Bodyshaming marginalises fat vegans, it makes them feel unwelcome in the movement. It is also not effective, and even counterproductive. Focus on the animal rights issue. Not on shaming people for their appearance.
This is part of my talk at VegFestUk, which was held on October 27-28, 2018 in London.
Bodyshaming in the vegan movement, Geertrui Cazaux.
Video has English subtitles (put on subtitles in Youtube).
Transcript of video:
“And then, the body-shaming in the movement. Body-shaming mostly comes down to fat-shaming. So shaming people for being fat, and there’s a lot of that going around unfortunately in the vegan movement. Vegans come in all size and shapes. Yes, on average vegans do have a lower BMI, but that does not mean all vegans are thin, and that all non-vegans are fat or have more body weight. A vegan diet is also no guarantee for weight loss. So as I told you, in the beginning, I have several auto-immune diseases, and my weight in the last couple, in the last 30 years has yoyo-ed up and down in a range of just as many kilos, so in a span of 30 kilos. So sometimes in a couple of months it’s like 15 kilos up, and then in a couple of months it’s like 10 kilos down, and yoyo up and down, so that’s been my story the last 30 years. Euhm. And the ironic thing is that when I have size 36, when I actually only weigh like 50 kilos or something, people come to me and .. ah you look so good! But that’s actually when I am really sick, when I have a flare. So always when I lose weight people will congratulate me on how good I look. But I don’t want to lose any weight. When I go on the scale and I see it’s dropping a couple of kilos I’m actually, nonono, don’t go that road, I want to keep my weight. So there’s no 1 to 1 relationship between health and body size, that doesn’t always apply. So being skinny or thin does not automatically mean that one is healthy, or that one is more healthy than people with a higher BMI. So there is no 1 to 1 causal relation with respect to weight and many diseases. So .. here are a couple of examples about .. of body-shaming in the movement. I’m sure you’ve seen some of them circulate on social media. For example the Santorini donkeys. That picture of that lady has been doing the rounds for years. And actually that’s not a picture of in Santorini, but it was from in Jordan I believe. But it’s always often used that picture. When you put out a picture like that for an animal rights campaign, it doesn’t put the focus on animal rights. But it puts the focus on the fat people, and you will immediately also have a lot of fat-shaming comments that follow of course. Oh look at the fat, she should get her ass of and blabla. It … we don’t think about the animal rights issue anymore. And the message that you give is: oh, if just the fat people don’t ride the donkeys anymore, then the problem is solved. If it is just the thin people that ride the donkeys, then the problem is solved. But that should not be our message. We should focus on the animal rights message. And say that we should stop the donkey rides, thin people, fat people, all people, we shouldn’t be riding donkeys anyway.
So I have a couple of examples. I’m sure you’ve seen some of them. It’s always portraying the non-vegans as being fat, and making them the laughing stock.
On the left it says, but son that can’t be healthy. And then on the right. A fierce carnivore on top of the food chain devouring its prey. Another example. Those on the bottom. You can just as well eat those vegan you know. vegan hamburger, vegan fries, vegan drinks. And this is an example that ..euh. Those types of examples also come up a lot. It frames Westerners, non-vegans then, they portray them as non-vegans, bigger people, against malnourished people, often Africans, black people, but here again, the issue with this are that not all non-vegans are thick, are fat, and eating vegan is no guarantee for losing weight. And even if all Westerners, if we all would adopt a vegan diet, there would still be famine and also food shortage for many people, because of the capitalist system and how food distribution is organised. How wealth is accumelated in the hands of some. So we vegan, we, all of us, vegans and non-vegans we are all to blame for famine in other places of the world. Because we depend on cheap raw materials to make all our products, because we exploit them with cheap labour, yes also because we steal their crops, not only to feed animals, but also to feed ourselves. Even as vegans we import a lot of food from those areas in the world.
So the problems with body-shaming, with fat-shaming, is that it marginalises fat vegans. It makes them feel unwelcome in the movement. And also it’s not effective. Body-shaming is not only not effective, but it’s also even counterproductive, because it can even be damaging to mental health. It can contribute to the development of eating disorders, it gives people a negative self-image, and it drops to … it adds to dropped self-esteem. So the core message that I would like to give is: focus on the animal rights issue, not on singling out people because of their appearance. So I have a quote here. It’s not my quote, but I think, it was such a good quote: being vegan is what is in our hearts, not what is in our hips.
I think that was very fitting.”
The full talk is available here:
Ableism, Bodyshaming and healthshaming. On intersections and inclusiveness.
Presented at VegfestUK, London, October 27, 2018.