Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to Succeed in Offending Other Vegans Without Even Trying…


You wouldn’t know it from the title of this blog but I am a born pleaser. When the people around me are pleased, I feel that I am safe. It is as simple as that. Growing up, I believed that if I could just control certain particulars better, I could effectively banish conflict from our home. Of course this wasn’t true: drinkers are going to drink and ragers are going to rage despite our most concerted efforts to control the choices that other people make. Even though my default setting was to try to make the people around me happy, I experienced enough at a young age to know that despite trying my hardest to please, to be funny and to defuse tension, it was just not always possible. In many ways, living part of my life in the public sphere of the online world is the perfect experiential laboratory to see how I am doing with letting go of the deeply ingrained habit that tells me if I just please enough, everything will be okay. Today, having a front row seat to observing the superfluity of ways that people can get offended and pissed off about the most trivial of matters, I can see that I am doing pretty well with letting go of my need to please and I’m doing better all the time.

Take the vegan community, for example. I’m not claiming that there was harmony in the vegan movement before the online world smashed into our lives like a flaming meteor of clashing opinions and highly chagrined conflict direct from the planet Vega, but I don’t think anyone could have quite grasped the vast profusion of ways in which we can and do offend one another until more recent years. Of course, this is not limited to vegans: every day, I am learning that even the most benign, lighthearted content is rife with potential for offending as many sets of eyes that come across it from a multitude of vantage points. On Facebook, I try to balance my “we are careening into cataclysmic, planetary ruin” posts with a few good dollops of frothy frivolity but, as I learned from posting this video
only to hear someone take a righteous stand against the unconscionable practice of growing ornamental gourds, putting anything out into a sphere where humans can interact, ideally without personal consequences, there will be no shortage of opportunities for finding and voicing umbrage. Facebook in particular is like pulling into a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet for those who are hungry for fodder that aggrieves, offends and outrages them and for pleasers like me, it’s an excellent practicum for letting go of our need to be liked.

From my fellow vegans, for example, I have learned that the various ways I can offend include but are not limited to the following and I have also decided that it no longer matters to me:

1. If I am perceived as a welfarist vegan.
2. If I am perceived as an abolitionist vegan.
3. If I am perceived as a pacifist.
4. If I am perceived as violent.
5. If I am perceived as not defining myself as being in one camp or the other enough.  
6. If I am perceived as being too lighthearted.
7. If I am perceived as being too stern.
8. If I am perceived as either of these too much or too little.
9. If I am perceived as being vegan for reasons other than deemed acceptable.
10. If I am perceived as being too accommodating with my advocacy.
11. If I am perceived as being too uncompromising with my advocacy.
12. If I am perceived as being a consumerist vegan.
13. If I am perceived as being an anarchist vegan.
14. If I am perceived as being too liberal.
15. If I am perceived as being too conservative.
16. If I am perceived as being politically hard to define.
17. If I eat what is considered junk food.
18. If I eat what is considered too healthy.
19. If I am perceived as a good role model.
20. If I am perceived as a bad role model.
21. If I am perceived as being too mainstream in appearance.
22. If I am perceived as being not mainstream enough in appearance.
23. If I am perceived as being too much of a feminist.
24. If I am perceived as not being quite feminist enough.
25. If I am perceived as posting too much “fluff” on social media.
26. If I am perceived as posting too much upsetting material on social media.
27. If I am not enough of a high-carb vegan.
28. If I am not enough of a low-carb vegan.
29. If I am kind of like “???” about why the previous two points matter all that much.
30. If I think Gary Yourofsky and/or Gary Francione are heroes.
31. If I think Gary Yourofsky and/or Gary Francione are assholes.
32. If I am uncertain about the above.
33. If I think one is an asshole and the other is a hero.
34. If I genuinely do not care.

I have decided that I don’t give a fig anymore. People looking for material to be offended about will find ample examples of what they are looking for, that much I know.

I have to wonder, with so many opportunities for finding offense with each other, do we even have time anymore for changing the world? Maybe it’s easier just to nitpick one another about whether coconut oil is health-promoting or the decision to date non-vegans than to tackle more significant subjects; I’ve even seen a comment thread numbering in the hundreds of responses (which you know is going to be train-wreck territory) about the absolutely indisputably correct way to bag groceries. Apparently schooling each other how to bag groceries or the correct ratio of carbs to protein and fat (“You eat fat?!” huffs an offended vegan) is worth spending our time on when more than 50 billion land animals are suffering and slaughtered each year worldwide and our planet is on a collision course with irreversible ecological ruin because of it.

These things have helped me to learn that pleasing everyone a) is not possible and b) is not in my or the animals’ best interests. So I am done. If nothing else, having strangers offer their unsolicited opinions about me has done for me what growing up in a dysfunctional home could not: break my need to please. So thank you. I no longer need to please anyone because I am in it for the animals. If this offends anyone, well, sorry. (No, I’m not.)



proud womon said...

yay marla... thank you, i don't give a shit about offending either!!!

Have Gone Vegan said...

Excellent! This post pleases me to no end. Not that that matters. ;)

Glue and Glitter said...

This was so, so good. You put words to something that has been bothering me a lot lately. Ever since someone slammed me for using an ingredient in a recipe that was made on shared equipment and - gasp! - CONTAINED A LOT OF SUGAR.

sproutbliss said...

Superb. I have felt the exact same way in recent months. I love your list!! Some day's I'm a high carb vegan, some days I think the Gary's are assholes, some days I love the Gary's. Thank you, thank you.

Julia Arnold said...

This was very comforting to read. I'm right there with you. Well said and thank you for it!

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