This year, as he did last year, Alex Hershaft moderated an AR 2002 “memory board” on VegSource.Com to allow activists to reminisce about the event. The main topic of discussion, however, centered around a group of women at the event who were offended by comments that Howard Lyman made prior to the July 2 keynote.
As Hershaft relates the story,
On the evening of Tuesday, July 2, the MC was in a jocular mood. He talked about my being willing to dye my hair purple and to put rings through my nose if that’s what it took to attract young people. Later, in introducing Natasha Allas, Miss World USA 2000, he said: “There have been a number of speakers at this conference who have alluded to the shape of the movement … I would like to introduce to you, as the ideal shape of the movement, Natasha Allas, Miss World USA, the shape of the movement.” Later, as Actress Charlotte Ross was leaving the stage, he added “Is there a bit of a doubt in your mind about the shape of the movement. To show you that there is room for improvement, I stand in front of you.”
These comments caused several activists to leave the room and apparently angrily denounced Lyman’s comments as sexist. Apparently while the keynote speech was still going on, seven of the individual walked on stage and read a statement attacking Lyman and sexism in the animal rights movement. They then started a petition among AR 2002 attendees which gathered about 200 signatures.
Hershaft writes that,
At the closing plenary the next day, I made a statement that expressed my sincere regret, as organizer of the conference, that the remarks offended some people and noted that sexism has no place at the AR2002 conference. I also stated that the subsequent disruption was self-indulgent, and deeply disrespectful and offensive to the MC, to me, to the Conference, and to the other participants.
On the AR2002 memory board, Hershaft announced that one of the women who was involved in this, Barbara Chang, was banned from attending AR2003 for her disruptive actions. For her part, Chang says she is working on a “Boycott AR2003” web site.
The best comment about the controversy, however, noted that it was a bit telling that the assembled activists were apparently more offended by Lyman’s “shape of the movement” comments than they were by Peter Singer’s comments about killing human infants.
AR 2002 Memory Board. VegSource.Com, July 2002.