Friday, August 23, 2013

Hey, Some More Birds (And Also Mammals)

Having a closer job means more time to go out and actually do shit.  Huzzah!  My dad found a spotting scope (not a great one but still, free spotting scope) and so I went so some various places and saw various birds.  And some non-birds.

Caspian Terns on a rock in Lake Michigan.

There are some deer in a little mini-zoo. This is one of them.

More deer, a doe and fawn.

Some Forster's Terns.

Turkey Vulture on a telephone pole.

Slightly cautious Mallard.

Whitetail deer on a cliff.

Gull taking off between monuments.

I was driving to work one day and saw some Mute Swans
somewhere I never would have expected. Life Lister!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oh, You Googlers and Bingers are So Fun

Some more search terms to boggle and confuse:

bisexuals in opposite-sex relationships are not oppressed
Somebody looking for a fancy-sounding article about something they already believe I guess?  It's true that bisexuals in opposite-sex relationships experience privilege... but to believe they are universally unoppressed is silly for the same reason believing single gay men are unoppressed would be silly.

can you be a christian and become a warlock
Wow.  Just... wow.  Alright, prospective Christian Warlock, I'll give you my personal opinion on this: You certainly can, but I would caution you to remember that "warlock" etymologically means "oathbreaker" or "betrayer," and the people who used it very likely meant a person who broke Christian oaths (not coven oaths; that idea seems to have been pulled out of thin air).  The etymology of the word certainly isn't its destiny (see below, "warlock means oathbreaker") but it is something you should consider before making that decision.  Also recognize that among Witches the people most likely to reclaim "Warlock" are Satanists and left-hand-pathers and that claiming the word might place you in that category in other peoples' eyes.  I view it as a word of empowering masculinity, which is why I use it... just think about why you like it and if you're willing to justify it every fucking time you bring it up (it gets old, really).

graduation bird

physical shields for empaths
I think what my own essay was about was primarily psychic shielding techniques.  If you want physical shields, you can charge a shirt for that purpose or wear certain jewelry charmed to keep other peoples' emotions away.  Hematite and iron are pretty good.  Avoid jewelry with pearls, amethyst, rose quartz, and other stones that are likely to enhance rather than block other peoples' emotions.

things which you don't know about asterisk
Are there some horrifying secrets about the asterisk that I am unaware of?!

warlock means oathbreaker
So there's this thing called "Etymological Fallacy" you maybe should look into.  "Warlock" means "male witch."

what the fuck down during sex
I have a feeling this person was looking for advice on something awful, but I have no advice to give!

what is a life without birding
Why, my friend, it's no life at all!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Things I Want Every Pagan To Know

I've been thinking... it's almost unfair to write a list of things I want every Christian in a Christian-supremacist society to know without mentioning there's a lot of things I really want other Pagans to know, too.  This is particularly topical as I am considering pruning several of the nonchalantly-added Pagans from my social networks.

The reality is that there are some really important things Pagans need to know, too.  Such as:

It is not appropriate to give a presentation/write a book/create a website/etc. on "Paganism" and then act as though all Paganism is like Wicca.

As a non-Wiccan Pagan it gets really old to go to yet-another-Pagan-introduction presentation and find that the presenters are focusing exclusively on Wicca or assuming all Pagan faiths have similarities to Wicca.  Wicca is a great religion, and lots of people find inspiration in it, but you are making it seriously frustrating for the rest of us when you do this.

If you want to talk about Wicca, make a presentation about Wicca.  Write a book about Wicca.  If you don't identify as a Wiccan, explain that what you are describing is not representative of all Pagans.  I'd much rather you be a little more exclusive with your labels and get it right than try to speak for all of us when you don't have the ability to do so.

Because seriously, it's a fucking downer when I'm talking about my faith in a Pagan context and every newbie (and often non-newbie) is "authoritatively" telling me I've been "doing it wrong" for over a decade because you decided you didn't need to bother to explain this very basic fact.

It is doubly inappropriate to create a ritual that is "generically Pagan" and then write something that only Wiccans and Wicca-inspired Pagans could possibly identify with.

