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Classism from Vegans Doesn’t Help Animals, Nonhuman or Human

March 25, 2010

While I was in Columbia with Chance for her diagnostic tests and subsequently her surgery and hospitalization (she’s recovering well, by the way; I promise a more substantial update soon), I found myself wearing an old pair of shoes constructed, in part, of leather. Every single time I put them on, I was painfully aware of what I was doing. Every time I looked down at them, I cringed. I felt emotional about wearing them. I felt guilty and wildly self-conscious about it. But there I was nevertheless, procuring surgery for one animal, gritting my teeth at the “Food Animals” sign over one of the hospital’s entrances, casually finding ways to sneak animal rights and care-for-all-animals topics into conversations with staff and caregivers, and feeling deep disappointment over how most in this place seemed to look at cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, and more — while wearing my leather shoes. 

I don’t buy shoes. I’m fairly anti-consumerist in general, and shoes are not something on which I’ve ever felt the need to spend my finite resources. I most often wear (vegan) tennis shoes, the same pair for a couple years at a time, until they finally wear out. I go years without buying new shoes beyond replacing that pair. But at the time of Chance’s surgery, the latest pair of sneakers was temporarily out of commission, as were my beloved hippie shoes (purchased two years ago and the most expensive shoes I’ve ever bought) for all intents and purposes — they don’t fit quite right and thus slip and trip me up fairly regularly, even when the buttons closing them haven’t popped off again, and thus are absolutely not an option for when I’ll be carrying a delicate dog. And as you all now know, money has been painfully tight for me lately while I work some things out; Chance and I got through her diagnosis, surgery, hospitalization, travel costs, etc. in one piece (physically and emotionally) only because of the love and generosity of this community. So new shoes? Not something I was going to invest in right now. Thus, packing my bag involved pulling out that pair of brown Reeboks — old but still in good shape — but not without plenty of discomfort, the same discomfort I’ve felt every time I’ve needed to wear them.

And I was reminded of a post — this post — that’s been sitting here in a draft folder since December. One of my final substantive contributions to The Previous Blog was titled “What If I Can’t Afford to Replace My Wool Coat and Leather Shoes Yet?” (now archived here, on this blog). It engendered some heated debate in the comment thread and elsewhere ’round the AR web. And though I approached the topic in perhaps a shorter, lighter fashion that I would have elsewhere — on this blog, for example — here is what I intended to get across with the post:

Not everyone has a lot of disposable income. Replacing a closet full of non-vegan clothing and shoes can be expensive relative to some people’s income and resources; replacing item upon item (think about it: multiple pairs of shoes, sweaters, belts, coats, gloves, hats) can add up quickly, even if the replacements are inexpensive or even thrift-store purchases. “Inexpensive” is relative — the same choice that is easy and inexpensive for one person can be quite complicated and financially prohibitive for another; too many people fail to recognize or are incapable of relating to the realities of some of their fellow humans’ financial situations. And so my recommendation to readers was, yes, to replace their animal-based (e.g., leather, wool, down) clothing as soon as they’re able  — for a number of reasons, including their own peace of mind and the message the wearing sends — but to cut themselves some slack if they need to make this a process. I never condoned the wearing of animals — I’ve written numerous posts asking people not to purchase leather, wool, down, and so on (and there’s another one coming up) — but I did express understanding that the matter of already-owned items is a complex issue from the perspectives of income, consumerism, environmentalism, waste, and more, while admitting my own conflicts in this area.

Nevertheless, in the days following, some fellow vegans took offense to my post (and, in some cases, wrote responses to and summaries of my post that completely misrepresented what I had written or that even claimed I’d said things completely the opposite of what I’d actually said), and one of the responses in the comment thread included this:

There is absolutely no reason to keep this clothing. Some of you say you’ve kept these items for “frugal reasons” or to defy “consumerism.” These are weak excuses to justify keeping animal skins/wool/silk in your closets. You are looking for an excuse to wear these items.

There are other people out there that can’t find a matching pair of shoes let alone a fancy wool pea coat. You can donate these items to someone else who has less than you instead. Every single one of you, who posted here, has more than these people. If you can afford a computer and money each month to pay for your internet – you are not exactly poor.  Trade it in for a vegan item. Do anything but “occasionally” wear it or leave it in your closet to rot.

