Sexual Politics of Veganism By Emma Louise Brown

Sexual Politics of Veganism By Emma Louise Brown

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For me the journey of compassion started when I was 11 (18 years ago) I gave up eating meat, then at 21 (8 ½ years ago) without knowing any information I turned vegan because it felt like the right thing to do. As well as being vegan and an animal rights activist, I am also a feminist and a human rights activist. For me all issues of compassion are interlinked.

One of the biggest assumptions and judgments about me is my health/weight. The truth is I succumbed to a chronic illness which affects my weight many years after consuming a vegan diet. Most vegans don’t ask why, they just assume I eat too much. Most non-vegans assume I cheat and sneak off to eat animal products. Sometimes I try to explain my situation to people if only for them to be less judgmental and understand but that usually leads to more problems. The most common reply I receive from other vegans is telling me to go raw, which will “cure” my illness and help me lose weight. I think it’s awesome people are doing what’s best for their body, but that doesn’t mean it will work for my body. I respect raw vegans for the dedication it must take but for me here lies the problem. Veganism (as in eating whatever you like as long as it doesn’t come from an animal) is the moral baseline, anything after that like gluten free, sugar free or raw is your personal choice.

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For me I prefer to promote the diet side through varied foods. I want to show people you don’t have to give up any of your favourite food but simply swap them for cruelty free options. Veganism is not some club for people who only want to lose weight and eat bananas, it’s for everyone. Of all sizes, shapes, colours, religions and walks of life. The animals don’t care what you look like they only care that you are not eating them.

I wrote this status last night, because I wanted to make aware these things do happen. To make it clear, the issues I wanted to point out amongst my ramblings were

  • Bullying and sizeism is a real issue, especially within the vegan community.
  • Patriarchal society is very much alive. Women are oppressed everyday for how they look, what they wear and their weight. No man should ever dictate to a woman how she should express her outer appearance.

I used to hate putting pictures of myself on Facebook. Either it would be a meat eater getting defensive over the truth and attacking my appearance or a plant based/health freak telling me I’m too overweight to be a good representation of veganism. There was an incident a few weeks ago where a bunch of guys in the street starting shouting abuse at me and making noises of disgust over my appearance and even told me to “cover up” because I’m too fat to be wearing a short skirt. I have to admit it was humiliating to have that done in front of a street full of people. However, I’m not going to change for society or for any man who thinks he can dictate what I should be wearing. Yeah, I am an overweight Gothic chick with tattoos and piercings and I love who I am. This picture is of me this evening, I’m not wearing much make up and there is no bra restricting my body today. I choose when I want to wear make up for myself, I choose what clothes make me feel comfortable. I might be overweight but hiding behind baggy clothes is just not my style. I choose when and when not I want to wear a bra because my breasts are not going to be forcibly made perky for the pleasure of random strangers in the street to gawp at. Fuck that. My body is not for society’s sexual pleasure. I will not be forced to lose weight so society can feel like I fit in with the sexualisation of women. Think I’m ugly? I give zero fucks. Regardless of how we look, we are all going to get older and die. I have more important stuff to be doing than worrying about mother nature sagging parts of my body. I will not be a slave to society.”

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When I wrote this status I never expected to receive as much support and positive feedback as I did. To be honest, there was no negativity on my original post. I had to go on one of the shares and read the comments to find a negative statement. Seen as this was the only one I could find I want to hold it up as an example.

It seems to me she is hiding behind punk and fat and in your face language/attitude to escape pain. A joyful person who loves their life would not abuse their heart and other organs with that extra weight. It’s her choice and rock on if she’s really happy, but I just see pain.”

All I see from this statement is someone who is not practicing kindness but only judgement without knowing my medical history. Quite frankly my medical history, weight or anything else related to my body is purely my business. My weight or appearance doesn’t affect a strangers life in anyway. There is too much fat shaming within the vegan community which is being disguised as having a concern for health. Unless you have x-ray vision there is no way to tell the workings of the inner body from mere appearance. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person and I already know the risks of carrying extra weight.

Although there are undeniable health benefits to a plant based diet on our bodies, I am not vegan for my health but for the rights of animals to be respected and not exploited or murdered. When people start promoting veganism as a diet or some kind of health fad that’s when we start being judgmental, rude and hard on each other. It’s important to respect the boundaries of another person’s body especially if they are not consuming the parts of other living beings bodies.

