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

Being a Barefaced Woman

In recent years, being a barefaced woman has become somewhat trendy. We’ve all seen the #nomakeupselfies become increasingly popular on Instagram. Heck, there’s even a National No Makeup Day.

Some celebrities like Alicia Keys have spoken eloquently on the topic and helped make the #nomakeup movement what it is today.

Like most (if not all) of the choices a woman can make about her body, putting on makeup or foregoing it is a source of debate and controversy.

Whether you’re on team #makeup or #nomakeup it doesn’t matter, someone somewhere will think you’re wrong.

I’m not here to be that person.

All I can talk about is my experience. The personal is political.

If there’s one thing I remember from feminist theory it’s exactly that.

There is no right or wrong choice but adding our voices to the collective discussion can help other women to be more confident in making the right decision for them.

When it comes to making decisions on how we want to present ourselves to society fear is sadly a major influence.

It was for me.

Even though I have been a barefaced woman for more than 3 years now I was never a barefaced girl.

From ages 12 to 18 the thought of going barefaced terrified me.

No, that’s not exactly right.

The thought of what would happen if I went barefaced terrified me.

Because let’s be real, there’s nothing scary about ditching the time-intensive routine of “prettyfication”.

What’s scary is the fact that we know all too well that for every action, there’s a reaction.

The first obvious one is our own.

I couldn’t bare looking at myself in the mirror if I didn’t like what I saw.

The second obvious reaction is other people’s reaction.

That’s usually where things go wrong.

I mean if you’re alone all day all you have to do is avoid mirrors. Going out into the world, other human eyes put mirrors to shame.

Going out into the world, inhumane eyes put you to shame.

That’s what I was afraid of.

I didn’t want to see that I was ugly. That reflection of me in other people’s eyes scared me and that fear informed my decision to put makeup on.

People often say that makeup is a mask. That women use it to hide themselves. As if it was an act of deceit.

I used it as a shield.

As a girl there was some battles I wasn’t ready for.

I wish being barefaced wasn’t seen as a courageous feat to be celebrated.

But in many ways it is.

I wish my decision to be a barefaced woman was just that, my decision, but I don’t think it is.

It’s a lot more.

I’m not a celebrity, I don’t have flawless skin, I don’t have a special glow or the kind of “natural beauty” that you find in usual #nomakeupselfies on social media.

I’m a one of a kind woman. I have a lot more to show than tired eyes and slightly dry skin.

I never see women like me on the bus or walking down the street.

But I don’t care.

Going without makeup shouldn’t be a privilege that only women with flawless skin get to enjoy.

That’s why I’m a barefaced woman.

Are you a barefaced woman too? What do you think of the #nomakeup movement?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

*Photo Credit: Larry flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Same Same But Different

I’ve always been a good girl.

Sweet, agreeable, kind. Quiet.

Those are the adjectives used to describe me. I have no problem with using them to describe myself either.

I’m generally a nice person and most of all I want to be a nice person.

That’s the core of who I am.

However, if I’m being honest I have put on layers that hide this truth at many points in my life.

Sometimes I forgot to be nice to others.

Most of the time I forgot to be nice to myself. 

I may have said or done the wrong thing and disappointed people I love throughout the years but I’ve definitely let myself down.

I let myself get focused on what I should do or shouldn’t do. I waited too long to go after my dreams because I didn’t think I deserved them.

I’m here to say this:

Even good girls get it wrong sometimes.

There is however one thing that we are great at and that is forgiving.

I forgive myself for all the times I insisted on staying the same.

The good parts of me will always be there even if I’m not the exact same.

I’ll just be same same but different.

The updated version of me.


Have you dealt with guilt about always being the same version of yourself?

Have you forgiven yourself? If not, what’s keeping you from doing it?

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

*Photo Credit: Alice Barigelli flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Being Transparent

I liked to answer: “Better than yesterday, Worse than tomorrow.”

That was my way of getting around the “I’m fine” that I hated so much.

I wasn’t fine.

I was a teenager going through a break up when I thought up those words.

I’m probably not the first and last person to come up with this reply.

Still, 15 years old me found it really clever and I find it partly imaginative, partly amusing today.

The truth is it was my attempt at being transparent without actually having to deal with the consequences of what that meant.

The reason I’m writing about this is precisely in the interest of transparency.

I’ve always valued transparency and authenticity in other people but failed to take mine to the level I sought in others.

Even in writing, which one would think is the easiest way to practice transparency, it is not that simple.

That’s one of the things that writing this blog everyday has taught me.

Showing parts of myself through my stories is fun and scary at the same time. It competes with my need to be perfect and insightful. Being myself is what happens when I try to find a middle ground between the two.

Much of life is about finding that balance between being totally opaque and being totally see through.

There’s things we want to say, things we need to say and what we really say.

Sometimes all three are the same.

Sometimes not.

I guess transparency is found in which one we choose.

What do you think?

 

*Photo Credit: <<saigerowe>> flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Women of Pompeii Wore Snake Rings Too

I’ve always liked history in spite of the fact that most of what we know is based on a conqueror’s story of the past.

In his-story, pieces of them can still be found. Them; the  women who walked the earth long before I did.

As a young girl I searched for their stories. I wanted to know what they had to say about themselves and the world.

Although I could never hear how high-pitched or low their tone was or the way they laughed, their voice would echo in my head through their words on a page.

I read Anne Frank’s diary and I am fifteen and I don’t want to die by Christine Arnothy. I liked that they wrote about their good and bad days. The things that made them laugh and cry. Most of all, I was thankful their kind spirit and  courageous disposition could live on because of their voices.

Apart from 20th century women who lived through tragic events or whose lives were cut short, personal accounts are few and far between.

When I looked at my family tree, there were no stories. I knew what my ancestors were called but that’s it.

I was young but even then I felt that if something was to happen to me, the idea of me should still exist.

I didn’t want to be just a name like them, my story erased. The world’s narrative going on without me. I thought if I recorded everything, I couldn’t be lost.

Call me delusional but I like to think that my life and all other women’s stories are important to the world.

The essence of who we are and how we spent our existence can benefit generations to come. If our experiences transcend time and distance so does our connection to the women who will inhabit the earth after we are long gone. Our voice today can bridge the gap between us. Our innermost thoughts and feelings are not lost if they create an intemporal bond with them.

That’s something I’ve come to realize somewhat recently.

A few summers ago I received a snake ring as a gift. I wore it everyday. I liked the way it looked when it sparkled in the sun. I felt more me wearing it.

That same summer I visited an exposition on Pompeii, the city that was lost for centuries but whose story was preserved through the very people who lived there, their bodies protected by layers of ash.

Platters of fruit and fresh bread remained along with them. I was walking through the displays of preserved artifacts  when the sparkle of gold caught my eye.

An array of women’s jewelry was showcased and among them many snake rings, just like the one I was wearing at that very moment.

I looked at my own finger and I wondered, did they feel like me wearing it?

How they did feel when they put it on in the morning? When they still had days ahead of them.

I will never know.

Even though the objects that belong to us paint a picture of the kind of people we might be, they can’t talk for us.

All I know is that women from Pompeii wore snake rings too.

 

*Photo is public domain