Well, the Sistah Vegan Project is not the place to point you to the “answers” to these questions. I know that a plethora of pro-vegan organizations, such as PETA, love to promote these ‘deep’ reasons to change one’s diet: to ‘look’ younger and to lose weight, as this will ‘guarantee’ that you will be ‘loved’, ‘accepted’, found ‘sexy’, ‘attractive’, and furthermore, your body will represent what a ‘properly moral’ body should look like.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really troubled by the extreme focuses on pro-vegan advertisements and services that beat it into our consciousnesses, at least here in the USA, that you aren’t a ‘responsible’ and ‘moral’ citizen-consumer (and I say ‘citizen consumer’ because goddess forbid if we didn’t exist just to consume!) if you basically don’t look like the gazillion gurus and hired models out there. These people don’t represent an ‘objective’ visual representation of health and beauty. What they do represent is a white supremacist and neoliberal capitalist framing of the ‘purpose’ of veganism (and more broadly, the commoditization of ‘going green.’). These visual representations of ‘perfectly healthy’ vegan models are white, thin, young, able-bodied, 9/10 times; and if a non-white model is presented , they are almost always ‘lighter than a brown paper bag’, reinforcing structural colorism. Interestingly, for many in the USA, veganism is how we show “Ahimsa”; the commitment to do no harm and to be mindful of how our human actions cause suffering to sentient beings such as non-human animals. Shaming people into looking a certain way, causes deep suffering and pain. It is unmindful and for me, not the core of Ahimsa (and of course, this is under the assumption that you/one is practicing veganism from the Ahimsa perspective).
In addition to my troubling relationship with the above mentioned representation of the ‘purpose’ of ‘going vegan’ amongst those who are ‘selling’ this practice is also how veganism is being represented by many Black USA vegans and raw foodists (I focus on the Black demographic in the USA because it was my research emphais for the past 7 years). You may find it here, that a significant number “sell” veganism as a way to “decolonize” the body, promoting veganism as a “race conscious” approach to remedying health and wellness disparities in the Black USA community (which PETA does not do; at a matter of fact, PETA is ‘post-racial’ and assumes everyone has a white middle class consumerist relationship to health/food access and consumption). I very much appreciate the intention behind “race conscious” veganism, but I am quite disappointed to see that their collective rhetoric can be quite classist, heteronormative, transphobic, ableist, and sizest too. It’s like a ‘race conscious’ approach that acknowledges how racial hierarchies of power have negatively affected Black people in the USA…. but then they go and incorporate all the other legacies of European colonial whiteness, like obsession over bodily purity, and that purity can only be represented through whole foods veganism, which will produce more ‘pure’ bodies that are ‘not gender confused’ or ‘not gay’. Even though not all Black vegan gurus in the USA do not represent Afrocentric veganism, it seems like the underlying theme in Afrocentric vegan health movement is that the white European carnicentric turned carnicentric-industrialized-processed diet is the reason why there are ‘so many’ trans people of African descent in the USA, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual, people of African descent. The diet has caused them to have ‘impure’ behaviors and actions that are ‘innate’ behavioral patterns of white European descended people. Apparently, before the Black consumption of KFC, Koolaid, Cheetos, and ‘slavery induced Soul Food’ , LGBTQ Black people didn’t exist! (sigh)
Unlike ‘gurus’ like Dr. Lalila Afrika who have publicly stated that homosexuality and “gender-confused” people of African descent are ‘impure’ and can be cured through a whole foods vegan diet, Queen Afua does not make these claims in her Sacred Woman text at all. Even though I speak much about Queen Afua’s Sacred Woman as a book that helped me cure my fibroids through her Afrocentric veganism, I was distracted and unsettled by the assumption that all women of African descent reading her book are heteronormative and in a relationship with a man of African descent.
These are my thoughts; pretty much in the style of “stream of consciousness” today. However, I am sharing this with you and if you are interested in digging deeper into these issues above, I invite you to participate in the 1st annual Sistah Vegan Conference. This conference will not proselytize veganism or teach participants ‘how to lose weight’, ‘look healthier’, or look at veganism purely through a privileged neoliberal consumerist perspective. Keynote speakers and presenters will be engaging black feminism, critical animal studies, queer theory, disability studies, decolonial praxis, and fat studies to name a few, as entrees into examining topics such as culture of health, bodily aesthetics, non-human animal compassion, consumerism as it not relates to veganism; talks will be presented through the perspectives of non-white identified females/womyn/transfolk.
To find out more about this upcoming conference on September 14, 2013, please go here.