Saturday, December 10, 2005

I am woman hear me roar

I chose some what of a sarcastic title for the rant that is about to follow.

I had two slightly unrelated yet related disagreements today.

The first:

Today at work i was talking with co-worker A about lunch when co-worker B attacked me on the whole vegan thing.

The worst part co-worker b is a vegetarian and his argument against veganism was that socially it was too difficult.

Yes, the whole conformity issue!

I then said actually its not so bad, a little more difficult than vegetarianism but there is generally food options around. He then went on to probe more and more, what about ?, to which i replied with what dishes i ate where and also commented that i have more of an issue getting a meal without fish than eggs and dairy since when i eat out at non veg restaurants it tends to be at asian restaurants (thai/chinese etc) more than anything else and they don't generally use dairy, that wasn't enough though. Nothing was enough, what about italian? to which i answered i normally eat ... I even told him about the few choices i had at food courts. The conversation went on from there to, to the social issue. The whole thing i found pretty hypocritical considering almost all of the arguments could be made forth against a vegetarian diet: limits your choices, holier than thou, makes eating out hard, socially difficult, what you won't have a little bit of mayo? what you won't have a little bit of fish sauce, chicken stock, minced meat etc etc?

And the whole social thing please conformity and mainstream doesn't make it right. The majority once thought a lot of things that we now don't consider ok to be ok: like slavery.

As if to make matters worse I realised that once again i'm seen as the bad guy, if i defend myself i'm seen as argumentative, how does that work?

To confirm this further i finally had enough of arguing and walked away so i could continue eating my lunch which was taking way too long to eat and of course no sooner had i walked away had my work colleagues started talking about me behind my back.

Guys if you are going to do to it try to make it subtle!

My question to you though is what should i do? To me it seems like a lose lose situation. I figure if is say nothing or choose not to discuss it then they think they are right and frankly veganism doesn't get a fair hearing.

The second:
Talking with an acquaintance after work about renting and he got all argumentative about how i should buy a house blah blah. I then said no its not for me, of course that wasn't enough he wanted to know why? and then kept going on and on. I don't even care much about the issue but i do care about people telling me what to do. So i played a long with a few reasons why i am not buying a house right now.

The problem I have with both issues is if i've seen talking my mind or even defending myself particarualy if it is a view outside the norm than i am seen by others as emotional, opinionated, argumentative, difficult etc.

If a man does exactly the same thing then no one blinks a eye.

On the other hand, why do I have to defend myself to others? and why the hell do others care so much when you do or feel differently about a issue?

The proposed answer: they feel threatened, often its about their own insecurities projected onto you, or it makes them question themselves.

Hence the reason vegetarians often feel more uncomfortable about vegans than anyone else.

I realised as soon as i got home what may have prompted the first demand that i defend MY CHOICES.

In the first case, co-worker b is vegetarian and earlier on the day we were talking about making risotto and he mentioned he put both cheese and sour cream in it. Cheese i get, but sour cream? that was my statement. I then make some passing joke about vegetarians over-using dairy (i'm reading diet for a new america at the moment will explain later) and about it overpowering the other flavours. I should have realised then that i what did insensitively was made him feel like i was attacking his lifestyle, when in fact it was actually all about flavour, and really who put sour cream in risotto? Vegetarian friends please feel free to jump on here and tell how i don't normally criticise your lifestyle choice.

I'm also quite certain that most of the things he said to me had ben said to him by a meat eater about vegetarianism.

In the second case, i suspect that he had some insecurities about being well into his late 20s and still living with his parents so he could buy a home. I suspect that quite a few people gave him a hard time about that and hence the projection onto me.

Ahhh people people people!

The thing is, it in actual fact MY life and MY choices.

if i'm wrong with my proposed answers, then why do you care so much about something that actually has no impact on your life?

You would think that i was doing something wrong from the way it is demanded that i explain myself when in actual fact in the first instance I'm living a lifestyle i choose to minimise suffering much the same as yours. I never once said vegetarianism was bad or that you weren't doing enough, or that i was holier than thou in anyway. In case two i'm simply broke.


This was written on my own blog so i could get it off my chest! I don't intend to participate in any more arguments at least not this evening, i'm tired.

I know there is a strong possibility that co-worker b will read this but i am not going behind your back about how it made me feel as i told you i was disappointed today.

If you do have issue with it written up here or want to keep asking me to DEFEND my OWN actions, email me.


paul said...

