My doctoral student confession: I miss freelance writing

This semester I finish my second year of doctoral work and true story: I miss freelance writing.

The last article I wrote was published in December which seems like a world away for a freelance writer who was pitching editors several times a week regularly and everyday at one point. I wrote pitch letters in my head as a went to sleep and got to work on them when I woke up. Today that freelance writing energy is consumed with writing academic articles, conference preperation, classwork and a dissertation proposal as a doctoral student (not to mention having a relationship with friends and family and self-care) and it has me kinda bummed. 

The opportunity to take grad classes, work as a teaching assistant and write a dissertation as a funded student is amazing. I've met some kick ass faculty who have been at the forefront of bringing coversations about gender into the classroom. I've made connections at conferences I simply didn't have access to prior to becoming part of a doctoral program. I'm very passionate about my research; I love that I'm paid to research a topic I care about so deeply and my job is to develop those ideas into the best piece of research I can to make a contribution to this world. This is definitely a gift I never thought I'd have.

But I miss freelance writing! I want to take my curiosity and turn it into an article to put out in the world in a matter of weeks. I love being able to take issues I care about, pitch amazing publications I respect and write those stories. I appreciate getting feedback from an editor and shaping a piece of writing into something that we both mold into a final publication. I like seeing that dozens (occassionaly hundreds or thousands) of people have engaged with the interviews I collect from activists and academics. I get motivation to keep doing this work from the community of people, friends and strangers, who respond to something I've written. And dammit, I like that after years of writing for free my work is finally valued (read: paid) by a number of publications I respect immensely. 

My primary job after I defend my dissertation proposal at some point this year will be to write a dissertation. There are many reasons to place my dissertation as the first priortiy, not the least of which is the fact that my funding ends after three years in the program (as in, one year after I finish classes this May). Realistically I need to put the best of my writing energy into researching and writing a dissertation.

One of the criticisms of academic writing is that no one reads it. Some people are asking if academics should be writing for popular media. From where I stand as a writer, a queer, a feminist, and an activist I can truly appreciate the education and experience in academic writing and teaching I'm recieving now and at the same time acknowledge I can't wait to be pitching popular media again. I engage on Twitter everyday and promote writing by amazing writers for popular media platforms who I've learned so much from and have enjoyed being in community with as a freelance writer.

When I began my doctoral program I always knew I wanted to continue to write for popular media, but for now that writing will have to wait.



Recognize the LGBT community as the missing group of victims in conflict-related violence

This month the website Women Under Siege published my piece about gender-based violence targeted against LGBT individuals. I originally started working on the story as an Op-Ed in my Gender, Marginalization and Health course, a Gender Consortium of Women's Studies class team taught at MIT by faculty from three different universities with different backgrounds. The GCWS courses offer an amazing opporunity to study with faculity and students from many different Boston-based institutions so I highly recommend you take one should you have the opportunity!

Here is an excerpt from "The missing group of conflict-related victims":

Iraq is just one of eight countries in which homosexuality is punishable by death. More than half of those nations, including Iraq, Iran, and Nigeria, qualify as conflict and post-conflict countries. Yet it’s rare to see media mention of this kind of violence, which is also gender-based, when it covers war and iniquities. Little has been formulated in the way of action plans to stop this type of violence, either, despite efforts like those of the commission and organizations like MADRE. To date, there’s not much out there in terms of a nation’s stepping up to respond to this violence in Iraq or elsewhere around the globe. International protection measures to address LGBT-targeted violence—which, as in Leyla’s case, can be state-sponsored—require a response that recognizes that gender-based violence includes cases like this.

I encourage readers to read this and other pieces on the Women Under Siege website, a Women's Media Center "journalism project that investigates how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century and into the 21st."



a case of mistaken identity: sex work is not human trafficking edition


This week my first Feature article "Boston's strange and problematic approach to curbing prostitution (and addressing violence against women" published. The piece examines what Boston is doing to "reduce demand for prostitution by 20% in two years." I wrote the story for DigBoston, Boston's Alt-weekly.  I initially pitched a somewhat vague idea for a story in June and have been reading, researching and interviewing people on the topic ever since. Many, many, many thanks to my awesome editor Chris Faraone for accepting the pitch and his encouragement to keep digging.

During the time I was researching the feature story I also wrote a piece for Rolling Stone, "5 Things You Probably Don't know About Human Trafficking". I wrote the story about human trafficking as I became increasingly frustrated by the conflation of sex work and human trafficking in much of what I was reading, especially by those individuals and organizations working to "exit women" from prostitution.  

Other related stories in the news this week you might want to check out:

 UPDATE: Lina Nealon from Demand Abolition wrote a letter to DigBoston in response to my piece.


Allowing Our Activism to Grow: Continuing the conversation about vegan masculinity

Fanny - Farm Sanctuary Rescue

Over the course of a few days this blog had over 1.3K visitors thanks to all the shares, tweets and comments for my post "My Favorite Masculine Vegan has a Pussy." Vegansaurus also re-published the post. A number of people have published pieces with references to my post including the fat gay vegan who writes, "It is clear that misogyny, sexism, homophobia and all forms of bigotry do not exist solely outside the vegan realm. We need to actively resist the attempts to use tools of divisive language and imagery to sell veganism."

