Friday Five!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I’m a big fan of most holidays, and Halloween is definitely in my top three favorites. I love the festive, spooky energy it musters up in people. I love that it coincides with the peak of autumn, and that my memories of trick-or-treating are juxtaposed to the smell and crunch of crispy leaves. I love how fun it is to brainstorm and create costumes. And I love finding creative ways to make and share theme-appropriate treats!

Not surprisingly, this week’s Friday Five has some Halloween love sprinkled throughout. Enjoy!

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Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?

The good folks at College Humor provided a nice simple flowchart for you and yours to determine if you’re Halloween costume is super fucked up and racist. I like to think the RGL community of readers wouldn’t think of participating in any number of the horribly inappropriate costumes that exist out there, so perhaps you can just have this handy for that person in your life who maybe isn’t thinking so critically about their costume choices.

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The Problem with Positive Thinking

I’m not sure I entirely agree with this article from the NYT, but I am curious to hear people’s thoughts. Basically some scientists did some studies and showed that people who practiced positive thinking (more specifically, achieving goals without challenges) did worse on achieving those goals than people who didn’t practice that kind of positive thinking. I agree that we can’t be all Oprah-fied all the time, but, as the article fortunately points out, the alternative shouldn’t be negative thinking. It should be some middle ground.

I personally feel like as I’ve gotten deeper into yoga (and found many crossovers in Buddhism), that it’s not even just about “moderation,” but rather finding ways to practice both positivity and negativity in a way that promotes balance. For example, in yoga, we intentionally invite sitting in and breathing through things that don’t feel good (much like Buddhism invites us to sit with suffering). But yoga has also taught me to “leave it [negative stuff] on my mat.” I don’t think we should try to run away from or erase our problems with positive thinking, but I think that after we do the work to sit with our discomfort that it’s okay to start affirming the shit out of ourselves and our lives.

What do you think?

The Problem with That Cat Calling Video 

Perhaps a lot of you saw the video floating around social media of the woman who records herself walking through NYC and experiences over 100 catcalls. It was, of course, disturbing, and a glimpse into what many women go through on a daily basis. But the video was incomplete–the creators actually admitted to editing out the white men who were complicit in street harassment. Thus, the video became a story almost entirely about “bad men of color.” Feminism is nothing without intersectionality; that is, it’s important to not treat social injustice in a vacuum. If we’re outraged over #Ferguson, we can’t continue to perpetuate discourse that frames black masculinity as always already threatening.

Vegan Candy Corn (That Isn’t Full of High-Fructose Corn Syrup!)

I have to admit that I am one of those people who used to find that waxy sweet experience of Brach’s Candy Corn to be utterly irresistible. Fortunately, my taste buds have changed a lot over the years, and I don’t even want to splurge on a handful of that junk. I do still get nostalgic for the concept though, and that’s why I was delighted to discover not only a recipe for vegan candy corn (there’s actually quite a few of those), but a recipe that is free of refined-sugar and other scary stuff. And to get the yellow color, the recipe calls for turmeric! Cool!

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

seeing a movie by myself for the first time ever!; work study date with my good friend, Michael; the pumpkin candle Michael gifted me knowing I really wanted one!; friend time with a gal pal at a queer dance party; when the bar DJ played “Anaconda” and mixed it into “212,” and our little dancing circle responded with delight; the run-in I had with the Harvard prof to whom I once taught yoga, who I fan-girl over because he’s a big deal in African American studies, and when I saw him at a coffee shop this weekend (a year after the first and only time we met), he remembered my name and my work and invited me to a conference at Harvard about mass incarceration!; shared CSA veggies; hard talks that make me glad because it means there is growth happening; transparency from my colleagues; when the chair of the Women and Gender Studies Department at my school thanked me for inspiring students to be feminists; kitten-love; HALLOWEEN THINGS; the arrival of my friend Logan who is visiting for the weekend; all my fellow professor/grad student friends who share amazing pedagogy ideas on FB–i feel really lucky to have such inspiring friends!; planning for and connecting with the community of folks doing Lacy Davis’ Rest & Restore program; True Bistro; phone calls with momma; feminist book club with such fierce ladies, and the conversation that ensued; making my new sculpt playlist; T-Pain; and my students, always.

