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

Being Present on Social Media

You only get to live once. 

A lot of people say that. I don’t know if that is true or not but I feel like we get to exist more than once in this very life.

What I’m going to say may sound far-fetched but there’s some truth to it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it.

Right now at this very moment it’s estimated that 78% of North Americans are present on some form of social media.

It’s also estimated that 2.5 billion people are going to be on social media by 2018.

The numbers and the fact you’re reading this brings me to my exact point; there’s an us that’s breathing, having breakfast, walking down the street and then there’s the other us.

The one that gets to exist outside of the confines set by time and space. While you’re reading this, you and I are likely in a different city, different country, in a different time zone. Your physical self and mine are separated. Case in point; I don’t know what 99% of my readers look like.

I’ve been pondering on this other existence of mine for quite a while.

I was going to write “this other me” instead of other existence but I refrained.

I think that’s very telling of my relationship with social media so far. I’m probably not the only one to consider who I am in the virtual space as being somehow different than the me writing this right now on a crowded bus next to a screaming baby.

The fact that we can decide what to say, what to show and mold ourselves into a better (or totally different) version of ourselves has some people saying that social media isn’t real.

For me the issue was never about “to be or not to be” some version of myself I’d carefully craft but rather “to share or not to share”.

I’m sure most of you can relate to that.

Unless you’re a teenager with an identity crisis, the question of being present on social media is usually just that; how present should you be and  how?

I’ve been existing on social media for more than a decade and I’m still trying to answer those questions.

Some days I’m satisfied with merely existing in the physical world. It seems easier in many ways. There is no audience to contend with, I can retreat into myself as much as I want.

Then on other days, I want to share everything. Every thought and every little piece of me that I feel deserve to exist somewhere other than in my own mind.

All of us living in this generation have been given this gift; the ability to give our most authentic self an existence beyond what could have ever been possible before.

We get to connect with each other on a level that is unheard of in the history of humanity.

For the first time we can be there for each other, outside of space and time.

What you say or do can impact people you’ve never met or are not even born yet.

This used to be a privilege granted to only a few; inventors, writers, historical figures.

I realize now more than ever (with everything that’s happening in the world) that this opportunity we have to speak our truth and meet each other in our humanness without barriers is one that we shouldn’t pass up.

After all we’ve all learned that sharing is caring.

Maybe it’s time we listened.

*Picture Credit: susan flickr Creative Commons 2.0

The Power of Stories

I think as artists we all have days where we ask ourselves this question: “Why?”

Sitting down to write or create something, putting our stories out into the world can feel pointless.

It doesn’t matter what your medium of choice is, the fact is; being an artist of any kind doesn’t have many of the perks that a so called “real” job has.

No financial security, no status, nothing resembling a nod of approval for the important work we do.

Sometimes I do wonder. Is it important?

After all when it comes to life and death, fighting oppression and making the world a better place, a pretty children’s story or a contemporary dance piece are not part of the obvious work that we think should be done.

It’s already hard to find value in art when everything is rosy and sweet unless you’re an artist. When the world is looking bleak, like it does nowadays, even I, strict defender of the arts,  find it difficult to believe that sharing my words, my stories, a piece of my own vision is the most worthwhile thing I can do.

I’ve thought a lot about this in the wake of the recent political events that have (it seems) turned the world upside down.

Activists everywhere are waking up and people who never thought of themselves as activists are taking a stand.

Where does that leave artists?

Some say that art can be a tool in bringing social and political change.

If you have ever looked for a justification to do your art when more important things are happening, you probably gladly took this one.

I know I did and I am now.

If I’m being honest I didn’t quite truly believe it until today.

You could say I had an epiphany.

Where did it come from?

It came from asking this question: So what if I’m sitting down writing a story I believe the world doesn’t need?

We are already being bombarded by stories everyday. Stories that we don’t get to choose.

Everyday I read on SnapChat stories about some celebrity’s vacations or sudden acne flareup.

I read on Facebook stuff about an airport officer getting shot and a 2 year old singing perfectly a famous country singer’s song.

One can avoid reading the news you could say. That’s true. But it’s not just about story lines on social media or in the papers.

It goes deeper than that.

The power of stories is at work right now in your life and in your children’s life whether you like it or not.

Whether you realize it or not.

It’s also at work in our neighbor’s life, in our friends, in our enemies, in elected officials. Everyone.

What do I mean?

First, the obvious; what we do, what happened to us, that’s a story. You can’t say that has no power. The past impacts us all in ways we wish it didn’t sometimes. Conversely what you’re doing right now impacts you future, even though you might not want it to.

Secondly, the less obvious but perhaps a lot more powerful; the stories we pick up here and there, the one your grandpa might have told you when you went fishing with him or that time you got caught telling a really good lie. The stories big and small that we use to create. The stories that created us.

The stories that tell us what is important at all in this life.

Being an artist may come without a status but it does come with great power.

If you’re ever in doubt, please:

Never underestimate the power of a really good story.

Especially your own.

 

*Photo Credit: Eric flickr Creative Commons 2.02.0