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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why do we still need feminism?

We're in a strange place; you can turn on the television and watch a woman saying we don't need feminism and because of it men are suffering, or somehow on the exact same planet you can go to a university and take a PhD in Women's Studies and devote 10 years of your life to feminism.

So which is it; is feminism dead or alive, and who is it for?


Simone de Beauvoir answered these questions 63 years ago in her book The Second Sex. Beauvoir wrote that feminism is necessary for men and women; everyone is oppressed by our current system, just in very different ways.

To be clear, not all feminism can be boiled down to Beauvoir. She is but one of many influential feminists and I'm using her to make my point. Someone else could use Foucalt, Butler, Irigaray, Harraway, and so forth and make the case for feminism in a very different way.

Beauvoir believed that people of the female sex are made into "women" and that this is to our detriment. She explained that young girls are forced to wear dresses they can't move in, not allowed to climb trees, forbidden to fight and learn to defend themselves like their male peers do, encouraged to play with dolls, told that they should be married and be a mother, and taught to cook and clean. The upbringing of a girl makes her into a defenceless home keeper, or even worse a working mom who does the 9-5 job then comes home to cook and clean. This is further emphasized in her adult life when she is encouraged to become a mother and wear clothes that keep her defenceless (try running as successfully in a ball gown and heels as a man in his suit!). Beauvoir argues that boys are raised to be humans that work towards their goals whereas girls are raised to be parasites. We can see this clearly in her quote on page 749:

“Women are “clinging,” they are a dead weight, and they suffer for it; the point is that their situation is like that of a parasite sucking the living strength of another organism. Let them be provided with the living strength of their own, let them have the means to attack the world and wrest from it their own subsistence, and their dependence will be abolished – that of man also. There is no doubt that both men and women will profit greatly from the new situation.”

Ultimately, Beauvoir argues, there is nothing wrong with "women" naturally but the problem lies in how we are raised by our society to be women. If we raise girls to be human beings that can defend themselves and have actual choices then women will be able to be independent and men will be free of the parasite we've been trained to be.

So, according to Beauvoir, all we need to do is raise girls differently and give them choices. This is where it gets tricky. Antifeminists believe women have enough or too many choices. Feminists believe that although women have come a long way, we really don't have many choices. What seems to be choice is, if you look closer, not a choice at all.


“The girl's choice is usually quite limited; and it could not be really free unless she felt free also not to marry.” Simone de Beauvoir "The Second Sex", p 433
Beauvoir and I would similarly argue that the choice women are said to have is an illusion. In many areas of their life, women are not able to say no. Thus, they are not free and have no choice. While they could physically say no, saying no comes with consequences that can range from stigma to physical assault. When there is any negative consequence that comes from saying no, saying no is not a free choice. I will illustrate this with several examples and personal experiences.

Having Children: Since women can have children, it is often assumed that it is their biological destiny to procreate. Even with obvious problems of overpopulation, women are still expected to become pregnant and have their own children. This is so pervasive that women who don't want children are seen as abnormal. I have known since grade 5 that I would never have human children. I have received a range of responses including: "You'll change your mind.", "You'll regret it if you don't.", "Don't you want to be a grandparent?", "What if your husband wants them?", and "Who will take care of you when you get old?". All of these responses assume that the person talking to me knows more about my body than I do, which is funny, as I've had it for 21 years thank you very much. It also assigns a stigma that would not exist if I had children at the appropriate age with the appropriate person. There is no choice, only societal hell to pay if I want to fight to keep my body child free.

Getting Married: In high school I decided that I'd never meet the right guy and never get married. Even though I have, we're still not getting married because I disagree with the institution of marriage. This results in the stigmatized questions of: "Don't you want to buy a wedding dress?", "But he'll always be your boyfriend.", "Don't you want a big wedding?", "What about a wedding ring?", and "You'll regret it." Once again, this is not a choice. There are clearly values assigned to one side over the other. If it were a choice, no one would have any say or comment on what I did with my future.

Having Sex: There is a remarkably appropriate amount of sex to have, which I think is ridiculous. If someone thinks you have too little, you get responses like I do such as "Your boyfriend will leave you" and "I feel sorry for your boyfriend" (both of these came from people very very close to me). If you have too much, you're a slut. The reason this occurs is because women are expected to have a certain amount of sex. Too little and we're not fulfilling our "biological role" as women. Too much and we're spoiled goods, which is ridiculous considering women are not property! The idea of the slut is a herald back to a time when women were property and men didn't want to share. We're no longer property under the law, but we still are when it comes to sex. When we can specify any amount of partners we want without any shame, then it will be a choice we make as free individuals.

Shaving: Like your grass lawn, women are expected to be shaved. There are a lot of good reasons not to shave. Some of them include: not looking like a prepubescent girl and because it grows back so it's a waste of your very important time (read a book instead!). I shave every once in a while because of the awful stigma that comes from not shaving. Clementine Cannibal, an amazing person I was lucky enough to have a class with, tells a story on her blog about being beaten up at a show because she didn't shave her armpits. We have no choice in this matter, it's shave or get ready to defend yourself. That is not the choice of a free individual.

Wearing a bra: Women have breasts and are thus expected to wear bras, even if they are uncomfortable for some of us. The amount of stares or indecent comments a women can get simply because she is not wearing a bra is surprising. I remember a friend once called my professor a "hippie" and was disgusted that she wasn't wearing a bra. This brilliant woman with her PhD in a field I could never even get through because it would take so much math had suddenly become nothing more important than a woman without a bra. Every accomplishment in her life was reduced to nothing because she failed to put on a bra that day. It is not a choice.