Public rituals  are tricky when it comes to this stuff because you're pretty much not going to be able to write a ritual that will make every Pagan tradition happy.  People in recon, revival, left-hand-path, or alternative faiths who go to public rituals are more often than not gritting our teeth and bearing it rather than getting anything out of the experience.

I am significantly less likely to mentally roll my eyes (and possibly royally fuck up the energy of your ritual) if you don't call your rituals "all-faiths" or something like that.  If it's Wiccan or Wiccan-inspired, just say so.

Practically everything you seem to believe Pagans "don't do" is practiced successfully by some Pagan somewhere.

There are Pagans who curse, there are Pagans who cast love spells, there are Pagans who worship Satan or identify as Satanists, there are Pagans who practice animal sacrifice, and there are Pagans who identify as Warlocks.  There are even Pagans who do shitty shit like abuse people.

In many of these cases, there really is no reason to malign them.  Curses aren't inherently bad, "Warlock" is a seriously misunderstood term in the Pagan community, it's ridiculously easy to see Satan as kind of a good guy, and animal sacrifice is usually significantly more ethical than supermarket meat.

You have the right, of course, to say that these things are unethical or immoral if you so choose.  But they don't make somebody somehow not-Pagan.  "Pagan" is a bigger category than your personal sensibilities.

Not every non-Abrahamic faith is "Pagan," and Jewish/Christian/Muslim Pagan-identified people also exist.

"Paganism" is in many ways more a community and defiant self-identity than a label to be placed on somebody.  In its current use it originated as a really nasty slur--to be called pagan meant you were ignorant, backward, and hellbound--and many groups still consider it to be a slur.  Native American and Asian native religious beliefs often wind up with the "Pagan" label slapped on them by people who identify with the term to make our numbers look larger and more formidable.  There are also reconstructionists and revivalists who don't identify with the term (a large number of Kemetic Orthodox for instance).

Keep in mind that while as religious minorities we experience the effects of religious hegemony and persecution, most of us are converts or from recently-converted families; we simply don't have the serious depth of understanding of how hurtful this word can be that other groups Christians designated as "pagan" have.

On the flip side, insisting that Christo-Pagans, Jewitches, and Muslim syncretists can't call themselves "Pagan" if they wish (and there are people in all of these groups who do) because of some firm "everything other than Christians Jews and Muslims!" definition of "pagan" is also inaccurate in practice.  Keep in mind that because it does originate as a slur for people who essentially practice religion "wrong," it's been used to refer to other Christians, Jews, and Muslims for a really long time as well.  Catholics in particular get the brunt of this, due to the religion's willingness to absorb regional cultural beliefs and customs rather than outlaw them.  People have converted to Islam because of the perception that Christianity is "becoming too Pagan."  Jews and Muslims have both been called "Pagan" by Christians, too, with people insisting that Allah is a pagan moon God among other ridiculousness.  So really, they have just as much right to reclaim "Pagan" as we do.

Your ethics and politics aren't universal, either among Pagans or elsewhere.

This goes for... well, everyone.  Although I personally believe Paganism goes really well with a radical left worldview, it's not inherently radical left.  Nor is it inherently libertarian.  Nor inherently vegetarian.  Nor inherently pro-choice.  Nor inherently pro-gun.  Nor inherently pro-gay.  I incorporate my politics into religion and vice versa all the time... but if you assume people are automatically going to agree with you because you're all Pagan you're going to have a bad time.

I say this out of personal experience... when I became Pagan I thought hey, this aligns so well with my personal views that clearly everyone else must share those personal views (I was like 12 what can I say).  It didn't take too long to realize that there are Pagans of every political stripe out there, and they all think Paganism goes well with their beliefs.

That's not to say you can't advocate, but don't assume, either.

In addition, your ethics are not universal.  It's really easy to think they are when you've found a faith that really, really matches them... if you're a Wiccan, for instance, the Wiccan Rede seems like a total no-brainer.  Don't harm?  Perfect!

...well, no.  That's not universal.  And neither is the threefold law.  Which reminds me...

