Twiddler Twit

A queer and vegan politic and philosophy

The ethics of a cheating vegan

Image

This past weekend, I took an outing from Berkeley and wound up in Pleasanton, California. I ate at Nonni’s Bistro with my grandparents, who, based on their track record, rarely take me out to vegetarian- or vegan-friendly eateries. So I was expecting to have to cheat this weekend on my diet by having to eat some sort of butter or egg. But I was pleasantly surprised when the chef made me a veganized sandwich with coconut milk aioli and using oil instead of butter for frying. Although I was delighted to have been so pampered, is it acceptable to have a mentality of being open to cheating?

Whether it be cheating on your partner, sneaking an oreo when nobody is around, or taking a peek at your fellow students’ test, life gives humanity options to wander off the directed route (whether you buy that BS or not). When I went into that restaurant expecting to cheat and eat some form of nonhuman-animal product, was my body telling me something? Should I restrict my body’s intake to what my mind is thinking? I think that the answer shouldn’t matter on what I am craving or not, but going back to the reasons for engaging in an alternative diet: the ethics behind human/nonhuman relationships.

I am vegan because I do not find it morally justifiable to exploit nonhuman-animals for my culinary enjoyment (among many other reasons). When I go out to eat at a restaurant, more times than not I must explain my vegan diet and reduce it to saying something like “I don’t eat eggs. I don’t drink milk” and the like. But I am learning that it is not to my ethics to expect to cheat on my diet, because dietary cheating promotes a capitalist culture that is against the reasons why I choose to eat the way I do. Restaurants, chefs, servers, and fellow diners should know that I willingly choose not to eat animal products, for maybe that short discussion with the server could make an impact on the way food industry is being shaped. The server could talk to the chef, the chef could talk to the vendor, the vendor could talk to the farmer.

Image

Every conversation counts. I have come to realize that every time I tell someone about my dietary options (after the initial shock) they seem to ask questions and appear intrigued. Although sometimes hesitant, I find it important to share my feelings on food and consumerism with the people I interact with daily, as maybe my words could cause them to think about their actions when they choose to order that hamburger, use beef broth in that soup, or purchase that new leather bag. Change happens slowly, so introducing animal rights and nonhuman theory into public discourse could eventually cause change to occur bit by bit.

When I make an effort to maintain a vegan diet at unaccommodating places, I think find it morally acceptable to cheat. If I make an effort to stir up conversation and cause my colleagues to think about their actions, I feel successful. Any non-normative identity, in my opinion, is worth being brought into the public eye, as discourses surrounding topics of oppression and non-normativity invoke thought and have the potential to create change. When slip-ups happen, I might initially freak out, but at least I may have caused someone to think. Change is gradual, and so is discourse.

Image

*Don’t feel limited to any food. You have the ability to choose for yourself.

“Coming out” of the kitchen

In June of 2009, I came out as gay (currently queer, for the record).

In May of 2013, I came out as vegan.

Image

The act of “coming out” is a problematic act in that its essential purpose upholds a “norm”, whether that be heterosexuality or carnivorism (among other privileges such as whiteness, masculinity, able bodies, right handedness, etc.). Heteropatriarchal society assumes that all are inherently heterosexual, and any who do not fit into such a paradigm are of a lesser morality. Such a norm causes individuals to feel the need to come out, as it is seemingly necessary to separate oneself’s identity from the “normal” sexuality, race, gender, diet, etc. The act of “coming out” is problematic in that it promotes a separation of a privileged norm and an inferior subversion.

Identities exclude, limit, and define possible acts by playing on a societal definition of an identity. Lesbianism may refer to a monogamous relationality between two cis-females. Bee-ganism may refer to a diet that does not consist of any animal products other than those produced by bees. Both definitions of lesbianism and bee-ganism are identical in that they provide parameters on what one can and cannot engage in. And because such definitions (many times societal) limit individuals from participating in a particular act, the act of exclaiming an identity problematizes an individual’s relation to the Self.

Screen shot 2012-02-06 at 2.29.24 PM

I find the act of “coming out” (regardless of what the individual is coming out to) in that the act asserts an identity that prevents them from veering outside of that identity’s terms. For example, when I came out as gay when I was sixteen, I felt the restriction of only focusing my sexual energies on cis-males, whereas if I were to forgo “coming out”, I may not have felt such a societal pressure. The same confusion applies to exclamatory acts of diet (i.e. pescetarianism, veganism, paleo diets, etc.) because it induces the individual’s vulnerability by peers when eating a food that is against their imposed diet. There have been innumerable times when others have made such an effort to inform me that I cannot eat the scrambled eggs or chicken pot pie: Why can’t I make a decision for myself regardless of how I personally identify? Although the intent is sentimental, I think that I can ask for myself if I have doubt on whether or not I conform to a food’s ethics.

Privilege plays a huge part in all aspects of oppressive identities. Veganism is a privileged system of diet that assumes that all nonhuman-animal product production is ill-spirited towards the nonhuman-animal. Although I can’t speak with certainty on the non-Westernized animal production methods, I do believe that the Western slaughterhouses and farming practices do impose human superiority over the nonhuman. But of course not everyone is in a Western paradigm, so I can only comment about the difficulty of maintaining a balanced vegan diet in Western realms. Because not all have this privilege of food access, alternative diets may be deemed alternative due to limited resources and accessibilities.