There are countless examples of women not having a choice when society claims that we do. The "choice" we have is really only one option that society values and we must face the wrath of society if we do not pick it. Women should be free to look however we want, sleep with whoever we want, and do whatever we want, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else in the process. Until we can, we still need feminism. Men need it too. We know they are not free either.


We still need feminism because both men and women are not free. You cannot save half of society and expect everything to turn out fine. Feminism is a means to liberate us all. There is dissension in feminism about how exactly we should go about gaining our freedom, which results in many different types of feminism, but I am pretty confident in saying that a feminist ethic of some kind is absolutely essential. We need it if we want to get out of this mess.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to Get Rid of Aphids and Other Garden Bugs Without Killing Them


Gardening is plagued by a speciesist fallacy that I would summarize as a "Don't like it? Kill it" approach. This approach encourages a lack of empathy, values aesthetics over suffering and death, and ultimately contradicts why many of us garden to begin with. We garden because we actually like nature and how we treat it should reflect that. This blog post is intended to speak out against the typical gardening approach that values human pleasure over all else. If you found it, likely because you don't want to kill aphids or other bugs to remove them, hopefully you agree.

One of the first steps to wanting to remove aphids and other insects peacefully is turning them from objects into subjects. We should view them as if they were another person. At the very least, we should consider them to be similar to a cat or dog in what moral obligations we have towards them. This is a huge step up from seeing them as a pest or as no more worthy of our consideration than dirt. One way we can do that is by trying to understand aphids on their own terms.


Aphids are fascinating animals. I will admit that their number of legs creeps me out a little, but theoretically they are just beautiful. There are roughly 4 400 species of aphids; only about 250 of these are considered "pests" by humans. They come in many colours and can be green, black, pink, or brown.

Some aphids are even "farmed" by ants where the ants will protect them from predators, bring their eggs into the nest over the winter, and stroke them for honeydew. The relationship seems alright, but just like us humans, the ants often take advantage of the aphids. If the aphid herds get too big the ants start to eat them. Finally, aphids can reproduce sexually and asexually.

In the Winter female aphids change from sexual to asexual reproduction and they make female aphid offspring by themselves. Hypothetically, female aphids could continue to carry on the species without males!


The best way to make sure that you don't have to struggle with aphids or other insects is to plan ahead. You can always buy a plant for aphids to encourage them to eat that one instead of eating your precious lettuce. Aphids are attracted to the colour yellow so you could plant or buy potted yellow plants. Sunflowers are a great option if you have the room because they will also provide a food source for birds and squirrels that might be otherwise tempted to eat your other plants as well!

If you are growing plants indoors, start them from seed when possible. If you buy potted plants, keep them in a room without other plants for at least a month. They may have insects or insect eggs on them and it's best to isolate any insects so that they don't spread to all of your other plants. Only buy new potted plants when it is warm outside, in case you do happen to get insects.

If you are growing your plants outdoors, go for plant variety. If you do happen to get aphids, you'll find that they are only interested in some of your plants. If I had only grown lettuce this year, I would have been much more upset when I found some green aphids living on my lettuce plants. It wasn't that big a deal though because I was also growing basil, eggplant, parsley, chives, mint, strawberries and rhubarb that the aphids hadn't touched.

If your garden is outdoors, encourage nature to take care of the aphids on their own. Insects are only a problem when they have an unlimited food source and no predators. If you let nature do its own thing, predators will quickly notice that you have lots of aphids and take care of that for you. You can attract predators by buying plants that ladybugs are attracted to or by making a hidey hole for a frog. If you don't want to add additional plants or build specific habitats, one simple method is to just stop cutting your grass. As soon as I did this my backyard became a home to snakes, burrowing spiders, frogs, praying mantises, and a walking stick.


Most gardening websites encourage getting rid of aphids or other insects with alcohol or soapy water. This is extremely cruel and unnecessary. The aphids won't kill you or even your plants, but you will kill them by doing this. It's an overreaction.

If you have aphids inside your house, move any plants with aphids into a room by themselves. Whether the plants are outdoors or indoors, the first step should be to physically remove the aphids. Snip off any leaves that they are sitting on. If you caught it early enough, you'll lose less than 1/4 of the plant this way. You must take the whole leaf because you may not be able to see eggs that were laid. Put these leaves outside. If you haven't been cutting your grass, you'll have plenty of new food options for your aphids to choose from. You may have to do this for several days in a row, but in a week your plants should be aphid free. I have tried this method myself with no problems.

If you don't have yellow flowers, go buy some. Scroll back up and read plan ahead if you don't know why. You can use the yellow flowers as a transport system to attract aphids, then remove them outside.

Just wait. I had little aphids all over my lettuce and didn't know how to get them out because they were all stuck in between the curled leaves. After the next rainfall, they just vanished.

If, for some reason, you cannot get rid of your aphids, take a deep breath and slow down. Aphids are definitely frustrating, but we all know that it's not acceptable to kill something because it's in your way or frustrating. Sometimes you may lose a plant or two. Life goes on. It won't for them if you decide to take it personally and kill them.


If you want more information about gardening peacefully, check out this post I wrote here.

If you are having problems with ants and would like to get rid of them without killing them, check out this post I wrote on my old blog here.

If you are having problems with ladybugs in your house, check out this post I wrote here.