Preachy Pagans are just as annoying as preachy Christians if not more.

I'm significantly more annoyed by preachy Pagans than preachy Christians because at least Christians know they're being preachy.   Pagans have it in their heads that we don't preach and then look at what we do.

Just now I actually had a person--somebody who didn't know anything about the story except "I cast a curse and it bounced back on me, but I have no regrets"--tell me that I must have "not thought it through" or "did it wrong."  Didn't have any idea that the curse worked because of the bounce-back, just decided flat out it was "my fault" rather than a responsibility I bore to get the spell to work.

If somebody is asking you advice, it's one thing.  Otherwise, seriously: Nobody wants to hear this shit.

The same goes for people who decide to preach and preach about how we can't cast curses and how nobody should be doing animal sacrifice (see above) and so on and so forth.  these are--again--not universal Pagan values and unless you've been asked there's no reason to say stuff like this.  It grates on me so much every time somebody--usually a Wiccan, usually but not always relatively inexperienced--gets on their soapbox to tell me or somebody else that we're doing it wrong because we don't have Wiccan ethics.

Not all Pagans are touchy-feely-huggy people.

First, it's worth mentioning that a lot of Pagans also identify as empaths, and many of us get way too much spiritual junk from you if you touch us.  I tend to reject a lot of hugs; don't take it personally, it really isn't you (well, most of the time).  I'm selective about who I hug.

I wrote more about this in Extending Consent, though.

Pagan men:  Quit acting like women and Goddesses are your sex objects and that you are immune to accusations of sexism.

When I went to PSG one of the first things I remember seeing was a guy bowing down to every woman he saw topless.  They clearly weren't naked for him, but of course he had to act as though they were statues of a Goddess because he got to see some boobs.  Seriously, that's fucking creepy.

And this is a relatively common thing.  The very first Wiccan I met sixteen odd years ago was pretty much your textbook sexist, creeping on every woman around, making crude comments, and justifying it by proclaiming that he is a Goddess worshiper and therefore loves women.

If this is you, seriously... just stop.  Worshiping a Goddess does not automatically make you less sexist (I've found it can even be a sign that you're more sexist because you're objectifying your deities as well as people).  Look up some feminism 101.  Fucksake.

Cultural stereotypes about witches are not necessarily about you... nor were the Witch Trials.

I don't see the latter that much, it seems there's been a lot more historical advocacy since I started out and people are no longer learning bullshit like "millions of real live Witches just like us were burned alive!"  If you do believe this sort of thing, though, realize that our religion wasn't actually around back then and most of the people killed were Christians.  That doesn't mean you can't use it as a part of our mythological history, but don't confuse this with real history.

One thing I do still see is people making big deals about cinematic portrayals of witches.  There are certainly problematic elements to these--they're often tied to the Salem or European Witch Trials and serve as a bizarre victim-blaming party (Hocus Pocus, Hansel and Gretal Witch Hunters, etc.), but again... these cultural tropes have been around long before we existed.  So just be careful with what you're saying about things like this.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Same Love" Is "Born This Way" All Over Again

Music tends to dupe me for around ten minutes.  Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" got me, and a few others, but today I'm going to talk about Macklemore and Mary Lambert's "Same Love," which had me thinking "Oh God that's so beautiful!" for like ten minutes before I realized "Wait, what the fuck."

There have been a lot of things written about this song and exactly why it's so grating to some people.  Some have criticized it for its dripping white privilege, taking up privileged space in multiple minority communities, slathering on comparisons between people of color and LGBT movements without regard to either, making broad statements about homophobia in hip-hop while ignoring that there's an entire genre of hip-hop by and for LGBT people (homo hop), and so forth (here's a pretty good clearinghouse from Racialicious).  My own bubble initially popped for three reasons in addition:
  • It's basically a gay marriage song (my opinions about that are here).
  • The lyric about him thinking he was gay and his mom reassuring him he's not because he's been "into girls since before pre-K" is iffy; how many of us didn't know we were queer back then? Or just went through the motions because we felt like we were supposed to?
  • It's largely dedicated to making tolerance necessary within Christian hegemony without challenging it.

