What if Non-Vegans Were Subject to the Same Stereotypes as Vegans?

It’s June and this is my first blog entry of 2015. I don’t have set times to blog, like every day, every week, every month, or even every year. Instead, I blog when my heart and mind tell me to.

When non-vegans criticize vegans for being annoying and stuck up, they sometimes use the disclaimer that they aren’t referring to all vegans, only the ones who are this way. Thus, I’ll use the same disclaimer when referring to annoying and stuck up non-vegans. This blog entry isn’t critical of all non-vegans, just ones who have those negative characteristics.

When non-vegans stereotype vegans as being egotistical and self-righteous, these non-vegans are being egotistical and self-righteous themselves. By judging vegans in this negative way, they can feel morally superior to us and easily dismiss our voices and concerns. Are you thinking just “pushy” vegans are perceived this way, so this attitude isn’t a problem? I assert that all vegans are subject to this negative stereotyping to the point where anytime we identify as vegans, request a vegan dish, or speak up for our values as vegans, there are people who make these negative assumptions about us.

Treating vegans like freaks or assuming we are because our vegan lifestyles don’t conform to mainstream society is another way non-vegans act “better than” vegans. In this sense, the assumption is based on being more normal than we are-so we’re perceived to be weird and not to be taken seriously.

Additionally, some non-vegans act superior to vegans by promoting the attitude that they’re saving plants by consuming animal products. If you’re a non-vegan who thinks this, don’t flatter yourself. A lot of the plant-based foods are used to feed animals in the animal industry, who are over-reproduced through forced artificial insemination to keep up with or exceed the demand for animal products. Animals farmed for human consumption, such as pigs and cows, are often overfed huge amounts of food in addition to being injected with hormones so they reach slaughter weight faster. For these reasons, people are actually contributing more to the consumption of plant-based foods indirectly by consuming animal products than if they were to be vegan. Also, groups such as the U.N. (so not only animal rights groups) reported that the animal industry is the largest contributor to environmental destruction, such as the emission of greenhouse gasses and global warming along with huge amounts of water usage. In this sense, the animal industry is very harmful to plants.

If you assume vegans are stuck up, self-righteous, egotistical, and self-aggrandizing-please think about your own such attitudes toward vegans and be mindful of how you are being this way yourself.

Fuck Off to People Who Twist around the Meaning of the Term Sex Work for their Own Agendas

Cussing at people usually isn’t my style, but I’ll make an exception in this case. Twisting around the meaning of the term sex work is at best ignorant. Perhaps, some people who do this just don’t know the actual meaning of the term sex work and mindlessly go along with the propaganda by anti-sex work proponents who promote this dangerous image that violence is inherently linked to prostitution. This does nothing to stop violence against sex workers and trivializes the issue of violence by treating it like nothing more than a natural part of prostitution. In such cases where people are just ignorant about the meaning, they can take the time to actually inform themselves before jumping on the anti-sex worker bandwagon.

Furthermore, twisting around the meaning of sex work to promote anti-sex worker agendas under the guise of saving people from prostitution downplays how the term was coined by a sex worker. Thus, for anybody who wishes to learn about this term, the best person to learn from is Carol Leigh, the sex worker who actually coined the term- not anti-sex worker proponents who twist the meaning around. Here, she explains what the term actually means and how she coined it from BAYSWAN’s website, an organization she runs: http://www.bayswan.org/sexwork-oed.html#1 . Furthermore, claims that the term sex work glosses over violence in prostitution ignore how this woman who coined the term is open about having been raped as a sex worker and feeling unable to report this to the police because of her work (http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/SUNDAY-INTERVIEW-A-New-Agenda-For-the-Oldest-2967159.php).

The term sex work is about recognizing sex workers as human beings making a living. Rather than promoting violence, this term challenges attitudes that encourage violence by promoting the image that it is just an inherent part of prostitution. There is presently a movement to encourage the Associated Press to remove the term prostitute from its stylebook and replace this term with sex worker, and a countermovement against the term sex work or sex worker. I don’t agree with treating prostitute like a dirty word and feel that doing this may increase the stigmas and hatred against people working as prostitutes, though I also support the term sex work. The term sex work must never be confused with sexual slavery or sexual violence.

