Archive for February, 2010

Stepping up to the (Dinner) Plate: Some Food for Thought from a Feminist Turned Vegetarian

When I made the decision to become vegetarian (roughly 3 years ago), little did I know that by choosing to give up meat, I was going to fight more battles than I bargained for.

Oh, the path to vegetarianism is paved with good intentions, silly jokes, and a cold plate of prejudice. Who would’ve thought that people would care that much about what I didn’t put inside my mouth!

Let’s rewind the tape and go back to simpler, more carnivorous times, shall we? Although twig-like in stature due to a combination of high metabolism and genetics, I loved me some bacon, steak, chicken wings, and ribs. The flavour. The way it smelled. The way it padded my stomach. Oh, it was heaven!

I didn’t become vegetarian because I didn’t like the taste of meat. In fact, I was one of those people who thought that she couldn’t give up meat and questioned why anyone would. Animals are for humans to eat. How can anyone live on salad? “I love meat too much to stop eating it.”

But then a guy shared this documentary with me called Earthlings. It’s long, propagandist, and has a very comatose Joaquin Phoenix as the narrator. In Earthlings, you learn more about the role of animals, how meat production negatively affects the Earth, and how by simply eating meat, you may be subscribing to animal cruelty.

But what made me second-guess my consumption of meat was a gruesome scene of a cow being slain inhumanely as it cried out in pain. Blood rained from the beast as it was hung to die. Then there were the chickens who had their beaks cut off and who were forced to live in confined, dirty spaces that drove them to insanity as they pecked at each other and inflicted wounds. And there were plenty more hard-to-watch scenes – to this day, I still haven’t been able to watch the entire documentary because it’s so unsettling.

So I tried the gradual approach and gave up seafood first. I didn’t much care for it (except shrimp, lobster, and muscles), so I figured it was the easiest elimination. Plus, it was just a trial run to see if I could do it. It had always been my intention that if it felt like too much or if I ever felt unhealthy because of my new diet, I vowed to turn back around. But if all these celebrities could be vegetarians, then so could I.

Well, guess what? I did it, and it was way too easy. Okay, hot shot. What about chicken? Could I give up that? Did it. Easier than I thought, too. To make a long story short, the last ones on my ‘assassination’ list were beef and pork. And I felt great physically – had more energy.

But this story wouldn’t be a good story if there weren’t some villains, right? [Cue the gang]

Here are the challenges I faced:

  • Eating Out at Restaurants – Lots of my old favourite places cater to meat eaters. Finding appetizing and filling vegetarian dishes was much harder than anticipated. Most places had salad, but I’m not the type of person who considers salad a proper meal.
  • Finding Meat Alternatives – Substituting chick peas, lentils, tofu, and the like made it easy to get my protein. And I discovered Tofurkey and soy products created to imitate things like ground beef, chicken nuggets, and even bacon (believe it or not – although the ‘facon’ as I call it tastes horrid).
  • Defending Myself – Every single time I refrained from eating meat and had to tell someone that I’m a vegetarian, I’ve been poked and prodded to justify my choice. It’s not like we ask, “Why do you eat meat?” But when you’re a vegetarian, you get bombarded with questions like: “Don’t you like meat?”, “How can you get full just from eating vegetables?”, “How do you know that vegetables don’t feel pain, too?”, and (my favourite) “What’s wrong with you? You used to eat meat and were fine with it.” My abbreviated answers?
    • “I liked eating meat, but I gave it up.” Just because we like something doesn’t mean we have to continue doing it. You like ice cream, but do you have to eat it every day?
    • “I don’t just eat vegetables.” Being a vegetarian requires that you eat smart and balanced meals that may include rice, bread, noodles, pasta, etc., and not exclusively vegetables.
    • “I don’t know if vegetables feel pain.” But let me ask you something back. How do you know that the animals you’re eating don’t feel pain?
    • “There’s nothing wrong with me for wanting to cut out something that has been linked to a number of health problems and environmental issues.”
  • Cooking without Meat – Since a lot of recipes call for meat, I was forced to dig deeper and research new dishes to make. And instead of relying on meat to provide the flavour, I had to incorporate herbs and spices. Because of this, I believe I’m a much better cook than I was before. My culinary repertoire consists of a nice variety including (but not limited to) the following: shepherd’s pie, lasagna, sushi, falafels, pizza, stir fry, Pad Thai, veggie burgers, Tofurkey roasts, ‘chicken’ Parmesan, spaghetti, cannelloni, salads, cookies, brownies, and muffins. Even so, I’m still trying to test out new recipes now and then and put my own spin on them. I’m also proud to say that I make a mean veggie lasagna that even several avid meat-eaters have told me that they think it’s the best lasagna they’ve ever had! And even my dad (who will never give up meat because ‘it tastes good’) enjoys my shepherd’s pie and homemade pizzas.
  • Thanksgiving Feasts – Having a turkey at Thanksgiving is a family staple, but I have to sit out and just have my Tofurkey roast. As great as my mom makes turkey, I have to say that I look forward more to the stuffing she makes – that’s my favourite part about Thanksgiving dinner!
  • Cravings – Every now and then, I think about beef jerky, sizzling bacon, and juicy steaks. Sometimes even run-of-the-mill hot dogs at an outdoor vendor makes me salivate when before it was nothing. But I rein in the urge to backpedal. I remind myself why I became a vegetarian, and then I go make myself something yummy to eat.
  • Not Letting Other People’s Prejudice Get to Me – Some people may see my being a vegetarian as a weakness, a stupid conversion, or me just being a picky eater. Well, we all have our preferences and quirks. Some people won’t eat bread crusts. Some people pick out the olives from their pizza. Some people enjoy drinking prune juice. The world’s made up of all sorts of people.