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What are you being for Halloween?! Have a great weekend! xoox

Feel-Better Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

Happy Monday! Remember how on Friday I explained that I was so busy I didn’t even have time to cut and past things from the internet into a blog post? Well, then it probably comes as no surprise to you that on Saturday I got hit with what felt like the beginnings of a very bad cold. I felt tired the whole day, I was sniffling, and my throat was scratchy.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten pretty good at attacking symptoms before they get too comfortable. My go-to get-better kit includes: grapefruit smoothies, ginger (in anything i can put it in), turmeric (same), lemon, oil of oregano extract, and lots of tea and water.

In an effort to combine several of those in one meal, I made a variation of my carrot soup. It’s a super simple soup and you can make it with a lot of variations.

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Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

3 large carrots, chopped

1 in. (or more)  fresh ginger root 

1 in. (or more)  fresh turmeric root

2 c water (you may want more or less depending on how thick you like your soup)

juice from half lemon

Optional Add-Ins:

tahini

salt

cayenne pepper

kale 

Heat the carrots, ginger, turmeric, and water in a pot at medium heat until it comes to a boil. Pour ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until smooth.

Pour in a bowl, squeeze the lemon on top, add a dollop of tahini, and a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper. Also, maybe some kale.

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This had me feeling better right away. And it was delicious!

Self-Love: Part 1, The Body

In third grade, at the age of 9, I sat in my bathing suit on a bench with my classmates, waiting for our turn to get back in the school pool for swimming lessons. We had been learning various styles and had taken this break to watch our teachers demonstrate the next stroke. I remember being cold, wet and covered in chlorine, and hugging my knees into my chest to get a little warmer. The boy next to me (whose name I remember exactly, but will not share, tempting as it is) glanced at my huddled body.

Whoa,” he exclaimed, “You have huge thighs!”

I remember this as vividly as if it happened last week. I remember looking down at the fat on my legs, almost lit in blue under the fluorescent lights, rubbing together. I remember looking around me and noticing the girls in my class who were skinny. I remember realizing I should be ashamed. I remember learning to hate my body. I remember how it took me nearly eight years after that before I was willing to wear shorts in public.

Of course, I don’t want to place all the blame on this boy in third grade. Certainly that experience was a root in what would become decades of self-hate and self-abuse, but I could find a million more examples of things that concretized this belief that my body was too much, ugly, and in need of fixing. It was the magazines I read with pictures of girls and women whose stomachs were flat. It was the after-school specials about eating disorders that, somehow, seemed to glamorize these women’s ability to control what they ate. It was the high I felt after the first time I made myself throw up (at age 11). It was when boys started asking out the girls in class who wore jean sizes smaller than me. It was everything in a patriarchal society that told me I had to be be less. To be small. To shrink rather than grow.

But these external factors, for me, were just the instigators. The real work of body-hate began when, after internalizing those initial messages, I found ways to practice daily mantras of self-abuse so fervently that it become a part of me. Like green eyes, self-hate was just something I had. Can you imagine looking in the mirror everyday from age 9 until about age 17—(that’s 2,920 days)—and saying, “I hate you”?

Of course you can. This story is not unique.

The daily “I hate you”‘s did indeed stop in late high school. Instead, that mantra became more like every other day. It was a small victory that I was grateful for. I had found a confidence in myself through a variety of things, including punk rock, Left politics, great grades, and a loving boyfriend (and my family, who was never not a source of love). I started wrapping my head around feminism in a way that encouraged me to challenge hating my body. And as a, at that time, vegetarian, I found a way to keep off weight without starving or vomiting.

College deepened all the positive body forces even more. My feminism became more militant. I became vegan. My politics more firmly rooted. I had my first queer relationship. All of these things were ideal foundations from which to be a body-loving crusader. And, on good weeks, the “I hate you”‘s sometimes happened only every three days.