If anybody has a problem with the term sex work, you have the right not to use this term. Just don’t twist around the meaning even if you are anti-sex work.

Sex Workers in Alaska Trafficking Themselves? Get Real…

Did you have to do a double-take when you read the title of this blog entry? How, you may ask, can people traffic themselves? Who is the victim here? Well, under Alaska’s new anti-trafficking laws like with many policies further criminalizing prostitution under the guise of fighting trafficking, trafficking is defined so broadly that sex workers are both the criminals and the victims, even if they are not enslaving anybody.

For example, I read about a woman in Alaska who was arrested and initially charged with sex trafficking for placing an ad offering sexual services, even though she didn’t offer these to the undercover cop. Yikes! Who was this woman trafficking? Herself?

Here’s a good video getting beyond the surface about what this legislation really does: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPpTIRVrIvQ . Though I thought a lot of the people who spoke in this video were spot on, the comments by the vice police chief of Anchorage were so disturbing. First, just because she finds prostitution degrading doesn’t justify criminalizing it. What’s degrading is how vice cops trick sex workers into think they’re clients, arrest them, and in some cases also sexually assault and rape them. In fact, calling this degrading is an understatement. This is downright violence.

Even more disgusting was when she said they need to arrest sex workers to get them out of trafficking situations. Get them out of trafficking situations how? By trafficking them into jail cages when they might not even be trafficking victims in the first place. Even if they are, why arrest somebody for being a victim? This is treating victims like criminals. Is this how the Anchorage Police Department also deals with domestic violence. If somebody is a victim of domestic violence, do they arrest them to protect them from the abuser?

My point is basically: Cut the crap. These arrests against sex workers are not mainly about stopping trafficking. They’re about punishing sex workers and promoting state sanctioned violence against sex workers. Call it what it is.

Delicious Vegan Pancakes

Have you read blog or Facebook posts where people wrote about what they had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner… or perhaps posted about this yourself? I haven’t before, but as the cliché says, “There’s a first time for everything.”

For the first time, I made some vegan pancakes this morning. They were from a recipe in a booklet published by Farm Sanctuaries, a sanctuary with locations in Northern and Southern California as well as New York caring for formerly farmed animals and advocating for the well-being of animals.

The pancakes were delicious and I’m cooking some more now since I had some batter left over. Basically, they are made from just four ingredients: flour, baking power, bananas, and a vegan milk alternative. I’ve read before that bananas can be used as an alternative to eggs in vegan baking, but have never tried this before.

I didn’t really taste the banana flavor that much when eating the pancakes, so even in recipes that aren’t supposed to be banana flavored, I may still use bananas as an egg replacer. There are many types of vegan milk alternatives, such as rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk.

Though I haven’t really been much of a baker, I’m planning to take up vegan baking and may be posting more on here about my baking adventures. Do you have any favorite vegan recipes or foods you like to bake vegan?

Stop Trivializing Sex Workers’ Efforts to Protect Ourselves

In an op-ed titled “Prostitution is more than just a labor rights issue” ( http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/prostitution-labour-rights-201485121735809892.html ), Meghan Murphy trivializes efforts of sex workers to protect ourselves on the grounds that screening and working indoors don’t guarantee safety. This is just an example considering that she is not the only person who has expressed such attitudes. Of course screening clients and working indoors don’t guarantee safety because we’re never guaranteed to be perfectly safe in this world no matter where we are or what type of work we do. However, this doesn’t justify undermining sex workers’ efforts to screen clients and take additional safety precautions since they are just that–precautions.

Even when people date outside of prostitution, they may still take precautions. People can take precautions in other aspects of our lives too, including at home and anywhere we go. These precautions decrease the likelihood of experiencing violence. They are not absolute. The only way to guarantee safety in prostitution or outside of prostitution is to make the world a perfectly safe place–and we’re far from that.

