I remember, what feels like forever ago, but was really 2003 or 2004, my vegetarian friend and I were talking about how we would eat meat if/when we ever traveled to other places outside the US. Not to make excuses but I was only 14 or 15 when this happened. I understand now that this sort of position is both selfish, and based on exotifying fantasies that reduce entire cultures to their food. And since high school I’ve broken vedge (a word of mine– comes from hanging out with sxe kids in high school) 3 times. Thats what happens when one is vegan to be fashionable or loses track of why.
I’m surprised by this Temporary Omnivore who was feature in a NYT blog
. She was a vegetarian to protest the industrial process that creates meat, but it seems to reflect a sort of privilege and convenience more. She talks about how it is easier to be a vegetarian in the States than in Paris.
That statement just didn’t sit well with me. After thinking about it for a bit I remembered the story I relayed at the beginning of this post. She was exotifying the French and reducing an entire culture to their cuisine. Lets not forget that there are French vegetarian and vegans as well.
(Just to say the defense that the French have fewer factory farms seems weak to me– I doubt that makes the rabbits, chickens, hoses, cows etc. feel any better about being consumed.)
But another thought hit me– she seemed to be saying no one questioned her being vegetarian in the States since elementary school. That statement reveals a lot of racial and class-based privileges. See, growing up working class and black in the South meant a hell of a lot of awkward social situations (not to mention a slightly increased economic burden on my accommodating mother, for real keeping a 6’3″ teenage vegan full had to be hard). Family functions were slightly disastrous for me. Dishes consisted of meat, or vegetables cooked with animal broth. My vegetarianism and then veganism have faced challenges consistently. It wasn’t till I got to Vassar, where I have the privileges of being a student was my veganism not questioned as often.
So I have problems with temporary omnivore-ism because it reflects a hell of a lot of issues: exotification, cultural reductionism, laziness, etc. And it reminds me that I, at least, need to maintain a politicized veganism, after all its about the animals, and it also re-reminds me that all of our vegan experiences are affected by our differing subject positions and privileges that come from them.