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Has anyone read Lierre Keith's "the vegetarian myth"?

(78 Posts)
youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 13:44:46

And does anyone want to talk about feminism and vegetarianism?

I came across a line in a novel several years ago (as a post-vegetarian omnivore in a relationship with a vegetarian man - they always bring the steak to him) and the female 1st person protagonist (the author is male - another layer of confusion) expresses a political and ethical sympathy with vegetarianism, but is concerned that it is usually women who take it up, and says something about being unhappy about giving up high quality protein to the dominant, striding around gender (I paraphrase from memory)

Anyway I have thought a lot about food ethics and female hunger

I have never materially wanted for food but I have damaged myself and caused long crushing depression by being permanently hungry. How trivial, or frivolous, or vain, is real hunger, even in the rich western world, when it is insisted upon with real material and social sanctions, by a ruling class? And how self-indulgent am I being right now?

Let's talk about how we feel about ladies eating animals.

TheOrcHeadKeeper Fri 04-Oct-13 13:54:04

Let's talk about how we feel about ladies eating animals

I'm a feminist. I feel nothing about it in relation to gender specifically...

AutumnMadness Fri 04-Oct-13 14:02:17

I think it's fairly common knowledge that food is gendered. Blokes eat stake and chips, and ladies each lettuce and cake. A bloke eating a cupcake is obviously gay. A woman chucking down shots of vodka is naturally a slag. An interesting question would be where these stereotypes come from. But they do sound like a nice justification for the men to take the best food (in the context of scarcity).

Keepithidden Fri 04-Oct-13 14:02:28

Can you not get high quality vegetarian protein? I was under the impression it was relatively easy these days to maintain an equally good or bad diet no matter if you're ominovorous, vegetarian or even vegan.

There's a few Phds worth of debate/research in the women/hunger/feminism issues though.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 14:05:50

I hope you realise that that was an ironic use of "ladies"?

I am old. All young women were vegetarian in the 80s and early 90s. Well no, but many. They were very exercised about whether their copious eye make up had been tested on rabbits. And ate polystyrene pots of sand pie from places with names like Nettles and CowParsley. And were sad and sick and anorexic. Gross angry generalisation alert.

I am a feminist too and I am angry about female hunger and a disproportionate number of women using vegetarianism and veganism to disguise disordered eating. But maybe they don't any more now that atkins is the more mainstream way to achieve a patriarchy-sanctioned body.

Grennie Fri 04-Oct-13 15:27:02

I have seen women on the net advising each other to say they have a gluten intolerance as an excuse for disordered eating.

YoniTime Fri 04-Oct-13 16:05:58

I was one of those eating disordered vegetarian girls. There was a strong pressure from the animal right's community to become a vegeterian, and it was easy to convince young girls who had a lot of empathy for animals - and a problem with food.

Veganism, which was considered a little too extreme when I grew up, is very popular today with young women.

GretaGroovy Fri 04-Oct-13 16:13:49

I have never once considered vegetarianism as a sign of an eating disorder. As a teenager in the 80s, it was always a sign to me that someone was slightly better at being good than I could ever be (I've always loved meat). I'm actually quite horrified by the idea that it might be (yet another) form of control over food.

However I have no such qualms about dissing veganism, which I've always found to be practised by people who are slightly on the edge of a breakdown of sorts. sad

Incidentally I seem to be in a little bubble at the moment where nobody enjoys cake. Mainly they loathe the 'feminine' connotations, they don't identify with the whole cake culture/vintage teacups vibe. In addition there is the self-control issue. It's reasonably annoying to fancy a bit of cake and have other women turn their nose up at you it because they think choosing cake is girly.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:21:12


"veganism, which I've always found to be practised by people who are slightly on the edge of a breakdown of sorts. sad"

right! but Keith posits that the breakdown is caused by the veganism. I always thought that people looking for excuses to punish themselves took to veganism. But she says it leaves your brain lacking vital building blocks which leads, over time, obv, to poor mental health. including eating disorders.

I would prefer to believe that vegans are happy and healthy if they tell me so because I get very cross when happy healthy vegetarians insist that meat is unnecessary (I feel twitchy and angry as if they actually have the power to starve me, by suggesting I not eat the things I need). I honestly believe different people need different things. Vegetarianism - I really believe it works for some body types. Veganism - hmmmmm I have to believe them but... I have seen some very weird behaviour around food and some very unhappy seeming people.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:22:09

I have two girls and I don't have to face this yet as it has not occurred to them. If they want to go vegan I would be very very very worried.

DoItTooJulia Fri 04-Oct-13 16:23:21

Yy to gross angry generalisation alert!

I'm veggie and hav been since the 80s when I was a young girl. My entire family is vegetation: my mum, dad, step mum, sister, sons. No anorexia here!

I agree that men being veggies at one time was considered odd. My dad used to get stick for being a huge hulking veggie, but my DH or DCs haven't.

Also, I've been vegan for periods of time over the years and wasn't close to a breakdown. Far from it, I was the healthiest I'd been in a long time.

GretaGroovy Fri 04-Oct-13 16:28:09

That's interesting, I had never thought about it causing borderline mental health. I always assumed it was a symptom of the need to control/punish the self.

