Beware of lurking right wing agendas.
Irin Carmon at Salon published an important expose this morning of Organic Eden Foods. The company, which shamelessly drapes its marketing in feel-good liberal terms while harboring paleoconservative politics, has joined the fight to deny employees their earned insurance benefits if they use those benefits to cover contraception.* Irin describes their marketing:
Until now, Eden Foods’ conservative advocacy litigation has remained mostly under the radar, even as their marketing seems designed to appeal to liberals, from the slogan ”Organic agriculture is society’s brightest hope for positive change” to the sixties imagery and the use of the word “revolution” in some of its print marketing. The company’s mission statement includes its goal to “contribute to peaceful evolution on earth,” “to maintain a healthy, respectful, challenging, and rewarding environment for employees,” and to “cultivate sound relationships with other organizations and individuals who are like minded and involved in like pursuits.”
I agree that most of the customers of Eden Foods would be displeased to discover that the company thinks that contraception is an “immoral and unnatural” practice, so much so that they try to price their employees out of using it. Most self-identified liberals who buy organic really are straight-down-the-line liberals that are trying to help the environment. There are some good arguments for buying organic, after all, particularly with regards to cutting down on the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers that contribute to global warming and polluting water supplies. This is not in dispute.
All that said, I can’t say I’m really surprised any time it turns out that there’s right wing nuttery lurking behind a major organic foods line. For all the good stuff in the organic food movement, there’s also a sector of people that get into it that have strong reactionary tendencies. That’s because organic food isn’t just about real world environmental issues. It also touches on some people’s concerns about “purity”—this outsized, irrational fear of moral contamination—-that is fundamentally reactionary. The uptight prudery of the right is all about this purity obsession. On the misogynist, sex-phobic right, there’s a lot of talk about “natural” sexuality, an attempt to gain control over their deepset fears about impurity by creating rigid rules about non-procreative vs. procreative sex. On the right, there’s a lot of fearfulness of medicine and science that also stems from this, though unsurprisingly the needs of women, children, and lower income people tend to be the ones first sacrificed in the name of being “skeptical” of modernism and science.
There’s a strong streak of “purity” politics on the left that shades into reactionary politics, and unsurprisingly, women, low income folks, and children are the ones expected to carry the heaviest burden for it. The anti-vaccination folks, the people that are hardcore attachment parenting people, the unschoolers, and the anti-GMO people: These are all movements that are associated with the left, but are reactionary purity panics at heart. Unsurprisingly, these movements also tend to attract a lot more right wing adherents, who definitely are attracted to the way that these movements position the nuclear family as this little individual group against the world, and particularly like how the wife/mother member is expected to be a self-sacrificing saint who will go as far as to spend her days staring at a baby rather than use a diaper. The use of unlicensed midwives for home births is another one of those things that has a Hollywood liberal reputation, but is, in reality, as much a hardcore fundamentalist Christian thing, because of the belief that labor is women’s punishment for Eve’s sin. Certainly, I’ve had a lot of self-identified “feminists” rant at me online about the supposed horrors of female-controlled contraception, muttering dark conspiracy theories about how Big Pharma is trying to reduce women to sex objects, a line taken straight out of the Catholic anti-contraception handbook.
I’m just saying that there’s a paranoid, purity-obsessed, anti-feminist (despite claiming otherwise) streak on the left that merges neatly with conservative Christian obsessions, and so I’m never surprised to see that someone involved in the organic food industry—especially if they embrace unscientific claims about GMOs—is actually a Bible-thumping right winger at heart. I’m into organic food, but it’s definitely an area where it pays to be skeptical and do your research, because it’s really not as partisan an area as some people might think. Crunchy conservatism is a pretty widespread phenomenon.
Also, don’t buy Promised Land dairy products. The guy who runs that company, which is stocked in like every organic supermarket everywhere, is a right wing nut of the highest degree who has financed Rick Perry through his entire career. Really, like with Eden Foods, it’s wise to slow your roll when the company’s name references the Bible.
*Some people are confused by employer claims that insurance coverage of contraception means employees are spending “their” money on contraception. This is false. The insurance benefits belong to the employee, not to the employer, and they are compensation for labor. Employers should not be allowed to put stipulations on how you spend your compensation to release it to you. There’s no real difference between refusing to let a woman use earned insurance benefits on the pill than demanding that a man not spend his paycheck on condoms, except that the former creates a paper trail that anti-choicers are trying to exploit.