Throughout grad school, I continued to surround myself with amazing women (and mostly amazing men, and lots of amazing folks who don’t fall in either of those categories). I was part of a community of queer, fat-positive, feminist rebels. I continued to have mostly wonderful relationships with partners who seemed to truly love me and my body. I started teaching impressionable first-year college students about the patriarchy and how it works to shame women and encourage eating disorders and self-hate. And I talked about it as though I was removed from it, as though it was something that happened to girls who just hadn’t learned feminism yet. And that, Don’t worry, one day too you can speak about this from a distance as though it doesn’t impact you at your core, as though it doesn’t make you want to cry for being part of the statistics you’re sharing so cooly.

But that was a lie. Even with all the body-acceptance ducks in a row, I still continued to hate my body.

The hate started to develop in more unique and targeted ways. I started noticing two prominent themes in the self-hate that swirled about my brain and in my chest and out my mouth: I hated myself because I worked out harder and ate significantly “cleaner” than almost anyone I knew, and I was still not skinny. I hated myself because I knew better than to hate myself–I was a feminist!—and still I hated myself.

A therapist once asked me why I wanted to lose weight. This question, to my surprise, was incredibly hard to answer. She pointed out that I was within the “normal” BMI range (something, in my normal life, I would have called “bullshit” on, but giving my therapist a feminist critique of the BMI system after telling her how I made myself throw up my food for the past four days seemed a little misguided). She pointed out that I had relationships with people who found me attractive. She pointed out that I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with the people in my life who were also not skinny. I nodded. These things were true.

“I just…want to be skinny,” was all I could manage for a moment. I then explained how viscerally I react to the extra cushion on my body. How seeing those same big thighs rub together makes me feel hot with anxiety. How rubbing my hand down my stomach on days it’s not flat can literally catapult me into sobs. How the pinch of a button against your skin while trying to close a pair of jeans over your un-taut flesh in a dressing room sometimes made me sweat with rage. It was less logical (I mean, of course I could still point to patriarchy, but since I could name that, it was no longer quite as easy a target), and more embodied. Hating my body had become part of my body. 

There was a real shift for me back in 2010, right around when I started this blog. I did my first cleanse and started eating in ways that made me feel good (my binging and purging was, for the first time since age 11, almost non-existent). I am definitely grateful for the way cutting out refined sugar and other processed food helped improve how my body felt. It was a lot harder to hate something that felt so good!

But as I dug deeper into the “clean eating” blog world, I started noticing that most of these bloggers and Youtubers were still smaller than me. Waify, even. I remember thinking my remaining fat was just a result of the toxins my body was still clinging to, so if I could just do some more cleanses (and stricter ones, and longer ones), then maybe I’d have the body I’m supposed to have. The idea that my curvy body was the body I was supposed to have still didn’t seem right to me.

I made some progress away from that when I recognized that I was having some orthorexic tendencies, and started wanting to have more fun with friends again. I didn’t want to be the one who never ate any of the shared sweet potato fries at happy hour. I didn’t want to be the one who brought juice to parties because I wasn’t eating solid food that day. That no longer felt like self-care to me. I am grateful for the friends and partner I had in my life at the time who inspired me to “yolo” it a bit more. Loosening up about food (not throwing my healthy preferences out the window, just not being quite as restrictive), unsurprisingly, loosened me up about my body. Having more fun meant less time to dwell on food and my body (and less time dwelling on food and my body meant having more fun…it was a nice circular chain reaction). Being more social and not cleansing all the time gave me other stuff to talk about. It was a great leap forward.

(There is about a year between then and now that I am going to gloss over for now because body stuff became very much a result of a different kind of self-hate, and I plan to write a separate post about that in Self-Love, Part 2!).

Fast forward to today. After a year of tumult, I am in a place with body-love that feels manageable. There are still days that I feel like I am back to square one. But there are way more days and weeks that I feel really really awesome about my body in ways that are decidedly more significant than any other time in my life. Part of this is due to simply affirming that I love my body, even if I don’t actually believe it. “Fake it til you make it” sometimes works. (I have learned so much and been so so inspired by Lacy Davis, who writes about exactly this and a bunch of other really helpful stuff).

