Not to See Myself, but to See…

The movement veganism has gained huge popularity in recent years. In Britain there are around 542,000 people alone who follow this lifestyle. The uptake of veganism is primarily by millennials, who are largely differentiated from the baby bloomers by their attitudes and perspectives of the world. Generally speaking, millennials can be defined as a ‘green generation’ as they are more concerned about their impact on the environment, including how sustainable they are.

The vegan movement is a cultural movement that is tied closely to the animal rights and environmental movements. The uptake of these movements is likely to be due to the huge amount of information that is available on the Internet on the treatment of animals and the inhumane ways in which they are treated, as well as the impact of the meat and dairy industry on the natural world.

I became vegan in 2013 after being vegetarian for a few months. This was foremost because I watched the documentary ‘Earthlings’. This opened my eyes up to a world I has previously resisted from allowing myself to believe was real. This exposure to the reality of animal cruelty was my main concern for choosing to become a vegetarian. After I had got used to this lifestyle I felt that I was ready to eliminate all other products that derived from animals and to go vegan.

Not only does veganism benefit the environment and animals, but it also helped me mentally. Since I was 12 I have had different types of eating disorders, mainly restrictive eating and bulimia. When I became vegan I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. A cliché phrase to use, but this is literally what it felt like. All of the years I had spent obsessed with the idea of skinny and traumatised by calories were starting to diminish. I finally felt like I could eat again without having to worry about what I was eating. I was excited about cooking, and not simply for other people, but for myself. I remember the first meal I made was with a sweet potato. This was a huge achievement for me, because potatoes, or any carbs for that matter, were strictly off-limits. I was happy because I was a helping the world, rather than concerned about myself. I began to have a positive outlook on life.

Veganism has helped to shape other beliefs of mine also, such as feminism. I am a proud to be a woman and believe in the right, and fight, for equality between the genders. Since changing my lifestyle I have explored the various ways that you can be a feminist. Veganism and feminism have been combined by scholars to create the theory Ecofeminism, which is both an ideology and movement. In simple terms,  both feminism and veganism oppose hierarchies that are based on power. Just like the oppression of women is from patriarchal oppression, so is the oppression of animals and the natural world.

Ecofeminism is the concept that is apparent within my favourite book ‘Surfacing’ by Margaret Atwood. A quote from the protagonist towards the end of the story is: ‘Not to see myself, but to see’. The protagonist states this whilst she looks into a mirror, therefore showing the importance of the world that exists beyond our own mind and bodies. In other words, Atwood describes how you cannot chronically obsess over your body and engage with the world at the same time. I believe that veganism allows you to do the same. It highlights the importance of the natural world that is so easy to forget about when we are focused with ourselves.

So, veganism has enabled me to see beyond myself – to the world in which we all inhabit. It has allowed me to see more, to break free from the prison I was keeping myself trapped in. Most importantly, it has taught me to love myself and to treat myself with the same kindness that show towards the natural world.

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