05 May, 2008

You're so brave/strong/etc.

I really do not understand why this even comes up. So many times have I told people about my veganism, or heard stories of others doing the same, only for the person to say "You're so strong!" or something along those lines. I understand that this person is just wrapping their head around the idea of veganism, the idea of giving up some convenience for some principles, and that if you've never really been vegan it does seem like a gargantuan choice with lots of struggle, but, really....

it's not.

Are you strong for not enslaving another human being even though it would be easier for you to have someone else do all your work?

Does it take courage and grit for you to not use gender epithets (e.g. slut, skank) even though other people around you may do so?

I don't wake up in the morning biting my lip, thinking about all the challenges I've brought upon myself for being vegan, glad I've got moral steel instead of mere moral fiber.

I just wake up. I wake up and live my life in line with my ethics, square against the things I think are wrong and cruel and shameful, celebrating the things I think are good and true and beneficial for the world. That's all I do. That's what veganism means to me, and it's not hard at all.
It seems hard to non-vegans simply because it doesn't seem ethically necessary to them. It seems difficult to me to, say, never wear the color green because one thinks it's unethical. I can't wrap my head around why wearing green would be morally wrong, so, to me, it seems unnecessary, overly hard, and I think a person committed to not wearing green would indeed need some fortitude. Same thing with being vegan! An omnivore can never truly step into a vegan's pleather shoes (without ceasing to be an omnivore), so the task of consuming absolutely ZERO animal products might seem daunting, but for us it's the exact opposite. It's just what we do. Hell, it would take strength for me to not be vegan! It might be more convenient, sure, but silencing my conscience would take pounds, tons, endless amounts of strength, far far more than being vegan ever would.


  1. Claire,

    Thanks for an articulate, thoughtful, and informative post.

    I think that sometimes (often?) when non-vegans characterize veganism as heroic and difficult, they are superficially consoling themselves by telling themselves that "veganism is too hard; therefore my non-veganism is justified." I'm not saying that they explicitly think those thoughts or consciously looking for rationalizations in these instances, but I suspect that's what's going on subconsciously.

    "You're so strong" is thus an excuse for inaction, as well as an attempt to avoid cognitive dissonance. (As we know, however, a better way to avoid cognitive dissonance - in this scenario, at least - is to not engage in the morally troubling activities that cause the dissonance.)

  2. I'm glad this was here. You have some good responses, I got that comment yesterday ("You have so much courage") and was caught off-guard. I'll keep this post in mind, I just made awkward conversation after I received said comment.

  3. Great post Claire! I've added your voice to the ANTI-slavery page http://vegansforpeace.com/antislavery/.