Veganism, as it was originally intended to be, is dead.
Maybe it never existed in the first place.

Post-veganism is a reflection about what it means to be a vegan,
now that the word has completely lost its meaning in the dominant culture.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Formal Education of Veganism

One of the things I enjoy most about my feminism class is that I learn a lot about veganism, even though the v word is never mentioned. I grew up assuming feminists were women who were ranting and raving about rights we already had for no reason. They were aggressive bitches getting in the way of the world. Somehow I just knew that was the way things were. When I first went vegetarian I abandoned that idea, but only because I was now labeled as the aggressive other and could sympathize with other minority social groups; it was not because I actually understood feminism. Then my boyfriend's aunt got me a subscription to Bitch and I was introduced to a very different world for the first time.

Feminism, to me, is a rejection of the status quo. It often questions the universities it is taught in and appears to encourage the women at my school to vandalize the bathrooms (we actually have advertisements in our bathrooms which is an invasion of my personal space, but I feel inspired every time I see that permanent marker graffiti saying that the ads are sexist, women don't look like that, stop calling other women sluts, self love etc.). I'm always baffled that such an extreme and radical idea, that is still largely criticized by society as not necessary or important, is taught at all let alone the fact that it's a program you can get your bachelor, masters or PhD in.

Then there comes the feminist art. Oh gosh the feminist art. In the 70s feminist artists created an art school for females only and took over an abandoned mansion in California and turned it into an art exhibit that is still around today. Women put paint brushes in their vaginas, cut holes in their pants and verbally assaulted misogynists, took pictures of their tampons and the list goes on. Oh the interesting things I learned. How grotesque it was, I'm not sure if it's all forward or even which way it's going but it's wild and it's new and it's feminist and people actually pay money for it. A mainstream art gallery actually built a whole new wing to house a feminist sculpture which played on the imaginary dinner party theme but on the plate of each guest there was a depiction of her mythical vagina. When the art first came out there were line ups around the block to see it. Perhaps you may not agree with all of it, I'm not sure if I do, but the point I'm trying to make is look how out of the box this is and how much society hates it but people pay to learn about it in schools and to see it in galleries.

Which is of course where veganism comes in. Veganism is just as radical, according to society, as feminists. They are both the absurd idea that someone doesn't have rights, when society would love to tell us they have plenty rights enough. They are both loud, outrageous, and often rely on the grotesque to get their message across. It fills me with hope.

While I look in my classrooms today I can't imagine a single person that would enroll in the history of veganism, or vegan culture. Then again, when I look around my always full first year feminist class of over 200 I don't expect any of them to be there either. While we definitely have a long way to go (I'm still shocked every time I meet someone who doesn't know what a vegan is) there are people that think we don't need to be all the way there before we start to publicly educate about where we're going. I think bringing veganism into the universities is a real step that would legitimize it as more than a personal choice or a diet option. In the universities it might be seen as a real fight for rights, and then of course trickle down through society through the media that loves to take our most profound ideas, dilute them, and sell them back to us as lifestyles. All the same, while they never say the v word in my feminist classes I'm always reminded that one day if I fight for long enough I might have this.

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