Vegan already? Excellent! Then keep calm, vegan on, and scroll down for latest post.
Vegan already? Excellent! Then keep calm, vegan on, and scroll down for latest post.
Well, back in my I-wish-I-were-a-hippie days (late 80s if I remember correctly), I often wore cotton skirts way below my knees but not quite long enough to hide my hairy legs, and while I wasn't surprised by people being surprised, I was taken aback by the amount of anger it generated. The hair on my legs not only grossed some people out, it really upset them. And while it never bothered anyone that I was in a personal relationship with, I can't tell you the number of strangers (men, women, of all ages) who would approach me and angrily demand to know why I didn't shave. My legs were a personal affront to them, and they sure let me know it. Although it was annoying at the time (and I soon gave up skirts altogether), I was also quite fascinated by the response and tried to figure out what was going on.
What I had done, of course, was breach public convention and upset the status quo. I had tampered with the notion of what a woman's body should look like and how she should present herself. In short, I had made people uncomfortable. It gave me a taste though of what it might be like to be pregnant and have strangers make remarks about something that is none of their business, or what it would be like to have a visible disability. But while folk don't usually get mad at expectant mothers or people in wheelchairs, choosing to flaunt convention sometimes made me feel I should get ready for a public flogging.
But what specifically does this have to do with veganism? Well, as you already know, daring to be different comes with a price. Seeing someone who doesn't look or eat the way you expect others to look and eat can be upsetting. And if something as innocuous and impersonal as a woman not shaving can send someone right out of their comfort zone (and forget their manners), then you can imagine how charged a topic food can be. While someone can easily dismiss a hairy faux pas, tee hee (after all, if every decent woman knows enough to shave then I don't have to think of this as an issue), eating is a bit too close to home. Most omnivores probably don't think too much about food beyond financial and health implications, and likely rarely consider that there may be political, environmental and animal-welfare consequences of their food choices until they encounter vegans. Seeing or hearing about someone who eats very differently but who belongs to a similar group can be jarring, especially if they do so because they don't want to consume animals. Because what does that imply or say about your own food choices? Not as easy to dismiss anymore.
And remember the popular slogan of the women's movement the personal is political? It was and still is, but the culinary is political too, and perhaps even more so.
In many ways, femininity really is a social construction. Men, for the most part, are thought of as male without having to do too much extra. Get up, get dressed, get out the door, and you're not likely to be accused of not being masculine enough. Women on the other hand are required to take additional, and I would argue artificial, steps before showing up in public. Remove all body hair except for what grows on your head. Sorry, but if it wasn't natural for hair to grow in certain places, it wouldn't grow there. Head hair needs inordinate amounts of attention to be considered presentable: washed, dried, styled, gelled, sprayed, coloured, tinted, trimmed, and if female, not cut too short. But you're not done yet. Jewelry, accessories, shoes and clothes need to be picked out carefully. Ever notice how fashion shows and magazines are obsessed with women's clothes being feminine enough? But when was the last time you heard men's shirts being referred to as masculine, or that "masculinity" is the trend for this season? And staying away from the topic of cosmetic surgery to "improve" women (a whole post unto itself), what is natural about putting man-made colour onto nails, cheeks, lips and eyelids in order to be thought of as suitably feminine?
Now I'm not arguing here that women shouldn't shave, or pay attention to their hair, or wear makeup, but to just be aware that these are artificial constraints. And that what is considered feminine has been commodified, because sadly, appearance is still viewed as one of the most important aspects of being a woman. When was the last time you saw a female newscaster who wasn't attractive? Who wasn't wearing makeup? Just saying.
Gosh, haven't had a feminist rant like this in a long time. I feel quite refreshed, snort. Thanks for listening. ;)
A good question indeed and the title of New Vegan Age's essay challenging Christians to consider going vegan. Now, we actually discussed this piece while it was being written, and there were a few things I would have liked to see in it which do not appear, and a couple of things that I actually disagree with. So, closer to Easter, I'll be giving you my own take on why more Christians aren't vegan, but please do read Tom's essay here.