There is evidence that screening clients, even if not a guarantee of safety, is a precaution. This applies not only to indoor workers, but also to street workers. A study of street-based sex workers in Miami found that initial assessments of clients before getting into cars with them decreased the risk of experiencing violence. The study is titled “Sex work and ‘date’ violence” and it was published in a professional research journal titled Violence against Women.

Under this “end demand” legislation that Meghan Murphy and additional people have expressed support for, various Swedish sex workers have reported feeling more endangered. At least one reason why is because it has become harder to screen clients. Since the clients have been criminalized, some have become less willing to share personal, identifying information used for screening. On the streets, clients have become more rushed out of fear of being caught. Thus, sex workers have less time to do initial screenings ( http://www.petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=40716 ).

I agree with Meghan Murphy that rape isn’t just a labor rights violation and I’ll add that it’s also not just an inherent part of prostitution. I’ve blogged before about the harms of conflating all prostitution with rape and how this is similar to the position denying that sex workers can be raped, even if they seem like opposite positions on the surface ( https://veganvixen1.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/rape-isnt-just-part-of-the-job-description/ ).

“Fat Shaming” has No Place in the Animal Rights Movement

There is so much I respect about the animal rights movement–the compassion, a determination to stop unnecessary suffering, and more. Thus, I was really disappointed to learn of a billboard ad PETA placed in Detroit with the motto “Save the Whales.” Please don’t mistake me- I’m all for saving whales. The problem was this ad wasn’t literally about saving whales.

Rather, next to that slogan was a full-figured woman in a bikini. Thus, the slogan was comparing her to a whale because of her body-type. Underneath was a message saying “Loose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian.” Here’s a link: http://jezebel.com/peta-assholes-to-detroit-well-pay-your-water-bills-if-1610490630 . In a Facebook discussion, I read that PETA had this billboard taken down 5 years ago so it is no longer up–which I hope is true.

This ad was very insensitive to body image issues and animal rights must never be used as a platform to promote “fat shaming.” This makes a mockery out of the cause for animal rights and draws attention away from the important goal of stopping the unnecessary suffering to non-human animals caused by humans.

I’m not against posting billboards encouraging a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle considering that organizations in various social movements advertise their positions. My problem was with how PETA did it in this case. It’s also disturbing that an animal rights organization would post a billboard using an animal (in this case a whale) to insult a person’s body-type. In addition to insulting people with a certain body-type, it expresses negativity toward the species of non-human animals that people are compared when such negative comparisons are made.

Supporting Exit Strategies Doesn’t Justify Denying Sex Workers’ Human Rights

This blog entry expands on the previous one about the current prostitution policy debates in the Canadian Parliament. I was reading over the transcripts some more ( http://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-36/?tab=mentions&singlepage=1 ) and further noticing a disturbing trend in which people expressing the importance of getting people out of prostitution while speaking in support for C-36 (proposed legislation described in the previous blog entry) tend to trivialize efforts to support sex workers’ human rights while doing sex work. It doesn’t have to be an either-or thing since it is possible to support people looking to leave sex work while also supporting the human rights of people while doing sex work.

If anybody I’m referring to reads this and to anybody else who may have such attitudes, please stop acting like human rights do not matter while we’re doing sex work. Even if you find prostitution to be inherently oppressive, you don’t speak for all sex workers and it’s not okay for you to act like we need to leave sex work in order to be allowed basic human rights. We deserve them while we’re doing sex worker. As I expressed in the previous blog entry, hatred and oppressive policies against sex workers put sex workers at increased risk for violence. This includes, but is not limited to, the violence of forcibly hand-cuffing sex workers and forcing sex workers into jail cages under oppressive anti-prostitution laws. Though these are structural issues that extend beyond only sex work, misogyny, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and classism can permeate into sex work, affecting levels and frequency violence.

