watching an increasing number of teen girls become vegetarians/vegans while living at the school i work at, i’ve become concerned about how the vegetarian/vegan activism seems specifically designed to target women. it is firstly a rhetoric of guilt, and women are socialized our whole lives to feel guilt and to take on burdens, to bear responsibility and become martyrs for others. vegan/vegetarian activism plays right into this: women are perfectly primed to feel guilt about consuming animals, and to feel like they are properly prostrating themselves by resisting meat
secondly, that women are socialized to view eating as an indulgence and their bodies as something that must be denied, made smaller, minimized. disordered eating is so common in women as to be almost universal, and girls who already try to go as long as possible without eating, to eat as little as possible when they do, are going to be especially susceptible to the vegan/vegetarian rhetoric that says eating meat is an indulgence, that eating meat is selfish and not something the body really needs–exactly what women already think about food–that it isn’t something they really need, that their body wants these things and if they are strong, they will deny it.
the school does not have good vegetarian options (and of course, precious few things for vegans) and they still choose to become vegetarian/vegan in the middle of term, knowing this. they choose because they already wish to eat less, they say it’s about “getting healthy” or because “the food’s so bad anyway’s so what difference does it make.” they choose because it feels good to be validated in what you’ve always suspected–that your body doesn’t deserve to feel full, that you’d be happier if you had more willpower, that your body is wrong and if only you could finally make this change, you’d be worthy.
these girls’ health is at stake. i see lots of radfem proselytizing about veganism/vegetarianism, and very little discourse about how veganism can harm girls’ health, exactly during a time in life when their body needs adequate nutrition the most. yes, yes, you’ll say veganism can be healthy if you do it properly. but the majority of people don’t have the time/money/resources to do it properly. these girls eating nothing but white rice for dinner are not doing it properly. but the vegan activist still congratulates them on their moral superiority, and says well, at least no animals had to die.
women are more important than animals. women’s health is more important than animals. how many teen girls using veganism as an excuse to punish their bodies does it take before we’re allowed to admit that.