And this comment, like others, floored me. In responses such as this, I heard ugly echoes of the classist, insensitive response to a newspaper photograph last year that showed a homeless man in line to get a free meal at a shelter — while daring to have a cell phone in his hand (Michelle Obama was volunteering, and he was snapping a photo of her). Absurdly, people seemed to think that his having a cell phone was proof that he didn’t need help, that he wasn’t hungry and in need of food, and that he was just lazy and not bothering to get a job. Just because he had a cell phone — you know, those rare luxury items that so few people have in the United States and that, apparently, you’re immediately supposed to hawk when times get tough and you need money. Who cares if selling the phone would mean giving up contact with loved ones or potential employers ? If you’re poor, you don’t deserve a phone and contact with the world. And that’s the privileged, unaware attitude I perceived in some of these responses to my post, even if the critics weren’t conscious of the implications of their statements. 

I’ve been struggling lately to pay my bills and pull everything together, but with the help of friends, tax money, and yes, credit cards, I’ve still managed to feed myself healthy foods and feed my dogs and get them medical care and stay in my home while I work this out. I am still lucky. I am still privileged compared to many. But there are other people — good people, ethical people, hardworking people, people who want to do the right thing — whose circumstances are far, far more difficult than my own. There are impoverished vegans and potential vegans, people who can’t pay even the basic bills each month, who buy the cheapest food they can (organics, for example, are completely out of the question) and still must skip meals regularly, who are at constant risk of having their power shut off or their eviction notice delivered, who can’t afford any kind of health insurance, who don’t have even the spare five-dollar bill to buy a used item at a thrift shop, assuming there’s even a shop they can get to. And the elitism and presumptuousness that underlie bold statements not only about what people can or cannot afford but even about what people’s private motives and thoughts are sadden me. I wrote that post in the spirit of reaching out to and welcoming people, no matter their circumstances, and hoped that some people who could relate would end up reading it. So it was horrifying to see some vegans use the post and responses to it to engage in privileged, unaware shaming. And then we wonder why people think of veganism as something for the privileged.

So here are some bullet-point responses to the critiques of my original post, some of which I included in that comment thread:

 * The clear assumption underlying some of the comments was that vegans must be financially stable and that those struggling must be “other people.” It’s not possible to be battling personal poverty and be committed to animal rights? To be someone who is both compassionate and in need of a little help and compassion?

 * Having access to a computer and the Internet says absolutely nothing about someone’s financial state and ability to replace her wardrobe. As I said in the comment thread, there are plenty of vegans and potential vegans who don’t own their own computer or have an Internet connection but who go to the library to use a computer or to cafes to use the Internet on cheap (or hand-me-down) laptops. And so what if someone does have his own computer and Internet connection? Are we seriously going to argue that someone should have to forgo these tools for communication, networking, advocacy, job-searching, and more because it’s more important that he immediately pitch-and-replace according to our standards? Are we really going to play the vegan police and the poor police and judge vegans and potential vegans in this way? And when the hell was it determined that Internet access should be reserved for the middle and upper classes?

 * Having a “fancy” pea coat also says nothing about someone’s current financial state. That “fancy” coat may have been purchased years ago in different circumstances, it may have been a gift, and it may have been purchased from a thrift store in the first place. Even a wardrobe full of wool, leather, and down is not proof that the person spent bookoo bucks on those items in the first place or that, if she did, she still has those kinds of financial resources.

* While we’re telling people to donate their animal-based clothing and then buy non-animal clothes from those same organizations and stores if they can’t afford new, we’re forgetting that options are limited at thrift stores. Even if you have one in your area and have the ability to get there, they’re not like department stores, with consistent offerings and sizes  and styles. Raise your hand if you want to be the one to tell the already frustrated, stressed, and depressed vegan (longtime or new) who’s struggling to get by in the dead of winter that if her options are limited, she must choose and wear to the bus stop the not-very-warm vegan coat that’s two sizes too small or buy and wear on her bike ride to work the bulky vegan coat that’s three sizes too big because the used wool coat that’s just her size will earn her the ire of other vegans, the ones who have the time, resources, emotional energy, and arrogance to go around tearing into the vegans with less.

* Refusing to take into account the environmental impact (which also causes harm to animals!) of our discard-and-buy, discard-and-buy society — even when what we’re buying is technically vegan — is irresponsible.

Again, I do believe and argue that we should eliminate our use of clothing made from animals. But I stand by my argument from December that it’s acceptable to make this a process, that it isn’t necessary for — and shouldn’t be expected of — those without ample means to attempt to replace everything all at once or feel shame for not being able to. These issues of what and when to purchase and what, when, and how to discard are not black and white. Environmental impact matters. Sweatshop purchases matter. Individuals’ personal financial situations matter. And people matter.