Also, arguing that there’s no way to guarantee safety in prostitution doesn’t justify trivializing efforts to increase degrees of safety. We’re never guaranteed to be perfectly safe in this world no matter where we are or what type of work we do. Thus, unless the world ever becomes perfectly safe, we need to consider safety in degrees rather than as absolute. Not all prostitution is equally as dangerous and there are safety precautions sex workers can take to decrease the likelihood of experiencing violence, such as screen clients. This includes not only indoor workers gathering names, phone numbers, checking references, etc. before ever meeting the client in person, but also street workers doing initial assessments of clients before getting into cars with them. The Swedish or Nordic model being promoted by many supporters of C-36 interferes with this by criminalizing the clients. As has been mentioned in testimony to the Canadian Parliament against C-36, Vancouver police have attempted this method and sex workers reported feeling more rushed by clients and less able to do screenings. Swedish sex workers reported similar experiences ( http://www.petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=40716 ).

Additionally, decreasing the client pool does not protect sex workers and has the opposite effect by putting sex workers in a position where it is harder to be selective about the clients they service, thus being more likely to go with clients they get a bad feeling about because they need the income. They are put in a position where they can only hope that these clients don’t turn out to be violent or take advantage of them, despite the bad vibes they got from the clients and how they would probably not service them if they had a wider client pool.

Considering how C-36 endangers sex workers when compared to decriminalization, it is not surprising that I have not noticed anybody identifying as a current sex worker supporting it. On the contrary, Amy Lebovitch, a plaintiff in the Bedford v. Canada case that ruled Canada’s anti-prostitution laws unconstitutional, testified to Parliament against C-36 while identifying as a current sex worker. Her testimony is in the first video on the left side of the screen in this link (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/bill-c-36-hearings-told-not-to-conflate-prostitution-and-trafficking-1.2702095).

Violence is Violence, Not Just an Inherent Part of Prostitution–Canada at a Crossroads on Prostitution Policies

A major contemporary debate surrounding prostitution policies exits between advocates for decriminalization (the removal of laws prohibiting the exchange of sex for payment from the books, and does not decriminalize violence) and proponents of the end demand tactics, also sometimes referred to as the Swedish or Nordic model that criminalize the clients rather than the sex workers. Yet, sex workers still reported being adversely affected by this legislation (http://www.petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=40716).

Such a dispute is underway in the Canadian Parliament. In 2007, three Canadian sex workers filed a lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of Canada’s anti-prostitution laws. Before then, prostitution was legal in Canada to a limited degree–though some of the activities surrounding prostitution were illegal. Specifically, the sex workers challenged the criminalization of running a brothel, third parties who made a living at least in part off prostitution (such as bodyguards, drivers, accountants, etc.), and street solicitation. Under the latter of these, communication in public for the purposes of prostitution is illegal–which criminalizes street-based sex workers. As Nikki Thomas explains, this provision criminalizes not only communication between sex workers and clients about the exchange of sex for payment, but also sex workers publically communicating with each other about safety issues related to prostitution ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GIoTV9ypn8 ).

On Dec. 20, 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled these anti-prostitution laws Unconstitutional under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees the right to life, liberty, and freedom. Yet, there’s a catch. The Supreme Court gave the Canadian Parliament a year to review the legislation and pass alternative prostitution laws. Parliament is in the process of doing this and if Parliament doesn’t pass new prostitution legislation by the deadline, then Canada will have no prostitution laws (basically, a decriminalized system that the sex workers who filed the lawsuit are advocating for) or Parliament can request an extension.

Parliament is considering C-36, which will further criminalize clients and still criminalize street solicitation if anybody under the age of 18 is around. Though supporters tend to sugarcoat over how this would still criminalize sex workers and act like it is mainly about going after the clients, opponents argue that such legislation will further endanger sex workers and is no better than the legislation deemed Unconstitutional. For example, this would keep street workers in isolated, more dangerous areas because they may not necessarily know if anybody under the age of 18 is around when they’re in public or somebody under this age may come by while they’re communicating even if they weren’t there at first.

I’ve been following the hearing on this legislation, reading the transcript (http://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-36/?page=3) and watching videos. Something particularly disturbing is how supporters of C-36 consistently treat violence like an inherent part of prostitution, though this attitude is nothing new and not specific just to Canada. This treating of violence like just part of the job description promotes and encourages violence, even if that’s not the intent. It can give people who commit violence against sex workers the message that their violence is just something to be expected in prostitution. Attitudes like this trivialize violence against sex workers and promote a climate where sex workers who experience violence are subject to a “what did you expect” type of attitude rather than being taken seriously.

