Veganism, Intersectionality and the Issue with Labels

“Are you a feminist?”

I asked my then-boyfriend, via text message.

I remember sitting in my women’s studies class waiting anxiously for his reply.

When it finally came, it wasn’t what I expected.

I don’t know. What’s in it for me?

Although disappointment is what I feel now as I reminisce about this moment, betrayal is what I felt then. Only I didn’t know enough to call it that or begin to know why I felt this way at all.

I felt alone and unsupported. That’s the best way I could describe it at the time.

In hindsight, I was hurt a lot more than I cared to admit to myself. I was hurt that this man I thought would do everything for me, rejected to be part of a group that had my best interests in mind. A group that simply sought to offer me equal rights in our society. He didn’t want to be an ally to such a simple request.

To this day I don’t know for sure if it was applying the label to himself or being in favor of equal rights that didn’t interest him.

It could have been both too.

I’m going to be optimistic considering I spent years with this person and say that it was probably a label issue.

I personally have no problem with labels. I’m a vegan and a feminist.

But I know a lot of people have problems with sticking those kinds or any kind of labels to themselves.

I get it. The same label can make you feel trapped while it makes another feel free and proud.

Some labels are too hard to bear in some communities and sometimes precisely because of the communities that wear them.

The vegan movement certainly is a good example of that. A lot of people can’t dissociate the meaning of the vegan label from the negative connotation (imagined or founded) that those who wear it have.

It’s a problem in rallying people to the cause and it’s also a problem when it comes to intersectionality.

If you’re not familiar with the term it refers to the idea that systems of oppression are not independent of each other but rather that they interrelate and thus any form of oppression can’t be eliminated without fighting all of them.

When I asked my old boyfriend the feminist question a few years ago that’s when I opened that Pandora’s box for myself.

When I become vegan a few years later, that’s when I started looking at the contents of the box and realizing that I had been as bad as he had seemed to me.

I saw how pieces fit in the giant intersectionality puzzle.

I cared about being a feminist because feminist issues touched me as a woman. There was nothing in it for him.

I could afford to not care about animals for all these years just like he could afford to not care about being a feminist.

I realize now that sometimes the roots of oppression go so deep that we can’t recognize how we’ve grown from and with them.

Myself included.

It’s a scary thought but one that needs to be addressed.

In the past years I’ve learned to care, a lot, about people and animals and it’s overwhelming to think that there’s more.

That there’s always more. More ways in which I should care.

I’m learning that having the luxury to not have to care about certain things means that I should care even more about them.

What do you think?


*I’m by no means a scholar and that familiar with intersectionality theory so please feel free to chime in and correct me or to add to the discussion. Those are simply some thoughts that circle in mind lately.

Thanks for reading!

*Photo Credit: Pedro flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Letter to my Former Self

Dear old me,

I think of you often. If I’m being honest (I know you appreciate honesty) those thoughts are mostly about trying to understand you, not very much about a fondness for who you are (who I were). To be fair you wouldn’t like me that much either, I have failed you in ways you might have predicted and failed to do things your brain hasn’t even conceived yet.

You and I are similar in that we’re both perfectly imperfect and you probably already know that’s all we’ll ever be. I think you get the beauty of that, although I’m way ahead of you in appreciating it to its full extent.

I see you from afar trying to cling to things that don’t serve you because you like the idea of them and the comfort they bring to your life. Life is never perfect, you know it but you still believe there’s a perfect time for changing. That one is hard to shake off. I know. 

This is not a letter to try to change you, obviously that’s impossible. If you could somehow really receive this letter I know you would though. You have it in you to be the kind of person who cares about aligning their actions with their morals.

You’re nice to everyone around you, too nice sometimes and you make up for the times you aren’t. You care about people and the bad things happening to them so much that you’re unsure how to deal with it. I can’t tell you the answer to that, I still haven’t found it. See, the world didn’t get better in the years that separate us. In many ways, it’s worse. Much worse.

You don’t think of injustice everyday like I do but you think about it more and more. I remember.

I have clear memories of all the times injustice and cruelty didn’t cross your mind at all.

Sitting down at the Brazilian Churrascaria place, wondering about what the future holds with this boy in front of you -well man- but more boy than man, feeling privileged that he took you out for once.

You didn’t think about what was on your plate at all that night. Especially not what was on your plate used to be.

That’s the memory my brain brings me to often when I want to try to understand you.

I don’t know if I ever will. I can’t change anything you did now.