But of course, let’s talk for a moment about the impact on nonhuman animals here too, given that the inexcusable suffering and death we inflict on them is at the heart of this matter, and given that we all share the wish to eliminate their exploitation and our participation in it. Food is something we consume quickly and have the opportunity to replace quickly. Except in the cases of the uber-privileged, this cannot be said of a closet full of clothes, shoes, and accessories. We don’t have the built-in opportunity to make new clothing choices every few weeks. So show me a person who’s doing her best to live a compassionate, nonviolent life and who is kind to her fellow animals of all species, humans included, but who’s wearing an old pre-vegan pair of leather boots and can thoughtfully, respectfully explain why — why she is still wearing them and why she plans to replace them and will never buy animal products again. Then show me a person who’s wearing expensive vegan garb but who pauses from her own advocacy for compassion and nonviolence to deride the first woman, calling her a self-justifying hypocrite and figuratively clasping her hands over her ears while the first woman tries to explain her perspective and situation. Which person are people going to be willing to talk with and learn from? The person who can explain her process and be sympathetic to their situation, while encouraging them to start making the changes they can? Or the person who apparently can’t relate to their circumstances at all and is intent on shaming even the person who is already in the process of changing what she can? From my vantage point, the answer is obvious.


Photo by Flickr user nicole

42 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 9:34 am

    Shaming someone who is already in the process of changing what she can is . . . shameful.

    This isn’t analogous to questioning a vegetarian about leather or eggs, or criticizing someone who believes they can claim to “love” “their” animals and then kill and eat them (i.e., so-called compassionate carnivores). A vegan who keeps her new purchases to a minimum by design and by necessity is simply doing the best she can and should not be ridiculed for that. There is no hypocrisy there.

  2. March 25, 2010 9:39 am

    I’m poor. I have a job that affords me only 12 hours per week. At the moment, it’s the best job I can get, although I have a college degree. I have a nice computer – because until January, I needed one for work. I have the internet because we need it for Alex’s school. This winter I was too busy trying to pay rent, buy (vegan) food for my foster dogs, pay board for my horses, and pay off my student loans to spend any extra money on a new coat. I kinda resent being told I should actually be spending that money on a new fully vegan coat. I mean, hey, my grocery budget is like $30 a week for two people but HEY I should probably spend $100+ on a new winter coat. One that’s waterproof and warm and will stand up to my biking everywhere because I don’t own a car.

    I have donated the vast majority of the animal products in my closet to people who are less fortunate on me already. I suppose that, if I wanted, I could have saved some money for a new coat somehow. Instead I decided to maintain what I have until I can stop worrying about what will happen to Charlie and Rivet should I fail to be able to pay for their care.

    If that person is so worried about it, she can buy me a new coat. I will happily accept it.

  3. March 25, 2010 9:41 am

    You know I’ve always been in agreement with you on this (and fought off the white middle class privilege mofos with a stick every time) but please please please do not beat yourself up or despair when wearing old ass used animal products. It sounds like you have enough on your plate without worrying about that kind of thing.

    This type of stuff is where vegans lose track of reasoning for being vegan- our heath and that of other animals. Does throwing away old leather shoes (or making some non-vegan who’s privileged enough to take the donation but also shitty enough to wear our old dead animal clothes that they may be the butt of ridicule instead of us) help animals? No. It doesn’t. That’s it.

    Over my years of veganism (and being a cyclist who absolutely destroys shoes all of the time) I have replaced most of my animal product stuff with newer stuff (WHEN it became unusable). And guess what, my vegetarian shoes brand boots (super expensive and were a gift) and sneakers (no longer made and I got on sale for 40 bucks) still get mistaken for leather sometimes. SO, people are going to do it either way.

    People who are hard line are privileged jerks who probably over consume so much that they do loads of damage to planet and its inhabitants.

    Give yourself a break though Stephanie!

  4. March 25, 2010 9:47 am

    I am more privileged than many and can afford to replace a lot of my items. Though I do buy a bit more clothing than I should (I’m much better than I used to be), I still haven’t replaced my three year old wool coat, winter coat, or suede ugg imitations from Payless. This items still have many years of wear left and it would be silly to replace them now. When I leave New York for warm Southern California they will mostly sit in the back of my closet for my occasional visits to colder weather.

