VWPA Advice #029: How Do I Stay Strong AND Respectful?
“Is it really possible to stand your ground while being respectful?”
It feels like I’m just constantly alienating people by having principles, no matter what I do. I have to deal with all the crap that people throw my way while keeping my cool. It just seems impossible to keep up with.
Man oh man, I feel ya. It’s so hard to do right and realize that that rightness is suddenly a barrier in between you and other people. Then, to try to preserve these relationships, you feel like you can’t ever defend yourself because then you’ll be seen as “disrespectful” to people who are being terribly rude to you. It’s a lousy situation.
I don’t have a perfect solution. No one does. Being vegan, or being anything that is effectively a moral stance, will always make people uncomfortable, and when people get uncomfortable, they tend to resort to judgement, criticism, mockery and othering as a coping mechanism. It is much easier to try to make you look bad than to peer inside themselves and realize that they are doing things that they can’t really defend when push comes to shove.
So, my answer to you is: don’t. Don’t “stay respectful,” necessarily. Not in the way that we vegans typically define it, which usually means going along with the joke, agreeing or being demure, walking away, keeping our mouths shut. You don’t have to get into an argument, you don’t have to prove anyone wrong, but it is ok to tell people when they’re being rude:
- “Please stop”
- “That’s rude”
- “That hurts my feelings”
- “You are pre-judging me and that doesn’t feel good”
- “That’s inappropriate”
- “I don’t bother you while you’re eating”
…are all very acceptable things to say to someone who is being out of line. Your veganism does not mean that you no longer have boundaries or self-respect. If someone lashes at you when you say these things, it’s because you are calling them on their bad behavior, not because you’ve done anything wrong. Stay strong, fellow vegan, and respect yourself!
When you’re feeling down, watch this video. It’s a reminder that what we’re doing is so important.
Content Warning: this video shows a pig being slaughtered at 3:14-3:27. There are no sounds of slaughter, so you can shut your eyes and still listen to what he’s saying without having to hear anything violent.
It amazes me how successfully the fear of being different was instilled into all of us! This is not a judgement, just an unfortunate reality that makes standing by your principles more complicated that it should have to be. When we are different-and especially when those difference are due to having certain principles, people get weird and they lash out. Which makes us hide parts of ourselves, or laugh along, or shut down, or runaway… or all these! We suddenly (and usually subconsciously) re-adjust and try to make the people around us more comfortable. Well fuck that! We shouldn’t have to do that! Why is the burden on us to make them more comfortable? You aren’t doing anything wrong by being different!
So keep this in mind: You are a person who deserves love and respect and comfort; and you should not have to apologize for who you are or what you believe. So Nichole is absolutely right, you can definitely just shut someone down when they start to shame or other you.
I know it is easier said than done and it can take practice and frankly, just take time to get to the point where you recognize what they are doing is wrong and that you have the freedom to not put up with it. But please know that you don’t deserve to have to put up with their crap just because you are vegan.