Such attitudes bring to mind a quote by Gary Ridgeway, who committed the largest known serial killing spree in U.S. history. He killed at least 48 people, targeting street sex workers. He said that he targeted sex workers because he hated prostitutes and could get away with killing as many as he wanted. This happened under a criminalized system of prostitution and for about two decades, he was right about being about to get away with killing sex workers. It wasn’t until almost two decades later that he was charged with the murders.

Ridgeway’s comments illustrate how violence against sex workers, including murder, is not just inherent to prostitution. Rather, hatred against sex workers and oppressive policies promote such violence. Arguments that violence is an inherent part of prostitution are dangerous, overly simplistic, and do nothing to address such factors that lead to violence against sex workers. These include the factors already mentioned as well as how they intersect with misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, and classism to create a climate where violence is perceived as just a natural part of prostitution. Yet, this is not natural. It’s based on oppression. Such oppressiveness promotes violence, not prostitution in and of itself. Here is very powerful testimony from Naomi Sayers of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. Her testimony in a Parliament hearing on C-36 is in the second video on the left side of the screen in this link (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/former-sex-workers-make-their-cases-in-prostitution-bill-debate-1.2698425). .

The situation in Canada is a microcosm who global debates concerning prostitution policies. Yet, in Canada, sex workers filed a lawsuit challenging anti-prostitution laws which made it to the nations highest court, which ruled unanimously in the sex workers’ favor. Also, in Canada, this dispute concerning prostitution laws has extended beyond the blogosphere and public as well as private discussions outside of political arenas, and made it specifically into Parliament.

Stop Burying Chickens Alive

This is one of many reasons why I’m a vegan and encourage a vegan lifestyle: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/397/718/818/tell-major-restaurants-and-grocery-chain-dont-support-supplier-who-buries-chickens-alive/?z00m=21300182&redirectID=1411438171 . As cruel as this is, it’s not the only horrific form of cruelty against chickens in the animal industry. Other cruel practices that have been documented include debeaking chicks without anesthesia and running male chicks through grinders alive or tossing them in a dumpster while still alive because they are of no use to the egg industry. Cramming chickens into battery cages so tightly that they cannot spread their wings is another cruel practice that has been documented. Their wings may get caught in the wire if they attempt to spread their wings.

While Pro Football Players Make Millions of Dollars, Cheerleaders Fight for At Least Minimum Wage

Blogging about sports isn’t something I often do. Yet, the lawsuits brought about by some National Football League (NFL) cheerleaders citing unlawfully low pay really caught my attention. With so much publicity about how much money players make, there appears to be a lot less on how little cheerleaders are paid.

The first such lawsuit was filed by an Oakland Raiders cheerleader this past January and since then, two more Raiders cheerleaders have filed lawsuits. Yet, this extends beyond just the Raiders. Cheerleaders from additional teams, such as the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cincinatti Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have filed similar lawsuits this year.

The lawsuits allege that when all the hours the cheerleaders are required to work are taken into account, their pay balances out to less than minimum wage. Though they get paid for games from what I’ve learned anywhere from $75-$150 per game depending on the team, they do not get paid for the hours of required practices they put in, for putting in overtime, nor do they get paid for all appearances or for calendar photos shoots. They also don’t get paid for teaching at cheerleading camps run by the teams to the best of my knowledge.

With such little pay and putting in so many hours on a regular basis they don’t get paid for, the cheerleaders still incur a lot of out of pocket expenses and the powers that be have a lot of control over them while paying them such little money. Thus includes controlling everything from how they look to what they post on Facebook pages, who they date (as most teams have policies against cheerleaders fraternizing with players), and even where the go. For example, I recall reading an interview with a New Orleans Saints cheerleader where she said that if a cheerleader were in a club and a player were to come in, then the cheerleader would have to leave.

Consultants or directors of the squad decide what type of a look the cheerleader must maintain for the season and with at least some teams, the cheerleader has to pay to maintain this look. This could include tanning, hair coloring, styling, or extensions; and manicures. There are also very strict weight requirements that extend beyond health. Cheerleaders are subject to weekly weigh-ins and could be benched for the next game or removed from the squad if they don’t maintain a certain weight.

