Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rejecting Fat-Negativity in Vegan Advocacy

 Seems like there's something vegan-friendly in the news this week from Oprah to more offensive PeTA advertisements for the Super Bowl. Something I've been thinking more about, though, is how the only vegan news items or stories that ever get any traction are ones that talk about veganism as a method to lose weight, get healthy, or introduce a new way to police the size of bodies. Observe:

PeTA Advertisement with a back view of a person in a red and white polka dot bikini looking out on a beach scene. Copy reads: Save the WHALES Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian

For the record, I can't stand PeTA. This and other ads are precisely part of the problem. They beg for money, get the animal agriculture industry to modify one practice that was already cost ineffective, then claim victory for animals. All while euthanizing 85% of the healthy animals they shelter rather than finding them homes and spending gobs of money on sexist advertising that gets rejected from cable networks anyway, and most importantly, don't work. But that's all for another rant.

As a vegan, I'm interested in resisting oppression, violence, and exploitation of ALL animals on this planet, and when we use veganism as a "fat-buster" we insert the dietary choices of vegans as part of this larger, diet-centric culture that emphasizes restriction of foods, guilt, and personal failure as the causes for larger bodies or health issues. It obscures corporate and state control over food distribution, content, and advertising and perpetuates the notion that when something goes wrong (and fat bodies are ALWAYS coded as wrong), it's your fault and you're a bad person. Women's bodies are particularly policed when it comes to size and body fat and, as the typical cooks in most households, are singled out for ridicule when it comes to making food choices for their families and homes.

In resisting oppression, vegans should want no part in dictating the "right" kind of bodies that women should have, or in guilting low and middle income families for making food choices that prioritize affordability. Our aim is to advocate respect for all sentient beings, and if we're treating animals well, we should treat humans well by not vilifying the diversity of body shapes and sizes. Work can also be done to show how vegan diets and other lifestyle items are affordable, and often cheaper, than omnivorous alternatives, and to advocate for greater access to more fruits and veggies in food deserts and environments distorted by agricultural subsidies.

As for vegans, wake up: you can still live pretty healthfully on an omnivorous diet. Vegan diets are not the only healthy diets. Folks who go vegan to lose weight do not typically stay vegan, or live vegan-ly beyond the dinner table. We're not doing anyone favors by advocating veganism as cleanse/metabolism jumpstart/super diet, which is really just fat-negativity thinly veiled in shallow concerns for others' health that isn't even effective at convincing someone to go vegan in the first place.

If you're going to promote veganism, it's not wrong to talk about feeling better eating more veggies, or being more environmentally conscious (but even that has it's problems). Remember, veganism is about more than just what you put in your mouth: it's also about what you wear, what you use, and how you entertain yourself. To cast veganism as only a "healthy choice" ignores what it means to be fully vegan, emphasizes veganism as just another restrictive diet that is easily abandoned, and allows a cascade into fat-negative talk that is offensive and hurtful. At the end of the day, we're perpetuating violence and getting no closer to providing a sensical argument as to why someone should go vegan.

Overall, the only consistent reason to choose veganism in all of your life choices is to come at it from an ethical or moral place. It's also the one least fraught with triggering intersecting oppressions that "healthy" veganism or "eco-conscious" veganism are suspect to.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stir-Fry Crazy

So there's really no reason why I shouldn't be updating this blog like it was my job, seeing as how I've enjoyed 4 days off work because of SNOWPOCALYPSE/BLIZZARD/THUNDERSLEET of 2k11. My town is completely incapable of handling more than 2 inches of snow (and even that's getting a little dangerous). I've left the bf's house twice in the last 5 days but it's been fantastic, cuddling with puppies and making delicious food. We've been playing Rock Band and Limbo (amazing game), I've been procrastinating on my reading, and we've all been getting group-sexy in the kitchen.

There's nothing quite like getting vegansexual in someone else's kitchen. You're navigating new spaces and have to get creative with the toys and tools at hand. Roommate of bf has this amazingly huge skillet pan so I was in stir-fry heaven (next week, Braised Endive!).

Everyone could use a little kitchen experimentation in their lives, you should try it! Ideally, find someone else with more fun appliances you don't get to use often. One of the finer culinary friends-with-benefits situations.

I made a few crowd pleasers this week for the whole house so I could choose movies off Netflix. It doesn't really matter because Netflix won't allow you to choose subtitles and you'll have to watch Oldboy dubbed over in an extremely obnoxious English voice that just drones and whines. We lasted about 3 minutes before we gave up. Here's a mix of stuff I made this week and last.

Savory dishes:
Brussels Sprouts and Onion Stir-fry with Sriracha and Soy Sauce
Japanese Golden Curry with Tempeh and Mixed Veggies
Vegan Spicy Nachos

Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

Here's the prep work on the Japanese Golden Curry:

And those beautiful, decadent cupcakes:

I would swim in a pool of that buttercream and be totally okay with it.

What have you been cooking during the snowstorm/this week?