Boy … uh, I mean Non-Gender-Specific Person, it must be tough being a committed vegan these days. There you are, convinced you’re doing The Right Thing, only to discover that you’re doing The Right Thing for the wrong reasons … so wrong, in fact, that you’re reproducing existing patterns of discrimination and inequality.
I only became aware of this vegan dilemma thanks to scholars working in the rigorous intellectual discipline known as gender studies. Here’s the abstract from a paper published in the Journal of Feminist Media Studies.
This article explores the way vegan and vegetarian diets have been articulated within neo-liberal post-feminist culture. While these diets have an important role for vegetarian eco-feminists, as signs of resistance against the patriarchal and capitalist exploitative system, in post-feminism they have become sexy and business oriented.
This shift is analyzed through the case study of Beyoncé’s involvement with the commercial enterprise “22 days,” a dietary regime that involves the elimination of any animal product for 22 days. Our argument is that while eco-feminists have embraced vegetarian and vegan regimes as ethical and political choices, post-feminism depoliticizes and deradicalizes them. In this way, they become part of an individualistic project that emphasizes empowerment and meritocracy; choice, agency, and responsibilization; and the focus on a healthy, sexy body.
Ultimately, the post-feminist articulation of vegan diets promotes a form of “commodity veg*ism,” that is not only devoid of any critical force, but also reproduces existing patterns of discrimination and inequality. We use the term veg*ism to indicate the fluid uptake of vegan and vegetarian diets, whereby the avoidance of animal products relies more on an individual than on ethical and/or political choice.
It was a real letdown to realize I’ve been wasting my life reading books on health, nutrition, history and economics when I could have been learning about responsibilization.
Before we return to the abstract, I need go on a brief rant about these mushy-science academics and the kind of intellectual and verbal drivel they produce -– much of which is supported by your tax dollars through the university system.
I follow @RealPeerReview on Twitter. Whoever he or she is (if he and she aren’t offensive labels), he or she has access to a gazillion academic papers and regularly posts abstracts to demonstrate what passes for scholarship in today’s universities. The most amusing examples are produced by (ahem) “scholars ” in sort-of-science departments like gender studies.
After laughing my way through several academic-gobbledygook abstracts in a row one day, I saw a connection to Dr. Who. Hang on, I’ll explain.
Dr. Who has been around for several decades. The writers have slowly created an entire alternate reality. Sara became a fan a couple of years ago and watched episode after episode online. She could go on and on about the Dr. Who universe, its history, its characters, and all its rules.
In fact (as she informed me), there are entire books written about the Dr. Who universe and all its rules. Those rules are internally consistent and, in the Dr. Who universe, they make perfect sense. Fanatical fans can cite those rules. They can name the inhabitants, the organizations, the terms, the powers characters do and don’t have, etc., etc. Fans can even engage in debates over what would happen in this-or-that situation. To someone immersed in the Dr. Who universe, those debates might even sound logical.
But of course, the Dr. Who universe, despite all its richness, complexity, and internal logic, is fiction. It’s all been made up.
Same goes for the universe produced in the imaginations of gender-studies scholars. It’s a rich and complex universe with lots of terms and rules, but it’s all been made up. It’s fiction. Let’s call it the Dr. Hooey universe. The main difference is that when fans of Dr. Who write about the Dr. Who universe, they don’t usually come across like morons attempting to sound intelligent.
Here’s part of another abstract tweeted by @RealPeerReview:
As a non-Western woman I found that without an epistemic disobedience to colonial aspects of knowledge I cannot speak in the academic area where Eurocentric and masculine approaches dominiate in producing knowledge. Taking an arts-based and bricolage approach, I have expressed an epistemic disobedience to this hegemony through performative uses of images, story telling, archetypes, “fictocriticism,” and performative writing.
Your tax dollars at work.
I believe in some long-ago post, I mentioned an excellent book on writing titled Telling Writing, by Ken Macrorie. He has a term for that desperate-to-sound-intelligent style of writing that’s basically big-word gobbledygook: Engfish. Universities produce reams of the stuff.
I’ve also mentioned Eric Hoffer, author of the fabulous little book The True Believer. Hoffer wrote in the 1950s, but his insights about people are (unfortunately) still relevant today. Here are some quotes from his book Reflections on the Human Condition:
Where thought is prompted by a penchant for weightiness and a high purpose, the result is often a blend of pompousness and hysteria.
An empty head isn’t really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish.
And that’s what we get with these supposed scholars: pompous, hysterical rubbish written in Engfish.
If we were merely talking about tortured sentences no sane person would want to decipher, that would be bad enough. But even when the language is somewhat comprehensible, it’s clear that intellectual rigor not only isn’t a requirement in these goofy academic circles, it may actually be discouraged.
We’re talking about women (I’m assuming women isn’t an oppressive word — it’s difficult to tell with this crowd) who choose to major in oh-so-practical fields like feminist studies, then write papers explaining that the evil patriarchy is the reason not enough women major in math and science … instead of, say, feminist studies.
After finishing their courses in feminist studies, they write more papers explaining that when males and females behave differently (assuming they don’t consider the labels male and female to be oppressively cisnormative), it’s solely because of socialization imposed by the evil patriarchy. For an eco-feminist vegan to believe such nonsense, she merely has to love animals so much that she never actually spends any time with them and therefore knows almost nothing about them.
