that vegans are people who consume absolutely no animal products whatsoever, including meat, dairy, poultry, and honey. Vegans further do not utilize the hides or skins of other animals along with the by-products of the meat industry which puts animal products into almost all of our processed food, and daily use items. Vegans do not use leather, wool, pearls, silk, or any other kind of animal skin. Additionally, they also do not consume food items that contain gelatin, isinglass, and other additives of animal origin.
Veganism & feminism
Now where does the intersectionality between veganism and feminism come in? When female non-human animals are commodified and treated as nothing more than products! Vegan feminists assert that one cannot be a feminist if one consumes the products of rape and sexual assault, which by default includes all animal products. We must respect and support not just the females of our very own species, but the females of non-human animals too.
And therefore, eating or drinking any animal products or the by-products of the meat industry is clearly not feminist!
Since animals are solely bred for the purpose of consumption in modern day farms, there is no way to humanely produce meat, cheese, milk, eggs and other animal products without violating the female reproductive system of non-human animals.
An article I found on Medium speaks about the commodity and property status of females, human animals, and non-human animals alike:
“Alternatively, the universalized version of this could exist within a conception of property. You should not rape a cow because that would be like raping your wife or child. Is this version any more sound? These wrinkles reveal the inherent indifference between men and women. Men are often expected to fulfill one significant purpose, whereas women are meant to fulfill many. Male cows are expected to become meat; female cows are expected to breed, give birth, provide milk, and then also become meat. To properly exercise Kantian ethics toward the issue of veganism, one must simply declare: it is not ethical to exploit any sentient body, for meat, for skin, for dairy, for eggs, whether it is personally beneficial or not.”
In another article on Medium titled, “Veganism is the future of feminism”, the following line lends further credence to my point:
“Animal factory farming is an inherently sexual process that rests on female animals’ reproductive abilities in sexual slavery in the interests of efficiency and increases profits. We can do better.”
Further gesticulating towards the capitalistic nature of feminism and veganism in the very same article, the author says:
“If capital truly had nothing to do with sex and gender, then women would be fully integrated and equally paid in the year 2021 and animals could not be exploited on the basis of their capacity to reproduce.”
Further down the article, Allison Tilborgh, the author, brings out the glaring intersectionality between animal and human rights and establishes that “animal rights rhetoric is inherently anti-colonial, anti-racist, and pro-workers rights.” With some inspiration from this, I hope to write on the intersectionality between worker rights and animal rights too.
Female dairy cows are routinely raped (read artificially inseminated) to keep up and ensure the steady supply and flow of milk. They are kept confined to filthy stalls all their lives, and hooked up to machines that painfully suck their udders dry every single day, causing them immense pain and suffering(Look up mastitis). Then, when they stop producing milk or their yield becomes less, they are deemed unprofitable and sent for slaughter.
Vegan feminists question how this entire process could remotely be feminist, and call for all feminists to boycott animal products if they are indeed invested in the cause.
Antinatalism & feminism
And only naturally, it is that women find themselves yet again in the spotlight of yet another social evil. Since it is women that give birth, shouldn’t they be the ones who get to decide whether to procreate or not?
Sadly, this has NOT been the case for centuries, where it is the men (and the older women in the family who’ve been afflicted with internalized misogyny) who have decided that a woman is solely born to be a baby producer and housewife. Nothing more. Nothing less. This has been the prevailing thought for centuries together, only until recently where women have started to shatter the glass ceiling and assume prime positions in govt, corporate, the scientific as well as social world.
An imagined pro-natalist reality for women
It’s the subtle taunts on women regarding marriage and motherhood, whether at the workplace or in a casual setting. You know, the casual everyday sexism that most women are forced to put up with, pretending they didn’t hear what you said. It’s the sarcastic comments on how women’s lives are worthless and boring without family and kids: “having kids is your life’s purpose”. Or, “You are an incomplete woman without kids”, they say.