In the meantime, I'm also working on: an expansion of a discussion I had with veganelder about finding a new category for animals in the property vs. person debate (for those of you who don't read the comments, tsk tsk -- you know who you are -- that's where some of the interesting stuff really happens), a resurrection of sorts (eek, bad Easter joke) of the paradox of being vegan series, white privilege, human privilege, and all sorts of privilege (also originating from a comment), the deceptively titled "one thing you can do to help veganism", and the most striking sentence I read last year.
Whew! I'm gonna be busy, but luckily I have much less time on my hands these days, which oddly enough has resulted in my being that much more focused. So, stay tuned!
As you know, I've been playing with elevator pitches of late, and I've concluded that I may need as many pitches as there are circumstances, snort. And while I still like the last one I came up with, I'm thinking now that it's just too general. What I really want to convey right away is the WHO of my concern, so I've decided that I'm vegan because I don't want to support animal cruelty might just be more on the mark.
Obviously, as a vegan, I don't support animal use either, but since other vegans aren't going to be asking me why I'm vegan, I need to tailor the message to the audience. So, depending on whom I'm speaking to, I want a variety of pitches handy but with the focus being on other beings rather than health or environment. Therefore, future pitches might include:
On one of my favourite tees, I like how this graphic shows the multi-dimensional nature of veganism and some of the many branches of social justice. It really is all connected, and until we reexamine the pillars of power and profit, we all pay the price.
So let's take meat (and all animal products) out of the picture altogether. It takes far too much water to produce animal-derived foodstuffs, and from an environmental perspective, it just doesn't make sense. But let's say you don't give a toss about the environment, and let's say you don't believe we should be wasting time and energy on animal rights when there are so many more pressing and important human issues. Fine, then let's start with water.
Water. We need it, we're made of it, and no single living entity can survive without it.
It's a basic thing, right? So why isn't it also a basic right? Again, let's forget for a moment about those pesky animals that vegans are always going on about. What about the right for all humans to have access to clean safe water? And if so many around the world are going without, is it ethical to be pumping all that water into food items that aren't healthy and aren't necessary? And what about water privatization? Not surprisingly, there are corporations who want to make money off of a substance that should be a basic human right. Perhaps the air we breathe is next?
So even if the only thing you care about in relation to water is that all people on this planet have enough to drink (we're not even talking about the starvation issue here), then one of the first steps you need to take is to go vegan. It's time we rethink the ethics of water, reconsider our current consumption mode, and acknowledge that water isn't a market resource, but part of a natural living ecosystem that all beings depend upon.
Because I'd like everyone to go vegan RIGHT NOW, and can't understand the apathy and complacency of those who still eat animals. Especially if they've been exposed to at least some of the facts of animal agriculture. And because being vegan is so my normal, and so the world I've inhabited for more than five years, I want others to hurry up and get there already. But it may be wise for me to remember the following:
So if it took me that long before I could even see, let alone connect, the numerous dots, then perhaps I need to practice the skill of patience and not demand that others become wise in far less time than I did?
I'll stop being a feminist when no woman or child is ever sold or murdered. Or raped. Or beaten. Or called a slut. Or brutalized in any of the other seemingly unlimited ways. Or denied access to abortion. Or when there are no longer groups of people who don't believe women have the right to reproductive freedom. Or equality.
I'll stop being a feminist when no one is actually afraid of the word feminist anymore, and all the corrective societal actions that this word entails are complete.
I'll stop being a vegan when no other animal is ever sold or murdered. Or artificially impregnated. Or called a whore. Or kicked, punched, or brutalized in any of the other seemingly unlimited ways. Or denied access to their babies and mothers. Or when there are no longer groups of people who don't believe that animals are sentient beings with the right to live their lives free of human exploitation.
In short, I'll stop being a feminist when International Women's Day becomes as redundant, and as ridiculous sounding as International Men's Day* would be. I will, however, never stop being vegan no matter how deliciously vegan this world becomes.
*Oops, just found out there IS an International Men's Day. Hmmm, and here I thought EVERY day was their day, snort. Okay, I'm likely being a little unfair here. And as long as at least part of IMD focuses on gender equality and improving gender relations, then I suppose they can have their one day. ;)
That, my friends, may be my new elevator pitch. Catchy, don't you think?
