When I decided to return to Australia and tour Tasmania I started looking for festivals to attend. I stumbled onto Newkind 2.0 and was immediately intrigued. Here was a festival which was completely vegan in terms of the food and was starring some young, male, vegan, celebrity activists. I use those adjectives purposely. I have been wondering, since these passionate and lovely men have become vegan and famous in the last few years, where all the female activists are.
Interestingly, this was discussed in a panel of activists which included three men and three powerful women whom I had never heard of before.
So what is this phenomenon all about? There are something like two to three female vegans to every one male, as I understand (but don’t quote me.) There are five rock stars of the vegan movement right now. In no particular order they are Paul Bashir, James Aspey, Joey Carbstrong, Earthling Ed, and Joshua Entis. They are all young, cute, dark haired, some of them are bearded, and, quite honestly, one could be forgiven for getting them mixed up.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. On the contrary, I am glad they are there and love what they are doing. I just wish we had an equal representation of female celebrity activists. There’s no doubt that many women are very busy in activism and there’s easily more women than men on the ground, if one just looks at who shows up at cubes and vigils. But we’re not famous. We are also not on the speaking circuit in the same way as these guys.
In the panel discussion yesterday at Newkind the subject was sort of addressed, but unsatisfactorily for me. The question of sexual abuse was raised, suggesting women are exposed to this and get threatened with rape, for example, by certain trolling, carnist men. Although I have no doubt this happens, I don’t believe it is the reason there aren’t as many female celebrity activists. I think it has more to do with the fact that we are still living in a paternal society. The words of men carry more weight than those of women. And that goes for women as well, meaning even women tend to still listen more earnestly to men than to women. It’s how we have been trained. It’s a difficult habit to change when you are surrounded by male authority.
These five men have charisma, are forceful yet vulnerable and manage to keep their egos in check most of the time – at least when they speak in public. They have the advantage of being cute, so the girls like them, and they have some rough and manly histories between them, so the boys listen to them too.
So why does it matter? It matters because vegans are all about social justice and social change. And we are perpetuating our old fashioned values through our vegan activism. James Aspey said he would be willing to stand aside and let (my bad word) women take some of his speaking engagements. Thank you James. Appreciated… Still not sure if this solves the problem or not, though. If you are going to stand aside for women there need to be some compelling women for you to stand aside for.
I know my readers will be thinking of the wonderful and amazing female activists like Melanie Joy, or Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, or the incredible Marlene Narrow from Vegan Nation radio. There are so many of us women but we are not the vegan activism rock stars, and probably only could be if we were 25 and drop dead gorgeous and loved seeing ourselves on YouTube. It is limiting and frustrating being an activist in what is still a man’s world and I am at odds with it.
Would love to hear your thoughts, fellow activists.
Here are some photos from Newkind 2.0.