    Though it may not make much sense, I think people should give priority to replacing clothing items that are likely to get the most questions/accusations from others. Almost no one will question you about a wool or down coat but a omnivore might ask “why are you wearing leather shoes.” In the interest of not appearing hypocritical I would get rid of my leather A.S.A.P. In fact, the only item I have replaced is the pair of actual Ugg boots I bought pre-vegetarianism. I felt bad every time I worse them, especially knowing I was promoting the already very popular brand.

  5. March 25, 2010 10:02 am

    I remember reading the comment you included in this post and also being floored by it. Acting this way is the reason that so many people dislike vegans without even giving them a chance. I went vegetarian in 2003 and vegan last year. Guess what, I still have a few pairs of leather shoes, some wool socks, etc. I got rid of some things I didn’t need, but I refuse to replace things by buying new stuff when the old stuff is still in perfectly good condition. Rampant consumerism is one of the biggest issues in the world and I refuse to be part of it, whether for “vegan reasons” or not.

    Great post, Stephanie. Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Jake permalink
    March 25, 2010 11:34 am

    Good stuff, Stephanie.
    This is why I am not yet 100% vegan – sometimes I just have to drink the blood of some sanctimonious weenie. (Note for those with mirth defects: this is what’s known as ‘sarcasm.’ Look into it.)
    Any body who has taken any step in the right direction is a part of the solution, a swelling tide of rising consciousness, and ought not to be villified for failing to make a quantum jump to perfect ahimsa.

  7. Wendy permalink
    March 25, 2010 12:32 pm

    Good post, as usual. :)

    I completely agree with you on the classism stuff and appreciate a perspective I haven’t given much thought to. As someone who’d lived under established poverty guidelines for years, I know what it’s like to be poor. As it is I live in a trailer right now — ooh, fun times.

    I always feel a little funny commenting on something like this when I mostly, but not 100% , agree. And it could be that my disagreement stems mainly from where my own comfort zone is. I had a pair of fantastic hiking boots given to me as a present when I had been vegetarian for about 3 years. I wasn’t comfortable then having leather boots, but I didn’t see any other option, and I let my mom buy them for me. About two years later, still just vegetarian (not vegan), I just couldn’t stand the thought of wearing them anymore and I gave them away.

    I suppose it’s as you said: where I have a tough time most is when people purposely buy things, even vintage, that are made from animals’ skins, fur, feathers, etc. and still call themselves vegan. Perhaps it’s the idea that the term, and the beliefs, can be made flexible to accomodate whims and desires (as opposed to need) that irritates me so much.

    I guess, too, I would be one of those hardline, hardass, humorless vegans who, though I believe in cross-movement solidarity, put animal rights above everything else including consumerism, so if my choice is between buying non-leather shoes some place like Payless or buying leather shoes at a thrift store, I’m going to spend the extra money and buy the non-leather shoes (I also have strange feet and finding shoes that fit comfortably is very difficult for me, but that’s probably another issue).

    Still, I appreciate this post and perspective very much. It’s always helpful for me to hear stories like this to help remind me that sometimes real life is not always as black and white as it may first seem.

    • Barb permalink
      March 29, 2010 5:32 pm

      But this misses the point about classism–we should put vegan purity above buying food and paying rent? What if you can’t afford new things? And is ecological consciousness not also important for animals?

    • yasmin permalink
      July 5, 2010 4:27 pm

      and what of the folks who made those payless shoes in sweat shops? do they not matter to you??

  8. Meg permalink
    March 25, 2010 1:30 pm

    Thank you for writing this post!

    As someone who grew up in a working class family in a poor county and then moved into a very middle class area, I have seen my share of classicism. Frankly, it disgusts me as much as sexism or racism. So, to see it from fellow vegans is very disheartening, and at first very surprising.

    I consider myself vegan because I believe strongly that we need to stop exploiting animals and I try *my* best not to buy/obtain/consume new animal products, but I realize that things aren’t black and white because we don’t live in a perfect world. I’m sure some of the sugar and alcohol I consume was filtered with bone char, but then my tap water probably was, too. I’ve adopted stray/rescued cats, but no, they’re not vegan. I have chickens from my pre-vegan days and while I don’t eat the eggs, I do give them away. And, no, I’m not above getting a vaccine just because it was made using eggs and tested on other animals.

    And yes, I do still wear/use some animal products that I bought previously, though I’ve donated or given away a lot of other non-vegan stuff. Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten some flack from a few other vegans for it (and for the other things). However, I don’t see the use of animal products that one has bought pre-veganism as especially problematic in the whole scheme of things and discarding of and replacing stuff like clothes is not without it’s own problems. Therefore, I think it’s up to us as individuals to figure out what we’re comfortable with.