On Accountability

Quite a list of white, male heavy-hitters in the vegan/plant-based diet community have offered their support for the book "Meat is for Pussies" as listed on the Harper Collins page for the book:

John Joseph speaks openly about his decision to go with the title he did in this podcast interview with Rich Roll. It's unfortunate a book with so much potential to reach so many who might never pick up VegNews, as Joseph explains, will do so as a direct result of such a derogatory and divisionary tactic as that embodied by this title. I don't think personal attacks will get us very far as a movement when it comes to challenging single-issue activism that tosses people of color, women and queer individuals under the bus for the sake of saving the animals. Instead we must insist those in our community who we respect as tireless vegan advocates but with a single-issue lens continue to do better.

Challenging Single-Issue Activism

Activist and author Mickey Z writes about the danger of single-issue activism noting, "Sadly and ironically, AR [animal rights] activism—even the Francione branch—epitomizes single-issueism as the vast majority of the movement is white, middle class, and virtually agnostic when it comes to challenging human-to-human forms of oppression." An aspect of this conversation around masculinity and veganism I neglected to include in my original post is race. It's hard to refute the point Mickey Z makes regarding the face of veganism today as white and middle class. Dr. A. Breeze Harper, creater of the Sistah Vegan Project, has now turned to black masculinity, veganism and ethical culture for her next book which she gave a lecture about in May you can watch online.

Much frustration arises out of single-issue activism in all political movements. Women of color in the reproductive rights movement have raised their voices against the erasure of their contribution to the work of the movement. Some queer activists are disturbed to see so much focus by the movement devoted to fighting for the right to marry while neglecting the arguably more pressing needs for the community such as homeless LGBTQ youth.

Most vegans are familiar with the criticism that vegans should be more concerned with human rights than animal rights. But spending much of your time advocating for one political issue doesn't mean you aren't concerned or aware of other ethical issues and I wrote about how my experience doing feminist and LGBTQ activism has informed the intersectional movement work I do today in an earlier post.

Addressing the oversights and shortcomings that arise out of single-issues activism requires we listen and change, a process that can be uncomfortable and humbling. We as a movement must encourage and allow one another to grow past our perspective and become a more inclusive space to create larger and more meaningful ethical change in this global society for each other and for the animals.


Veganism & Masculinity Reconsidered

UPDATE: Thanks for also posting this piece over on Vegansaurus!


As of late, conversations about masculinity and meat eating have re-emerged, partially in response to this book and also from a segment on NPR about veganism and masculinity. But this conversation around masculinity and veganism has left a lot to be desired from many vegans, especially feminists.

It’s great to see traditional assumptions about masculinity challenged by veganism, but we can do better. I date a butch lesbian vegan who is training for a marathon, lifts weights, is masculine and also happens to have a pussy. Below are five of the most frustrating aspects of the conversation.

 Photo credit: Veg News


1. Hardcore veganism is feminist.

The idea that there is a real man or that one type of man is a “pussy”* and another is more masculine is a) homophobic and b) misogynist. There is nothing hardcore about reclaiming traditional patriarchal language and behavior in the name of an ethical movement. And remember: If you aren’t sure how to do better please ask a vegan feminist. We would love to help!


2. Ethical veganism is not a diet or about controlling your body.

All people who are vegan eat a plant-based diet and strive to live a compassionate life towards human and non-human animals alike. This extends to varying degrees into all consumer products, as well as different practices one supports. There’s plenty of debate about how veganism extends beyond the plate.

One thing that is not up for debate, however, is that ethical veganism is not about restricting food as a diet or about controlling your body. Unfortunately, with the emphasis on proving vegan diets can also provide for the nutritional needs of those who run ultra marathons and body-build, the conversation seems to have become confused. As the NPR segment argues, men are generally the face of this misconception.


3. Veganism doesn's need to be saved from feminity.

A lot of this conversation about masculinity and veganism is people reacting to being bullied for being too feminine or behaving like a girl (or a “pussy”)  for being a vegan. The basic premise that this is something to tolerate or build a defense against is offensive in its own right.

Eating plants is not an inherently feminine behavior, nor is eating meat an inherently masculine behavior. Anything that encourages either side of this argument is essentialist and tired. This is not to say that being treated as an outcast or ostracized for making an ethical choice many people consider weird is not difficult, just that it’s part of the patriarchy, man. Making ethical vegan choices is something to be proud of for no reason other than the inherent virtue of making the right ethical decision and this has nothing to do with your gender.


4. Veganism shouldn't need a mainstream male stamp of approval to be taken seriously.

But if you’re going to get media attention for being male and vegan, please say something feminist and mention some of the inspiring feminist vegans who you know and love!


5. Where are my male feminist allies?

It’s very annoying to see instances of misogynistic language promoting veganism get the seal of approval by prominent male vegans. Those in the position to hold the microphone with the most amplification have a responsibility to say something and push our movement to be less homophobic, and more feminist.  And if you aren’t sure how, please pass that microphone on to a #feministvegan who does. 


What does masculine veganism look like to you? Please share in the comments or tweet your pics and thoughts to me @jamiejhagen.


*Similar to queer, the word pussy has been reclaimed by some feminists, probably most notably the feminist Russian punk band Pussy Riot. Read more about that here.