I like it because it's brief, non-apologetic, gets to the heart of the matter straight away, encompasses planetary, environmental, animal, and human violence, and invites folk to consider that their values may actually be vegan too, because how many people truly identify violence in general as a good thing? Plus, it's almost alliterative. ;)
But seriously, I think it would illicit reflection and interesting questions (after, perhaps, some initial confusion), and possibly be helpful in spreading the vegan word.
Yesterday in the staff-room, someone said to me, "You're vegan, right?" (She knows my sister-in-law, so I believe she knew this from her rather than hearing about it from someone at work.) I replied yes, and she right away said that she would find being vegan hard. In response, I kind of shrugged my shoulders and said I actually found it quite easy. Then the seemingly obligatory question of But how do you fill in the blank because you know how the rest of this goes followed, to which I rattled off a bunch of items like beans, nuts, pasta and grains.
Then she asked the question that no one in my family has even asked me, Why are you vegan? If you don't mind my asking, she quickly added. Sure, I said. Then, not having been asked this directly before (and not being prepared, plus being more articulate in writing than I am in person), I stated that I felt being vegan was healthier and better for the environment. At this, she sort of nodded. Then I added, But the main reason I'm doing this is for the animals. I looked at her as I said this, and noticed that she had gone blank, and completely still. No expression on her face, no facial or bodily movement, and no hint of recognition in her eyes as to what I was saying.
At this point I panicked a little, and because I work in a Christian retirement home, then said that animals were God's creatures too, and that horrible things happen on factory farms for no good reason because we don't need to eat any animals, and look at me, I've been vegan for over five years and I'm one of the healthiest people I know... all in one breath until the door opened and the awkward conversation came to a halt. By this time, my break was over and I left. But what occurred to me walking back to my floor was that it was the word animals that had seemed to throw her for a loop. As if health and environment made enough sense, but that the role of animals was foreign in the equation. As if she was asking, but what do animals have to do with any of this?
And this is one of the many reasons why I wish we were less euphemistic in our language. We need to be saying "I eat pigs", "I eat cows" and "I drink cow's milk" rather than I eat bacon, beef and drink milk. I don't like the term "meat eater", because it helps to disguise whom you're really eating. If you're still rationalizing eating meat, then you should be comfortable with just saying that you're an animal eater.
I wish now that I had skipped health and environment, and had said something more accurate and to the point. Something like, "I'm vegan because I don't want to participate in animal suffering." (Or even, I'm vegan because it's the Christian thing to do, although that could have made her defensive.) I wish I had been less dismissive and acknowledged that the idea of eating vegan can be daunting when you're used to eating animals. I wish I had reminded her though that she's already eating vegan food whenever she chomps on an apple or slices up a banana. I wish I had actually included fruits and vegetables when talking about my plant-based diet. And I wish I had had more time and not gone a bit blank myself. So, time to work on a more pithy pitch for next time!
Yep, been gone a long time. I last posted on the last day of last year, so I suppose it hasn't been that long, but it sure feels like it. I've been busy with eldercare, my Etsy shop, plus my casual job is now permanent part-time (and as permanent is getting rare these days I guess I can't complain about it too much, snort), so this blog (and commenting on others) was put on the backburner for a bit. But I didn't want anyone to fear I'd completely disappeared, so thought I'd pop in for a spell and talk about cows coming home.
The title of this post is an idiom of course, and it's always struck me as odd that for a species who tries to deny its animalness as strongly as we do, animal references litter our linguistic landscape as often as factory farms dot the physical one. Sadly, while some cows may indeed have come home when the colloquial phrase was first coined, cows haven't been coming home for a long time. Factory farms aren't home by any stretch of the imagination, and you certainly can't talk about "coming home" when you can't even leave in the first place. So I was happy to see, and happy to share, a couple of instances where we CAN talk about genuinely happy cows and cows coming home. Home to safety, warmth, and comfort.
The following cows (in case you haven't seen them yet) are joyful indeed, and remind us of why happy cows (unless living in a sanctuary) are usually found only within scare quotes:
Then, there's Sweety, who truly has come home to not only find warmth and safety, but also genuine friendship:
This, my friends, is what love (rather than the saccharine slop dished up by the media) is really all about. More about actions than words, and never species-specific. So find your true heart this Valentine's Day, and go vegan if you haven't already. :)