Vegan advocate and academic Dr. Melanie Joy has launched a series of essays which are available to read on Plant Based News.
The Harvard-educated psychologist - who is known for coining the term 'carnism', as well as for founding the advocacy organization Beyond Carnism and co-founding ProVeg International - describes the writing (which is based on a new book she's recently written but has not yet been released) as a 'dramatic departure' from her previously published work.
The series - which includes four essays - has real power to effect positive change within the movement. Accessible writing, as well as fascinating psychological insight around vital issues, makes it essential reading for everyone.
Dr. Joy told PBN: "There's an incredibly important conversation we need to have - it's been happening, as some vegans have been raising the issue for years, and I want to add my voice to that conversation and to help bring about the change that we need if the vegan movement is going to succeed.
"I wrote these pieces to suggest ways to approach a dialogue, to help us have that conversation."
She added: "There's this problematic pattern that's causing the movement to lose power, causing vegans to fight with each other, and also contributing to some of the problems in the world that most people - vegan and non-vegan - would not support, like sexism and racism."
A different understanding
Dr. Joy is keen to point out that conversations about oppression and privilege have been happening for a long time in the vegan movement, but that they are only now starting to be heeded, due in part to #ARmetoo (which saw sexual harassment and male bullying claims in the animal rights movement acknowledged in the public domain).
What these articles offer is a slightly different approach to understanding and talking about privilege.
She said: "I'm talking not simply about what privilege is, but about the psychology of privilege, how privilege is like is an entity that's hijacked our consciousness."
Describing herself as 'motivated intellectually and ethically' to create the series of essays, Dr. Joy says she was concerned about how this problem was impacting the vegan movement.
But beyond this, she says she was impacted personally by it.
"As I've tried to discuss these issues with vegans over the past few years, a number of them have responded with resistance and defensiveness to what I've had to say. And I found myself, for the first time since becoming vegan actually, feeling the frustration of dealing with defensiveness against something that seems so straightforward and rational to me.
"This was unexpected; it was like a throwback to my early vegan years. And it also saddened me."
Despite this, the psychologist kept putting off writing about the topic. "I'm not a 'normal' writer," said Dr. Joy. "Writing is not easy for me. I don't start writing something unless I know I'm going to go deep. So it is very draining for me."
What finally prompted her to do it was an interaction during the Animal Rights #MeToo debate on Facebook.
"Some men approached me, and they were really upset. I was excited that they were for the first time paying attention to the fact that we have a problem with sexism in the movement. They really started to open up and talk to me for the first time ever about some of the things that I had had been trying to talk to them about around gender."
According to Dr. Joy, the relief of having this dialogue was extremely powerful: "I cried actually, several times, literally out of relief.
"And then these same people started to get really defensive again, but worse than they had been before - they were feeling defensive because of the way they experienced the conversation unfolding.
"They said they felt attacked just for asking questions, among other things. And they couldn't understand why that was a problem. But it is a problem. It’s really not appropriate to ask certain types of questions - sometimes to ask any questions - but they didn't have the awareness to realize this and some of the feminists who these guys felt attacked by also were not aware of some of the problematic ways the dialogue was unfolding from their end. So one of the things I realized I needed to write about was how talk about the issue.
"And that was what pushed me to write the essays."
Something to say
She notes that many of the situations she writes about in the essays reflect gender privilege, saying: "It's not appropriate for me to write comprehensively about privileges I haven't been disadvantaged by.
"Plus, many brilliant and articulate people who are members of various disadvantaged groups have written powerfully about other forms of privilege."
You can find the essays on Plant Based News' new 'Learn' section. Read Essay 1 here