Dress for Success
from No Compromise Issue 6

By Bruce Friedrich

Happy New Year all. The latest issue of No Compromise is totally inspiring. I can imagine myself reading about the noble activities of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Beecher Stowe circa 1840 (just 156 years ago!).

Slavery on this continent was abolished fewer than 150 years ago (having started full-scale in the 1520s), and women were given the vote just 75 years ago. Workers' and children's rights (not to be killed for insubordination, for example) were just being considered at the turn of the century. And the idea of gay and lesbian rights is brand new and still not all that popular. I make these points with optimism. We are a (relatively) new movement. Like the movements for abolition, suffrage, etc., British activists are showing us the way. But, my goodness, look how far we've come in a very short time!

The movement for animal liberation is more important than any past movement. Far more lives are at stake and all of them are as important as yours and mine. So it is important that we: 1) discuss strategy amongst ourselves and, 2) put up a united front.

In the interest of discussing strategy, and in response to a letter in the last issue, I think I'll make some waves: dress nice, look conservative, put your need for carbon copy individuality on hold, and you will advance the interests of other-than-human animals. Insist on eye piercings, green hair, etc., and you make your own personal statement at the expense of the animals.

About seven years ago, I grew a beard, wore my hair long, abandoned my shoes and refused to bathe more than once per week. It was a happy time. My analysis remained incisive, I got even more reading and writing done (not spending time with personal comeliness) and none of my friends abandoned me. It's definitely a preferable and more enjoyable alternative to short hair and conservative clothes.

But, for the past three years, I have been growing progressively more conservative, in appearance only, and I have observed that people now listen to me - people who would NOT have listened previously. I have not fallen at all in the estimation of people who are not conservatively clad, because these people generally have few if any biases related to how a person looks. Clearly, it sucks that some people care how you look, won't listen to you if you have purple hair, etc. However, we still want that person to stop abusing animals, regardless of reason - we want to save those animals!

I find it painfully difficult to suggest to people I respect and whose commitment I admire (everyone reading this magazine, government officials exempted of course), that I think they should consider changing their appearance, at least at demonstrations and when publicly advocating for animal liberation, but I feel it is an important discussion to have.

I offer the above reflections in the spirit of dialogue. I would never advocate misogynistic, homophobic, racist, ageist, anti-Semitic or other untoward tactics, even if effective. I do not believe that just ends warrant any means. However, it is entirely unclear to me how looking conservative is in any way bigoted or prejudiced. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, ostensibly the perspective of the A.L.F., I am convinced that conservative-looking men and women (and children) are more likely to convince the hardest to reach than people who feel a need to express their own individuality (generally by doing something popular among their friends). DON'T LET THEM WRITE US OFF SO EASILY!

I guarantee that since I began sporting a conservative appearance, I've converted people who would not otherwise have listened. I don't believe that my individuality has suffered in the least. And, I believe I have profited by putting my own desires and inclinations on hold for the greater benefit of animals, humans and justice in general.

One final note: Why spend the money on nose rings, tattoos, green hair, etc.? Isn't helping to fund the movement for justice more important? I don't own a pair of pants which cost me more than $2 or a shirt which cost me more than $1.50. It costs much less to look conservative than to look radical. And isn't the consumer culture part of what upsets us?

I look forward to hearing the views of people who disagree. Specifically, I hope you will address the following: Do you believe that looking conservative will help some people identify with (and listen to) you (your parents, for example)? If not, please explain. If so, why is your individuality (or your personal rebellion) more important than saving animals?

In the spirit of dialogue and solidarity,
Bruce Friedrich

On January 14th Bruce was given 8 months of prison time for violating probation. Bruce, who is also a Peace activist, was originally convicted for trying to disarm a F-15 fighter plane at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. He was sentenced to 15 months and three years probation. During probation he was arrested for animal rights activities. Letters of support can be sent to: Bruce Friedrich, c/o Norfolk Catholic Worker, 1321 W. 38th St., Norfolk, VA 23508.