    My personal rule of thumb is that I don’t get rid of stuff that I would probably end up directly replacing (e.g. my winter coat, despite a bit of fur on the hood), or that would be irreplaceable because of sentimental value or because there isn’t a good vegan substitute or because I really just couldn’t afford it. And when I do get rid of stuff I try to do it in what I consider a “responsible” manner, i.e. finding a better alternative to chucking it a landfill. Yes, I made a mistake buying the items in the first place when I had a choice, but just chucking everything in the trash doesn’t feel right, either. So, I try to make the most of what I have.

    I know I could afford to replace more things that I have and I do want to support vegan companies, but I don’t think that any purchase comes without a price (beyond the monetary one). Therefore, I try to limit unnecessary purchases in general. Furthermore, I believe that my money is better spent in other ways that can do a lot more for animals, such as buying vegan food to share with others.

    Also, I strongly believe that we should judge people (if we judge them at all) not for the choices they have, but the choices they make with what they have (including the knowledge they have). Therefore, it doesn’t even offend me when someone down on their luck eats non-vegan stuff or buys a wool coat because that’s what they have available that they can afford. That’s VERY different than someone choosing to eat non-vegan food because they just like the taste or buy a wool coat because that’s the fashion. What bothers me is that they don’t have choices because I wish that everyone had access to affordable vegan alternatives, especially for the necessities.

    So I wish certain people would get off their high horses and help work to make that happen instead of shaming — and in the process truly hurting — those who are doing the best they know how to.

  9. March 25, 2010 2:53 pm

    Stephanie,

    You always write amazing posts that make me stop and think about an issue in a way I normally don’t. Or help me take notice of something I’ve been ignoring.
    Yes, we hear the same vegan this, the same animal issue that… all the time… but the way in which you wrap the subject matter up in a unique experience…which is honesty and integrity is very needed and inspiring.
    You gave Chance a new life and gave the people who benefit so much from your words an opportunity to help. It feels good to give…. and when the money or activism is going to save one life it actually feels powerful for everyone involved. Rescuing or adopting one forgotten animal at least for me is sometimes more meaningful than working on a huge campaign or donating to a large group where you have no idea what happens to the money you give.
    You also with this post made me aware again of something I’ve been feeling recently. Anger and fear.
    I realized that I’m afraid of how much anger I feel out there in the world.
    People are so angry and so ready to argue…so ready to fight even when they are on the same team.
    It’s scary enough watching the hatred against Obama out there and one day we may all regret allowing that anger to fester.
    Yes even in our vegan world as well…people are so ready to attack, denounce and defame each other and it’s scary.
    I think there is so much fear in our lives that we allow it to come out against each other as anger and confrontation…way to fast. Anger is what people do with their fear. Maybe if we can just notice that much of our fear is about our feeling that we have no control of what happens to the animals in the world and that we just lose it… and take it out on each other rather than notice how we can help each other and how that might give us more control.
    Like what you did with Chance….
    We can criticize and point out where we think activists might be wrong but we don’t need to do it with so much anger.
    The ethical vegan animal rights world are devolving into a tea bagger mentality and we are headed in a downward spiral of non stop free floating rage directed at each other instead of supporting each other.
    Maybe this is why humans are the disaster primate that we are.
    Maybe we can stop, maybe think and notice that love is much more conducive to our own health than is hate and anger.
    In the same mindful way we all became ethical vegans…
    Maybe we can all be fearful together about what happens to animals, support each other and not let the fear turn into such anger against each other.
    Maybe this is what we learn to do….as part of our vegan activism.
    Maybe we do it for the non human animals and maybe also for each other.
    Maybe.

    • Wendy permalink
      March 25, 2010 3:07 pm

      Philip,
      This is so well said!
      Thank you.

  10. March 26, 2010 11:34 am

    Thank you for putting it all into it’s proper perspective Stephanie… One of the quickest ways for me to be “turned off” by an advocate, is the “purity” mandate… It’s not a perfect world. We all make concessions and adjustments according to our situations… People forget it’s a process and a journey. I believe in good faith that all activists do what they can to the extent they are able – Please! The last thing I ever want to be is a member of the “vegan police”… And if I ever was… I send a universal apology to anyone I wrongly judged!
    It’s not who I want to be at all.

  11. March 26, 2010 5:59 pm

    I think we might all be better off if we stop policing each other and start working harder for animals instead.

