Veganism and feminism are inseparable concepts in my life.

This blog is a theoretical interpretation of the lived experiences of a vegan feminist,
and an exploration of what it even means to be one in the first place.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Talking like/to/as a feminist

Feminism is my television commercials – but my friends don't watch the same channels I do.

Television commercials are a passive form of education. You sit in front of a screen (partly enamored and numbed into submission by the actual presence of a screen) and absorb. You are brought there under the guise that you will be entertaining yourself by watching a television show, and yet inherent to your enjoyment comes the advertisement. Twenty seven percent of your time watching the television will be spent watching someone try and sell you something. The commercials are repetitive to the point that you often find yourself in a daze, staring blindly, waiting for them to end. It must not be mistaken though – you are being acculturated to a way of life and a value system. It may be your own, but it is never of your own design. We do not watch television commercials with a barrier up. To do so would be to outwardly criticize every single one, but that is a tiring act. It becomes a headache to sit and watch things you loathe and hate. So to sit and not comment, is to absorb whatever it is that is on the television screen. You may not buy many (or even any) of the products, but that's not always what's being sold.

So what then is my form of television commercials if I don't own cable or watch tv? As a university student, I would argue that we read course readings in much the same way that we watch television commercials. There is some resistance, some comments, but if you are in a program you love – you largely absorb. I cannot tell you how many times I've argued with someone, only to realize every point I am using came from something I read four months ago. I suppose it is preferable to absorb academic literature rather than television commercials – but is there a downside?

To everything I read – I come with a set of assumptions. I carry an invisible world of literature with me. For example, when reading Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Harraway I loved it – but only because of the previous information I'd absorbed. I could understand the cyborg as a foray – much like the one presented by Cixous and Clément. A foray only makes sense when I understand male privilege and the monosex presented by sexual difference feminists. I am ready to see it as just a foray after accepting the dismantling of the Italian feminist collectives of the 1970s. Furthermore, foray makes sense in reference to the attempts of the hysteric and the sorceress. The hysteric only makes sense after reading Brown's case studies and then Bordo's linking of the hysteric to the anorexic to the agoraphobic. Finally, hysteric and sorceress are linked by Freud – but linked properly when criticized by Clément. If that made sense to you – we are watching the same television channel. If it didn't – your confusion is exactly my point. How can I reference or speak about anything to anyone, when to speak about one thing requires an hour long lecture about how I even got to thinking about it in the first place?

Then there comes the question – are there multiple readings of Harraway I can never comprehend? My understanding of her relies on work she does not reference, but work I bring to the table to myself and link to hers. So to understand feminism would mean to read everything – and I mean everything. What if the excerpts from books I'm reading are skewed and I should be reading the whole book? It is common practice in universities to just read an isolated chapter here and there. The more I read though – the more I feel detached from, and unable to speak to, people who don't read feminist literature. How can feminism move forward if our theories and understanding are inaccessible to people because they must be well read to understand them? This has nothing to do with intelligence, but instead is about how much someone reads and what they have learned. Or better yet, how can I even propose challenging that, because isn't feminism about freedom, and shouldn't we be able to theorize as much as possible so that we can get to the right definition and practice of freedom?

I am left baffled and exhausted. The people watching my television channel is so small – sometimes it even feels as if there is no one at all. It feels as if I'm watching three channels at once and merging them all together in my mind: vegan feminism, sexual difference feminism, and radical feminism. So when I speak I speak from all three places, and create the bind myself. When I move forward I speak from places that do not seem to connect, and connect them in my writing – but to understand why I connect them, you'd probably have had to read about all three before.

So that is the bind.

Who am I even speaking to anymore? And if I change my speech to find the audience, am I still speaking for myself?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ladybugs in the House in Winter

Ladybugs wandering into homes during the Winter is a common occurrence where I live. Think of this blog post as a guide to better understanding ladybugs in general and as a helpful step by step method to compassionately ensure the survival of your friendly visitors during the Winter. I consider this a vegan and feminist issue because we as humans should protect other species because they have a right to life.

To begin I think I'd like to discuss ladybugs in general, as I find most ill will towards animals often stems from a lack of knowledge. You don't necessarily have to love (or even like) ladybugs, but if you recognize that they are unique creatures that are the subject of a life it suddenly makes sense to protect them when you find one in your home and it's too cold to simply put the ladybug back outdoors, throwing them out in the snow, or killing them.

Ladybugs are more properly referred to as Coccinellidae and are sometimes also called ladybird beetles or lady beetles. The harlequin ladybug (common to North America) is a human introduced species and was brought here in 1916 to control aphids - but is now becoming a "pest" itself. Some ladybugs eat plants rather than other insects. When threatened ladybugs can release a venomous toxin , a bad taste, or play dead. That is why it is important when you find a ladybug to gently prod the insect - and if the ladybug doesn't move, stick around and wait. I've witnessed many a "dead" ladybug suddenly decide to move 10 minutes later, or at worst when I've accidentally knocked them onto their back (trying to move them onto a paper to put them somewhere else) and their little legs start scrambling. Ladybugs live 1-3 years in general and do hibernate over the Winter. They hibernate over the Winter under the ground (I assume only where it snows or gets very cold), and if possible in large groups. Like all other animals ladybugs have hearts, can experience pain, and can suffer.

When it gets cold (at least where I live) ladybugs begin to look for places to hibernate. They can sometimes come into homes where it is warmer. You will often find them in bathrooms or other places where there is dampness. The first step upon finding a live ladybug is to carefully release him or her outside. If it seems cold - you need to make a call. My rule of thumb is that if it's too cold to go outside without a Winter jacket, do not release the ladybug. If you expect it to get very cold in the next 2 days, keep the ladybug inside in case they can't go into hibernation in time. If you expect it to get warmer and it's a little cold, keep them in for now.

Once you've decided that the ladybug must stay inside, you must contain them. Ladybugs often wander around your house in search of food, get lost, and then die. I have had many ladybugs I left alone disappear, and show up dead a few days later. This also happens to ladybugs that escape their temporary enclosures. So when I find a ladybug I get some sort of container that you can see through and will let light in. The size of the container is not extremely important - but please make it at least more than 2 cups large. The container must be closed so that the ladybug can't escape, but can still breathe. For my last ladybug I took a vase, covered the top with a kleenex (to be more breathable), and poked 20 small holes in it. I kept the kleenex on by putting an elastic band on it.

In your container put a damp kleenex or paper towel on the floor. It should be wet enough to be all wet, but not enough that it drips on its own (and could make a little flood). Then sprinkle sugar on the wet kleenex for the ladybug to eat. If your container is very large you can put a shallow dish of water in and dissolve the sugar directly into it. To make your ladybug comfortable you can add a few leaves from nontoxic house plants (like spider plants), from your fridge (like lettuce or carrot tops) or branches.

Then release your ladybug when it gets warmer. While it may be interesting, or even fun, to keep a ladybug in the home - remember that the ladybug is an individual and not a spectacle for your enjoyment. Firstly, this is not an ideal diet for a ladybug and would probably not allow one to live a long and healthy life. Furthermore, the ladybug would like to explore the world and live out their life in their own way. Let them have that decision and control over their own life.