We’ve raised a lot of chickens over the years. Every rooster we’ve owned (I’m assuming owned is an oppressive word) attacked me at least once if not several times. Little bird, a fraction of my size, attempting to kick my ass. Why? Because they’re roosters, and that’s what roosters do. Get too close to the flock, and they’ll beat your legs with their wings or try to spike you with their spurs.
I’ve never had a hen attack me, other than make a half-hearted poke at my hand when I was reaching in to collect eggs. (I’m assuming collecting eggs was an exploitative act on my part.) Roosters act like roosters and hens act like hens because that’s how Nature coded them. Socialization or the chicken patriarchy or toxic rooster masculinity or whatever have diddly to do with it.
In his breakout book 12 Rules for Life, psychologist Jordan Peterson spends nearly an entire chapter describing the battle for dominance among male lobsters. Dr. Peterson isn’t trying to make your next visit to Red Lobster more illuminating. He’s making the point that lobsters are one of the oldest species on the planet, and we see the battle for dominance play out among males in nearly every species that came along after lobsters … lions, deer, monkeys, humans, you name it. If you want to avoid being a pushover, you’d best be aware that a drive for dominance is woven into the fabric of the world. Stand up straight with your shoulders back, as Dr. Peterson advises, so the dominance-seekers don’t make you a target. (He is of course talking about an attitude, not just a physical posture.)
Males act like males because they have male hormones, not because Daddy Lobster socialized Junior Lobster into a pattern of toxic masculinity. In fact, as several scientists have demonstrated in animal studies, you can inject a female or a passive male with testosterone and BINGO! — you get a much more active, aggressive animal as a result. Some female animals injected with testosterone will even pursue and try to mate with other females — without asking permission first. Or you can block testosterone production in a male and end up with a far less aggressive critter as a result.
Even a writer for The New York Times understands how strongly hormones affect behavior:
Testosterone is clearly correlated in both men and women with psychological dominance, confident physicality and high self-esteem. In most combative, competitive environments, especially physical ones, the person with the most T wins. Put any two men in a room together and the one with more testosterone will tend to dominate the interaction. Working women have higher levels of testosterone than women who stay at home, and the daughters of working women have higher levels of testosterone than the daughters of housewives. A 1996 study found that in lesbian couples in which one partner assumes the male, or ”butch,” role and another assumes the female, or ”femme,” role, the ”butch” woman has higher levels of testosterone than the ”femme” woman.
Anyway, to sum up the rant: to be taken in by the multisyllabic blathering (or what I sometimes refer to as verbal vomit) found in papers produced by “eco-feminist” or other gender-studies scholars, you have to live in the Dr. Hooey universe, not the real one. You have to pretend hormones don’t affect behavior — or, as some feminist scholars have advocated, you simply declare actual sciences like biology to be part of the patriarchy so you can ignore them.
So now that I’ve expressed my opinion of the rigorous scholarship typical of the field, let’s return to the paper and its Engfish explanation of why some vegans just aren’t doing it right. Or for the right reasons. Or something.
While these diets have an important role for vegetarian eco-feminists, as signs of resistance against the patriarchal and capitalist exploitative system, in post-feminism they have become sexy and business oriented.
Well, at least now when I hear people talk about being part of “the resistance,” I’ll know what they’re resisting: the patriarchal and capitalist exploitative system. This is, of course, in stark contrast to communist and socialist systems, where other people are allowed to live off the fruits of your labor, yet you are somehow not exploited in the process.
As for all that brave resisting going on … I dunno, when I think of resistance fighters, I tend to picture people who actually put themselves in danger while blowing up bridges and such to interrupt Nazi troop and supply movements. Seems to me engaging in “resistance” by eating soybeans instead of burgers is pretty wimpy. (I assume wimpy is an oppressive word.)
Our argument is that while eco-feminists have embraced vegetarian and vegan regimes as ethical and political choices, post-feminism depoliticizes and deradicalizes them. In this way, they become part of an individualistic project that emphasizes empowerment and meritocracy; choice, agency, and responsibilization; and the focus on a healthy, sexy body.
Ahh, now we get to the meat of the problem. (I assume meat is an offensive and oppressive word, but don’t care.) If you embrace a vegan regime as a political statement, you’re doing it for the right reasons. (I assume a vegan regime, as opposed to a vegan regimen, is what you get when a dictator’s idiotic economic policies finally cause a permanent shortage of all animal foods. North Korea may be a vegan regime by now.)
But if you go vegan for your own empowerment — especially as part of a quest for a healthy, sexy body — you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
Well, I have to say, that certainly pokes holes in the arguments made by a lot of vegetrollians. (I assume pokes is an offensive word to eco-feminists, but don’t care.) Back when vegan zealots were constantly showing here up in the comments, they kept telling me if I give up meat, I’ll live longer. Or get skinny and sexy like them. In fact, one of the best-selling vegan books is titled Skinny Bitch and promises women that going vegan will make them radiantly healthy, thin and beautiful.
Next time a vegan tries that argument on me, I’ll just quote this next paragraph from the paper:
Ultimately, the post-feminist articulation of vegan diets promotes a form of “commodity veg*ism,” that is not only devoid of any critical force, but also reproduces existing patterns of discrimination and inequality.
Look here, you vegan zealot, by promising me I’ll get healthy and skinny, you are promoting commodity veganism devoid of any critical force! And worse, you’re asking me to reproduce existing patterns of discrimination and inequality by adopting a diet to make myself more attractive than the other boys. Isn’t the world unfair enough already?!
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t handle the guilt. So I’ll avoid the whole internal conflict and continue eating meat. I hope the eco-feminists understand … not that I can understand anything they write in their papers.