In some cases, it extends beyond just weekly weigh-ins. For example, Buffalo Bills cheerleaders reported having to go through “jiggle tests” where they have to do jumping jacks while those in control watch and scrutinize their bodies. If any parts of their bodies jiggled, they could be benched and not allowed to perform the next game. Raiders cheerleaders also reported having body parts routinely scrutinized and Cincinatti Bengals cheerleaders described a “fat camp” in which cheerleaders deemed to not be thin enough had to stay thirty minutes after practice and do more exercise.

This leads to the topic of body image. Though NFL cheerleading squads promote the image that this is about health and fitness, this is really putting unhealthy pressure on women to be thinner than many women can be in healthy ways. Though I don’t get cable and haven’t turned on my TV in a few months, I used to rent a room in a home where cable was included–which is where I first saw a show on the Country Music Chanel called “Making the Team.” It’s a reality show focused on trying out for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, with much of the focus being on the director of the squad. This show is so disturbing largely because of body image issues that I could not stand to watch it anymore even if I did have cable and watch TV. However, for anybody who’s interested, episodes of this show are posted on hulu.com .

It was the same old clichés over and over again–treating women who didn’t have a really narrow body frame like they were too “fat” to wear the uniform. Even though the uniform is revealing, that’s not the point here. It’s more about very rigid, narrow beauty standards. Though many people seem to find wide hips sexy on women, the director and choreographer of the squad act like there’s something horribly wrong with this body-type.

Women don’t even need to have thicker body frames to be treated this way. The director of the squad reprimanded some cheerleaders who were very thin because their weight was not as low as it was the previous season. One of these very thin cheerleaders mentioned that the body-type they were pressured to maintain was not realistically maintainable. While women trying out for the cheerleading squad who are nicely toned and not medically overweight are being treated like they’re too “fat”, players over three hundred pounds can go out on the field and play in really tight pants with their guts hanging out over the top.

Amidst all I have written so far in this blog entry, I reflect on my experiences as an exotic dancer and make comparisons to what I write about here. Unlike with the NFL cheerleaders, I was never made to do weigh-in as an exotic dancer nor was I ever told that I needed to loose weight in order to dance. This is considering that though I am a healthy weight for my body type and get a lot of compliments on my body, I would still be thicker than all or almost all NFL cheerleaders and above the acceptable weight range.

I also never had to do any “jiggle test” as an exotic dancer, such as doing jumping jacks with my body parts being examined for any jiggling and then denied being able to work if I jiggle anywhere. None of the clubs I worked at ever asked me how much I weighed nor did anybody tell me I had to tan or how my hair had to look.

The pay was also a lot better as an exotic dancer. Though there wasn’t an hourly salary at most of the clubs where I’ve worked, I wasn’t expected to make appearances or do any required work for free. Even at the clubs where there were hourly wages, most of my income came from tips. Tipping was expected and common on stage, and customers were required to pay me for lap dances and VIP rooms. Some customers even tipped for sitting and chatting with them.

As an example of the lawsuits filed, here is one filed by two Oakand Raiders cheerleaders: http://www.scribd.com/doc/228300494/Raiders-Lawsuit-2 . The Raiders have since agreed to pay cheerleaders $9 per hour for all work they’re required to put in, consistent with California’s minimum wage law. On the other hand, the Buffalo Bills decided to suspend the cheerleading squad for the upcoming season after some cheerleaders filed a lawsuit alleging minimum wage law violations and demeaning treatment.

The lawsuit filed by a Cincinatti Bengals cheerleader cited the Seattle Seahawks as an exemplary system for cheerleader pay, in which cheerleaders are paid an hourly wage for the work they put in, including practices. Here is an online petition in support of NFL cheerleaders being paid more justly for their work: http://www.change.org/petitions/roger-goodell-nfl-commissioner-petition-to-provide-nfl-cheerleaders-with-a-livable-salary?utm_campaign=new_signature&utm_medium=email&utm_source=signature_receipt#share