(I take the point about generalisations though!!)

I have had periods where I've been 'starving' through ill health (in hospital so monitored) and there really are no words to describe how slow, debilitated, depressed, disordered and anxious it makes you.

Grennie Fri 04-Oct-13 16:29:13

Some women are genuinely vegan because they care about animal rights. That is fine and I can see the argument for it.

Others use it as an excuse for disordered eating.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:31:25

DoItTooJulia, I wanted to hear from someone like you, to reassure myself they exist. I have been so miserable as vegetarian (for such a long time) I really need to believe that all vegetarians / vegans aren't that miserable.

I missed the posts from Autumn and Keepithidden.

Keep - it's not the same. Artificial veggie protein is, well, artificial and has all sorts of problems. Nutrition is an area in which attempting to take a reductionist point of view, or reverse-engineer success, is notoriously counter productive or dangerous. However (see later posts) I have to believe not all humans need protein in that sense. I know I do.

Autumn - yes. And:

sweet is for women
savoury is for men
women should not eat fat
Men should order a pudding, and the waiter should bring two spoons and give one to the woman with a knowing smirk
A woman who refuses a pudding thinks she is fat and should immediately be freventnly assured for 10 minutes that she is "tiny"
anything a pregnant woman eats is a legitimate subject of intense analysis for the whole table

bigmouthstrikesagain Fri 04-Oct-13 16:35:20

God this debate always bothers me as I am a vegetarian. I became vegetarian in the Late '80's and had to put up with [concerned face] "oh aren't you pale" blah blah blah ... From people. I am red haired, freckly being pale comes with territory and I eat very well. If others do not then it is not vegetarianism too blame but body image and control issues. I love food I do not diet and I have plenty of flesh on my big bones.

As a feminist I consider not wanting to over exploit animals for food as entirely in line with my philosophy. My husband is also vegetatarian as are our children. What they eat as adults will be up to them and I am keen to ensurr they eat well, on the whole they do.

As far as using vegetarianism to conceal eating disorders that may well happen and plenty of people have weird food/ conyrol issues. But I disagree that good quality proteins are missing from the veggie diet it is very easy these days to have a healthy balanced diet and also easy to have a poor meat based diet,

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:39:24

bigmouthstrikesagain, how old are your children? How do you feel about them possibly eating meat or fish from choice?

bigmouthstrikesagain Fri 04-Oct-13 16:42:07

Also it can depend on the individual I have always thrived on my diet and not missed meat. My sister was veggie for a short time and found she got sores round her mouth possibly from a lack of some vitamins she needed. So in her case returning to a diet including meat and fish was the right decision. I have found all my children are healthy bright and energetic. They are certainly not spindly.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 16:44:07

I totally agree, bigmouth, I really believe this varies hugely from individual.
btw it is not my experience that vegetarian = thin, on the contrary, for me a starch / grain / pulse based diet leads to bulk (as well as raging hunger, perhaps the two are connected!)

bigmouthstrikesagain Fri 04-Oct-13 16:44:53

As long as they don't expect me to cook meat for them it is up to them, once they are responsible for buying their own food. Currently they are 4,7 and 9.

I fully expect them to try meat and fish as they get older.

bigmouthstrikesagain Fri 04-Oct-13 16:47:33

I don't know about raging hunger. Good quality wholegrains are filling in my experience, as are eggs amd cheese as I am not vegan there is plenty of protein in my diet.

Opalite Fri 04-Oct-13 16:59:43

Hmm.. a lot of things are used as exccuses for disordered eating; I'm allergic to that, I'm a vegetarian so I can't eat that, I'm gluten intolerant, I feel sick, I just ate, I'm not hungry, I don't like that food...
I'm certain that most vegetarians and vegans choose it because they care about animals and don't want to eat their bodies or contribute to the industry or because of health reasons.

youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 17:00:01

"I don't know about raging hunger" - good, it's working for you. You do realise that I don't doubt your experience? Do you doubt mine?

Opalite Fri 04-Oct-13 17:00:37

Vegans can get plenty of protein as well as other nutrients and it is an outdated myth that they can't

DoItTooJulia Fri 04-Oct-13 17:05:31

We eat masses of protein here. Lentils are a staple part of our diet.

We eat daal, curry with lentils, puy lentil salads, shepherds pie made from lentils (the recipe for which I came across in an 80 s cook book. It was called shepherdess pie, presumably because it was meat free) and most if the soups I make have lentils thrown in too. We eat chickpeas and other beans too. I would say that vegetarian protein is not inferior, but different.

In terms of vegan ism, I looked on it as eating a plant based diet. My downfall was usually manchego. I have always thought drinking the milk of another species is really really weird. (I am totally aware of the hypocrite that I am, enjoying cheese) it was simply an extension of that.

My DCs are 8 and almost 1. The older one hates the thought of ever eating meat. Well just have to see if that changes. No pressure from me, but as the main cook and shopper for food, I just don't buy or prepare it.

DoItTooJulia Fri 04-Oct-13 17:07:22

Oh, and I'm not thin. I can eat al the bread and chips in the world as a veggie and even vegan!

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