In my chapter for Feminist Animal Studies (Routledge 2022) edited by Erika Cudworth, Ruth E. McKie and Di Turgoose, I argue that vegan feminist activism has entered a millennial third wave. This wave, I argue, is distinguished by three key developments.
First, as a reflection of the larger Nonhuman Animal rights movement, vegan feminist activism must now mobilize in a largely professionalized social justice space. Having cemented by the 21st century, professionalization ensures a bureaucratic hierarchical, corporate-like organizational structure. Most collectives become registered charities and begin to prioritize fundraising over intervention and racial social change. Feminist activism, which characteristically favors democratic and non-hierarchical movement organization styles, is left at a disadvantage. Androcentric politics are subsequently free to proliferate.
Second, the internet has emerged to improve accessibility in the activism community. It has also opened up channels of communication from on-the-ground activists to large, otherwise impervious nonprofits. As has been the case for many social movements, social media technology has had a democratizing effect with regard to recruitment, strategy deliberation, and theoretical development.
Third, this new digital platform has allowed for the introduction of new and provocative ideas from traditionally marginalized groups such as women, but especially women of color, women with disabilities, queer and trans women, and women of the global majority. Subsequently, in the past decade, these emerging voices from the margins have begun to have an impact on the movement discourse. Large, historically male-dominated white- and Euro-centric professional organizations are gradually moving to adopt 21st-century feminist strategies. This has included hiring more staff from marginalized backgrounds, tailoring outreach to diverse communities, and creating their own platforms for underrepresented groups.
There is still much work to be accomplished. Women are still underrecognized for their efforts, and feminism is still met with derision in many pockets of the community. Many privileged, higher-profile feminists often fail to offer solidarity and support for more vulnerable activists. Diversity rhetoric can often ring hollow as important adjustments to unequal power structures are avoided.
Third-wave vegan feminism may subsequently benefit from a return to first-wave tactics. Activists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries strategically entangled their anti-speciesist activism with their campaigning against colonialism, war, penal punishment, sexism, racism, slavery, and more. Today’s third-wave vegan feminism may find additional strength in this type of intermovement solidarity. It will not only be useful for gaining membership and other resources, but also for advancing an anti-oppression worldview that resists inequality wherever it is found…even if that inequality is within the activist community itself.
Readers can learn more about the social movement politics of Nonhuman Animal rights and veganism in my 2019 publication, Piecemeal Protest: Animal Rights in the Age of Nonprofits. The beautiful cover art for this text was created by vegan artist Lynda Bell and prints are available on her website, artbylyndabell.com.
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