All I can say is this:

I forgive you for believing there’s such a thing as necessary evil.

Much love to you,

Your future vegan self.

 p.s I do envy you sometimes for the easier and happier life that this lie gives you but I wouldn’t ever go back.


This was part of my “writing a letter to myself” February challenge. 

What would you write to your former self? 

I’d love to know in the comments!

*Photo Credit: Max Braun flickr Creative Commons 2.0

The Ex-Vegan Conundrum

Will I ever be an ex-vegan?

That’s a question I’ve been pondering on these past few days.

My short answer is no.

My long answer is this very post.

Obviously no one knows what the future holds. Humans have the (sometimes aggravating) capacity of changing their mind and evolving. It’s part of what makes us very unique animals.

Our ability to think, reason and exercise compassion is at the root of the very decision to become vegan.

For some reason that I find very hard to understand, that same ability is also responsible for people going back on their convictions.

I have spoken briefly about this in my Breaking Up with Veganism post but I feel it’s worth mentioning again, in the U.S the number of ex-vegans/vegetarians is 5 times greater than the number of current adherents to the lifestyle.

The vegan movement is clearly better at bringing people on board than keeping them in their ranks.

A lot can be said of those who abandon the vegan ship. Often not so nice things are expressed about them by the community that welcomed them with open arms in their pre-vegan days.

This chastising of ex-members is seen as cult-like and it’s not hard to figure out why.

The “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” and “you were never really part of us to begin with if you quit” doesn’t look good for any organization.

There is a common theme in the vegan community of brushing former members away on the basis of “you were never really vegan if you quit; you were just plant-based”.

Of course there is some truth to that but it’s an oversimplification that doesn’t explain everything and all cases.

Yes some people were in it purely for health reasons. It’s easy to understand why they quit if they feel their health is compromised.

It’s however harder or impossible to grasp how the most ethically focused and militant vegans out there suddenly turn their backs on the animals.

This is the real ex-vegan conundrum.    

The fact that somewhere down the line our ethics and moral choices can change.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, it is human to evolve.

Our moral compass can change.

Truth is, like a real compass, it can be affected by many variables.

I believe the main one to be survival.

Humans and non-humans animals have an inherent will to survive. We can be violent, aggressive and downright murderous if need be.

If we feel we need to I should say.

At some point a vegan re-evaluates his/her choices in light of some new belief that they are in danger. True or imagined it doesn’t matter.

Their health may be declining, their circle of friends shunning them or whatever else. The important point is that they are stuck weighing their own survival and well-being against another creature’s.

The big question is: if someone believes intently that going back to eating animal products will help them survive or improve their quality of life and also believes that it is wrong to do so, when does convictions break?

When is the breaking point appropriate?

For my own life my answer is: never.

Even if for some reason I came to be in such a position with such beliefs in my head, I wouldn’t do it.

It’s an extreme position and very possibly a seemingly unwise one but I simply can’t imagine just giving up.

I don’t care if being put on this planet is supposed to mean that I should survive at all cost. I don’t care if everything and everyone I see only care about themselves.

I would rather reject nature and what it means to live on this planet if my only option is causing death and suffering.

In the end, I don’t blame people for thinking differently.

It’s a hard world we live in.

What do you think?

Do you see yourself ever being an ex-vegan?

Are you an ex-vegan?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit: Marco Bellucci flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Violent Facebook Ads and Possible Vegan Craziness

Facebook is deeply stupid.

Here I said it.

(Raise your hand if you agree)

It’s been years and it still doesn’t get what target audience I am –not– a part of.

Today I hid an ad for the billionth time and I realized something.

Either Facebook is presenting violent ads all the time or I’m plain crazy.

Veganism does that to some people. At least that’s what I heard.

A raw chicken appeared in my feed. It was some cooking ad for a brand I won’t name.

I did something that most people would consider stupid.

I checked “inappropriate” for the reason I didn’t want to see it. Facebook wanted to know why it was inappropriate.

I was faced with the choice of either “It’s illegal or violent” or the good old “I disagree with it”.

In a moment of doubt I turned to my dear friend; the dictionary.

What is violent?

Violent is an adjective describing something involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

Yes, that chicken’s death was violent. It was meant to be killed and even though it’s not considered a someone, it’s most definitely some thing.

Why then did I feel so crazy for reporting the truth?

Speaking of definitions, what is craziness?

Craziness is a noun referring to a state of being mentally deranged, demented or unusual.