And many other such snarky subtle hints interjected into casual everyday conversation, which always assumes and implies a pro-natalist reality for Indian women. As per the dominant culture, Indian women are born to marry, give birth, and run the house. That’s the end-all, be-all of their existence. Caste, religion, culture, and community all have a role to play in perpetuating this ideology and in maintaining the status-quo.
I was casually surfing Medium last night and found this interesting bit in an article titled “why is there so much emphasis on single women”:
“Somehow, and totally illogically, we as a society have made the concept of being single a women’s issue. I suspect the answer is that we, as a society, perceive that being married is a highly desirable state for women. Take the way we write about celebrities. A male and female celebrity can have a very similar dating history, both having dated a lot but never married, but we’ll describe them completely differently. The man will have ‘dated a string of top models and beautiful actresses’ whereas the female will have been ‘unlucky in love’ (even though the guys she’s dated were just as hot as the women her male counterpart dated).”
The patriarchal nature of this implied future for women in a society that constantly assumes a woman will get married and have kids is everything that’s wrong with our culture! This has led many women to actually believe in this fairy tale version of life, and willfully commit the same transgressions against their own offspring in a psychological phenomenon known as internalized misogyny. But that is a another topic for another day.
A recently produced Malayalam movie that takes on the inherent sexism and patriarchy in Indian arranged marriages attempts to shed light on the striking sexual inequality in Indian families.
It is extremely disconcerting that women have been reduced to nothing but housemaids, cooks and providers of pleasure. Along with the occasional family outing once a fortnight. This particular snippet about the movie from a popular online publication in India really managed to touch a nerve:
“Clearly, the body of the woman in The Great Indian Kitchen is merely reduced to a pair of hands alternating between the piled-up kitchen sink and the stoves when not a vagina that should dutifully be available for the husband’s pleasure when not bleeding.”
A popular Facebook page shared this image with the wordings of Periyar, an Indian social activist who was the pioneer of body autonomy and the self-respect movement in the early years:
Hence, in light of all the atrocities being committed against women in the backdrop of an extremely warming world, it would only be fair that people should not only be educated on “family” planning, but also about anti-natalism and its subsequent benefits to society. It would be in the best interest of women to ensure that this kind of knowledge gets disseminated far and wide, till the most rural and backward towns of the country hear the message loud and clear!
Antinatalism and veganism
Since bringing a life into this unkind horrible world is itself immoral as per the antinatalist brigade, there can be no way of humanely breeding life into it, be it the human or non-human animal kind. Despite not being the majority in each of their respective camps, you’ll find most antinatalists to be vegans, and many vegans similarly following the ideology of antinatalism.
I’ve already published an article speaking about the unethical nature of the two; the glaring psychological similarities between those who procreate and those who consume meat. You can read about it here. After all, they’re both intertwined, and one always complements the other. And before you tell me “correlation doesn’t equal causation”, I’m here to break it to you: In this case, it very much does (for most people). Because you see, when one operates from an anti-natalist frame of mind, one is more conscious of the savagaries, the brutality and barbarity of the world.
There is a lesser probability that someone who follows antinatalism after recognizing that life is inherently suffering and pain, would willfully want to bestow the same reality upon others, be they non-human animals at best.
Whether it’s the casual sexist remarks one passes to their women friends and colleagues, or out rightly bullying vegans who are trying to make the world a better place for humans and non-human animals alike, we’ve got a long way to go in rolling back these deeply entrenched conservative norms and stop indulging in bigotry. You see, everyone benefits from the antinatalist worldview.
Every woman who chooses not to procreate saves countless lives in the process. If it’s a girl child, then there is no chance of living a fearful, painful existence as a conformist, obeying every patriarchal and sexist rule in the book, just in order to exist and get by. If the child is of either sex, there is no chance of indulging in animal abuse whether for food, clothing or entertainment. And if the child is a male, then there is one lesser man in the world to torment, harass and outrage the modesty of women, not to mention to countless number of non-human animal lives saved by not consuming them.
Do let me know what you think of this in the comment section. Thanks for reading.