Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

“When you have children….” June 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — dany @ 10:11 pm
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A couple of days ago, while drinking cosmos during happy hour before going out to see the Sex and the City Movie, my friend asked me if I “would send my children to [alma mater] Macalester.”

I responded by telling her that if yes, some how I managed to procure a child under my guardianship who was of appropriate age to consider a college education, I could afford to send them to an elite liberal arts college, and they were interested in going to Mac, I would be supportive of them if they chose the school.

Like many, I’m sure, I frequently get asked if I would be interested in raising my children vegan. Like many, I’m sure, I’ve been asked why I would be unwilling to “just let them choose whether or not they eat meat” (ironically, ignoring the fact that meat-eating is in itself an ideology)

This question (problematically) assumes that:

1) That I intend on being a mother (because I’m a woman)

[note: this also assumes heterosexuality and participation in a patriarchial society that places value on women based on their reproductive abilities… similarly to our non-human friends]

2) I will be the sole person to decide my childrens’ diet (because… I’m a woman of color?)

3) Carnism, like whiteness, is rendered invisible and therefore “normal” (because, just as we live in a white supremacist world, we live in a specieist one)

I can’t help but wonder if men get similar questions upon informing others of their veganism.

I just had to drop in here, and ask you all: what are the implications of veganism on women of color who are already too frequently deemed unfit mothers?


9 Responses to ““When you have children….””

  1. I love this post. Great insights and good question.

    I’ve been asked what I’ll do about my children virtually my entire fertile life, merely because I’m female. People assume heterosexually, reproduction, planned child rearing philosophies, and then think it’s any of their business, too. Argh, annoying.

    But to answer the question, yes, if I birth or adopt children, they will be vegan while under my care and my roof. But when willing and able to care for themselves, they make their own choices. I will hope they will choose vegan, but I will love them regardless.

    For the record, married vegan men are sometimes asked if they’ll raise their children vegan. So it does happen, it happens to my husband, but I think single men are off the hook. Married vegan men are also often assumed to have gone vegan only to please their wives. The meat=manly thing results in the assumption that married vegan men are slaves to their wives and aren’t capable of making their own choices.

    And the WOC unfit mothers thing… I don’t know.

  2. Adwoa Says:

    While I agree with points 1 and 3, I can’t help but think you may be reading too much into point 2 – I would more have seen it as assuming that my future husband would also be vegan or at least vegan-tolerant. And frankly, even if I had an omni husband myself, I would be quite loath to have him serving my child (the one I bore for nine months) meat and milk. Anyway, I wouldn’t think men got the same question just because they aren’t seen as “nurturers” the way women are. There is also the assumption that you will be doing the grocery shopping and cooking for your family, which is what most women do.

    I can’t help but think that veganism, specifically, will have no implications for women of color if implemented correctly – i.e. with the proper attention paid to a balanced, adequately caloric diet. So no soymilk and apple juice leading to babies dying of starvation! If the children grow up approximately the same height and (healthy) weight as omni kids, their veganism won’t be apparent to others until meal times. And why would they complain about it if the kids are thriving?

  3. Alan Says:

    Love the blog. I’m a married (white) male vegan, and I get asked the question all the time too. And agree completely with comment #1.

  4. noemi Says:

    Adwoa: I see no correlation between veganism in relation to women of color and having children eat “a balanced, adequately caloric diet and babies dying of starvation.

  5. Adwoa Says:

    I wasn’t implying that there was a correlation. What I understood amalgamated to have written is that women of color who feed their children a vegan diet might be seen as being “unfit” mothers, in that they are feeding their children food that is nutritionally inadequate – which is how most omnivores view a vegan diet. So I made the point that if the child is fed properly, vegan or not, the mother’s color shouldn’t matter.

  6. johanna Says:

    Great post — thank you so much for joining the blog. 🙂

    It’s so frustrating to me that, like you say, meat-eating is an ideology too, but because it’s the status quo, it’s invisiblized as a choice or an ideology. An author I really like said in an interview a while ago that a novel with alternative political viewpoints is derided as being “just a ‘message’ book,” but every novel has a political stance, & it’s just that the status quo ideologies don’t get recognized as ideologies.

    I think you’re right to note that veganism could potentially be seen as one more way to demonize women of color mothers (since mothers feeding their children vegan diets — or what the media says are vegan diets — already are demonized). I’ve actually never been asked whether I’ll feed my children vegan — maybe that is because I’ve been lucky, or just that anyone who would ask would already know I will not be having children. (On a side note, I have a tattoo on my stomach & ever since I got it 10+ years ago, people love to comment on how it will look “when I’m pregnant.” Bah.)

  7. Katie Says:

    You went to Macalester?
    Can you see my e-mail address here? Got a question for ya.

  8. Kris Dove Says:

    Thank you for this post! And great blog btw, I’ve been lurking here for a while now 🙂

    I’m a childfree woman too and fed up hearing questions about “when”, not “if”, I have children! My boyfriend is vegan too, but being male doesn’t really get questioned very often about the issue of children. And as Elaine mentioned, he is frequently asked if he went vegan to please me, to which the answer is no. (And like Johanna, I get questions about my tattooed stomach too!)

    While I’ve experienced these and other instances of sexism, being white I’ve never personally encountered any instances of racism re the implications of veganism, but sadly it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to hear of people who have. 😦

  9. hasta la vicktoria Says:

    i know this is an old post 😀 but i was lookin around for vegan mami stuff

    people who know/find out i’m pregnant kinda do a thinkback, liike wait, aren’t you veg*n, you need to eat meat/dairy to get the vitamins-protein you need and i’m like, nooo actually there’s some vegan mami’s out there BELIVE IT OR NOT that had a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to beautiful vegan babies, and now i am even more committed to veg@nism and eating right for my fetus and myself. (before i was like a lazy vegan)

    then when they find out my babydaddy is also vegan they’re like oh fuck, you all are going to FORCE your kid to be vegan. but i feel that hopefully, as we raise our child, ze will be conscious of animal oppression and realize that we don’t need to kill to be healthy.

    of course, as our child grows we won’t be there every single second to ‘monitor’ what they eat, but i think since we aren’t going to lie about where food comes from ze will know that animals are friends and we don’t eat our friends and hopefully make the right choices. and naturally if they choose to eat meat i’ll disown them. haha i kid i kid!!

    i also know that if for any reason veganism is harming my pregnant body or my fetus or my child then i’ll take the proper vegan action, and if need be, eat what i need so i/fetus/ze will be healthy.

    any veg*n mami’s or mami to be’s out there?

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