Needless to say (or write), non-normative sexual identities are privileges in that not all have the option of identifying as gay, poly, zoo, lesbian, etc. Many regions criminalize such individuals using deviance as a rhetorical justification. It is a privilege to identify and to practice as queer. Think about Russia, for example: One can be persecuted and assaulted solely for appearing as non-normative. Because both non-normative sexual and dietary practices are privileges to “come out” as, such acts problematize the identities themselves and the individual’s relation to the Self.

It happens almost daily that I must tell someone that I am vegan, or that my colleague’s (problematic) assumptions of my sexuality are indeed true. When I deny a piece of cake at a work meeting, I am swayed to “come out” as vegan in order to clear up any confusion. When coworkers of mine talk about marriage and weddings, the topic of gay marriage is brought to the table and I am somehow “outed”. Veganism and queerness are undoubtedly intersectional.

Shark Week: A queer problem

This week marks the pinnacle of many men’s year: Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

Image

Premiering in 1987, Shark Week is a weeklong television special of shows, movies, and documentaries that center on none other than the shark species. Originally dedicated to raising shark visibility and awareness, the highly proclaimed series has become a masculine-driven annual anticipation. Shark Week is nothing but a hypermasculine output of consumerist society that asserts male-, human-, and phallus-privilege, which is worrysome to the queer vegan.

 So what exactly is a shark and why do we humans demonize their species? The shark species is a group of fish characterized by pectoral fins not fused to the head and five to seven gills, among many other defining biological characteristics. Over their lifetimes, sharks may have around 50,000 teeth, as their rootless teeth are replaced constantly. It makes sense that humans portray sharks as killers, right? Actually, in 2008 sharks reportedly killed only four humans. Only four humans! More humans are killed annually due to dog bites, bicycle accidents, bee stings, or being struck by lightning. Sharks attacks are not as common as the media portrays them to be; there must be another reason why Shark Week is so popular, as the shark attacks are merely a stretching of (morbid) reality.

Image

While it is problematic to attribute solely maleness to Shark Week, many of the broadcasts emphasize themes of patriarchy, human dominance over the nonhuman (the shark), and a demonization of the nonhuman-animal. Majority of the representations of shark attacks include female victims that are infantilized, portrayed as helpless, and complacently interacting with their surroundings (but of course there are male victims). Why are the victims mostly female? Because society finds the feminine character to be subject to an attack, whereas the masculine figure is the savior and leader of humanity.

Humans love to assert their dominance over the nonhuman (animal or not), whether by entrapping them in slaughterhouses, using them for fur, taking them in as companion species, and the like. Shark Week is nothing new in terms of speciesist philosophy, as humans consume the broadcasts that portray the shark species as a contender for the “dominant” species. And the human feels threatened. Because humans don’t have the capacity to fully control the shark, humans feel intimidated and therefore portray a falsified “reality” of the shark species to be a species of violence. Human speciesist dominance is nothing new, however speciesism within shark discourse provides a new means of queer interpretations of programs such as Shark Week.

Male privilege plays a vital role in shark discourse (furthering a lionization of normativity), as many males are the portrayed “saviors” and seamen. Men are commonly at risk for attack since they are at the front of the line, however for some odd reason the woman is the chosen victim. Aside from a promotion of a gender binary, heteronormativity prevails through the “saving” of women by men in Shark Week series, emphasizing the woman’s supposed subservience to the man. I personally do not feel welcome to watch and enjoy shark movies when human characters focus on heteropatriachal relationality and of course speciesist action. Shark Week need be considered queer and vegan problem.

Many criticize ethics such as mine for being “crazy vegan politics” or “over-analytical”, however I think what I feel. Shark Week is problematic in that it uses the shark as the center of attention to blanket portrayals of gender and sexuality that emphasize man’s dominant role in society, over the woman (because those of course are the only genders, right?) and over the nonhuman-animal (because what would “man” be if not on top of the food chain?). Sure, have your fun partaking in the annual Shark Week festivities, but just remember that TV is a falsified “Truth” with a capital ‘T’. Sharks and non-masculine identities alike are subject to patriarchal institutions of masculine violence.

Image

Twiddler, twit?

Image

 

I am Twiddler Twit. A twiddler can be understood to be someone who twiddles, or rather ponders on something. The word “twit” is an antiquated slang word, often derogatory in reference to someone who identifies with a non-normative sexuality. I am a ponderer and a non-normative thinker.

This blog challenges institutions of kyriarchy, speciesism, and capitalism in order to increase discourse surrounding oppression. I think that critical theory is a lacing necessity in modern society, a society in which beings and bodies are subject to hierarchies and a lack of information flow. By pondering on societal commonalities such as food, social media, and sex, for example, I will tackle some problems I have found to be missing in mainstream discourse.

I am queer, vegan, and sassy. I reside in Berkeley, California and study critical theory in the Rhetoric department at the University of California. I hope you all will take the time to read my thoughts on society and discourse.