Cross-Training in Social Justice Movements

Cross-training refers to training in different ways to improve overall performance.

The term cross-training is frequently used by martial artists and in sports and fitness, but has also been used to refer to the pursuit of writing and reading. When we think of expanding our own approach to social justice beyond a single-issue movement (veganism, feminism, etc.), we can think of it as a type of cross-training.

Each martial art has unique strengths and limitations; for example, Aikido and Judo are similar arts, but Aikido students only train from standing position, while Judo techniques involve a lot of grappling from the ground. The same can be said of social justice movements, each having its own unique contribution as well as limitations. For example, ecologists have generally ignored the individuality of animals while vegans have generally payed little attention to ecosystems. If we do not address our own shortcomings and ask the hard questions, how much more difficult will it be to have a conversation with ecologists?

Commenting on the LOVE blog, harry writes,

Others can tackle the world problems as well if they so choose, but my election is to focus my limited resources of mind, spirit, and energy, and finances on one aspect in particular…the non-human species who have no voice.

I felt the same way when I first became vegan. Constantly challenged by the non-vegans around me and feeling my calling in this movement, I wanted to learn as much and as fast as possible. I poured through blogs and books, while  feeling uncomfortable about approaching acquaintances and friends active in other movements because I knew they consumed animals. While I did want to share veganism with exactly these people, I wondered how they would find time for it in any depth seeing as I could barely find time for just one other issue. But as I started reading books like The Sexual Politics of Meat and Animals and Women as well as critical animal studies journals, other issues began to make their way into my mind to the point where I could not ignore them if I tried. Once the knowledge is there, it doesn’t go away.

Just as a martial artist might wait until reaching a comfortable level (i.e. black belt) in one art before cross-training, I did not begin actively learning more about other movements until I had a comfortable amount of knowledge about veganism. Of course, one need not wait as long as I did (a year), but it is understandable if cross-training is postponed until an individual has reached a certain level of immersion to free up the personal resources harry mentions. This should be a temporary state. By reading critical animal studies books and journals that go in-depth into intersectional issues, we as students can end up studying multiple issues at once without the isolation of issues that makes us want to retreat into a single movement.

We all may have our specific passion, but movements that work in solidarity are stronger than movements that don’t. I think this may be especially true for a nascent movement like veganism. Since gay marriage is a hot topic these days, LGBTQ groups may be able to get away with just paying lip-service to other movements and still get plenty of solidarity from other activists, but other groups may not. This article, by a feminist critiquing an LGBTQ organization for its lack of solidarity with similar movements, expresses that point well. Just reading this article has led me to become increasingly genuine in my interest in other movements, further moving away my sense of isolation.

Furthermore, I recently started going to LGBTQ events again, which made me feel more connected with those people and that movement, even learning a few things from a vegetarian in that community. At the end of a feminist gathering, with a vegan friend, a vegan-aspiring friend, and a member of the feminist organization, I ended up in a spontaneous meeting about holding some of our first vegan events on campus. Such a thing never happened just talking to the people on my Living Well floor, even if they were vegetarian and active in volunteering. But how exciting it is to feel so connected to the people around me, to know that we will be able to work together and actively learn from one another!

As Jenna writes in the LOVE blog, “‘humane’ or ‘sustainable’ animal agriculture doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” Movements do not exist in a vacuum, though it may be comforting to think so, even as it is comforting to privileged white people or animal-exploiters to ignore the connections between themselves and those lower on the social ladder and argue that genuine concern for those connections requires too much time and resources for an individual. What was the Civil Rights Movement but the coming together of many like-minded movements?

At the end of the day, love is love is love. Solidarity in every direction: not only with the oppressed, but with other activists. It may be a process, but it’s not as hard as we think.

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~ by Louëlla on December 29, 2009.

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