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

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

How to Avoid Vegan Burnout

It’s no secret that the world is a dark place.

In the wake of recent political events, activists of all walks of life are feeling the repercussions on their mood I’m sure.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of art in activism. I touched upon how there’s no reason to feel that being artist is pointless.

Today I want to talk about how being vegan feels pointless and rightly so and what can be done about it.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been vegan for a hot minute or years, you can most definitely feel the effects of a “vegan burnout” at any time.

It can take you to new depths of despair, contemplating everything that is wrong in the world and having to add the plight of animals to the mix.

There’s a price to pay for caring too much.

Sadness, anger, bouts of righteous unwanted vegan militant-ism and the worse; giving up altogether on morals are all symptoms of a vegan burnout.

You may want to stop associating with people. Going out to eat at the burger joint with friends is just too much for your soul.

I understand. I’ve been there.

I’ve been vegan for a few years now and I’ve had bouts of difficult times.

I still get symptoms of vegan burnout once in a while. It happened to me very recently when a long time vegan I looked up to, someone I thought was a great activist, turned his back on the animals to literally face (and eat) their dismembered body parts.

I thought if this of all things can happen, is there any hope at all?

While I’m still clueless and astonished that people can go back to (or never stop) gorging on something that is the result of cruelty and death, I’ve been feeling a bit better.

If you’re feeling a bit like you’re having a vegan burnout or you’re actually down there at the bottom of a negative feelings well, I’d like to help you.

Here are a few things that have made a difference for me:

1- Finding solace with like-minded people

First, know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Even though some people leave veganism or never give it a try, there is a growing community of people who think just like you.

It’s worth reaching out to them, you won’t find a more compassionate ear than a vegan one!

2- Celebrating the little victories

For me it was receiving a Subway ad that made the promotion of the vegan Italian bread. It may seem insignificant but if you add them up, little things like that show that change is indeed happening.

Look around, it may not be obvious at first but if you pay attention you will eventually see all those little victories.

3- Focusing on what you can change

Dwelling on negative feelings is not good in any situation. Sometimes the solution is as simple as turning to action.

While I have no control over the terrible things people do, I can put my own actions forward and focus on the things I can change or get better at.

For me it means getting my words and values out there into the world and supporting the causes and businesses that go in line with them.

4- Making time to distract yourself

It may seem counter intuitive to want to take time away from the issues that matter the most to you but there is no point in letting your anguish over things you can’t ultimately control ruin your mood.

It’s ok to stop watching vegan themed videos or any animal rights content if your mood is already low.

There’s lots of fun vegan things you can do that doesn’t involve thinking about the suffering of animals.

I personally enjoy trying out new recipes.  Ice cream and brownies totally help too!

Have you ever dealt with a vegan burnout?

What are your tips and tricks to feel better?

I’d love to know in the comments!

*Picture Credit: Anton Vakulenko 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

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

Social Responsibility

These days we teach kids in school to turn off the lights at home, not let the water run while they brush their teeth, to recycle and even compost.

I remember my first encounter with the idea that I, as little as I was, had a responsibility to protect the environment. That my actions had an impact on the world. When I was in 6th grade, the recycling movement was still a new thing and we had a lecture given to us about it. I remember feeling terrible that my parents didn’t make any effort to recycle. For months, I screamed at them for throwing away soda cans in the trash.

If you’re a millennial like me, you can probably relate.

We’ve been told all our lives that the world is fucked up and we are the ones that need to do something about it because our children’s future (if not our own) depends on it.

They say when there is a will, there is a way.

Few of us would ever say that they don’t care about the tragic destruction of our planet. Most young people (and a lot of old too!) have a tremendous will to do better than previous generations. Although the will is there, the way is as elusive as ever if you don’t look outside what the mainstream tells you.

I mean, what power do we have when multinational corporations and governments are bffs?

We’ve all read this on social media:

“The earth is 4.6 billion years old. Let´s scale that down to 46 years. Using this analogy, humans have been here on this planet just 4 hours. Our industrial revolution began just one minute ago. And in that meager 60 seconds, we have already destroyed more than 50% of the world´s forests.” (TrueActivist.com)

It looks so grim that it’s almost hopeless. What can one person do? Between our 9-5 jobs, kids, friends and what else, the little time we have would never be enough to make any difference, would it?

Better read gossip on Facebook and enjoy life if we’re all going to crumble soon.

It’s not our fault anyway, we can’t control what big corporations do.

We do our best, we vote, don’t we?

We aim to drive Teslas or take the bus, recycle and buy composting bins for our backyards.

The most zealous of us try a minimalist lifestyle with emphasis on “zero waste”.

The scope of our reach seems so limited that we get stuck in the status quo. Our lives are not directly impacted so why should we strive to do more and more importantly to find out how to do more.

Believing that we have no control, no power, is the number 1 reason so much wrong is happening in this world.

Apathy is the poison that is plaguing all of us.

I say, it’s time to bring back the concept of social responsibility to an individual level. It’s a term you may or may not be familiar with. It’s usually used in reference to corporations.

Here’s what it is in a nutshell:

“Social responsibility means eliminating corrupt, irresponsible or unethical behavior that might bring harm to the community, its people, or the environment before the behavior happens.” Naomi Enevoldson – Social Entrepreneur

So I’ve been on this journey of discovering my own desire to be more socially responsible for the past few years.

I still don’t have all the answers. I mean if I did, or if anyone did, then the world would already be saved.

My point is, we shouldn’t stop trying to find an answer. We need to start applying the concept of social responsibility to ourselves first and encourage others to do the same.

The world needs more activists.

Go be one. Day in and day out.

Who’s with me?

*Picture credit Dave Gingrich Creative Commons 2.0