It’s also because I made an intentional shift from focusing on what my body looks like to focusing on what my body does. I love my body for getting through daily yoga practice. I love my body for it’s ability to lift heavy things, whether that’s dumbbells or air conditioners. I love my body for it’s resilience, for surviving the hell I’ve put it through. I love my body for the ways it feels pleasure (from food, from sex, from dancing, from bike rides). I love my body for being able to werk a pair of stilettos (thanks strong core!). I love my body for it’s energy.

And, to my delight, there are moments I love how my body looks too. I love how it fills out a pencil skirt. How it looks muscly in a tank top. I love how even though my thighs are still the thickest things on me, that I think I rock a pair of short-shorts. I love how it looks in a halter top and shows my chatarunga back.

I have been doing a lot of work and reading about self-love, and a version of this pops up in pretty much every text on the subject: “Nothing changes by hating yourself. Things only change when you love yourself.”

I have been repeating that mantra in my brain everyday. I try to look in the mirror and say, “I love you” at least once in the morning. I try to talk to myself the way I would talk to a friend. I try, when I’m doing my daily gratitude lists, to include my body among the things for which I am grateful. I’ve been getting into tapping, a practice that encourages working through negative emotions on a cellular level and replacing them with positive ones (I’ll try to do a post on this soon too!). I’ve committed myself to reading blogs that make me feel good and avoiding blogs that make me feel shamed. And I’ve tried to engage with other media that features positive body role models.

These are a small handful of tools I’ve been utilizing in the mission of self-love. Make no mistake, loving yourself often takes work. Hard work. I am fumbling through the project of loving my body with tiny victories and frequent defeats, but I am pushing through, because I have come to realize that the stupid cliche about the importance of loving yourself is really fucking true.

I would love to know how you practice self-[body] love. Let me know in the comments.

Have a super loving, awesome day! xoox

Friday Five!

Hello! I hope you’ve all been having an excellent week. I’ve been very busy (hence the no new posts), but with mostly very good things. I feel a bit exhausted, but pretty happy. That’s not a bad place to end the week! Here’s a cute sign I saw at a bar I was at last weekend:

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[all of you are.]

And here’s the Friday Five!

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Miso Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce 

This past Tuesday, I had a thought: I haven’t had enough Taco Tuesdays in my life. And so begins my quest to ameliorate that void. I think these sweet potato tacos from the kitchen would be a perfect contender for such an evening, no?

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Getting Real About Health and Diet

Gena’s thoughtful reflections never fail to hit me on a profound and lasting level. In her most recent post, she discusses the ways in which “health and wellness” culture frame food as a panacea for literally almost everything. This includes some food-cures-everything folks who insist that “cancer is an idea,” and that anyone who has any health problems has them because of something they are doing wrong. This whole process becomes a neoliberal tool of putting the onus on the individual to “pull themselves up by their [healthy, vegan, free-range, organic] bootstraps” in order to be well. As Gena notes, part of this is just bad science–some illnesses are not directly prevented or treated with food. Additionally, this phenomenon ignores structural issues entirely (not everyone has the resources to eat food for optimal health). It’s a post worth reading, sharing, and remembering (because I know I certainly need to check myself when I start feeling holier than thou about my eating habits).

Freezing Eggs, Privatizing the Work/Family Clash

Speaking of neoliberalism, have you all read about how Apple and Facebook are paying to freeze their female employees eggs? (side note, i wonder if this covers non-female ID’d egg-bearers?). Of course, easing the cost of this expensive procedure is a good thing, but, as Bryce Covert writes, “While most women say they freeze their eggs because they don’t have a partner yet, a quarter does it for professional reasons. It’s a hyper-individualized answer to a collective problem: the fact that both men and women work, but our workplaces don’t allow for a family life.” As someone in a career that consistently tells you to put your job before your personal life, I am pretty empathetic to the heaviness of this issue. What do you think about it?

