Thursday, November 15, 2012

The things I geek out over.

I don’t have a vegan bucket list. If I did, I suppose eating at Millennium would be on it, and I did that when we went to San Francisco. I’d like to get tattooed at Scapegoat in Portland. And recently, I did something else from my not-bucket list: I met Carol J. Adams.

Spoiler alert: I fangirled the fuck out.

On a whim one day, I checked her tour schedule and probably did a little chair dance when I learned she’d be bringing her Sexual Politics of Meat slideshow to my alma mater, Towson University. Discussing vegan feminism on a Thursday night? Don’t mind if I do! I grabbed my copy of The Pornography of Meat, arranged to meet a few pals there, and prepared to get my think on.

Several local activist groups had tables set up, including Red Emma’s. I love my friendly neighborhood anarchist collective, so I bought a copy of The Sexual Politics of Meat (I felt a little bad not having read it already, but Pornography seemed easier. It has more pictures). Carol’s presentation was excellent. I’d venture to say that more than half of the audience was there either as a class assignment or for extra credit, but what the hell. At least they learned something new. Maybe a few seeds were planted. I wonder what I would have felt if I’d seen Carol’s slideshow when I was in college. At that time, I thought I couldn’t be vegetarian because I was frequently anemic. I’m not even sure I knew any vegans, but I knew for sure that Towson’s campus was no place for them to find food that wasn’t french fries. I hope that’s changed.

I took plenty of notes and really felt my own interest in the intersection of oppressions rekindled. Sometimes it’s easy to get complacent because I no longer have to work very hard to be vegan (or feminist), so a refresher is always welcome. I remembered how much I love her concept of the absent referent, the realization that missing from every piece of meat is the death of the animal from which that meat was taken. The absent referent is what allows people to consume animals comfortably; it separates “animal” from “food.” As she said during her talk, it “allows for the moral abandonment of a being.” I wrote that down because it touched me so deeply. Oppression based on species reinforces that based on gender, and where there is oppression, violence inevitably follows. Vegans, she said, “refuse to consume that which exists because of violence.” I’ll carry that with me for the next time someone asks why I’m vegan.

I figured that everyone would swarm her as soon as the Q&A ended, asking questions and wanting autographs, but I needn’t have worried. The best part of college events is that everyone goes for the food, not the speaker, and the room cleared out quickly. She was so friendly and gracious, signing both of my books and chatting with me about veganism and her other lecture stops. I was not a babbling idiot, as I had feared. She has such a welcoming, calm presence. Also, we are both diehard fans of the one and only Vegan Feminist Agitator! Carol even agreed to take a photo with me (plenty of people hate this, which I completely understand), and her son volunteered for camera duty. Both of her sons were there, which I thought was so sweet. Vegan feminism: It’s all in the family!

Trying not to squee. (Also, new favorite shirt!)
One of these days, I look forward to digging into Sexual Politics and continuing my education. If you’re not familiar with her work, check out the slideshow. It was a fantastic experience, and I hope she returns to Baltimore so Red can meet her too.

A little light reading.


  1. so so so awesome, Shannon! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Ah, that's awesome! I saw that she was speaking at a church in mt vernon but I didn't see it until after the fact... Are you going to poplar springs Saturday by the way?

    Also, I nominated you for a blog award (on my blog) for people with under 200 followers.

  3. Hi, Thessaly! Long time no see! And thank you for the nom. :) Yes, we'll be at Poplar, probably hanging out with Deb (she writes Invisible Voices) in the chicken yard. Come say hi!

    1. Will definitely say hi if I see you! Looks like the weather should be good again this year!

  4. I feel this way all of the time: "Sometimes it’s easy to get complacent because I no longer have to work very hard to be vegan (or feminist), so a refresher is always welcome." I think it's important for all of us to revisit why we make the choices we do on an ongoing basis.

    I haven't read either of her books, but thanks to you post, I put them both on my wish list. Hopefully, I'll catch her in person some day too!