January 08, 2008

No it's not. Yes she is! Fuck you!

If Dianna is actually listening to Converge, which she is, you know she had a fucking impossible day, which she did. Unfortunately I don't see any way to avoid having my first day of class coincide with everyone else's first day of class, but on the bright side, there won't be another first day of class until March. The rest of this week won't be so bad, assuming of course that we have three solid snow days in a row.

To celebrate today's off-the-charts stress and frustration, I have decided to shamelessly take it out on the first person I found saying something offensive on the internet tonight. It's unfair, but on the other hand, there's such an amazing variety and number of people who could hold this distinction on any given day that it's unlikely to unfairly strike anyone twice.

So, without further apology: hey let's scapegoat veganism for women's eating disorders! We all know those pesky vegans don't get enough hostile bullshit already, and none of them actually are feminists, so obviously if someone who is already conflating "skinny" and "virtuous" in the best traditions of the American mainstream media happens to add "vegan" in there, that person is obviously speaking for vegans in general and now there is a deep, irreconcilable tension between veganism and feminism! Vegans only eat that way to get skinny and lord their socially-sanctioned slenderness over everyone else; it's not about morality or health or environmental concerns or personal responsibility, but only if they are women. If they're dudes we don't feel the need to freak out and diagnose them with eating disorders even though, you know, dudes can have eating disorders too. And being feminists we really could be expected to be aware of that.

I'm pretty fucking angry about this. Fortunately, I'm not the only one and there is a glorious carnival of angry, healthy, body-loving, legitimate-lifestyle-choice-making vegan women raising hell in the comment thread. It's fun to read and makes me feel delightfully redundant -- I can go and do my anthro reading instead of posting because everyone else has said what I wanted to see said.

Well, except for this part. From a response-to-a-response by the original poster, on why veganism is an extreme diet: "It is extreme because when someone brings cake into the office you can't eat it..." How about a word from your admin staff? In the last three months I have seen Halloween candy, Christmas candy, homemade caramels, donuts, and I forget what else made available for consumption in my office. Most of it isn't vegan; I'll thank the people who bring it in but politely tell them I can't eat it. Do you know what the vast majority of the non-vegan women in the department do? They sulk, they dramatically avert their eyes, they announce irritably that they're on a diet and people shouldn't have brought that in, they scowl at the food, they scowl at me for happening to sit near it, they humph that they'll have one tiny piece but they hope I know it'll go right to their hips, and they ask me in exasperation if that candy is gone yet. The two or three women in the office who don't do this are so wildly outnumbered that I'm actually startled when they calmly, sanely take or decline a treat.

Whose food choices are extreme here?

Posted by dianna at January 8, 2008 10:43 PM

What I found more annoying in the second comment you quoted came further down in the comment, where the author argues that, in her experience, while there are all sorts of noble reasons to go vegan, most vegans are really secretly doing it to lose weight. Thanks! I love being hastily generalized!

I can't speak for any vegans but myself, but in my experience going vegan to lose weight would be a poor dieting strategy; I've put on a good amount of weight since I went vegan. I also eat a greater quantity and a greater variety of food than I did when I was omnivorous. In fact, I find veganism has helped me get rid of a lot of the body-image related food-issues I used to have; I pay more attention to nutrition now, so I know that even if I'm gaining weight I'm eating healthily. Coupled with exercise, I'm now confident I'm leading a healthy lifestyle regardless of my weight.

So, in conclusion: Nuts to that Feministing post!

Posted by: MoltenBoron at January 9, 2008 12:59 AM

MoltenBoron, I found that the same thing happened on my vegan diet and that I felt roughly the same about it. Well, actually, immediately after I went vegan I lost a lot of weight really fast -- over 50 pounds in about 5 months -- because I'd been pretty porky and I was no longer eating a pound of Gouda cheese daily. But then over the last several years, slowly and fairly steadily, I've gained maybe 10 or 15 of it back on a vegan diet, partly because the change in my diet made me really focus on food and how much I love delicious things, with the result that I eat a lot. But I've felt really similarly about it to what you describe -- I'm not really compelled to kick myself for eating second helpings or midnight snacks of delicious, nutritionally-balanced, vegetable-laden dishes that I put a bunch of time into making, the way I felt crappy about eating so much meat-and-dairy-laden bullshit on autopilot all the time. Also, I've begun to subscribe to the philosophy that a pudgy cook is probably a good cook, and I consider my increasing pants sizes something of a vote of confidence in my efforts to concoct fatty, delicious vegan entrees and then consume them in an orgy of lip-smacking self-congratulation. I'm not actively thrilled about gaining weight, because pants are made for women who do care a lot about being skinny, but I also know that I eat really well and get a fair amount of exercise, so it seems self-evident that this is a healthy way for my body to be.

On the other hand, I've recently kind of fallen off the vegan train and I've kind of vowed that as long as I'm fucking it up, I'm not getting back on until I've eaten about a thousand pounds of bacon. I don't expect the approval of any good, disciplined vegans about this, particularly Dianna, who is extremely enthusiastic about and devoted to her principles -- I bring it up merely because right now, every time I eat something non-vegan, I feel exactly like a gleefully guilty little kid about it, like I'm doing something I shouldn't be doing and I damn well know it. That feeling has nothing to do with the fact that I'm basically fat-cramming right now, or that I'm taking in bad calories that I shouldn't be eating, or anything related to body image whatsoever; it's actually just because I recognize that I'm acting like a little kid who's doing something stupid, with little regard for my health and well-being, and in complete contravention of my principles, and at some point here I'm going to grow back up and go back to acting like a principled adult with sensible ideas about food and ethics. Taking a vegan hiatus is actually working as an opportunity to reflect on why I made the switch to a vegan diet in the first place and what I still consider important about it. What's still extremely true about it -- and why I'm predicting going back very soon -- is that self image is an important part of it for me (I want to see myself as the kind of person who follows through on the things I believe), but body image has not a single damn thing to do with it.

