“If you’re a vegan, why are you so fat?”
This is not an uncommon question for me at vegan or animal rights events. In fact, I’ve been to few events where my weight as a vegan hasn’t been questioned or criticized. This has sometimes made me wonder whether I belong in this movement at all.
While writing an article
recently about being body-shamed as a vegan, I agonized over what the response would be. After I’d worked seven years at animal rights organizations, would activists refuse to work with me again because I’d called them out? Would those who’ve body-shamed me or other vegans find a way to justify it? Would other vegans disregard or invalidate my feelings? Was I giving non-vegans an excuse not to join our community by talking about the negativity in the movement?
I worried about some of the activists I worked with back in New York. I knew they were filled with compassion for animals, but I wondered whether they would reassure me that my feelings were valid and worth being heard. Would they think I was just being dramatic?
Before the article was published, I spent the night anxiously wondering who was going to read it: My parents? My best friends? My ex? My co-workers? What would they all think?
“But if my honesty touches just one person, it would be worth it,” I repeated to myself.
I was not expecting the reactions the article provoked.
Of course, some commented that “vegans should be walking billboards for health,” insinuating that I didn’t fit that mold. But to my shock, such comments were few and far between. In fact, I was most surprised by the number of people who turned my words into a conversation.
That last one was exactly what I’d hoped to hear.
After the article was published, I started getting messages on Facebook and Twitter from vegans telling me that people were talking about my article in their meetup groups. They were thanking me for speaking up for people who felt just like me and spreading awareness of this issue in our movement. More than 4,000 people shared my article on Facebook alone. The conversation had started, and while some negative comments appeared, I knew I was not alone in my struggle.
Because of tweets like yours, Chloe, leaving the movement is not even a thought for me anymore.
This outpouring of love reaffirmed an important fact: The vegan community is one of compassion. Don’t get me wrong—body shaming is still a real issue in our community—but I now believe it isn’t done out of hate so much as ignorance. This experience has reminded me that most vegans live as we do because we strive to do better. We all have a responsibility to call out ignorance or bigotry where we see it, especially in the animal rights movement. We are a community of compassionate people—and compassion should never be weakened by exclusion.
I now realize I don’t have to worry about being rejected or having my feelings invalidated. My activist and vegan friends stood behind every word I wrote while reassuring me that I was vital to their decision to become or stay vegan.
While there will always be those who feel the need to tear others down, the support I received drowned the negative comments in waves of love. The vegan community has proved to me once again that fighting for animals and living a life of compassion are our most important values. We can do more for animals when we support each other.
Thank you for helping me remember that.