Last Thursday's New York Times carried an amusing story of a left-wing catfight. Kara Jesella reported that in Portland, Oregon, an entrepreneur has tried to combine strippers and vegans (the most extreme ahem, denomination of vegetarianism, with no eggs, milk, or animal products). But feminists are outraged that women would be objectified while the entrepreneur evangelizes the vegan gospel on behalf of cows and chickens:
Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a cookbook author, is among those who believe such images twist the vegan message. “As a feminist, I’m not keen on the idea of using women’s bodies to sell veganism, and I’m not into the idea of using veganism to sell women’s bodies,” she said...
The issue of sexism in vegan circles is “extremely polarizing,” said Bob Torres, an author of “Vegan Freak,” a guide to living a vegan lifestyle, which generally means avoiding the use of animals for food, clothing or other purposes. Mr. Torres, like many vegans, disavows the “essential idea at the heart of some animal rights activism that any means justifies the ends,” he said. Certain activists, he added, care only about “animal suffering and ignore the suffering of humans,” a category into which he would put women who are exploited.
The New York Times isn't skillful in describing the intricacies of the conservative movement, but its dissection of the left can be entertaining. Jesella began the article on "cruelty-free stripping" with a guy named Johnny Diablo, the vegetarian entrepreneur who chides the "feminazis" who ruin his concept of bringing the meat-is-murder message to men who like to see women undress:
TWO things that you can find a lot of in Portland, Ore., are vegans and strip clubs. Johnny Diablo decided to open a business to combine both. At his Casa Diablo Gentlemen’s Club, soy protein replaces beef in the tacos and chimichangas; the dancers wear pleather, not leather. Many are vegans or vegetarians themselves.
But Portland is also home to a lot of young feminists, and some are not happy with Mr. Diablo’s venture. Since he opened the strip club last month, their complaints have been "all over the Internet," he said. "One of them came in here once. I could tell she had an attitude right when she came in. She was all hostile."
Mr. Diablo isn’t concerned with the "feminazis," as he calls them. As a vegan himself, he says he hasn’t worn or eaten animal products in 24 years and is worried about cruelty to animals. "My sole purpose in this universe is to save every possible creature from pain and suffering," he said.
Casa Diablo is just the latest example of selling veganism with a "Girls Gone Wild" aesthetic to draw the ire of vegans who complain that such tactics may get people to pay attention to animal cruelty, but for the wrong reasons. In Los Angeles, some frown at the scantily clad Vegan Vixens — a kind of animal-loving Pussycat Dolls — who perform songs like "Real Men Don’t Hunt" at fund-raisers for animal welfare groups.
And many vegans who want to publicize cruelty within the fur industry are nonetheless dismayed by the new "Ink, Not Mink" advertising campaign from peta2, the youth arm of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It features members of the Internet-based pinup group the Suicide Girls, sporting little more than tattoos and body piercings.
This isn’t the first time animal rights activists have been accused of sexism. Many vegans have long criticized PETA for using naked celebrities in its advertising campaigns and for staging stunts like naked protests.
Later on, Jesella turns to the natural conflict in all of this, when left-wing factions start to fracture: that "veganism is often part of a larger progressive agenda, which makes many particularly sensitive to sexism charges." If you think I was being flippant in using religious terminology to describe fervent vegetarians, Jesella refers to the author of a "bible" of the movement:
Carol J. Adams, the author of "The Sexual Politics of Meat," a bible of the vegan community, said that women’s rights and the rights of animals have often been aligned. She traces the relationship to the 1890s. "A lot of feminist suffragists also became vegetarian," said Ms. Adams, who gave up meat in 1974 while living in a feminist community in Cambridge, Mass. She noted that Susan B. Anthony attended a dinner at which the toast was for "Total Abstinence, Women’s Rights and Vegetarianism." (An unrepentant omnivore, Ms. Anthony had a predilection for porterhouse steak.)
Ms. Adams added that feminists were early adopters of vegetarianism. "Back in the ’70s, lots of women were saying, ‘I don’t want to be a piece of meat. I’m not going to eat a piece of meat,’ " she said.
Vegans who use sexuality to promote the cause say it is a good way to convert carnivores — in particular, men. Sky Valencia, the founder of the Vegan Vixens, said her group targets "the people who buy Playboy and Maxim and watch talk shows like Jerry Springer. Those are the people we want to educate because they don’t know anything about the environment or animal rights issues or health."
Sadly for Johnny Diablo, the business model isn't a winner. As Jesella explained, only 2.3 percent of Americans are vegetarians, and the vegans are at best half of that population. "He said that introducing veganism to [men] at a strip club makes the notion more, well, palatable , even if the formula didn’t seem to work as well as he had hoped."
(Hat tip: Thunderstruck)