I know that the sight of raw meat is not normally associated with violence.

It’s not common to define such images as violent.

Maybe I’m the crazy one.

There’s a loophole that I don’t know about probably.

One in which these animals are not a thing even though they technically are.

What do you think?

Is Facebook presenting violent ads?

Am I crazy?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

p.s It’s actually rabbits in the picture above

*Photo Credit: David Blackwell flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

I ate veal once in my life.

It was at this fancy restaurant that I could only afford with the help of a site like Groupon. You know the type.

I don’t remember much of that meal except that I filled myself up with the far too delicious bread rolls and butter.

I don’t remember feeling anything besides being stuffed and happy.

That’s a sad, hard truth that I like to remind myself of from time to time.

Humans, we do things that are mind-boggling.

Both good and bad.

I always wonder which way it goes however.

Is it more good than bad?

More bad than good?

Glass half-full or half-empty, it doesn’t matter.

There’s still a glass on far too many tables.

*Photo Credit: Martin Abegglen flickr Creative Commons 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vegan Conundrum

I didn’t know what a vegan was before I turned 18. I knew about vegetarianism but I had never met anyone belonging to the “cult”.

My first encounter with a vegan “ad”was a Peta leaflet having something to do with the treatment of chickens. I honestly don’t remember as I skimmed and discarded the information as fast as I got it.

It was merely a drop of water getting lost in the sea of constant approval of my meat eating ways. There is a stream going to our brains everyday. It’s made up of all the input we get from our environment during the day. Society tells us what is acceptable, expected of us, what we should focus on and what we should consume.

Nobody ever said a word to me but I heard what was going on around me. All my life I never contemplated what was on my plate. It’s near impossible to do so when there’s constant buzzing in your ears about all the reasons you shouldn’t.

Navigating the world as a vegan is very much like being on a boat taking water while going upstream. Either you sink or learn to swim.

The point is, no one likes swimming against the current. Nobody will unless they really have to.

Obviously, people will always avoid finding out that they might indeed have to.

What is the big “vegan conundrum” then you might ask?

The question that is bound to present itself at some point for any vegan while they are going against the mass is this:

How best to convince people to come with me upstream?

Either you’re that type of vegan who pretends not to care “live and let live” or you try to pull others against the current with you, using all your might.

On one hand, letting others watch you swim in silence may one day inspire them to go with you. That’s a long shot though. The current will still always be in the other direction.

You can be screaming, kicking your feet in the water, splashing them, pulling them away from the steady stream they’re on. Chances are they’ll be kicking and screaming too.

What’s a vegan to do?

I still haven’t found the answer to this vegan conundrum.

What is your view on this?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments!

 

*Picture Credit: Michael Coghlan Creative Commons 2.0

The Lonely Vegan

The holidays are coming with its many food centered family gatherings. It will be my fourth year going in to the festivities as “the vegan”.

I lucked out this year, my mom and I will be preparing a vegan feast for everyone. (fingers crossed that it doesn’t change)

However, I know how it feels to be the stereotypical lonely vegan.

It’s one of those “feeling lonely in a crowd” types of feeling.

I remember the first time I felt it.

It was my first day as a vegan. At the time my brother and I went to the same school and we would eat together frequently. I always looked forward to our lunch and dinner dates.

It only hit me once we sat down in the stall of the Rotisserie place we had gone so many times.

I would feel like an outsider in all the places that were so familiar to me. Furthermore I was now alien to my own family.

Loneliness is a powerful feeling. It can dissolve anyone’s resolve to be true to themselves.

The people whose understanding you wish for the most will likely never come.

There will be birthday cakes you won’t eat, awkward meals where you are the only one not eating the hostess’ food.

There’s nothing you can do about it.

There will be endless ads for fried chicken breasts, cheesy pizza and bacon lovers’ cheeseburgers on the YouTube videos you watch everyday. On the billboards you pass on your way home. In your magazines and your mailbox.

The whole world will make you feel lonely.

There’s nothing you can do about it.

You will read about the needless deaths, watch documentaries that will make you cry. You’ll stare at the kill counter and have sleepless nights once in a while.

You’ll have to continue living in this world where 150 Billion animals are killed each year for no reason.

There is something you can do about it. 

You can continue being the lonely vegan.

Doing what’s right.

There is power in loneliness. Don’t give up.

p.s. By the way you’re not alone at all! 😉 I’m right there with you.

*Photo Credit: Marketa flickr Creative Commons 2.0