Monday, 15 June 2009

the disconnect of veganism; continuous othering

There's an interesting post at Vegans of Colour on how veganism may disconnect a vegan from their culture: Veganism and Cultures of Origin. In the first year or so, I felt very distanced from the sharing/togetherness of festivals. Getting used to fake-meat products as substitution has definitely helped decrease that distance, particularly as due to their original purpose (as substitute at religious festivals where no meat is eaten) they are tasty and easy to substitute, so often now at festivals we don't have "this is the meat version, this is the veggie version;" instead we have "here are all the dishes," and D and I get to share in the passing of food around the table, in the sharing and the complimenting and the fighting over the last piece. And we get to share in the superstition, the fish for abundance and the duck for prosperity and so on, and these are some of the most important elements of how we propagate our traditions.

Being vegan now highlights and emphasises the difference - as mixed-race, particularly as someone who spent her formative years in Australia, I'm often considered not Chinese enough. Now that I don't eat meat (and don't eat egg tarts), I'm frequently considered not-Chinese enough, and though I've spent years working hard to define my own identity, to be as Chinese and as Anglo and as Australian as I want to be, sometimes being told I'm 'completely westernised' by someone is incredibly demoralising.

I've blogged before about how vegetarianism/veganism is often spoken of as an "ethnic" thing, Asian or African or something "exotic." You can be vegan or not, regardless of your ethnicity, regardless of your cultural background, but it's approached, particularly in Western media and blogging circles, as something that only "ethnic" food lends itself to (and oh, how I hate that word in this context). So it was particularly galling to read an article that was both homophobic as well as othering to the food I grew up with as Chinese, and that I eat a lot of now as vegan, the article is Soy is making kids 'gay.' It's hardly from a reputable source, but galling and othering all the same.

It's like everywhere I turn, as a Chinese vegan, there is an opportunity for me to be categorised as other. It's not as awesome as you might think.

reunion dinner: fish = plenty

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What dish is in the photo? It looks awesome! Also, if all these things that are supposedly making our kids gay were really making our kids gay, there'd be more gay people! Ah, I live in hope...

Cheers
cgb

steph said...

It's mock fish, my mum bought it from Lotus. It's delicious.

Theresa said...

I'm sorry that you have to deal with that everywhere you turn. That sucks. The article is hideous, too.

steph said...

Theresa, you sort of (DEPRESSING AS THIS SOUNDS) get used to it. I just hope that sometimes people read this and understand what I'm trying to say!

Kathryn said...

very intelligent post. it really spoke to me. i hope you find a happy medium in reconciling your cultural ethnicity with your passion for veganism. i know it can be tough. xo

Mandee said...

I'm sorry you have to "put up with" it all the time and that article is ridiculous!

Alberta Bean said...

I know how you feel. My family is Eastern European (from the rural Caucasus)and they are ALWAYS asking me when I'm going to eat "normally" again. Also at holidays, animal dishes are a staple. I tried to substitute a fish recipe for a vegetarian one I found online.... I didn't have as much luck as you apparently are having. And yeah, maybe one day we won't have to be "used to it".

steph said...

thanks everyone for commenting! (oh I'm so bad at replying... :o( )