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Activism Without Accountability

danger of "speaking for" animals

Forum: APIQWTC list
Date: 11/14/2003

On 11/14/03 9:17 PM, "Cris Widjaja" wrote:

Subject: Iams Brand Pet Food = Cruelty to Animals

If animals could speak, they will say: "Thank you for your kindness and compassion".

Oh no, please don't speak for animals. I find any social movement that claims to speak for someone other than itself automatically suspicious.

Sometimes I feel that certain people pick animal rights of environmental protection as their cause because they won't be confronted by those they claim to defend or speak for. When you advocate for *people*, these people might confront or contradict those who present themselves as their saviour when their actions stray from the interests of those being advocated. When you speak for animals or the environment, however, you are safe from this kind of criticism.

How, then, do animal rights and environmental activists hold themselves accountable in the event their actions stray from the interests of those being advocated? I've asked this question to others before, but I haven't heard any reply...

Emi K.
-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.

Date: 11/15/2003

On 11/15/03 4:37 PM, "Cris Widjaja" wrote:

First of all, I am free to speak for the animals if I want.

I see. Do you also believe that white people are free to put words into the mouths of people of colour? Do you believe that men are free to "speak for" women by inventing what women might say? Or straight people telling other straight people "donate money to this organization and LGBT people will say 'Thank you for your kindness and compassion'"?

I don't think any of the above is okay.

Why, then, is it okay for humans to speak for animals?
Could it be because you put humans above other animals?

Additionally, I am free to pick to whatever cause I want to pick!

Certainly. I never questioned that.

However, based on your twisted argument below, I supposed we should all just stop caring for animals and the environments, because our intentions are suspect and our actions are unaccountable! Ahh....! Brilliant!

You seem to not only put words in animals' mouths, but also in other people's. Did I suggest that we should stop caring for animals or for environment? No, I didn't.

The question of accountability is very important. We live in a complex society where good intentions do not necessarily bring about good result: think about the "pro-life" terrorists who kill doctors in order to prevent, in their own minds, the greater "evil" of abortion. While their behaviour is wrong and irresponsible, their motivation is mostly good, again, in their own minds.

I do feel that activists on the left or progressive side are equally capable of making the very same mistake these pro-lifers made, which is that we substitute our good intention for accountability. I've seen this turn into a big problem in some of the activism I've been involved in, particularly within the feminist anti-rape, anti-domestic violence organizing that have become paternalistic toward survivours who seek services.

I think there is a parallel between pro-lifers who "speak for" fetus "who cannot speak for themselves" and animal rights and environmental activists who "speak for" animals or the planet "who cannot speak for themselves," and this is a cause for concern. I am not saying that both are the same or that both are wrong, but there is a shared weakness to both movements which is that they cannot rely on feedbacks from the very group they claim to advocate for to hold themselves accountable.

In the end, I'd like to see animal rights and environmental movements develop their own methods of accountability. These movements need to accept the possibility that they could be doing something harmful despite best of their intentions and build structures of accountability to keep that risk under control.

And if you think this comment is an attack on animal rights or environmental activism, you are not paying attention to what I am actually saying.

Although this is not the first time we see your PDPB (Public Display of Psychosis Behaviour) on this mailing list, I must say this is the best yet! Congratulations.

Interesting. I don't post that frequently to this list, and I believe that the last time I posted here is where I criticized someone's racist statement that Chinese people are intellectually and otherwise superior to Blacks. And that was in January 2003.

The post I made before that is from September 2001, in which I corrected someone's mischaracterisation of a hate-crime victim as a "cross-dresser" when in fact she was a transsexual. Oh, and also in July 2001, I asked if someone could give me a ride to the APIQWTC discussion meeting. Finally, I made another post in that month in which I relayed an annoucement about an event held at the San Francisco Public Library.

Tell me, which of the above post do you consider "public display of psychosis behaviour"? Is it psychotic to practice anti-racism? Or someone points out that the victim was a transsexual and not a "corss-dresser"? Or to ask for a ride? Or to announce an event? Please be specific.

Emi K.
-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.