But the thing that bugs me most is that damn hook:
I can't change
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love... she keeps me warm
This was written as well as sung by Mary Lambert and based on her story (via Wikipedia) it's probably a pretty accurate description of how she feels. The reason it irritates me isn't because I want to invalidate her feelings, but because it's a perfect description of the gay and lesbian narrative that's dominated mainstream discourse for quite a while now.  When I hear this hook all I can think of is somebody mournfully singing about how being a lesbian is so awful but she just can't change even if she tries.  I guess you could argue that that third line says she doesn't want to change, but it still is working within that narrative and it's just something I perceive as I hear the song every time I hear it.  I actually have to change the radio station when it comes on because all I can picture is somebody groveling at the feet of straight people.

If this had been something written and performed by two queers (including Lambert) in the homo hop subgenre I would probably just consider it a testament to their own personal experience.  But as the only current mainstream played-on-the-radio-all-the-fucking-time song dealing with LGB issues it's seriously annoying that again we're being barraged by a song that rests so firmly upon this "no choice" narrative.  I already wrote about the no choice narrative back when I talked about "Born This Way" and realize now that these two songs are basically parallels of suck.  It's true that there are LGBT and queer people who absolutely do not believe they had any choice in the matter (and many who would take the "Hard Pill" no questions asked), but as somebody who did have some choice in the matter it disturbs me when this is the only narrative people are regularly accustomed to and that those of us who don't fit this narrative are by extension shamed, minimized, and in many cases argued with over it.  But the reality is that we don't deserve rights and liberation only because "people don't choose to be queer."  We deserve them whether we chose it or not.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Things I Want Every Christian in a Christian-Supremacist Culture To Know

There's a blog essay going around entitled "What Non-Christians Want Christians To Hear."  As most of my friends are non-Christians this spread rather rapidly throughout my social networks.  It's the result of research for a book on how Christians behave toward non-Christians and includes such statements as:
“I feel that Christians have got it all wrong; it seems to me that they’ve created the very thing Jesus was against: Separatism.”– T. O., Denver
“Christians seem to have lost their focus on Jesus’ core message: ‘Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”– R.M., Tacoma
“I don’t know whether or not most of the Christians I come across think they’re acting and being like Jesus was – but if they do, they need to go back to their Bibles, and take a closer look at Jesus.” — L.B., Phoenix
“I wish Christians would resist their aggressive impulses to morph others into Christians. Didn’t Jesus preach that we should all love one another?”– M.G., Shoreline, WA
This seems pretty typical as far as what I'd expect non-Christians to want Christians to hear from us.  Here's what bothers me about it, though:  Too many of them focus on telling Christians what Christianity is supposed to be about and complaining about individual behaviors.  These are both problematic because they both assume that non-Christians are an authority on a deity we do not worship and because they ignore the institutions--both subtle and unsubtle--granting power-based-on-religion in favor of blaming some naughty people who preach too hard.

What I want Christians to know is entirely different.  Because it's not a problem with just the superbigots.  Christian hegemony is something that gives an entitlement complex to not just the Brother Jeds and Fred Phelpses of the world.  This is behavior that comes from people who truly, honestly think they're being open-minded and affirming.

* This is titled "Things I Want Every Christian in a Christian-Supremacist Culture to Know."  The points related to oppression do not apply to Christians worldwide.

What you think of as obvious truth within your religion is not as obvious as you think it is, so actually believe us when we say we don't believe.

There's a tendency among Christians to think we all secretly know that Christianity is the right faith and are deliberately rejecting it for some reason.  Atheists and agnostics seem to get the brunt of this, with Christians accusing them of "hating" or "disagreeing with" God.  Atheists don't believe in God... that's the whole point.  It has nothing to do with whether or not they agree with his message.

In the case of people like myself who have different Gods, again, there's a tendency to think we secretly know that we're "really" worshiping Satan or a false God.

That's absurd.  Really, it is.

