The internet is a weird and wonderful place. My online presence, and anyone's online presence, is necessarily flat. How we define ourselves online is how the world sees us, whether or not it's authentic is an entirely different story. In my social bios I usually define myself as a: Runner | Writer | Vegan | Feminist. All of these terms can be loaded and meaningful in their own ways, and truthfully, cause many people to dislike me right off the bat. (Conversely, these labels can cause many people to love me right off the bat too, which is equally bizarre).
People assume vegans shame other's for eating meat. People assume writers are long-winded and superfluous and always in their heads. People assume runners only talk about running, and people assume feminists hate all men. At the same time, people might think vegans are health-conscious and care about the planet. They might think writers are smart and fun to be around. They might like to talk about running, and they might also think misogyny sucks. Any way you cut it, people are going to think what they're going to think, and changing anyone's mind is an uphill, often futile battle.
So, when I recently received a snide comment from a meat-eating-non-feminist about, "caring more about cattle than unborn babies," I didn't try to change their minds. After all, it does seem strange to advocate non-violence toward animals then turn around and declare that reproductive rights need to include abortion. I can see the surface-level disconnect, and the deeper nuance tied to both issues. I can also see that both issues are separate and not necessarily related. I can ALSO admit that the answer to any problem is probably not on either end of the spectrum, but somewhere in the middle. If the world were black and white, issues like this wouldn't be so goddamn challenging. So, given this lovely backstory, here is how and why I identify as a pro-choice vegan, and the odd difficulty of subverting or upending labels.
"Pro-life" and "pro-choice" are dicey labels to begin with. Who wouldn't want to identify as pro-life? But pro-choice is pro-life in a way, because we're granting people the right to choose when and whether to have children. It would be an enormous disservice to an unwanted child to bring it into this cruel and combative world. Pro-choice advocates wouldn't necessarily have an abortion themselves, but we believe that having autonomy over one's body is an inherent and inextricable human right. The loud, feminist part of my brain wants very badly to point out that nobody is legislating male bodies (read my real, feminist thoughts about abortion here).
In that post, I wrote, "Someone pointed out that, since I’m vegan, I should adopt a pro-life stance because the lives of humans are arguably more valuable than the lives of cattle, chickens, or pigs. Conversely, I argued that given that logic, every pro-lifer out there should be vegan. If they cared so much about life, it seems that all lives would matter. If there’s one thing that’s blatantly obvious, it’s that the world we live in doesn’t care about all lives."
Reproductive rights are essential for achieving gender equality, and gender equality is essential for achieving any equality. The primary reason I identify as pro-choice is because women deserve birth control. We deserve abortion care that isn't done in secret, compromising our health. We deserve to choose when and how we have children, and for those decision to not impact our work lives. None of this is much to ask.
Veganism is almost an entirely separate conversation. I don't want animals to be brutally murdered, but that doesn't make me special, that just makes me an empathetic, considerate human. Veganism has millions of health benefits, it's better for the planet, and it saves animals from unnecessary pain. I also don't want babies to be murdered, and abortion would never be my recourse. But veganism cannot and should not be forced on anyone, and neither should parenthood.
When someone pointed out seeming dichotomy of the labels I use to define myself, I was forced to re-evaluate the person I want to show the world. People will tear people down no matter what, and I've placed myself in the public domain, where anyone can say anything with little to no repercussions. I'd like my little corner of the internet (I know that's not how the internet works) to reflect thoughtfulness, nuance, kindness, and space.
Thoughtfulness, in the way myself and those around me conduct our lives.
Nuance, in that we understand that nothing is ever, ever, black and white.
Kindness, because that is what each of us, at our very core, crave more than anything.
Space to be heard, to be challenged, to grow, and to be accepted regardless of anything.
But, all of that is too long for by Instagram Bio, so I will remain: Runner | Writer | Vegan | Feminist.
P.S. A few of my favorite feminists include Roxane Gay and Deborah Frances-White. Some of my favorite vegan resources include The China Study (a classic), Rich Roll, and the Badass Vegan (John Lewis).