Becoming a vegetarian might not have been the easy path for me, but I’m sticking with it (as long as I still feel healthy and happy). If holding true to your guns even when the going gets tough and standing up for what you believe in isn’t feminist and empowering, then I don’t know what is.

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Celebrating Birthdays & Unbirthdays

Stopping by quickly just to say that today marks my 28th birthday.

Lots of women seem to want to cover up their real age like a crime scene. But y’know what? I’m actually proud to be another year older. And I don’t mind telling people my age. It’s nothing more than a number.

Let’s all start taking more pride in who we are, how far we’ve come along, and what we’ve accomplished.

Being older means we’ve experienced more of what life has to offer – the good, the bad, and the ugly stereotypes.

We’re all guilty at some point for putting ourselves down. On your birthday, dare to celebrate yourself, and do something special:

  • Take the day off from work to hang out with friends & family
  • Start writing a novel
  • Challenge your physical limits with rock climbing
  • Exercise your creative side with oil painting
  • Join a drawing or karate class
  • Blast your favourite song & dance naked to it in private
  • Master a new video game
  • Learn how to cook something new
  • Start reading that book you’ve always been meaning to
  • Reconnect with old buddies
  • Take a walk in the park & enjoy the fresh air (even if it’s chilly)
  • Make yourself some tea & pour it out of a teapot with 3 spouts (hehe)

And then the day after your birthday, follow up with the next item on your To-Do List. Soon you’ll see that unbirthdays are just as important as your birthday. Constantly strive to grow as a person, and make it a point whenever you can to do something positive for yourself (and others).

Step Aside, Beefcakes! Mancakes Are the Latest Hotcakes!

Haha, just saw this, and it was too good not to share! I read about this here if you want to read the original document. (I’ve spaced out the text to make it neater.)

Mancakes are selling like hotcakes in Toronto bakery

“Mancakes are the latest iteration of man-prefixed goodies, following in the footsteps of mantyhose and man purses.

Taking hold in North America, the so-called “manly cupcakes” eschew traditional vanilla and chocolate for such macho flavours as bacon, rum and coke, and beer, and are subverting the treats’ traditional girly image of pink frosting, icing sugar flowers and sprinkles.

In Toronto, For the Love of Cake has had such high demand for its mancakes that cake master Genevieve Griffin has doubled the bakery’s daily offerings. “It’s been a great way of getting guys interested in cupcakes,” she told the Montreal Gazette. But as David Arrick of Butch Bakery in New York has said, some 90 per cent of customers have been women buying for men.”

I think that it’s funny how cupcakes (cupcakes!) are making people more conscious of gender stereotypes. You could have people protesting on the street who completely get ignored, but cupcakes will stop onlookers in their tracks.

Genevieve’s quite clever. And I think it’s hilarious that David Arrick works at a place called Butch Bakery. Also, who the heck isn’t interested in cupcakes? Those people are just crazy! (Yep, I pass judgment. So judge me!)

What are you waiting for, men? Get out there. Get your stereotypically masculine cupcakes! (And please pick up one for me while you’re there!)

Featured Feminist: Lindsey Van (Ski-Jump Champion & Winter-Olympics Challenger)

Are you getting into the Winter Olympics? I haven’t been following every event (who has?), but I did manage to see quite a bit of speed skating and mogul skiing. (So far, Canada has 5 medals in total – 2 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze. Woo – go Canada!)

Now let’s get on with the latest Featured Feminist profile.