    I’m just really tired of the whole used animal skin clothing issue. When someone’s been vegan (or non-leather wearing vegetarian) for a while, all these so-called “ethical dilemmas” disappear. This whole conversation is mostly just an issue for newbies or people who are still transitioning to veganism.

    It’s less of a true ethical dilemma and more just plain, old fashioned navel-gazing. Sorry if anyone’s offended. But that’s what I think. We’d help more animals if we stopped worrying about old leather shoes and started leafleting, protesting, open rescuing, etc…

  12. March 27, 2010 7:28 am

    I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful post.

  13. March 27, 2010 7:44 am

    Stephanie,

    I finally got to read this, and I’m so glad I did. Well put!!

  14. March 27, 2010 10:37 am

    A lot more people in the world would be progressives if the middle class understood that the working class and working poor are subject to situations that must be understood and respected. Excellent post.

  15. March 27, 2010 1:55 pm

    thank you for this heartfelt post. I am still processing it, but hope to come back with more substantive comments later. (got here thru a link from vegans of color blog and will be coming back to read more regularly)

  16. March 28, 2010 9:20 am

    Thank you for this post!

  17. Amanda Rock permalink
    March 30, 2010 9:48 am

    “While we’re telling people to donate their animal-based clothing and then buy non-animal clothes from those same organizations and stores if they can’t afford new, we’re forgetting that options are limited at thrift stores. Even if you have one in your area and have the ability to get there, they’re not like department stores, with consistent offerings and sizes and styles. Raise your hand if you want to be the one to tell the already frustrated, stressed, and depressed vegan (longtime or new) who’s struggling to get by in the dead of winter that if her options are limited, she must choose and wear to the bus stop the not-very-warm vegan coat that’s two sizes too small or buy and wear on her bike ride to work the bulky vegan coat that’s three sizes too big because the used wool coat that’s just her size will earn her the ire of other vegans, the ones who have the time, resources, emotional energy, and arrogance to go around tearing into the vegans with less.”

    You can find everything you need to look good (interviews, formal occasions …) at a thrift store for way cheap. The same thing goes for shoes. Check around your city for new thrift stores! It’s NOT like a department store, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can usually find it. Look for clothing that’s out of season, wardrobe staples, basic colors and you should be set.

    My outfit (the entire thing, including shoes) comes to $13.00 and it’s adorable. ;) And it matches EVERYTHING I own, so for the few bucks I spent, I can get a bunch of different outfits. I work in a very professional office, and have to look the part.

    I don’t have a lot of money to work with (at all!), but I manage to look good. I’d never ever judge another vegan, or another person, for that matter. I’m just offering some simple advice! :)

    • Meg permalink
      April 20, 2010 2:21 pm

      @Amanda

      “You can find everything you need to look good (interviews, formal occasions …) at a thrift store for way cheap. ”

      First off, cheap is relative.

      But most importantly, you seem to assume that people have access to decent thrift stores — or thrift stores at all, or have the ability to devote the time and energy to thrift store shopping. When I was a kid, there wasn’t a thrift store in town. On rare occasions, my family did go to a small thrift store in a nearby town. But it wasn’t like we could spend a lot of time there as my mother could not drive in the dark and she worked long hours. Still, I was lucky enough to have transportation.

      The selection there was very small, especially for someone who wasn’t the typical size/shape. I wore what I could find, but things often didn’t fit very well at all. Shoes were often very uncomfortable. I was frequently teased for my clothes and while that wasn’t the end of the world, it does make it harder to fit into society, especially once one tries to get a job. I had an especially hard time finding specific items that some people just assume people will have — stuff like black pants that were required for certain school group uniforms, or business attire for other school events. Those items often did mean a trip to the department store and, though I never considered us to be poor back then, I know it did strain the budget.

      And that was all before going vegan. I can’t imagine what it would have been like had my family tried to be vegan, especially by some people’s definitions.

  18. Veganista permalink
    April 8, 2010 6:36 pm

    Thank you for being a voice of reason during a time where vegans should be uniting, instead of the elitist divisionism that seems to rampant in our community.

    This past winter, a colleague yelled at me for carrying a 10 year old leather bag and wearing a 12 year old wool coat. This was, of course, after she said if I haven’t tried white truffle oil, I haven’t lived yet.