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cookies

I’m very into the sound (and the delightful look!) of these pumpkin peanut butter cookies. There’s a lot of version of the pumpkin cookies floating around right now, but this one is not only vegan and gluten-free, but also uses stevia as a sweetener. Must try!

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

cats on the internet (like this and this); cats IRL; healthy communication (take that, Mercury); teaching and my smart and chah-ming students; yoga; getting a friend’s CSA because he’s out of town and eating the most delicious and colorful farm-fresh veggies; the kind mechanic who saved me lots of dollars on my car; the best Sunday Funday that involved the HONK activist street band parade, a walk through Harvard Square, and a night of wine and yoga friends; putting up fall/Halloween decorations; admittedly, this First Lady veggie-centric Vine; Halloween costume-planning; friends (far and near) showing up in the best ways (email, calls, real life, texts, everywhere i turned); emoji-heavy texts from momma.

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What made you happy this week? xo

Friday Five!

Hello! I definitely felt the full moon energy this week, anyone else? It was a long and feelings-y week, and I’m grateful for this upcoming three-day weekend (even though, on Monday, I will not be celebrating Columbus, but rather Indigenous People’s Day)! Here is a picture of the beautiful leaves on my lovely New England campus:

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And now four things from the internet plus a list of stuff that made me happy this week!

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Chile Spiced Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

Love this simple, beautiful recipe from Tasty Yummies (featured on Free People Blog). It’s seasonal, it’s easy, and has a sure-t0-be-good flavor combination (chile powder, coconut, and squash, yum!).

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The Amish Farmer’s Reinventing Organic Agriculture

This interview with two Amish farmer’s caught my attention right away. One of the interviewed farmer’s states:”‘In the Second World War…my ancestors were conscientious objectors because we don’t believe in combat…If you really stop and think about it, though, when we go out spraying our crops with pesticides, that’s really what we’re doing. It’s chemical warfare, bottom line.’” The rest of the interview discusses how organic labeling is a “negative-process certification,” so you can do nothing on the farm and get that label. But for Samuel Zook and John Kempf, they approach farming from an actively non-violent and holistic framework. Cool!

bell hooks and Laverne Cox 

Do I really need to say anything more than just the names of these two really incredible and important women? They talk about how celebrities can embody a decolonizing social justice practice within the confines of a colonizing institution. How to bring social justice theories outside of the academy. How it’s sometimes scary to go around talking about the “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” How bell hooks doesn’t much like OITNB (to Cox’s (jovial) horror).They talk about safe space, and loving kindness, and high heels, and courage.  And more. It’s a pretty wonderful hour and a half–put it on in the background while you’re cooking!

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10 Ways to Make Affirmations Work Better for You

NPR released a report on the science behind positive affirmations, and in response, Claire Hannam published this helpful list of ten ways to make the positive affirmation process more effective. I used to be *mega* skeptical (okay, downright cynical) about positive affirmations, but now they are a huge (usually daily) part of my life. I don’t think they are a cure-all–(I’m a Marxist, after all, I can’t put all my stock in consciousness)–but I think they help a lot. And I’m going to incorporate Hannam’s tips to make my practice even stronger.

Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy

friend dinner dates; friend study dates; dancing my butt off at this show; hosting a dinner party for my colleagues; yoga; getting to talk about deconstructing pop music and hip-hop in my mass comm class; mom phone calls; two fall runs in which I explored different parts of my new ‘hood; acorn squash & pomegranate seeds; roasted carrot hummus gifted from my dear pal; highland kitchen cocktails & midnight playground romps; kitten cuddles.

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What made you happy this week? 

Animal Rights and Prison Abolition: Why I Don’t Support Prosecuting Animal Abusers

22 year-old Andre Robinson is currently on trial for kicking a stray cat, an act which he recorded and posted on his Facebook page. I did not have any desire to watch something so awful, but it sounds like the video is quite violent—the cat has been said to have flown about 20 feet after impact. The fact that Robinson is on trial and has not received a plea bargain is a result of a new direction in the criminal punishment system that has been bolstered by an influx of bills that treat animal abuse as a serious, prison-worthy offense. But as appalling as Robinson’s actions were, I do not support the criminalization of animal abuse.

