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

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Be Your Own Hero

 “Sometimes I look at my life and…”

Someone said that to me once with their voice trailing off to somewhere I couldn’t follow.

It was such a great opening, an intriguing start to a very human confession whose nature promised the delivery of some deep truths and authentic connection which I both sought.

I was left to fill in the blanks myself with my interlocutor’s sudden silence accompanied with a swift wave of the hand.

I still think about it from time to time, the writer in me can’t help it.

Statements like this resonate for a long time in my psyche.

It amazes me how sometimes the absence of words can speak louder than all the words in the world.

It’s a hard fact to accept as a writer.

I want to put words on everything, from the mundane to the extraordinary. On universal feelings and ones you wouldn’t know you had before reading about them.

I can’t.

I tried imagining what the speaker meant to say.

Everything I came up with felt flat.

I then thought of what I could say.

“Sometimes I look at my life and…”

I’m at a loss for words.

Plain and simple.

Not because there’s nothing to say, quite the contrary.

But because there’s so much.

Looking at my own life as if I was the hero of a story, I realized that if I want to ever be able to fill those blanks for other people I should start with my own.

Of course there is power in what is left unsaid but you can’t deny that most of us crave to hear or read stories that show the universality of human experiences.

I think if we can find those kinds of stories in our own life and tell them well enough to satisfy that craving, we can then really call ourselves a writer.

If you wish to capture deep truths and have an authentic connection with your readers, you have to start by connecting with your own truths first.

You don’t have to be a memoirist but if you can’t write about the little and big things in your life in a way that makes you feel empathy for who you were, who you are and who you will be, how could you do it for any character?

I say “Be your own hero”.

Writers out there, what do you think of auto fiction? Is it a necessary first step to writing good relate-able characters? 

If you’re not a writer, do you “sometimes look at your life and…”? 

Let me know your thoughts on the topic in the comments. 

*Photo Credit: blinking idiot 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

Why Having a Vegan Partner Is the Best

Sleeping with a meat-eater isn’t wrong by any means (obviously) but to us vegans it can sometimes feel like we’re doing the same as those women who marry serial-killers in prison. Sure it may be fun to cling to a bad boy (or bad girl) but in the long run we’re better off not sleeping with the enemy like I wrote about a few weeks ago.

All jokes aside, being with someone who doesn’t share our ethical beliefs can be hard. There comes a time where we have to make a decision.

Stay or go?

If you’ve been wondering how it would be to have your vegan cake and have them eat it too 😉 , here are a few of my favorite things about having a vegan partner.

1- Your fridge will never contain dead animals

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

The truth is everything related to food is better when you eat the same. You don’t have to compromise on restaurants and argue on how to split the bill for groceries.

They understand your excitement when Gardein products are on sale and they never laugh at you when you’re genuinely sad that you’ve run out of nutritional yeast in the pantry.

2- You can rant all you want about the rampant carnism of society

Remember all the times you had to hold back from saying something about the sad state of the world after watching another bacon commercial on TV because your carnivore partner could be offended?

You won’t have to anymore.

Trust me, it feels amazing to be able to share all the feelings you have without having to constantly filter them between non-vegan appropriate/inappropriate.

3- They smell and taste better (yes the hype is founded)

You can actually use the bathroom after them without wanting to die.

There’s also the obvious upside of tolerable morning breath.

It may sound silly but it’s nice to not have to worry about kissing someone with cheeseburger breath.

4-You can send them 20 pictures of your cat because he/she’s cute and they won’t get annoyed

Because chances are they will do the same.

It’s also nice to know that when they say they love animals they really mean it.

You don’t have to explain why you won’t go to the zoo on a date. Bonus: both of you are as excited to go to an animal sanctuary instead.

5- They get the big picture and the little things

Not only do they really get your lifestyle but they are aware of all the little things that makes being vegan sometimes difficult.

They can comfort you when you’ve seen far too many burger restaurant billboards on your way home from work or when the restaurant mixes up your order and your nachos come out covered in extra cheese.

The bottom line is you don’t have to be alone in your little world.

Do you have a vegan partner?

What are your favorite things about sharing your beliefs?

If not, what are your tips and tricks to make it work?

I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic!

*Photo Credit: Susanne Nilsson flickr Creative Commons 2.0

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

When I was little I read Helen Keller’s story.

I was in awe that she accomplished so much in life despite all the odds working against her.

My favorite part of the book was the moment that changed her life.

Her governess had been tracing words in the palm of her hand for months to try to teach her the names of things around her. Then one day she plunged the little girl’s hand under a stream of water.

In that split second Helen finally understood.

The world went from being senseless and confusing to full of life and possibilities.

She could learn and communicate. She wasn’t doomed to a life of silence and loneliness.

She went on to be the first blind and deaf person to complete a Bachelor of Arts. At Harvard nonetheless. She also wrote many books and gave conferences all over the world.

Few of us have defining moments as powerful as Helen Keller’s but we all have small and less small moments that change the course of our lives.

The kinds of moments that separate our lives into a before and after.

As a writer I have always been fascinated with those events that shape us.

We come across things that come to change the course of our lives.

Events that change what we believe in and how we see our place in the world.

We don’t recognize those moments as defining while they’re happening. It’s only when we look back that we see the full extent of their impact on us.

When we try to make sense out of our present lives, we reminisce on what led us to where we are.

The only way we can define ourselves is through our stories.

It is not really what happens to us that changes us but the stories we tell ourselves.

As 2016 comes to an end we are left to reflect on the moments that changed us this year.

Now is the time where we create the narrative that is going to permeate into the new year and into our core being.

Think of Helen Keller and her Aha! moment. Was it the moment itself that changed everything or the meaning she derived from it?

Maybe it’s the writer in me but I tend to believe we are masters of our fate.

Because the story we tell ourselves is what truly defines us.

*Picture Credit: Mt. Hood Territory flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Sleeping with the Enemy

I ended a 6 year relationship over a disagreement about hydration.

It sounds silly but it’s a true story.

He didn’t believe it was healthy to drink more than 1L a day.

It was then and there that I decided I couldn’t love him anymore.

Obviously we had other underlying issues but this was (literally) the drop that made the glass overflow.

Besides being dehydrated, he was also, to my dismay, a self-confessed carnivore.

Now, I’m not saying partners with opposing views can’t have lasting relationships but it’s the exception rather than the norm.

If infidelity, growing apart or simply falling out of love hasn’t teared your relationship apart, chances are the discovery of veganism will.

It did for me.

The beginning of the end was when he asked me to order a meat lover’s pizza for him.

It went downhill from there.

From making him eat a vegan burger deceptively (he still doesn’t know it wasn’t meat to this day) to that final fight over water, it did feel like I was sleeping with the enemy.

Relationships between vegans and non-vegans can and do work but they are controversial for a reason.

I know, I will never tone down again the part of me that I want my partner to understand the most.

In the end, it’s what it comes down to.

You have to ask yourself if censoring a part of you is worth any relationship. Even if you’re blatantly militant, is watching your partner disregard everything that you know is right in your heart, ever going to bring you closer?

What has been your experience dating as a vegan?

Or maybe you’re the one dating a vegan?

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

 

*Photo Credit: Michael flickr Creative Commons 2.0