I don't care--honestly, I don't--if you believe my Gods are Satan-in-disguise.  I adamantly disagree, but your beliefs themselves don't actually affect me.  But please recognize that when we say we believe something--or don't believe it--that we are being honest with you.

Biblical and Christian values are not universal.

At the heart of every argument toward placing Christian symbols in public spaces is the belief that Christian values are universal values and that all people--Christian or not--will identify with them on some level.

The most prominent example of this is the Ten Commandments.  These are from the Old Testament and apply to all religions tracing their lineage to it (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in particular).  There's the ludicrous claim that somehow even the most staunch atheist will find that the Ten Commandments contain good moral teachings.

What doesn't appear to occur to them is that literally less than half of the Ten Commandments are what any reasonable person would call "universal values."  Do not murder, do not steal, do not lie.  Maybe do not commit adultery, if you play it at the relationship dishonesty angle.  "Honor thy father and thy mother" sounds great on paper until you factor in children of abusive parents.  The rest of these "commandments" literally only apply to Old Testament believers.  "Do not have Gods before me?" "Do not take God's name in vain?" "Do not make graven images?" "Keep the sabbath day holy?"

I don't understand why so many Christians believe these are universal.  They very clearly aren't.

The Bible is rife with examples like this.  Literally nothing universal about those values.  When I've read the Bible I've found practically nothing inspiring about it that can't be find in a myriad of non-religious philosophical texts.  Why are we not trying to get them put on courthouses instead?

Again, you can have whatever values you want, but don't assume anybody else is obligated to identify with them.  They really aren't as universal as you think.

You really take the privileges you have so for granted that it looks like oppression to you when those privileges are taken away... but it's not.

As Christians in a Christian-supremacist culture, you are trained to expect a lot of things.  You expect to be able to wear your religious jewelry and clothing wherever you want and probably don't even think twice about how people are going to view you if you do.  You expect to be able to get time off for religious holidays.  You expect that if you use greetings that have a religious subtext, people will not be offended by it.  You expect that it's just "normal" that your religious beliefs would be represented in the legal system and on public property.  You expect that your children are going to have an education that doesn't conflict with the religious beliefs you have taught them.

What you might not know is that this isn't the case for non-Christians.  When some of these privileges are taken away, you're not experiencing oppression: You're experiencing what the rest of us already experience.

For example, where I used to work the buildings were necessarily open 24/7/365, so we got paid time-and-a-half for federal holidays.  The paycheck after Easter there was a huge string of complaints... people had worked on Easter Sunday and weren't getting paid time-and-a-half for it.

Because it's not a federal holiday.  But because it's a popular Christian holiday, people were rebelling over the fact that they didn't get paid more for it.  What these people neglect to understand is that every day is a holiday to some religion.  I have probably fifteen or so religious holidays I very devoutly celebrate, but I don't get time-and-a-half for them.  Many of us don't even take time off for them; it's too risky when you have devoutly Christian bosses and coworkers.

Not oppression.  Equality.

When I was in elementary school there were several occasions where Christians were given privilege.  After one Christian (who I don't think even had kids in attendance) wrote complaining that our holiday play didn't have enough Bible-thumping they started having a yearly nativity scene in it.  We sang songs about Jesus and how we all see him differently but it's all cool because Jesus... I had a teacher give a lesson about polytheism in which she literally taught that we "now know" there's only one God.  In public school.  That these things are being taken out of public school is not oppression of Christianity.  It's equality.

And you know what?  There still isn't actual equality between Christians and non-Christians.  In my preferred work environment it's difficult to find a job that isn't at a church-run entity with Jesus statues staring at me, listening to people mumble thanksgiving prayers over the intercom three times a day.  There are still raging debates over Christian monuments that are driven by Christian supremacist politicians trying to garner Christian-supremacist votes.  To even claim that Christians are oppressed in this environment is absurd.

I am not obligated to understand your faith references or read your literature.

Here's the thing:  I do understand your faith references.  Probably better than most Christians do.  It's a defense mechanism many non-Christians develop.  Some of us have even read the whole Bible.  One of the reasons for the number of non-Christians criticizing Christian beliefs rather than Christian privilege is because we're expected to know Jesus things and therefore we do.

