Recently a news article came across my Facebook feed entitled “Does Feminism Require Vegetarianism or Veganism?” (http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/feminism-and-vegetarianism/). I tried to hold back my judgement while I clicked the link and explored the article. Please read it for yourself. It’s very well written and the author explores the argument from both sides in a very intelligent manner. I decided to Google the topic to see what other feminists had to say on the topic and found this article as the top search result: “To be a Feminist is to be a Vegan” (http://gentleworld.org/to-be-a-feminist-is-to-be-a-vegan/). Again, read this one for yourself. I’m not going to summarize the whole thing, but suffice it to say the author makes a passionate (and sometimes graphic) argument as to why she believes feminism and veganism are inseparable ideologies.
As a newcomer to feminism I have tried to commit to exploring all sides of an issue before passing judgement. I’ve only read a few articles on this subject, so I don’t feel that I’m qualified to make a call on whether feminism requires dietary changes. I’m glad that the women who’ve written the articles linked above have shared their insights and beliefs for my (and your) consideration. I can tell you that I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I still believe that I am a feminist. Personally, it would be dangerous for me to pursue vegetarianism or veganism at this point in my recovery from an eating disorder, so these dietary choices will not be part of my interpretation of feminism.
Though I don’t feel I’m informed enough to weigh in on the debate as a whole I do feel like I have the insight to comment on a deeper issue these articles raise, which is telling women what they should or should not be in order to be a feminist. Personally, I think that this is damaging to feminism as a whole. I would never condemn anyone’s personal choices or their personal interpretations of feminism as an ideology. If you believe that your take on feminism requires you to be vegetarian or vegan I applaud that choice. In my eyes you have gone above and beyond to show your commitment to your ethics. However, I do take issue when you decide that you need to tell everyone else that your interpretation of feminism is the “correct interpretation”, especially if that interpretation is exclusionary.
Feminism in America is already suffering. There’s an entire Internet movement called “I don’t need feminism”. A Google search for this term yields over 24 million results and the accompanying image search shows young women holding signs explaining why they don’t need feminism. Some insist that the fight has been won because they feel like equals. Some misinterpret feminism entirely and say that they don’t need feminism because they’re not “man haters”. Some, the ones I find most troubling, insist that being objectified is empowering to them; that they love being catcalled and harassed on the street. In today’s world, being a feminist isn’t exactly popular. Many are still under the illusion that feminist is a dirty word.
This social atmosphere does not make it easy to recruit more women to the cause. The ones who do become interested, especially later in life like me, often come to the movement cautiously and quietly. They are afraid to identify as feminists. They are afraid that they are “bad feminists” at best. They wonder if their ideas even fit in with feminism. They wonder if they will be accepted. Essentially they wonder if they qualify. If we start adding additional qualifications to the movement, such as being vegetarian or vegan, we risk driving away women who want desperately to be part of this movement, who need to be part of this movement. We risk losing support that the movement desperately needs. If a woman wants to be a feminist no one should be able to tell her that she’s not.
I’m not saying that your narrower interpretation of what it means to be a feminist is incorrect. I’m not saying that it’s better or worse than mine. I’m just asking you to consider whether or not suggesting other women need to adhere to your version of feminism is helping or hurting the movement as a whole.
As for me, I’m going to continue to be “just” a feminist and eat a burger.