Connecting the Dots on Norms: Melanie Joy’s “Carnism”

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We at Connect the Dots believe that norms, that is often unspoken standards of behavior, fundamentally maintain and support the “power-over” standards in which we live – environments in which human, animal, and environmental rights and well-being are violated.  In fact, in response to comments on a recent blog post I wrote for Because We Must, I clarified my view on norms:

Also, I don’t believe in a hierarchy of oppression (central feminist tenant, right?). Hierarchies of power and worth feed the social phenomenon of oppression – against all. I’m a hypocrite if I say violence against one is okay but violence against another is not. That’s not effective from a primary prevention standpoint – it doesn’t change the norms that feed the violence in the first place. Effective change comes from culture and environmental change…By putting a non-human animal’s flesh on a plate in front of an attendee, by making that an acceptable, socially approved choice, I am not only promoting a hierarchy of worth, but I am also directly telling that person that this type of violence is okay. Now start to add up all of the folks in a room, in a conference center, in a community, who are getting that exact same message from me and others, and you have a norm of violence. Check out the Prevention Institute’s work on norms for more.  If you want to talk about this even further, I encourage you to join the CtD google group.

This is why I’m interested in the work of Dr. Melanie Joy.  Dr. Joy has taken the concept of norms away from the traditional human-exclusive realm in which they are discussed and applied them to animal exploitation through her work on carnism.  Not only has Dr. Joy written a book on the issue, but she has also posted several articles through the connectionist resource One Green Planet.  For instance, in this article, she explains that Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions us to eat certain animals.  It is, in fact, a norm.  It’s an invisible standard of behavior.  Dr. Joy further explores this in other articles, such as this one, in which she provides tools, exploring how agents for social justice can respond to carnistic ideologies and arguments.

Expanding the notion of norms beyond human-exclusive movements is key to work towards a peaceful and just world for all. We hope you’ll join with us in discussing how and why norms impact our behavior towards ALL.  Indeed, if norms can lead to the bad stuff, they can also lead to the good…

Categories: Animals, Connectionist Perspectives

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