I believe in compassion for all which includes all kinds of humans too. Animals already are at a disadvantage by society seeing them as nothing more than a commodity, so when humans are supposed to be equal with each other and they do nothing more than try to destroy each other there seems no hope for the animals.

For me this is why it’s so important to practice love and kindness to everyone. One act of kindness can change the world. One act of kindness to a fellow human may one day transpire into the act of kindness of veganism.

Remember words have power, they can either uplift someone or destroy them. Humans have no right to destroy each other any more than the right to destroy the animals.

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By Emma Louise Brown

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About the author

I began this website as a way to showcase that going vegan is easy, cost-effective, delicious, and most importantly, fun. No animal has to suffer or die for a meal. Since the age of four, I have not eaten meat. I learned at a young age that the family puppy shared the same types of emotions as wild animals and farm animals. I never thought that it was okay to exploit them. Twelve years ago, I gave up cheese, not knowing the suffering through which cows had gone. I am dedicated to the vegan lifestyle, animal advocacy, and in furthering the social justice movements for all people, animals, and the planet. I am pleased to announce that since this blog began in 2014, there are many more vegan businesses from restaurants, a fully vegan shopping center, a school that only serves vegan food, and a vegan medical center. Although I have no affiliation with them, I feel that it is noteworthy to say that the movement is growing, and I hope to see the property status of animals one day change to acknowledge them as "persons," not things.

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18 comments

  1. Pamela Berry

    If you haven’t done yet, check out the #effyourbeautystandards campaign as I think you might like it. I too am an ‘overweight’ vegan, which in part is due to health conditions (I have spina bifida occulta – yup that is the correct word!) and obesity is a side effect of being an adult sufferer, but due to the spina bifida a lot of traditional exercise is out of the question for me. I was also overweight before I went vegan and haven’t lost any weight since (2+ years now) am I a good example for the vegan community? Well yes I think I am! I’m proof you won’t waste away, I live my life being fueled by compassion for animals and humans alike, I do stuff for various charities, I’ve held outreach events and also helped encourage others to reduce their meat intake simply by not being judgemental and sharing my food /treats with others (my salted peanut butter cups are very popular with the omnivores at work!) and have a reputation for being ‘the nice vegan’ in my circles. So to anyone who would ignore all that positivity because I’m a bit fat? I say f**k you, the more close minded you are the more you miss out on.


    1. Post author
      veganfierce

      Hi Pamela,

      Thank you for your comments. I’m sure that Emma will be very pleased to read your comment. Certainly, the size of a person’s body has no bearing on the size of their heart and compassion for others. You are a great representation, as she is, of veganism, staying true to the cause even in light of the criticism. Your advocacy on behalf of the animals is amazing! I love how you embrace sharing your food with others and educating them on how delicious the food happens to be while keeping the animals in mind. 🙂

      Vegan Fierce


    1. Post author
      veganfierce

      Mike,

      Thank you for your comments. Emma is a true inspiration. If you would like to submit any inspiring stories to Vegan Fierce for inclusion, please feel free to use the “Contact Us” link.

      Vegan Fierce

  2. Em

    Just wanted to say I LOVE YOU. From another fat vegan. I been vegan for 10 years, I don’t really have any excuse for being fat, except having had 3 children.
    Fat or thin, its no one else’s business. VEGAN is not a diet, its a belief system. Belief systems have nothing to do with appearance. I’ve tried for years to lose weight, its really hard. I’m not giving up, but I have spent years trying and I’ve only managed to get fatter overall, and that does not inspire confidence. Do I hate my appearance? yes. Do I shy away from meeting other vegans? yes. Does being fat make me less of a vegan? No, but it does make other people doubt my veganess, which makes me feel shitty.
    I love your gothic look and the tatts/piercings. That doesn’t mean you’re in pain, you’re just showing your true self to the world. I wish I had the confidence to express myself like that.
    Better to judge a person by their character than by their appearance. Unexpectedly, other vegans can be a little close-minded about this. We really should be high-fiving each other for our veganness, not having expectations of what a vegan should look like.


    1. Post author
      veganfierce

      Hi Em,

      Thank you for your comments. I’m certain that Emma will be very pleased to read them, knowing that other people are touched by her story. You’re also correct about how she is being herself, comfortable in her own skin. If more people were this way, we would have a much better society as a whole. Feel free to write in if you would like to have your vegan journey considered for inclusion on Vegan Fierce.

