What It Means To Be A Non-Judgy Vegan
In case you were wondering...
The other day, I posted something that REALLY pissed people off.
This is not the first, nor probably the last time, this will happen.
Without recapping too much, I posted about the overlap of veganism and feminism. Yikes. Two polarizing topics if I've ever heard of any.
To be more specific, I posted, rather hastily and at the end of a long day, how I do not believe that one can care deeply about feminist issues, and still consume mainstream animal agriculture products. I believe this, as I explained, because it's female animals whose bodies we exploit for things like milk and egg production. Its female animals who factory farms artificially inseminate, over and over again, whose babies get ripped away moments after birth, over and over again, until their worn-out bodies are sent to slaughter. (These are facts - albeit upsetting ones.) And as a feminist, that means wanting equal treatment. To me, that extends beyond human beings, because I can't only want equal treatment for some living things...I find that hypocritical.
Now, as someone called "the non judgy vegan" who rarely focuses on animal rights or feminist issues, I expected my bold statement would ruffle some feathers. And truthfully, that's always fine with me. I saw an article about Natalie Portman giving a a speech to young people about the intersection of feminism and animal rights, so I shared the article plus some of my own tacked-on thoughts, hit post, and went back to cleaning up after dinner.
At first I got defensive and a little annoyed, because I'm human and an empathetic Pisces. But then I got to thinking.
And honestly? Good question. Let me explain.
By calling myself "the non judgy vegan," what I mean is:
I realize that change takes time.
I myself took 23 years to go vegan.
I never thought I would. But I did.
I appluad people who cut out meat just once a week.
Or who use almond milk instead of dairy in their coffee.
Or who are trying, in a small way.
Or who say they will never go vegan, yet are still open to learn the facts.
I realize that change happens from empowering others, not belittling them.
And that change happens very slowly, one person at a time.
So instead, I do my part to share veganism in an empowering, positive way.
I believe that it is my obligation and responsibility to show people how fun, easy, and enjoyable veganism is. NOT to use upsetting, sad, and violent images or fear-provoking facts to scare them into changing, because I don't believe this is how change happens.
Ultimately what being "the non judgy vegan" means to me, is that I strive to be the very opposite of the "angry vegan" stereotype who trolls Facebook groups, calling non-vegans names, screaming about how non-vegans should be ashamed of themselves or worse, or who simply preaches veganism night and day without giving their audience any real, tangible action steps they can take.
I can't think of one instance where that style of veganism has done anything but piss people off or make them roll their eyes.
And usually, I think a lot of people get my stance. And hopefully agree, that encouraging people to take small steps, praising them for those steps, and empowering them that they can eat delicious food (Oreos are vegan!) and that they are making a difference is far more likely to enact change, vs. screaming "holier/vegan-er than thou" rhetoric and posting slaughterhouse footage daily.
What confused people with my post, understandably, is that they thought because I am "non judgy," that perhaps I don't have strong opinions. I think some people perhaps confused the compassionate and non-judgmental approach I strive for, with being a doormat.
And lets be clear: I think the whole world should, and really must, go at least partially vegan. All the data shows it's our best approach to combat the devastating effects of climate change, which we have barely more than a decade to turn around. The data tie and time again shows eating more plants to be healthier. I don't think anyone disagrees that modern factory farming is cruel to the animals, just as it is to the human employees.
And just because I am "non judgy," doesn't mean I believe these facts with any less passion or conviction than the angriest and most militantly outspoken vegan. I just choose to express myself differently.
This issue really got me to thinking. At first I admit, I was hurt, and questioned the appropriateness of my post. I thought for a second, am I being judgmental? Should I "feel ashamed of myself" as one commenter demanded?
But ultimately, I don't think it's judgemental to point out unpleasant truths.
And I'm not ashamed of my post.
And I'm not writing this now just to defend myself, believe me, but to hopefully make you think a tiny bit too, about the way we communicate and try to persuade.
Coercion? That's the opposite. Name-calling, thinking you're better than the next human, or trying to make another person feel lesser than? That's never ok, no matter what issue you're talking about. What's more, it never makes people change--not in a real way. It may scare them into "changing" or following blindly, but it doesn't truly change anyone's opinions or beliefs.
So is it judgy to say unpleasant facts out loud? To make people think? To bring up ugly things we'd rather ignore? I don't think so. I think that's brave.I think back to all the times someone called me out on my crap--all the bad essays I could have written better, all the times I messed up at a job or in school or in a relationship. I've often gotten hurt when parents/teachers/friends/partners called me out on my mistakes, but I've also often changed and bettered myself because of it.
Like when I was told "you can't be an environmentalist and still eat animal products." At first I got angry and defensive. But then it woke me up, and I went vegan the next day.
So after many hours of thinking, I think I figured it out.
You can be non-judgmental, you can be kind, you can realize that everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have, in that moment, and still have very strong opinions. You can still speak your mind. People won't like it sometimes, you may lose some social media friends and even real life ones, and that's okay.
So i'm still here and I'll always be the non judgy vegan. You can come to me with any questions, you can tell me how delicious your cheese pizza is, or your steak, and I won't be offended. I will wish you were vegan, sure, but I won't force my opinions down your throat or curse you out, because I'm a decent human being - and that has nothing to do with being vegan or not. If you eat meat and call yourself a feminist, just to touch on that original post, I don't think you're a horrible person. I didn't know any better for years and years. I would have probably been pissed off at my post at first too--but it might have planted a seed in my head, and I might have gone out there and educated myself further--and that's something I think we all should do.
So, maybe you also speak a little softly. Maybe you went through all of school without raising your hand, even though you knew the answer. Maybe your preferred style of activism is baking a cake for a friend and then blowing their mind when they realize you made it vegan.
Maybe it will take you a long time to find your voice or courage to share your beliefs at all. Maybe you have moments where you're bold and outspoken, and then go months without speaking up. Maybe you don't want to be the boldest or brashest or the activist in your friend group. But I bet you have some strong thoughts inside your head, whether you speak them outloud or not. and I hope you know that you can.
Even if you whisper them. Because when the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful--and I think, especially if that voice is kind and compassionate.
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