If numbers count for anything, women are leading the vegan vanguard. With 70% to 80% of vegans being women, it’s packed with mighty XX chromosomes. Men are far fewer in number, but far many more of them are out in front publicly leading that vanguard. Whilst plenty of women are doing some pretty spectacular things, they’re not the ones making up the bulk of the public ‘leadership’ roles. Interesting, eh?
Or, not really. It’s kind of a case of “nothing new to see here”. This is business as usual in the whole world. We vegans might be thumbing our noses at the ‘business as usual’ way of eating, but we’re still stuck with the rest of the world in our gender roles. This isn’t entirely due to preference, though, as a substantial amount of it is still due to the quagmire of our social structure. There are many fearless women around, but the world is harsher on them, than it is on men, so it requires a double coat of armour to be in the public spotlight. Women not only get hated on, they get threats of sexual abuse, too. The haters abuse women vegans in much the same way they do men vegans, but then it’s taken a step further with threats of rape towards those women vegans who dare to be outspoken – unless, of course, they’re too fat and ugly to rape. Oh, how that hurts! Threats of sexual violence, as well as physical violence and death, is a standard format for any woman who stands up and speaks out, especially when they’re controversial against the status quo. I’m not glossing over the very real threats that men get, just pointing out that women get more threats and feel more threatened by them, which is a substantial deterrent for many women in putting their heads above the parapet. It can be a nasty old world out there.
Then there is the demoralising fact that men still get more credibility when they talk on a subject. They get listened to more, they get deferred to more, and they don’t get belittled as much. These things still happen, but if they do, then it’s acceptable for a man to get a bit aggressive. If a woman gets aggressive, watch the name-calling begin. The negative comments on her figure, her breasts, her bum, her hair, her facial looks, her choice of clothes, her lack of sexual desirability, and her voice, are fast and furious. Actually, women get these comments, anyway. Men don’t have immunity from personally directed vileness, but they have less of it. Women only have to be women to get shat on from a great height. One of the most soul-wrenching things to see is women also bagging women about their appearance, and even though it comes from complex social reasons related to patriarchy, and not just because they inherently hate each other, it’s still an unhappy sight.
What about the domestic front? Women still end up for the most part as the main caretakers of the domestic front. The domestic front is from where everything happens. It’s the launching pad, the foundation, the place from which we soar or sink, where it all begins. It’s the place from where we go forth. Having a domestic caretaker who enables this is the stuff of every women’s dreams. Imagine someone who takes on the bulk of the domestic mental load, the bulk of the kids’ stuff, the bulk of the tedious jobs, not to mention the bulk of the tedious questions, so that all we have to do is think about our own brilliant careers or activism. Then there are the social networks to maintain, the other family members that may need to be taken care of, and the responsibility for remembering EVERYONE’S birthdays and buying the presents. At the end of each year Christmas tops off the madness. Imagine being able to blithely leave most of the managing, thinking, and organising of all this to a domestic caretaker, and just be awesome. It would work for me.
In spite of all these things, women are still putting themselves out there, but they have to fight twice as many devils to get even half the credibility that a man gets. This is not a conspiracy by men, but how the world still works. Women leaders are there, but they don’t have the same clear run as men do. They don’t start from the same place, and once they have kids, it gets even more mental.
So, are there any women vegan leaders, or aspiring leaders? Yes! They’re here, they’re keen, and they’ve got the goods. It just takes a lot more effort for them to get to the front, and a lot more resilience to stay there. If we want more women co-leading the charge, then we’ve got to help them get there by clearing away the social and domestic detritus from their path. No-one can be a good long-term leader of change without laser focus, and without the support to ensure that that focus is not obstructed, and their way is not hindered.
Whilst I admire the men who have made it their job to bring veganism out into the public arena, I would also love to see more women being able to do the same. But I also know that it’s going to take a lot more of us having their backs and working on social change, to make it feasible for them.