If there were no evolution, it would be necessary to invent one,
to support the belief that we are the latest model –
now available with extra dominion over all other species!
Before I became vegan, I remember asking a few vegans that I met why they chose to be vegan. Now I realise that they should have been asking me why I chose not to be vegan. Certainly, it was the more extreme choice, though it didn’t feel like that at the time. In fact, it didn’t even really feel like a choice; it just felt like the default way of life.
Which brings me to some other questions that non-vegans often ask vegans.
“What if you were stuck on a deserted island and all there was to eat was a pig?”
Firstly, this will clearly never happen. Ever. But let me entertain this idea for a moment. Say I did end up, Tom Hanks style, the lone survivor of a plane crash and serendipitously found my way to a deserted island. Firstly, it is so much more likely that there would be bananas and coconuts on this island than wild pigs. But, okay, let’s say that the only thing that I could possibly eat to sustain myself would be a pig. Let’s say I was dying of starvation and had no other choice. Of course, in a life or death situation, I would probably kill the pig and eat it.
But now let me ask you a question: if you were in a regular, everyday situation of privilege (as many but admittedly not all of us are) where you had a variety of food at your fingertips and enough money to choose what to eat, would you choose the healthier, cruelty-free option of plant-based food, or would you go out of your way to eat “food” that is unhealthy, cruel, and unsustainable?
Another idea that I often hear is:
“You deserve to eat meat if you could summon the courage to kill the animal yourself.”
Firstly, anyone is physically capable of killing another sentient being, particularly if one finds themselves on an uneven playing field where they possess a dangerous weapon and the other creature possesses no weapon and no will to hurt them. Anyone could do it. But no matter how you frame it, this act would cause pain and suffering and cut short a life that was valued by your victim. Not to mention, it would probably be fairly traumatic for you. Again, if we were in the very unlikely situation of life or death, where there were no edible plants that we could choose to eat instead, then perhaps this would be excusable. But in any other context, it would be unnecessary and cruel. The bodies of other creatures are not ours to eat. They have value for the creatures in question, and not because we attribute a financial value to them.
And again, let’s face it, most of us will never be in the situation where we will kill an animal for food. So when we talk about diet, we should talk about it in a realistic context, which is usually one of privilege and choice. If you have the choice, which most of us do, why would you choose the cruel, unhealthy, and unsustainable option?
Let me be clear that I am not trying to make you feel guilty. The state of animal cruelty today is not your personal fault. I am sure that you were probably brought up, like me, by well-meaning parents in a society which teaches by example that it is normal and permissible to use, buy, wear, and eat animals and animal products. These practices existed well before we were born. And you were not in a position to make many choices for yourself until you became an adult. So there is no use feeling guilty or responsible for what you have no control over, including the past. But now that you are an adult with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, the time has come take responsibility for your actions. Asking questions of others is an important way to learn, but the learning process is only complete if you also question your own behavior and motives. I invite you to now ask yourself, “Do I feel right aout the way that I live?”
Start to look more closely at the products you buy and the practices you support, and believe me, veganism will start to look like the much less radical option.
Lately I have been hearing:
‘I’m not a feminist’.
‘I hate the label feminism’.
‘The title of feminism has been ruined by some people’.
Katy Perry accepted the Billboard Woman of the Year 2012 award with the speech, ‘I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women’ … *Incredulity*
For many, the problem is simply that they do not know what feminism is and have not taken the 2 minutes required to google it.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines feminism thus:
Here are some simple quotes defining feminism:
‘Feminism is the radical notion that women are people’ – Cheris Kramarae.
‘A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men’ –Gloria Steinem.
Feminism means equal respect for all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, and race. If you believe in the strength of women, Katy Perry, you are a feminist.
Here are some things that are not the definition of feminism:
‘Men and women are the same thing and we should pretend we do not have different genitals’.
‘Men are stupid and we should cut off their penises’.
‘Men have really easy lives and therefore we should make them harder’.
The above thoughts are loosely quoted from interactions with men (especially internet trolls), and are unsurprisingly focused upon men and not women. Because, of course, feminism must be about men… *Incredulous sarcasm*
So now that we’re all up to speed, let’s consider these ‘some people’ who have besmirched the name of feminism.
Perhaps those who complain are concerned that the likes of vocal anti-abortion advocates like Sarah Palin call themselves feminists. Of course, there are self-appointed ambassadors of just about any cause or belief system who manipulate that ideology to achieve their own ends. But just as it would be wrong to assume that all Christians are malicious homophobes because Fred Phelps Sr. and his Westboro Baptist followers caused anguish by protesting spitefully at countless funerals about the deceased going to hell for being gay or facilitating homosexuality, it would be wrong to blame feminism for Sarah Palin advocating less freedom for women. And if Sarah Palin can get away with calling herself a feminist, the problem lies more in a lack of general understanding of what feminism actually is, than in a problem inherent within feminism itself.
But when prompted, antagonists will not usually name Palin as the person who has destroyed the movement for them. No, in fact, they usually do not know any feminists’ names. They are actually just repeating anti-feminist comments because that’s what they heard from some radio presenter/magazine columnist/other dreary regurgitator and enabler of mainstream culture.
There is no problem with feminism; there is a problem with sexism, because it is sexism that labels women as evil, stupid, ugly, ungrateful man-haters. If you stand against feminism, you disagree with the idea that women are people who deserve equal respect, and if that is the case, YOU are sexist and need to evolve.