      Vegan Fierce

  3. Alia

    It seems everyone talks about how vegans are weak and skinny and then when someone appears who is neither, the abuse just continues. I’m particularly disappointed to hear this from within the vegan community! All other vegans are my allies because we don’t hurt the animals. Your body is nobody else’s business but yours and I think you rock!


    1. Post author
      veganfierce

      Hi Alia,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments about Emma. She is a strong representation of the kind of people in the vegan community who are not afraid to speak up and do what is right. We need more people who are willing to pave new paths like her, not just to follow the mainstream. When a person is vegan for the animals, it doesn’t matter if they eat or exercise like me, if they are large or thin. We are all important and play a vital role within the vegan community.

      Vegan Fierce

  4. Fireweed

    Right on Emma! Thanks for sharing your story, empowering others as well by doing so, and being an excellent advocate for vegan feminism and a dedicated animal ally. -In solidarity, Fireweed


    1. Post author
      veganfierce

      Fireweed,

      Thank you for your kind words. Emma is definitely an excellent representation of vegan feminism. I know that she will be honored to see this.

      Vegan Fierce

  5. JC

    I think you’re doing it right – veganism is about compassion.

    It needs to be promoted by people of all shapes and sizes, so everyone can feel it’s an option for them. If veganism is sold purely as a health thing, then only the minority of people interested in healthy food will take an interest (for a while anyway, like with any other fad diet) and they’ll miss the bigger message of veganism, which is compassion.

    I hate it when veganism is conflated with fad diets or allergies. Gluten free and raw food aren’t the same thing. Being vegan is an ethical stance, not a keep-fit regime.

    We need to say – yes, you can be vegan and still eat crisps and cake and burgers and chips, if that’s what you want. Or if you want to exercise, count calories or lift weights, you can be vegan and do that too. I had coffee and croissants for breakfast, it doesn’t have to be raw oatmeal and banana smoothies!

    So keep on keepin’ on! Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  6. Lisa

    What a super fucking awesome post!

    Great job! Many of the things that turn me off “veganism” as a lifestyle revolve around the fact that it has to be a culture, with a certain crusty look, a certain way of behaving.

    I loved your post, I think you made excellent points, and you write well. Thank you!


    1. Post author
      veganfierce

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your comments on Emma’s post. Although there is a large community of vegans who are involved in fitness, it is by no means a requirement in order to be vegan. Being vegan, simply stated, means that we reduce as much harm to others as possible through what we eat, wear, and do in all ways possible. A fit person, and someone who does not exercise, can do equal amounts of animal activism and save as many lives as anyone else. I, personally, am very active, however, I would never turn my back on my vegan brothers and sisters simply because they are bigger or smaller than me as a person.

      Paul, Vegan Fierce

  7. Kelly Gibson

    Emma it was so nice to hear your story. I appreciate every single vegan on the planet, because we all have a unique way of contributing to the vegan movement and we all help the animals in one way or another. I agree that society puts pressure on us to be perfect, especially omnivores and raw vegans. The fit vegans (especially the bodybuilding community) totally represent the health & fitness benefits, help convert people, and are valuable to veganism. Vegans who are vegan for the animals are just as valuable!! I personally am out of my comfort zone being an animal activist, which is why I appreciate people like you who can promote animal rights and make people drool over your delicious vegan meals to those who are like-minded and may choose to convert to veganism for the animals. There’s so many kinds of vegans and I love all of you. The hate needs to stop, good for you standing up for yourself and the animals. You are beautiful.


    1. Post author
      veganfierce

      Hi Kelly,

      Thank you so much for your kind words on Emma’s article. As beautiful a person as she is, you are as well, as you also do your part within the vegan bodybuilding community to promote the vegan lifestyle. By recognizing that a person is still a person, regardless of their commitment to fitness, it takes a great person such as yourself to speak out on her behalf. It was liberating to read your message, and trust me, I know Emma will be very happy to read your comments! 🙂

      Paul, Vegan Fierce


        1. Post author
          veganfierce

          Kelly,

          I’m glad that you like the blog. There are many dessert photos that have not yet been posted, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for some delicious vegan goody photos! Some videos are on the Vegan Fierce YouTube channel already. If you would like to submit an article, whether it is about your fitness training, vegan transformation, a story on an animal rights cause, etc., please feel free to send a message.

          Thanks,

          Paul, Vegan Fierce

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