Choices

I'm posting this here because I haven't posted in GT in days and it felt good. I don't think anyone looks here but for my own sake I'm writing this down to close the topic in my head.

Last week, someone on Groupthink wrote a post complaining about self-righteous vegans. They had a tale of a truly unbearable human who was stupid and vile and aggressive, not mention self-righteous as all hell. The post was about "self-righteous vegans." Not self-righteous humans, but vegans. This is really easy to do because vegans have a terrible reputation, let's be honest.

The thing is that white first world vegans are not exactly an oppressed bunch, but it's just pretty obnoxious to be so dismissive of an entire group of people and their beliefs based on reputation. Nope, they are not marginalized people and they're not anyone's first concern in the world, but it's just plain rude.

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So I commented this on that post and was encouraged by other GTers to write a post debunking this myth, that the only preachy, self-righteous, aggressive people are vegetarians. The comments were overwhelmingly in agreement - I'm certainly not the only person who gets a lot of stick for my choices. But then this blew open and created a ton of drama in GT. You see, not wanting to be shouted at, having my food violated (by being tricked into eating meat), not even wanting to really talk about my choices, that's ableist and it's classist. Here's why that is total bullshit.

Oppression!!!11
We're talking about food choices and restrictions here. Those hugely affect a person's quality of life and yes I do say that from experience. However this is not oppression. When the cultural institutions that we reside in habitually discriminate against anyone for their food choices then it is. This is why kosher, halal, and other cultural and religious diets are not simply a matter of food preference. They are related in varying degrees to marginalization, othering, and identity. Just as in my post I said that it is merely dickish to pick on people's food choices whichever way they lean it is not merely dickish to criticize someone's kosher diet for the sake of being kosher. That is part of an entirely different beast. To co-opt terms like ableism, classism, and oppression based on dietary restrictions is self-indulgent to the extreme, even if those restrictions are based on severe health complications.

Classist! If it's cheaper to be vegetarian then you're eating the wrong meat.
I have always enjoyed when people decide what poor people can and can't do. I was told when I was a kid "you can't be poor, your clothes are too nice." Guess what, judicious shopping at second hand stores is very effective and cheap. Yes, we could have been wearing burlap sacks so I guess we just weren't poor enough. Similarly, it's entirely possible to be on a very highly limited income and elect to be a vegetarian. Beans are cheap, day old vegetables in the discount bag are cheap (I used to just chop out the rotten parts). An adult female can get her entire day's worth of protein from about half a can of chickpeas. That is incredibly cheap protein.

Now, I'm going to put this in caps because I guarantee that someone won't read it, VEGETARIANISM IS NOT A CURE FOR POVERTY. "BUT LENTILS" IS A STUPID, SHORT-SIGHTED, SIMPLISTIC, THOUGHTLESS PROTEST SO JUST DON'T. POVERTY AND FOOD SECURITY ARE FAR MORE COMPLEX AND ISSUES OF ACCESS, TIME, KNOWLEDGE, AND FRANKLY ENERGY ARE AT PLAY. Got it?

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Poverty is also not a simple issue. It is absurdly simplistic and reductive to proclaim that cheap meat is cheaper than non-meat protein sources. Rural poverty is an entirely different beast from urban poverty, and within urban spaces, for example, the local cultural makeups alter the picture dramatically. If you live in most major cities anywhere in Canada or the UK (or even any minor cities) the largest immigrant group is Asian, either south or east. This means that the options for cheap protein are limitless, accessible, familiar, and easy. If you live surrounded by (sometimes very poor) Indian immigrants who are all eating bowls of chickpeas, you might happily eat that as well. Or you may not. Your choices will be much wider than if you life in a rural setting with one bare bones supermarket. I say this from experience.

So, the point is that while vegetarianism is not a cure for poverty in any way, it is completely possible to be poor and be a vegetarian. It is not for anyone to judge what is poor "enough" to satisfy some arbitrary test. So stop it now.

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Someone is horrible to me so that means that any one of those people ever mentioning their choices in is bigoted.
Look, I get that there are preachy vegetarians. I have never denied that and in fact the only preachy vegetarian who I've known personally was a great source of delight to me as I taunted her mercilessly in retribution. Whether a person's reason for making a dietary choice for reasons of health, religious, budget, or anything, it is absolutely unacceptable to proactively harass people. When they are forced to eat a certain way - that is to say that it is not a choice - for reasons of health then it goes beyond the pale to continue that harassment.

But people have dietary restrictions for all sorts of health reasons and those dietary restrictions vary widely. It is not inherently ableist to not want harassment for being a vegetarian any more than it is inherently ableist to not was harassment for being a non-vegetarian. That is a gross misuse and trivialization of the term.

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It is also not false equivalency to not want harassment or concern-trolling for making a choice as a result of someone else not being able to choose. In my family we unfortunately have debilitating, life-altering, and sometimes life-ending autoimmune diseases. Some of those diseases involve exceedingly harsh dietary restrictions - a very close member of my family more or less can't eat. It's pretty miserable. My luxury of health that allows me to make a choice is no reflection or denigration of her condition, just as choosing to jog is not a reflection on another close family member who is disabled from the waist down by one of these diseases. If I get made fun of for jogging and that annoys me or frustrates me, that has literally nothing to do with my disabled family.

Basically, we are not talking about oppression here and frankly, however many obnoxious vegetarians there are in the world - and there are many simply because there are many obnoxious humans in the world - in the western world there is no inherent structure built up against people who eat relatively mainsream diets, certainly no white secular or Christian people (even if vegetarians) and certainly not meat eaters.

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There is no way this topic is going to die but I am still getting notifications every day and wanted to put my views at rest. I was criticized for being ableist and classist for not wanting to be shat on for what I eat. As I said before - I find discussion of food choices, including restrictions (which I do have) absolutely odious - so it's comical that I'm still talking about it - and I think it is offensive to conflate this with oppression.

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