Alright, Tumblr vegans. Since I’m unable to physically smack y’all upside your nasty dreaded heads, you get this rant instead.
I want to talk about food choices.
If you’re not totally clueless, you’re probably already aware of the classism and racism inherent in the “EVERY1 CAN BE VEG*N!!1” trope. We’ve been down that road with them before. We’ve explained food deserts, we’ve explained how costly “healthy” food can be to obtain and prepare for working-class folks with families to feed, we’ve explained the importance of certain foods to minority communities and the problems inherent in assuming there is only one right (see: white) way to respect animals.
I don’t want to talk about that. I’m not particularly well-read in food politics and I’m not a person of color, so I don’t have much of value to add to that discussion anyway. But there is something I know a hell of a lot about as a fat woman—and that’s dieting, disordered eating, and how incredibly complex and downright agonizing everyday food choices can be for women.
We are bombarded with messages about food before we even get into grade school. And not just messages—rules. Oh, the rules! It would be hilarious how contradictory they all are (low carb! no fat! low fat! high carb! no egg yolks! yes, egg yolks! YOGURT FOR EVERYONE! but that not that one, it has HFCS! READ EVERY LABEL ON EVERYTHING YOU EAT! low-cal! no-cal! sugar-free!) if they weren’t so fucking damaging. Almost nothing is safe. I’ll just talk about mine for a moment. All these things that vegans tout as the solution to our dietary woes—yeah, they’re not special. Tofu and whole grains? Too many carbs. Fruit? Too much sugar. Vegetables? I don’t like most of them, and then I end up feeling ashamed and disgusting for not wanting to eat a food that I simply DO NOT LIKE THE TASTE OF. Absolutely every item in the grocery store has something wrong with it, so then I end up eating nothing, and then I end up binging because I’m ravenous and I’m losing my mind, and the cycle continues.
If you can’t identify with any of this, be glad. Be ecstatic that food is a neutral subject for you! I wish it was for me! No, not every woman develops disordered eating or a full-blown eating disorder, but I suspect that the estimates are much higher than we realize. According to this study from 2008, it’s 3 out of 4 American women between the ages of 25 and 45. And it’s not an easy thing to get a handle on, since all surveys on disordered eating are self-reported. Additionally, when the culture around you is sick and obsessed with dieting, it’s obviously going to be difficult to recognize that your own food behaviors are not healthy.
The point is, for millions of us, giving ourselves permission to simply eat what we want tohas never been an option.
Eat what you want?! Are you kidding? You’ll eat everything! You’ll gain weight until you can’t walk! You can’t do that. What does this has to do with self-righteous veganism? EVERYTHING. It has everything to do with it, because any—yes, absolutely any—set of dietary restrictions can wreak havoc in the mind of someone who is already struggling to feed themselves. I’m not even talking about EDs here, though; shoving veganism down the throat of someone in the throes of a life-threatening ED would be downright criminal. I’m talking about your average woman, one who may not necessarily have a fully developed ED, but she has still internalized countless negative messages about food. This is where, to me, veganism completely breaks down, because I just cannot wrap my mind around telling other people what to eat.
Eating is hard, okay? I can’t stress enough how difficult it is for some people (myself included, obvs) to feed themselves regularly, healthfully and without guilt. So when you add yet another restriction to the mess of food rules people have already taken to heart—in this case, it’s “no animal products”—you are complicating that even further. I personally cannot adhere to a single food rule or else I lose it. Yes, I lose it. I will stay up all night for days on end fantasizing about that forbidden food, I will binge on it, and I will then abuse myself for eating it.
I’m not saying mistreating animals raised for food products is acceptable. I’m saying you’re blaming the wrong people. You’re disrespecting and shaming people who are just trying to survive in a food-obsessed culture rather than going after the corporations themselves that you have grievances with, and in the process, you are actively doing harm. Every time you or one of your buddies tells someone that eating cheese is wrong, you add another layer to the deliciously horrible cake of food guilt that we’re all carrying around. Because for some of us, cheese may be safe. Cheese may be that one thing we can eat without wanting to purge, or maybe it’s the way we get our protein, or WHATEVER. It’s actually none of your fucking business, but I digress.
this seems important.
I can relate; I’ve never been diagnosed with an ED nor do I fit the criteria for one but YES eating is REALLY HARD. adding additional moralistic restrictions doesn’t help anyone. also, going after the people with the LEAST amount of power over the situation (consumers) rather than those with the most (corporations) is a really weird and ineffective way to do activism of any sort.