But when we don't?  Don't act like we're obligated to.  We're not, not any more than you're obligated to understand the Charge of the Goddess or the Quran.

People are not obligated to acknowledge Christian niceties just because you assume we should view them as generic.

When people say "God Bless You" or "Merry Christmas," it grates on me.  It really does.  Not because I don't understand the will behind it, but because it's so presumptuous that people indiscriminately use such language to talk to each other.  I rarely say anything, for the same reason I don't ask for time off for religious holidays:  It's risky for a non-Christian to speak up.

People who do point out that what you're saying is making the assumption that they are Christian when they aren't are perfectly in their right to point that out, though.  Just like being told "Happy Holidays" isn't oppressing you, neither is asking you to think about what language you're using.

Speaking of "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas," it's worth mentioning that if somebody were to tell you "Happy Kwanzaa" it would probably wound really weird and nowhere near "universal" to you (it might even come off as political).  So when people mention that "Merry Christmas" makes the assumption that Christmas is universally celebrated, keep in mind that there is no difference.

In summary...

The idea that Christians are as a whole not following Jesus's instructions makes no difference to me because I don't really concern myself with Jesus's instructions to begin with.  What I concern myself with is Christian supremacy/hegemony and how that affects me and other religious minorities on a day-to-day basis.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Wep Ronpet Cake and Seshat: Mother of the Motherboard

Some religious stuff for today.  I celebrated Wep Ronpet a week ago, but the Kemetic Orthodox (and therefore most of my Kemetic friends) celebrate it today.  Since I forgot to post my Apep cake back when I baked (and then devoured) it, I'll post it now:
May Sekhmet's Arrows and Set's Spear Pierce Him
It made two circular red velvet cakes and cut them in half.  Staggering them a particular way and then cutting one of the halves into corners you can make a decent snake shape (which I further sculpted and then painted with cream cheese dressing).  It turns out my cake art is not quite as good as my other art.  Ah well.

For those not in a Kemetic background, this is a curse against isfet (evil), which is represented by a serpent (I believe it's actually a legless lizard) called Apep.  By destroying images of him you are therefore keeping isfet at bay.

So as a computer tech I've adopted a couple Gods as kind of occupational patrons, Goddes who are associated with computers due to ancient associations with information, math, sciences, and so forth.  One is Djehuty, also known as Thoth.  In addition to having a statuette of him on my altar, my cubicle is decorated with ibises in his honor.

The other is Seshat, who I've found is more likely to be associated with computing than Djehuty because... I don't know.  Seshat is Djehuty's wife, and so they create a divine couple perfectly suited to this field.  I've often called Seshat "Mother of the Motherboard," and with that I had a mental image of her with a motherboard-shaped crown that I wanted to get down and never did.  Until today.  Behold:
This is actually my second Seshat image because I made a statuette of her on commission (there are very few Seshat statues in production) and assumed because I wasn't worshiping her at the time that I wouldn't need to make a mold of that statue.  Sigh.

Still, I like this one better.  I believe at some point I'll use some metallic gold paint because I'm not a huge fan of the red on her collar and would like to outline her with it.  Maybe create a frame design for the motherboard because right now it's just kind of sitting there.

Rape Hyperbole and the Problematic Nature of Universal Veganism

Content warning:  This essay contains sexual-assault related hyperbole as well as descriptions of animal agriculture and abuse.

So there's this song called "Nailing Descartes to the Wall" by Propagandhi.  It's an animal liberation song containing the lyric "meat is still murder, dairy's still rape."  It's a musical rendition of a very common belief among vegans:  Dairy is "basically rape" because in order to get dairy you need to impregnate a cow, which is often done through artificial means.

In fact, vegans seem to love using sexual assault hyperbole.  Look at this street performance (warning that this has roleplayed sexual assault in it) in which men forcibly "milk" a woman.  This is by no means new, but of course people keep acting like it is.  Yesterday I read an article called "Consuming Bodes: The Women We're Leaving Behind" (Note, 11/15/15: The original article is no longer there, the link has been changed to the Wayback Machine version) which was posted on Choice USA.