  19. auntcrow permalink
    April 13, 2010 3:07 pm

    thanks for this post. i think your points are really important. elitism is violent and really not helpful. people have all kinds of reasons for eliminating animals as a source for food and clothing and most of the time they are healthy reasons that lead to greater awareness and compassion. i have been vegan for over 17 years and it is only in the past 3 years that my very old leather shoes have worn out completely to be replaced by rubber and cloth. i am not very hard on shoes or clothes and they tend to last me 10+ years, and i almost always buy used stuff. i couldn’t justify throwing or giving away my scruffy leather second-hand shoes and buying cheap plastics ones made in china. At least the suffering of the animals whose skin i wore was finished. why should i contribute to the suffering of human animals by buying new shoes that would wear out quickly, when i still had shoes i could wear? Many times shoe needs depressed me and nearly made me barefoot in winter.
    Guilt doesn’t ever produce true conviction or compassion.
    i have positively influenced more people by being honest and thoughtful and caring, sharing beautiful food without judgment, than by wearing new plastic shoes.

  20. Anarkeester permalink
    April 14, 2010 8:10 pm

    Great essay. I agree completely. I see what you mean.

  21. June 14, 2010 10:35 pm

    Hi all, I guess I have to stand alone here. I realize conscious people don’t want to be wasteful and that people don’t have excess money to purchase all new items right away, unless they purchase these replacement items at secondhand stores, garage & moving sales, and flea markets. This makes replacing all non-vegan items feasible. It seems to me that wearing something is like a stamp of approval. I don’t think modeling products of misery is the right message to send out. If someone was modeling their new shoes made of skin from homosexuals that were sentenced to death in Uganda, most (tolerant) people would be outraged and appalled at shoes made of human skin. I feel similar about seeing products made from the skin of cows, etc. I am broke, but I am a vegan; one does not have to be wealthy or support consumerism to be a vegan; and that means not wearing animal skins.

    • Meg permalink
      June 14, 2010 10:57 pm

      M. Butterflies Katz,

      You are hardly the first person to suggest that financially-strapped people just buy second-hand as if people in those situations didn’t already know that they can’t find cheaper goods second-hand. I assure you, the reason that people don’t do this more isn’t because they needed you to come along and tell them.

      Money on hand isn’t the only issue. You say you are “broke”, but yet you seem to have very little clue about the struggles faced by many people who are broke. Maybe you’re lucky to only be low on money. Good for you, then! Time, energy, transportation, physical ability — all these can make it a lot harder to replace things. The things you mentioned, like shopping garage sales, are indeed often cheaper. However, they often take a lot of those other things that I mentioned. And, unfortunately, those things often go together with a lack of money. Those with lower incomes often have to work longer hours. Those with chronic diseases often have money troubles. Those with money problems often lack good transportation. And many people do not live with easy access to good thrift stores. Even when one does, it can often be very hard to find vegan items at thrift stores since most of the people donating to thrift stores aren’t vegan and even the vegans donating to thrift stores are often donating their non-vegan stuff. I know that when I’ve shopped thrift stores, I’ve often had trouble finding something in my size, let alone vegan, comfortable and which looks decent. Replacing specialty items, like work boots, is almost impossible unless one just happens to get lucky.

      So, I ask you to please have compassion for fellow humans as well as your fellow non-human animals instead of coming here and acting like you know better and trying to guilt people who already have to live with the consequences of their previous mistakes.

    • yasmin permalink
      July 5, 2010 4:41 pm

      this comment is fucking gross and racist. good job!

      • September 30, 2013 9:10 am

        There was nothing racist about my comment. I am not racist. However, I firmly believe that I would not wear the skins of nonhuman animals any more than I would wear the skins of human animals, because I am not speciesist. Nor racist, Nor sexist. Nor ageist.

  22. Monique O'Reilly permalink
    June 21, 2010 4:07 pm

    THANK YOU so much for this writeup. I was very hesitant to listen to vegans simply because I felt this was a bit of an elitist fad. Wealthy people padding around their marbled floor with their manicured feet wearing all-organic hemp clothes, eating only the healthiest and MOST compassionate foot to be found! Fortunately a seemingly very compassionate vegan turned me on to the movie Earthlings. Which made me look past who was delivering the message to the very topic at hand. ( I have always acknowledged that I am in a place to make compassionate choices…but that is only because I am lucky). When this very same vegan posted a comment on facebook, “why are poor people fat and lazy”, i.e., why don’t they eat better, I became outraged and 100% disillusioned with the entire vegan ‘culture’. I haven’t eaten meat in 15 years and I will continue to aspire to be vegan. But I don’t think I can actually join any type of vegan ‘group’ because I believe this type of elitism is rampant. And it’s a horribly ugly face to a movement that is supposed to be all about compassion.