Many of those who reject feminism believe that we live in an equal society already, and that feminism is therefore redundant. And while women can now vote, go to university, drive cars, and choose their own mates in most Western cultures; it would be blind to ignore the fact that rape, prostitution, and domestic violence toward women are still staggeringly common in countries like Australia. (And before I hear the cries of defensive privileged white males, I am not denying that bad things happen to men, too. In fact, feminists do not want anyone to get bashed, raped, or murdered, so you might see that we actually agree and can work together!)
If you subscribe to the view that no one type of person matters more than another, what is so wrong with calling this feminism? Without causes and movements with specific labels, privileged cultures such as ours have a tendency to wallow in the oblivion of apathetic postmodernity. I believe we have a responsibility to be informed and to educate others, and to treat ourselves and others with respect. If you are already doing all this and giving it a name other than feminism, then you have my admiration, but please think twice before criticising feminism.
The unlikely find
India: No Place to be a Woman,
the headline read,
on a grey rectangular cut out
that had been left for me with the best of intentions.
And while India seems to be a given, being a woman
as though it were a choice,
like eating a sandwich,
or whether to wear a hat.
Upon being given the choice,
I ate a sandwich,
wore a hat,
and went to India,
and was a woman the whole time.
And when I write headlines, mine will say,
Everywhere: No One Can Terrorise Women and Blame Them for Having the Audacity to Exist.
And meanwhile, I might even eat a sandwich,
and wear a hat,
but I will not be told I have to make a choice
Today is the last day of my 4.5 month overseas trip. I’m feeling reflective.
I am currently in mildly exotic Kuala Lumpur. I have a new policy of staying at least a few days at locations where I have a layover, to avoid some jet lag, and to counterbalance my travel history of Europe, USA, Europe, USA, Europe, USA, with some Eastern countries.
It makes sense to stop in KL because it seems so perfectly situated between the cultures, climates, and time differences of northern India and south-eastern Australia.
The weather has been in the low 30s and very humid, which makes it feel hotter than it is. But this does not bother me because I have air conditioning in my affordable, comfortable, clean hotel room with a bed as fluffy as a cumulus cloud like mine at home.* This is such a novelty after the hardened layer of foam and couch cushions I slept on in Rishikesh. Not to mention the lack of air con in 40 degree heat, and fresh mosquito bites that periodically woke me up despite my implementing Project Mosquito Annihilation with every possible medium of mosquito repellent/destruction I could think of. Nevertheless, the rooms at Yog Peeth were much larger and nicer than I had expected considering the cost of the 6 week yoga teacher training course ($1200 US).
KL is a nice place to stay for a few days. The city is green and you don’t need to travel far to find more substantial patches of beautiful nature; massages and food are cheap; markets are everywhere; and the place is safe and accessible…For all except pedestrians (or pedos, as my friend Frere likes to call them). I have never had to climb so many overpasses, or jaywalk so much because the pedestrian lights never seem to switch on. The footpaths also seem to disappear under your feet, like the path that is unexpectedly swept away by the broom-faced dog in Alice in Wonderland, leaving you suddenly in the trajectory of buses, taxis, and trucks.
I have already treated my sore overstretched body to two massages in KL. Yesterday, I was at a massage parlour and I overheard a woman receiving a foot massage say to her massage therapist, “You must see some weird feet. Have you ever massaged a foot with six toes?”
Massage therapist: “Oh yes, seven!”
Woman: “Seven? Did you charge them extra?”
…Anyway, enough about KL, there is so much more that I want to share about India.
In the last few weeks that I was in Rishikesh, I recorded a song and video called Ice Cream Apocalypse. In case we’re not friends on Facebook, you can check it out here. It is a good way to get an idea of what it looked like at the school and at the aptly named neighbouring cafe with the best hummus ever, Oasis.
One of my favourite things about Rishikesh is that there are cows everywhere. You can see from the video how placid and sweet they are – most of them love to be patted and will lick you and nuzzle up to you like dogs. After a few such experiences, I am even more determined never to eat beef again. I can understand why Indians believe that cows are holy and that patting them can reduce blood pressure, among other ailments. It is also believed that their urine can be used to cure cancer.
While you may imagine me spending all my time in Rishikesh doing yoga; cuddling cows; and sitting in my room trying to record music on GarageBand for iPhone in the relatively quiet lulls in between the bedlam of motorbikes, barking dogs, Hare Krishna music on repeat, and unexplained explosive bangs; I also went out into town quite often for strawberry and mango juices, more flavourful food, and cheap shopping.
As a white girl out and about in India, you get a lot of attention. Thankfully I didn’t receive as much as my tall, gorgeous blonde friends, but I was still forced to endure many awful pick up lines:
“Namaste Ji, nice sunglasses, how much you paid? Call me! Seriously!”
“Hello, you looking so handsome today!”
“Oh, you from Australia, that’s why you look so beauty.”
“Oh, so hot today! So hot! Hot hot hot…You look like angel.”
Though there is still much inequality and violence against women in India, I felt that I was treated with respect, and these harmless and unsuccessful pick up attempts were the worst that I encountered. India is so alive and worth visiting and should not merely be associated with its rape culture, though of course that is an awful problem that needs to be addressed there, just as it does the world over. As soon as the word India crossed my lips, well meaning friends and relatives tried to caution me against going, particularly employing the word rape as a persuasive technique. While I appreciate their concern, and the fact that rape is being discussed, the notion that I should avoid doing something because I am female does not sit well with me.
Anywho, I mean to elaborate more about my experience in India, and about feminism later. Now it’s time for me to seek out some dinner. Here are some more photos to tide you over.
*The hotel I am staying in in KL is called Grid 9. I recommend it if you are looking for quite a nice stay at a modern, friendly place, with an affordable price. http://www.grid9hotels.com/