Animal rights activists have been at the forefront of using the legal system to hold animal abusers accountable for their egregious actions. PETA ensured that a man in Virginia receive a year in prison for starving a pit bull. The Animal Legal Defense Fund in California offered a $1,000 to ensure the arrest and prosecution of a man who set a cat on fire. And at Robinson’s trial, animal rights activists fill the court room demanding “justice.”

Understand first and foremost that I am deeply sickened by animal abuse. (Especially when it comes to cats! I mean, I am basically this person!). The acts committed by the people who have been prosecuted are completely unacceptable.

But the solution is not to strengthen the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). For those of you who don’t spend your days around people who use terms like “the Prison Industrial Complex,” let me give you a basic rundown. Basically the PIC is the name used to describe the “overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems” [1]. In short, prison has become a business that literally profits from caging human beings. The more people getting put in jail, the more money the privatized prisons make (and even the State-run prisons). That alone should be enough to make anyone skeptical of the system, but it only gets worse.

First, it’s important to note who gets locked away and who doesn’t. In the US, Black men are incarcerated at rates far greater than any other population. You can read more about this phenomenon in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which, as the title suggests explains how prisons are stepping up to act as a new method of racist disenfranchisement. We also know that other non-white people, poor people, and LGBTQ people are locked away at higher rates than their white counterparts [2, 3].

The key thing to remember here is that this is not because people of color, poor people, and/or LGBTQ people (and those at the intersection of all of those) are any more likely to commit crimes, but rather that these communities are targeted by the police far more than their white, wealthy counterparts. A very easy and common example that helps illustrate this is to think about the number of white and/or middle/upper-class college students who smoke pot. A shit ton, right? How many of them go to jail for it: not many. How many Black men go to prison for being caught with pot? A lot more. Despite having roughly the same use rate, this is what arrests look like:

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I could keep going with graphs and stats that illustrate the way the system is racist, sexist, homophobic, and cissexist, but the main thing to remember is that it targets those populations, not that those populations “deserve” prison more than other people.

But none of that is getting at my actual point. My point is that prison doesn’t fix or change anything. In fact, prisons are more likely to perpetuate the very things that get people incarcerated in the first place. That is to say, they exacerbate violence, racism, sexism, etc. because they are inhumane institutions.

This brings me directly to the story about Robinson and all the other attempts made by animal advocacy organizations to prosecute animal abusers. If animal liberation is about practicing more compassion toward living creatures, we cannot rely on the PIC to fix humans who have not practiced compassion. The chances of people experiencing and being enabled to practice more compassion in prison is slim to none. Rather than looking at the root of the problem in any criminal case—in this one, a society that enables a human to be so violent and cruel to an animal—we lock people up as a distraction. As Angela Davis notes, the PIC “relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.” Capitalism and white supremacy are systems that rely on alienation and dehumanization, so is it any wonder that animal abusers exist within this kind of economic system and culture?  The PIC is an extension of this system, and thus is not an institution that has any interest in actually addressing the root of the problem.

When animal rights activists support “tough on crime” approaches to animal abuse, they are strengthening the PIC. The PIC is not a friend to animal rights. The PIC is not an institution that will teach lessons about being better to living creatures.

So, what’s the alternative? Prison abolitionists have been theorizing and practicing alternatives to the carceral state for decades. It will not be an easy road, but there is evidence that transformative justice, rather than punitive “justice,” is possible. Groups like INCITE! and Critical Resistance have discussed moving towards community accountability and committing to addressing the political and economic systems that create violence in the first place. I highly recommend visiting these sites for more reading:

Imagine what it might look like if the energy animal rights activists put into trying to send abusers to prison was spent instead on challenging our culture of violence and working on programs to heal the abuser.