After seven years of trying to take a connectionist perspective into a gendered violence prevention conference, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP) allowed me the opportunity. On May 16, 2012, I presented Expanding Our Lens: The Rape Culture We Don’t Discuss at the 2012 WCSAP annual conference in Vancouver, WA. For an hour and a half, a room full of sexual violence prevention practitioners discussed traditional notions of rape culture and learned what’s missing. Together we explored how animal and environmental commodity industries support norms of power and violence; how these are often gendered, raced, classed, and more; and strategies for incorporating this expanded analysis into sexual violence prevention work.
This was not an easy workshop to attend. In the context of preventing sexual violence, audience members learned about the violent and oppressive practices inherent in major institutions such as the dairy and egg industries. They learned how fur-bearing animals are vaginally and anally electrocuted. They saw the destruction of the planet. Yet through it all, the room remained full. No one left. The gasps and moans in the audience made it quite clear that this information, as tempered as it was, was new to several attendees. The fact that they did not let classic empathy avoidance win over and intentionally stayed to learn and process with the group is one of the best outcomes I could have hoped for.
Because the session ended directly before lunch, there was the expected, “What are we supposed to eat now!?” Some attendees even approached me afterwards to encourage that I include even more information about these and other industries in future presentations. These positive indicators of change would not have happened had WCSAP not taken the courageous step of inviting a presentation that advanced beyond the movement’s comfort zone.
Connect the Dots works to build bridges between seemingly disparate issues and movements. We thank WCSAP for setting the foundation.Categories: Building the Movement, News