As I’ve been painting and hauling and packing and cleaning, I’ve been thinking about this post and this follow-up from Vegans of Color. Johanna and Nadia pick apart the bizarre phenomenon of vegans who make veganism their cross to bear and prioritize it to the detriment of everything else – including an analysis of other forms of oppression and how systems of oppression reinforce each other.
Please allow me to ramble on about this and tangentially related topics for a while.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been vegan for fifteen years or maybe I’m just old and grumpy, but vegans who talk about veganism all the time annoy the shit out of me. Yes, you’re vegan. Yes, it’s hard to travel around America and find good food. Yes, I believe you about that one time there was shrimp in your dumplings at the Chinese place. The horror. How did you survive. Moving along. Taurine and vegan cat food, I know.
Make no mistake – for about the first 3-5 years I was vegan I was guilty of being the annoying vegan who wouldn’t shut up about veganism. I was going through some letters I sent when I was in high school (what kind of a dork makes copies of all her letters on the copy machine at her mom’s office? This kind of dork.), and I literally signed my letters “for the animals, Lagusta.”
Sometimes I shortened it to “FTA.”
Without a doubt, I was the vegan that gave nonvegans the idea that vegans are completely bonkers.
And I’m sure I indulged in a lot of whining about how being vegan was incredibly difficult and I was such a martyr for the cause and all that. (For the record, things were whole shitload more difficult fifteen years ago in the crapass American southwest hellscape – the nearest health food store was an hour away, the supermarket had no tofu, I mail ordered egg replacer powder. Every single vegan in my city met once a month in a fake-meat Chinese place – oh how I loved you once, Supreme Master Ching Hai Vegetarian Restaurant -where we huddled together and told our war stories.)
But we all have to grow up (and in my defense I was fifteen at the time).
Veganism is not hard anymore – if it ever was (part of my difficulties were that no one in my house ever cooked a meal. Ever.). I don’t want to sound high and mighty, but in these days of cyclones and earthquakes and ethanol-induced food scarcity, I am deeply thankful to be able to be vegan.
Being able to be vegan – being able to choose what food we eat – is a choice that only those in affluent countries can make. Because the idea of eating an egg makes me feel woozy, I feel so thankful to make enough money that I can buy my own food, and don’t have to live off scraps and government subsidies, as so many people do. In my book, anyone living within 100 miles of NYC and it’s 100+ vegan restaurants has no right to ever complain about veganism. Even super poor vegans can go to Dojo.
I’m not sure that the “vegan movement” really is one – there are so many different factions – PETA vegans vs. sane vegans, for example. Or those that call Earth Balance EB and those whose lips automatically curl when in its presence. Junk food vegans vs CSA-supporting vegans. Used-leather-shoes-from-Goodwill vs. Natalie- Portman’s-line-of-vegan-shoes vegans. Carol Adams vegans vs. Suicide Girls vegans.
I don’t really mind this – in order for veganism to become a mainstream-accepted choice, all different kinds of vegans need to represent. But because the “movement” lacks a cohesive vision aside from what we do not eat (and maybe that is enough in common?) it’s hard to stop rogue elements from realizing they are acting like assholes. The vegan police really don’t cover assholeness, just things like trace amounts of honey.
But I know exactly the kind of dudes (almost always dudes, almost always dudes) that Johanna and Nadia are talking about – the ones who are secretly so incredibly happy to be oppressed in some way that they act like the typical dudes that they are underneath the veganism – boring mainstream non-feminist dude dudes.
My answer to people who say idiotic things like “why be vegan when so many people are suffering?” is that it’s perfectly possible to work for human rights while simultaneously not eating a hamburger. The great thing about veganism is that we can do everything all at once – and actually, we can use our understanding of how oppression of animals works to help us dismantle our white privilege. We can become better feminists through an analysis of how animals we eat are sexualized in the same way all “others” in our culture are. Everything works together, in good and bad ways.
I refuse to pick and prioritize oppressions – and I refuse to believe that an “oppression” you chose is actually oppression. Vegans are lucky and vegans are awesome. No need to play the victim – we’re the winners.