I am a vegan and a feminist and it is not my responsibility to convert you

mariah-bouillaut

Being an opinionated vegan feminist who speaks openly about her beliefs, I tend to get a few messages sent my way every now and then from people who seemingly want to hear about said beliefs. With what at first appear to be good intentions, individuals request my perspective with the openness that might suggest that they genuinely want more information.

I’m here to call this out as a tactic commonly used by people (usually men) who are already firmly set in their own beliefs, whose goal is only to argue with and undermine you. They seem to feel entitled to have you try and change their minds, and if (or rather, when) you do not succeed in doing so, then your argument apparently becomes invalid, according to them. It’s quite a bizarre phenomenon. To all my fellow activists out there: beware! Don’t waste your time.

mariah-bouillaut

I am all for an impassioned debate. But the key ingredient missing in these interactions is respect. When you use undermining, derailing and patronising ploys; that’s when I’ll tap out. You clearly don’t see me as a human being and have entered full-blown keyboard-smashing warrior mode. Unfortunately, online debates can often take a sudden turn into abusive territory as technology tends to dehumanise people. A person with a different opinion to you may no longer come across as a human who is deserving of empathy when they are represented by a profile picture and an animated ellipsis.

For the modern day activist, a great deal of action must take place online. It’s necessary and unavoidable. This is simply how voices are being heard today and to not be represented online is to not be represented at all. To “log off” (whatever that means) is to silence your voice and that is exactly what the torrents of abuse and threats from trolls seek to actualise.

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I have been vegetarian since I was 15 (and more recently vegan) and I tend to avoid engaging in discussions on animals rights with non-vegans because I never considered myself an activist. To be quite frank, at age 15 I didn’t have the vocabulary or the confidence, and nor was I articulate enough to express to others why I made my dietary choices. I usually just got flustered and red in the face; frustrated at myself for not being able to communicate my truth. I called myself a “bad vegetarian” because I wasn’t able to spin off facts and statistics at the drop of a hat at family dinners.

My vegetarianism/veganism was always a very personal choice so I could live happily with myself. I was never out to convince anyone because I knew people just wanted to argue with me and in most cases, this was due to their own guilt and desire to self-affirm their own choices (or lack thereof).

Today, most people seem to be pretty educated on the exploitation and disempowerment that we inflict on animals and I can see that the world is inevitably on it’s way to becoming vegan. It’s a bit hard not to be woke on this front and if you’re not… then that is so beyond me.

hi-im-patrick-and-i-live-under-a-rock

Violence against women and girls, on the other hand, is vastly misunderstood, underestimated and underplayed in our society. Every single woman on this planet has her own story of sexual assault; whether it be her own or a loved one’s. Intimate partner violence is the number one health risk factor for women. For men, it is heart disease.

Not unlike becoming vegetarian and then vegan to be able to live with myself, I am a feminist activist for the same reason. How could I look any of my female friends or family members, my trans sisters in the eye and not fight for their equality? How could I have any self worth or self respect and not fight for my own? How could I watch the men in my life, unable to express their emotions, struggle with toxic masculinity and depression, only to see them be met with ridicule? Deaths by suicide in Australia occur among men at a rate three times greater than that for women. With no utopia in sight, I choose activism.

This is a global fight. Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” This is the quote that drives me. Australia is a relative utopia in contrast to many other parts of the world, but that is not to say that we still don’t have a great deal of work to get started on here. We must fight for our sisters across the globe and at home; we must cross religious and cultural divides wherever we find them.

To do anything against the status quo and be loud and proud about it is to be met with backlash. But the status quo is a complete shit show. I refuse to get into never ending online arguments that just go around in circles. Think about all of the men’s tears I could’ve been drinking with that wasted time.

mariah-bouillaut

Once again, I am not out there to change anyone’s minds. That might be a pleasant bonus along the way. I’m out there to make people aware, who may have previously been unaware, of what’s going on. I am out there to make political statements to raise awareness.

We don’t talk about everyday sexism and the rate of violence against women enough and most do not comprehend its vastness nor how commonplace it is. It is happening to us. We are allowing it to happen in our complacency. It is happening under, in and around our noses. It is not okay.

mariah-bouillaut

 

I’m staging a theatrical benefit to end the violence against women and girls and raise money for Elizabeth Morgan’s House for Aboriginal women. For more info and to donate to the campaign click here!

Featured image: Women’s march in Northwest Washington by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

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