Posted by: katie at January 13, 2008 05:01 PM

Well, I'm not about to throw stones. I've spent the last four months solid thinking about how delicious omelets are. When my roommate put her carton of eggs on my refrigerator shelf I had to have a long, stern talk with myself about not eating them.

Anyway, yeah, you two, what both of you said. What I've heard from vegan friends and acquaintances suggests to me that what happens to people's weight when they go vegan is that it gets healthier. That's higher for some people and lower for others. It becomes suddenly totally unsurprising when you think about the kind of deliberate thinking about food that a dietary modification entails.

Zach: sorry for the belated reply here. If I'm recalling that comment correctly, she even used the word "you" in her reply to the vegan commenters. Like, not only are all these other vegans out there just trying to lose weight, but you guys specifically right here are all lying to me. Lies! Pernicious lies! I shan't listen!

Posted by: Dianna at January 13, 2008 05:47 PM

Wow, wait, I just totally missed this.

"...self image is an important part of it for me (I want to see myself as the kind of person who follows through on the things I believe), but body image has not a single damn thing to do with it.

Ding ding ding! If you were one of my anthropology textbooks I would underline you, possibly put some exclamation points in the margin, and then go and write an excited note about you in my reading notes.

Posted by: Dianna at January 13, 2008 05:49 PM

Oh, hey, while I'm returning to old posts, guess who I no longer feel the need to read anymore? I don't even know where to start. There's a perfectly fine anti-moral-panic-over-fat core, but it's wrapped in a hard candy anti-veganism shell. Let's see, what old chestnuts do we have here? "Vegans think they're better than you," comparing vegans to evangelical Christians, asserting that veganism is a fad diet, arguing that veganism is a cult, and, of course, "I may be a (pesco)vegetarian, but I'm not one of them crazy vegan types you've heard about so much on TV and the movies!"

And I got to the post before a single comment had been left; I know she's got a few commenters who begin foaming at the mouth any time veganism is mentioned. She has one regular commenter, I think the user name begins with an M, who is so incredibly hostile to veganism that I would swear a vegan killed her parents.

This is the straw that broke the dromedary. I've been pretty down on Pandagon lately for any number of reasons, but now joins the list of blogs I once enjoyed but no longer have any desire to read.

Posted by: MoltenBoron at February 13, 2008 07:20 AM

I need to find that snarling Orc picture that some blogger or other uses to represent comments quoted from rabid right-wing message boards. It's a perfect fit for the comments on that post; I read through 28 versions of "this isn't surprising, we all knew veganism was a cover story for anorexia, and they're all pompous assholes to boot" before I found one person saying "hey, I'm sick of everyone using this book as an excuse to jump all over vegans".

Within four comments, someone had already told that poster to shut up and suggested that she probably had an eating disorder too.

I feel an angry, personal post coming on, which will reach none of the snarling haters in this thread and accomplish nothing but making more omnivorous people bored with my blog.

Posted by: Dianna at February 13, 2008 09:28 AM

Not this thread, of course, I mean that thread.

Posted by: Dianna at February 13, 2008 09:32 AM

Ah yes, a quick scan over there reminds me that the person I was thinking of is Mnemosyne. Any time veganism is brought up, even tangentially, she gets blue-in-the-face angry about the very existence of vegans, because if you're a vegan it inherently means you think you're better and morally superior to her for your food choices, and there is NO FUCKING WAY that ANY vegan is morally superior to Mnemosyne! In fact, because there exist people in the United States too poor to adopt a vegan diet, by being vegan you are being a CLASSIST and also probably a RACIST, which makes vegans morally INFERIOR people, quite possibly the worst people on the planet.

Grargh, this makes me so mad. I just got done posting a screed in the comment section to another feminist blog on the idea that anti-man (or anti-some group of men) does not equal feminism. The impetus was a recent kerfuffle in the video gaming community over an article (highlighted, actually, at Pandagon) complaining about video game-playing men who won't grow up and become mature, responsible husbands, depriving women in their 20s-30s of their right to marry some guy and settle down to a life of housewifery. Feminist criticism ensued.

At the same time, non-feminist game bloggers started attacking feminism on the grounds that, clearly, the original article was a feminist piece. It was, after all, written by a woman and was attacking some groups of men! What else but feminism could it be? And then they would turn to the implications of the article (men need to get marriage-worthy so women can marry them and settle down) and, no doubt with wry smiles belieing the fact that they considered themselves the cleverest individuals this side of Benjamin Franklin, questioned how it is that feminism became all about marrying men? My, how low feminism has fallen!

So now, at least in the feminist gamer community, people are trying to explain how just because it's anti-man doesn't mean it's feminist. And here comes Pandagon to say "Look! Someone espousing veganism engages in fat-shaming! That means all veganism is about eating disorders and the oppressive beauty culture!" I'm glad they've decided to take a break from defending feminism from obnoxious anti-minority group tropes to deploy those same obnoxious anti-minority group tropes to attack vegans.


Posted by: MoltenBoron at February 13, 2008 12:46 PM