Mind you, the whole thing isn't bad.  Animals absolutely are victims in oppressive power structures, and the treatment of animals in these industries is a legitimate concern that is constantly being undermined by legal structures that favor cheapening those industries and using facts about PETA to derail real discussions on animal rights and welfare.  It really isn't out-of-place to talk about animals in these terms.

But there are two serious problems with this that are constantly overlooked by vegan activists:
  1. Rape hyperbole is practically always shitty and underthought.
  2. Universal veganism is incompatible with worldwide social activism.
Shitty rape hyperbole has been used by radical feminists ("transition is raping women's bodies somehow!") and anti-feminists ("being accused of rape is like rape for men!") and gamers (who use "rape" to mean defeat) and nostalgic people ("rule 43 is raping my childhood!") and so many others.  The reason using rape as a hyperbolic comparison is so problematic is that rape itself is such an underreported, dismissed, and ubiquitous crime in addition to being one of the most traumatic things somebody can go through.  It's the traumatic nature of rape that makes it appealing to use as a comparison among both assholes and well-meaning social activists alike, but in the process this usage implies that rape is less serious than it is or that certain behaviors are more traumatic or harmful than they are (example: the implication that male-to-female transition is somehow traumatizing cisgender women when it literally does nothing to affect them at all).

In the case of ethical vegans, the dairy/rape hyperbole may seem more acceptable because raping a woman and impregnating a cow look superficially similar... that is, if you cut out literally every emotion that goes with it.  Farmers aren't inseminating cows for the same reason men rape women, and cows almost certainly are not experiencing the traumatic emotions women usually do when they are being raped.  Animals don't perceive things the same way humans do.  So vegan activists who apply these comparisons are not really thinking through the comparison except to understand that rape is a powerful hyperbole that gets people angry.

Here's where vegan hyperbole--not just rape hyperbole, but murder hyperbole and slavery hyperbole and so on--gets even more disturbing:  Vegan philosophy so inconsistently applied that vegans break the comparisons long before non- and ex-vegans do.

So say somebody is making a strong comparison between reproductive choice--keeping in mind Choice USA is not just about the freedom not to reproduce, but the freedom to reproduce--and animal rights.  It's worth remembering then that the vegan community is very much in favor of spaying and neutering companion animals.  If we did to humans what animal rights activists proclaim we should do to our dogs and cats, there would hopefully be a major uproar among reproductive choice advocates.  So the idea that one can be a consistent vegan activist purely by comparing it to a reproductive choice framework is laughable.  Vegans are just as likely to rationalize human treatment of animals based on human needs as non-vegans are.

Vegan concern for the reproductive choices of animals only applies to humans.  David mentions that dolphins have been granted "non-human person" status in India as an opener before using this cattle rape hyperbole and other reproductive justice language... but dolphins themselves have been described as "rapists" by humans for their mating strategies, which look coercive and rapey to human eyes.  This in itself is hyperbole--forced copulation among animals is interpreted as rape by humans even though it really isn't the same thing--but I'm talking about a dreadful lack of consistency here.  If you are going to demonize the dairy industry by comparing insemination to rape, why are ethical vegans not going on campaigns to prevent dolphin-on-dolphin rape or duck-on-duck rape?  Why are they not attempting to find ways for wolves and lions to go vegan?

The usual explanation usually relies on intent.  Animals do these things because they're instinctual, or--especially in the case of carnivores eating meat--they have to to survive.  And here's where I've going to change my focus a bit... until now I've been talking primarily about how vegan activists (and others) appropriate the language used to describe crimes against humans to refer to human use of animals.  One could, of course, continue to advocate for universal veganism while simply scrapping the problematic language.  I would actually argue that universal veganism itself is problematic.

What is universal veganism?  This is the philosophy that veganism is an ethical baseline and that all people are morally obligated to go vegan.  People who adhere to this philosophy are likely to be the people who insist that conferences (feminist/anarchist/environmental/etc.) only serve vegan food and have ample platforms to talk about veganism even when it's not necessarily relevant to that particular struggle.  It's different from just being a vegan, which is a personal choice that may or may not be connected to animal rights ideology.