    Thank you again for naming what NEEDED to be named. This gives me some hope that there are SOME vegans out there who are not floating around in a glass bubble. You are Aware.

  23. Athena Georgiadis permalink
    September 28, 2010 9:00 am

    * Refusing to take into account the environmental impact (which also causes harm to animals!) of our discard-and-buy, discard-and-buy society — even when what we’re buying is technically vegan — is irresponsible.

    So thankful you brought this point up! Caring for animals is synonymous with caring for the environment. Its not enough to consider how many dogs are euthanized annually, it must also be remembered that our daily customs ie. consumerism have a far larger and arguably crueler (i’d rather be euthanized than die from toxic poisoning) impact on all wild animals. The sole difference is that we don’t necessarily see it with our own eyes and therefore a lot of people, including animal rights activists and vegans, do not consider the issue at all, when purchasing, for example, inorganic foods, products from chain stores (do no vegans purchase from, say, Amazon?) the corporations and their unprecedented clear cutting are the real offenders.

    • May 24, 2011 10:52 am

      I bow down humbly in the penrsece of such greatness.

  24. Teigan permalink
    March 2, 2011 1:41 pm

    Hello, I stumbled across this post from easyvegan.info’s privilaged white vegetarian bingo card. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this.

    My husband and I only heat our house to 50 – 55 degrees during the winter because I don’t want to waste energy (or money). We use window units in the summer set at 80 degrees, and this is only because our German Shepherd is miserable in anything over 70. We compost even though I’m not able to work on a garden. We don’t buy organic or fair trade (I wish we could), we do go to farmer’s markets. We make all of our own bread, pasta, sauces, milks, etc from scratch with machines that help me out where I need it like the bread machine to knead doughs, the kitchenaid mixer for batters, the food processor for chopping and mixing, etc. All of those machines are what we requested for wedding gifts. The only machine we’ve bought ourselves, after saving up, was a dehydrator. As soon as my step-father makes me a tofu press, we’ll be making our own tofu too. Basically, we are better off than a lot of people, and worse off than a lot also.

    As for the people that condone cell phones and computers for the less fortunate, please think about this: I have a disease named Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and issues stemming from having been abused in the past. I can’t lift more than 10 lbs. Walking, standing, sitting, lying, lifting, reaching… EVERYTHING hurts my body. Because of social anxiety I rarely go out. Sometimes my only access to the world outside my house is my cell phone and computer. Get off your high horse and realize that your disposable toys may be another person’s necessity.

    If it’s a choice between going to the doctor because I’ve once again dislocated a joint or need a new back brace, or buying an expensive pair of vegan eco-conscious shoes, I’m going to the doctor. Needless to say, this means I wear my clothes until they wear out. I buy them from thrift stores, resale shops, and places like Walmart. I don’t buy silk, wool, or leather brand new, but I will buy it at a thrift store, because sometimes that is the only thing there that fits me, is in my price range, and doesn’t look terrible.

    Yes, shock and awe, I care how things look. I love it how people rage about poor people daring to have a taste in styles. As if, they are committing a sin to practice an artistic right that all other people have.

    Another thing. Poor disabled people don’t often have a choice in what their medicines and equipment contain. For example: I needed a super light weight wheel chair that I would be able to lift on my good days, so we used our savings to buy one off of Craigslist for $170. No doubt there is animal products in the tires and in the upholstery, and toxic chemicals in the paint on the metal. Hey, if someone wants to find an appropriate vegan wheelchair for me, and then shell out the $3,000 for it, I won’t complain.

    If I was to abide by the rules that more affluent vegans have created, my life would be a lot more miserable than it already is.

  25. June 25, 2013 1:15 am

    Go to System=> Cache Management and enable the caching features.
    Google’s goal is obviously to provide internet surfers with the most appropriate search results. Your market research must be for your real problem not for imaginary one.

  26. November 18, 2013 1:09 am

    Your passion about education will provide a lot of advantage in that category. Your interest in that field will provide some magical changes in to your online educational business.

Trackbacks

  1. More on classism, and some thoughts on ableism, within vegan movements « Vegans of Color
  2. Weekly Wednesday Wrap-Up #9 « The Voracious Vegan
  3. What Should I Do With My Old Leather Jacket? « tim gier
  4. Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 22: Shegans, unite! » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info
  5. Should I Still Wear My Old Leather Jacket? « tim gier
  6. Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo: Loud, Clueless & Proud » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info
  7. The Personal Is Political « Feminist Activism

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