I know exactly how you feel. It's bad enough at home, but here in Laos it's a whole other thing entirely.

There are no vegans here. There are a few vegetarians, mostly hardcore Chinese Buddhists, but certainly no vegans.

The people at my work (all locals) just don't get it, but rather than making me defend my life choices (as happens elsewhere in the world - Australian workplaces, family gatherings, etc) they have turned the whole thing into a joke.

Actually, I think the joke thing is probably better than the confrontation thing, but I wonder how they would feel if every time they said they were Buddhist (one of the corner stones of their lives, as veganism is one of mine), I laughed uproariously like it was the funniest thing I'd ever heard.

In homage to my current home and the general cultural trait of conflict avoidance I have been taking it on the chin and letting it slide. I don't imagine getting in to a full blown argument about the relative virtues of a vegan diet would be even possible here, let along desirable.

I'm thinking I might try this tactic when C and I get back to Australia, for a while at least. I figure it's worth getting into it to a point. If people genuinely want information to widen their world view and potential choices, great, but if they are just feeling insecure and looking to boost themselves up, then I'm not interested in going there.

I wonder if it would be worth getting some cards printed with a few internet resources printed on them and handing them out to people who want to get all confrontational. They might say something like "I'd love to have this discussion with you, but I'd prefer it if you were informed first. Take a look at these websites and if you still have questions let me know."

People would probably just take it the wrong way I imagine. Still...

xtfer said...

There are a multitude of strategies you can use to defend veganism - from refusing to defend it, to handing out cards with information on them, but it seems to me that the problem doesn't so much lie in having to explain yourself, but in understanding the beliefs of others.

As George Lakoff puts it, you have to get inside their "frame", otherwise they won't see your ideas as valid. You have to discuss it on their terms, in order to get their terms to agree with yours.

So, further to Pauls comment, patience and compassion are often harder than veganism.

paul said...

The only problem with that idea is that we live inside "their" frame.

When you live outside the paradigm of what is considered normal (and is therefore invisible) you don't need to understand that frame, it's what you benchmark your oddness against.

The problem is not the vegans misunderstanding the "normal people" it's that, what often seems like, the vast majority of people who follow the dominant cultural norms of eating won't live and let live.

You all want us to be normal so bad that you never shut up about it (not you personally, you get it most of the time).

I can totally understand Kristy's frustrations. I feel them myself so often. It seems like nothing works. Defend yourself and you're preaching, don't and you tacitly agree that you are an inconvenience to the world, rather than one of the few people who actually stand by their commitment to making the world a better place.

Okay, enough from me. The double standards just get under my skin.

kristy said...

Thanks paul!

I recently actually posted something about the difference amonsgst vegans, my partner who is in Hong Kong will gladly tell the world he is vegan whereas i shy away from discussing it amongst strangers, i think part of it is simply because there is a different response in Hong Kong where he lives. The same was true when i was in Hong Kong, the most i got from locals was a laugh which trust me is better.

xtfer, part of the post is not only a rant but also an attempt to understand what makes them so aggressive and so annoyed by my choices. Thanks for your comment and btw checked out your profile you have great taste in movies :-)

I'm looking forward to reading 'vegan freak: being vegan in a non vegan world', it might help well at least in terms of argument one.

cristy said...

Kirsty I totally feel your pain. I find that people most frequently raise that particularly topic with me when I have just found out that there is nothing to eat where ever we are and I am starving... If not, they seem to just try to find inconsistencies in my behaviour as though to attack their perception that somehow I have made a silent 'statement' that I am perfect and it is their job to prove otherwise.

As you put it, it is mostly about their insecurities, not about me at all.

I have decided that in future I will simply say to people - I have not tried to enforce my lifestyle choices on you and therefore do not feel obligated to defend them to you. Do you feel obligated to defend your lifestyle choices to me? And to leave it at that. When I try to enter those kinds of conversations, I always end up feeling attacked, defensive and bitter.

Good luck though Kirsty, it was good to read about someone else's experiences with this issue.

tekanji said...

You know, I'm practically a carnivore and I want to punch your co-worker in the face (not really, but I would like to give him a good talking-to). If it's worth it to you to go through a bunch of shit in a world not designed for anything but omnivores, then it's none of his fucking business.

what you won't have a little bit of mayo?

Grr. I, who practically throws up every time I eat more than a dab of mayo, get that kind of sentiment, too. At least they shut up when I mention puking.

what you won't have a little bit of fish sauce, chicken stock, minced meat etc etc?