Notice I say veganism is not relevant to that struggle and not animal issues in general.  Animal abuses are woven into the fabric of capitalism and oppression just as sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, racism, ableism, and all other -isms are.  The problem isn't animal issues, whether you choose to arbitrarily call them "welfare" or "rights."

It's that framing it as vegan issues--as practically all mainstream animal rightsists do--is problematic for a number of reasons.

So one thing any ovo-lacto vegetarian who hangs with ethical vegans will realize pretty quickly is that vegans view ovo-lacto vegetarianism as being pretty much exactly as cruel as eating meat.  The reason is that dairy and egg industries inflict some of the worst abuses on animals you will find today.  And these industries kill thousands of animals.  Dairy cattle and laying hens are slaughtered when their production wanes and made into ground beef and chicken soup.  Male chicks are thrown into grinders by the thousands.  Veal calves are a byproduct of the dairy industry.  Vegans love bringing these things up to shame ovo-lacto vegetarians into going vegan.

There's some cognitive dissonance here though, because vegan diets also unintentionally kill animals.  The foods that generally make up a vegan staple diet--corn, wheat, soy--are industrial monocrops that kill thousands of animals just in the act of being harvested.  People who eat fully pastured animal products and avoid these monocrops in contrast wind up killing fewer animals.

I'm sure vegans have tuned out by now (if they haven't already) because these are things vegans learn to counter early on.  They're usually snarked out by people who consist on McDonalds cheeseburgers and factory farmed bacon to feel better about themselves.  My point isn't to insist I'm all high-and-mighty meat-eater who ironically kills fewer animals (I'm not perfect and this is almost certainly not true).  I'm only pointing out that the line between vegan and not-vegan itself is ethically arbitrary.  A freegan could just as easily make the case that vegans are only as good as ovo-lacto vegetarians or meat-eaters because they still buy from animal-killing companies, and vegans would rationalize a dozen reasons that's not true and nobody would be in any better a position for having the argument.  There are more extreme forms of vegetarianism than veganism, why aren't they the moral baseline?  Why is plain old consumer veganism?  Arbitrary line.

Not only is it an arbitrary line, it's one that flips the bird at human biology to boot.  Veganism requires supplementation just to keep you from dying a horrible death (which neither meat-eating nor ovo- or lacto-vegetarian require).  This is a fact.  Vegans are aware of this fact and take great pains to warn each other to supplement.  But supplements aren't a panacaea.  There are hundreds of cases of people quitting veganism because it didn't make us feel well.  People leave veganism over B12 and iron deficiencies, excessive weight loss, constant tiredness, and fertility issues among others.  I left over excessive weight gain and the realization that my body hates most vegan staples.

When a very famous vegan quits veganism, there is often a violent response.  Death threats are not uncommon; Alex Jamieson of Super Size Me fame and Tasha from Voracious Vegan/Voracious Eats both got death threats.  Lierre Keith was assaulted on a stage for being an ex-vegan (and if there's one thing I hate is people forcing me to pity or defend Lierre Keith).  The people in attendance cheered the assaulters on rather than even question it.  Those who aren't violent are still dismissive and ableist, calling ex-vegan arguments for why we began eating meat again "silly" and dismissing our health concerns as "faked."  Even universal vegans who display compassion toward non-vegans and ex-vegans are presuming that vegan diets are more healthful than those including animal products and that if we just try hard enough we'll be able to do it.

This is why universal veganism is incompatible with universal activism.  It inherently assumes that veganism is attainable to everybody and ethically superior.  But it's not possible for everyone to maintain it without getting sick.  It's not ethically superior.  So universal veganism maintains that an arbitrary diet and lifestyle that has never been practiced in any traditional culture (no, it hasn't) and is inaccessible to hundreds of people simply because our bodies don't like it is a "moral baseline." But it just isn't.  As an ex-vegan I find this prospect personally demeaning and insulting.