Wait, I thought that guy was a vegitarian?

To me it seems like a lose lose situation. I figure if is say nothing or choose not to discuss it then they think they are right and frankly veganism doesn't get a fair hearing.

That's how I feel about feminism and my friends (mostly males; the females tend to at least listen and think about what I've said). I'm so sick of trying to get them to understand why things they say/do are privileged and harmful to me and their other friends. If I say nothing, they won't know any better. If I do say something, though, it just makes me angry at them and they still learned nothing.

My solution has been to cut them out of my life, although not entirely for the above reason. That's not realistic, feasible, or desireable in your case :<

I should have realised then that i what did insensitively was made him feel like i was attacking his lifestyle

Yeah, but it's childish to take it out on you the way he did. When my family says inappropriate shit, I call them on it. Usually sparks a fight where I'm told to grow a "thicker skin", but I refuse to stoop to their level and say offensive things to them in return. My dad has learned to watch his mouth around me, and they can, too. Maybe they'll even learn something about how it's good to think about someone other than themselves.

Bottom line: If your co-woker was offended by your comment, he should have said so. Not oppressed you like he's been oppressed. That's never ok.

Same basic idea goes for your acquaintence. I can understand projecting, I do it all the time, but I've tried to teach myself to always approach my friends' 'problems' (true or ones I see) with respect and caution. Because I will project, but it's my job not to be an ass to them about it. And to acknowledge it if they call me on it, and not bring it up again if they don't find it relevant.

The thing is, it in actual fact MY life and MY choices.


PS. Do you mind if I add this link to my post on why we aren't equal? I think it perfectly illustrates my point about women speaking their minds.

kristy said...

christy, normally i would say to someone if you really want to discuss it then lets wait til we are not eating. People are more defensive when they are eating. Mind you in this case, i was eating and he about ot start eating soon but maybe thats enough of a time to be sensitive. However co-worker B though is also a friend and a vegetarian at that, i honestly had no idea that the discussion would turn into a never ending attack to make him feel better or whatever it was. Btw, hows hong kong? I should have recommended some kick ass vegetarian restaurants to you.

tekanji, "what you won't have a little bit of fish sauce, chicken stock, minced meat etc etc?"

Is me saying to co-worker B that him saying the stuff about the mayo is basically the same. He didn't seem to see the similarity though.

"My solution has been to cut them out of my life, although not entirely for the above reason. That's not realistic, feasible, or desireable in your case :<"

I can understand the temptation. I have a fairly good group of friends who i regularly socialise with who really don't care about my veganism. Perhaps because i've been vegan for four years and well its old news. Also, because they are open minded, mature, intelligent and sensitive individuals.

As i get older too the more i realise that i just simply don't want to waste time with negative people and so i have in the past stopped associating with such people.

Actually when he said something about it being anti-social, i actually said to him 'what i'm not social?' to which he had to agree that I was, only to say but your friends are understanding. I can't help but think that is part of it, my friends don't hassle me they respect my choices as i respect theirs, in fact most of them will happily go check out whatever veg restuarant i am going to at the time and enjoy their meal even without the meat. His friends i imagine though being male, and younger are perhaps more challenging on him being a vegeterian, and therefore he just got it off his chest exactly how others treat him. Not that it makes it right however.

Go ahead post away. In fact when i was writing it up the part about being seen as emotional/over opinionated etc i was thinking about one of the things on your 'think women have achieved equality...' list: 'women can not express anger without the real thrill of being accussed of "hysterics" or being "shrill". I really do feel that a lot of how i am being seen is also about me having an opinion and being a women.

Perhaps in addition to eating a little bit of mayo, fish or whatever and i should just agree with everyone on everything which is not considered mainstream: the environment, music, feminism and a whole lot of other social issues. As well as agreeing to everything everyone says. I could smoke when others do, and just basically echo their behaviour and that way i'm never makes other uncomfortable with MY life choices. Hell maybe socially i'll just become a different person

Minna said...

as a friend of mine often says: "help! help! validate my life choices by repeating them!"

River said...

God, I completely agree with you, well put. I give up even telling people I'm vegetarian, so when it comes out they all "Oh! Oh my God! I never knew!" Yeah, and you don't know how many people I've slept with, my blood type, if I like marmite, what I vote... I just don't understand why it's still such a big deal. I've been vegetarian all my life and I was bullied at school, I don't see why I'm still pestered about it now.