Lindsey Van

Birthday: November 27, 1984

Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan (USA)

Claim to Fame: At the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 2009, she captured gold for her performance in Liberec. She also secured 8 Continental Cup victories.

Why You Should Care: She’s one of the female skiers who’s actively fighting for gender equality within the sport.

Now, I don’t follow many professional skiers, but Lindsey Van is one I recently started paying special attention to. Why? According to Time:

“Lindsey Van holds the record — among both men and women — for the longest jump off of Whistler, B.C.’s normal ski jump, built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.”

It’s impressive alone to hold a record, but to compete with both genders and still come out on top? Now that’s something to brag about. You’re the cream of the crop. And clearly she’s ambitious – at just 25 years old, she’s been ski jumping for 19 years! Crazy!

If you’ve been keeping up to date with the news, you’ve probably heard that although Lindsey Van is certainly a qualified skier, she wasn’t a ski-jump competitor in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. And neither was any other woman.

Start the feminist fire – things are gonna get hot!

The International Olympic Committee has kept ski jumping the sole Olympic sport that remains men-only despite numerous women ski jumpers petitioning since 1998.

I’m sure that you’re as curious as I was to learn exactly why women aren’t allowed to compete in ski jumping. There must be a logical reason, right? Wrong! There were lots of excuses, but the ‘funniest’ one I read was a 2005 statement made by Gian Franco Kasper (the FIS president and International Olympic Committee member) who thought that it “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” Really? Sounds like someone’s been studying medical textbooks from the 1800s. I wonder how he explains how she kicked serious ass and held a record among both women and men.

Watch this MSNBC video to hear from Lindsey herself and other ski jumpers on this issue. You’ll get lots of additional background information on gender discrimination in ski jumping. It’s just 10 minutes and 43 seconds long, but it’s worth watching the whole thing.

Why I Consider Her a Feminist

She’s fighting for what’s right – gender equality. And that’s something to be commended, not condemned. If her skiing achievements don’t floor you, it’s her desire to not only see, but contribute to a change in the world. We can all be armchair feminists and point our fingers at what’s wrong and what needs to be changed, but if we never physically act upon it and voice our opinions, that change may never come about.

Passion is one of the qualities I always look for in my friends and people who I admire. She seems to have it in spades. In sports, there’s a disproportionate number of women compared to men, so it’s especially important to have a frontline woman challenging the status quo. It’s inspiring!

For a dramatic visual that really gets the message across, please check out this 57-second YouTube clip that illustrates how women have to really fight for their right to compete in sports that men already get to compete in:

But for those of you who don’t want to watch it, I’ll summarize its message. Women and men have been allowed to compete in Olympic Winter Games events at different times. Women are only approved to compete at a much-later date:

  • Speed Skating: Men (1924) & Women (1960)
  • Bobsled: Men (1924) & Women (2002)
  • Ski Jumping: Men (1924) & Women (2014?)

The clip ends by saying, “Let’s not just bridge the gap in 2014. Let’s jump over it.” Well said!

But like every strong woman, she has strong opinions. According to Wikipedia, “she alienated many supporters when she characterized the Canadian legal system as ‘weak’ and said the International Olympic Committee was ‘like the Taliban of the Olympics.'”

Whether or not you agree with her on either points shouldn’t make you lose sight of the bigger picture – she’s fighting for gender equality within the sport. That should take precedence. And that’s why I chose her for this Featured Feminist section.

I don’t choose people for this section because they are saints or say politically-correct things to the media. I don’t choose them because they always do the right thing. I choose them because they’re doing some good. Big difference. Everybody can fall, but not everyone can get back up.

Thank you, Lindsey Van, for putting women on the ski-jumping map. And thank you for putting yourself on the line for women’s rights all over the world!

Megan Fox: Doing the Fox Trot & Tripping on Her Tongue

When Transformers star, Megan Fox was asked if it bothered her that people saw her more as a sex symbol than an actor, she let out this brain fart that pissed me off:

“I don’t know why someone would complain about that. That just means that the bar has been set pretty low.

People don’t expect me to do anything that’s worth watching. So I can only be an overachiever.

I think all women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. That’s what our purpose is in this business. You’re merchandised, you’re a product. You’re sold and it’s based on sex. But that’s okay. I think women should be empowered by that, not degraded.”

Alright, so it’s okay that people expect nothing from you? And we should feel empowered to be viewed as one-dimensional people who are valued more for our physical appearance rather than intellect or talent?

Glock you, Megan!

It’s embarrassing that a woman in this day and age would make such anti-feminist remarks. It’s disappointing to find out that she’s not more than a pretty face.

Heidi Montag & Plastic Surgery: Low Self-Esteem Cuts like a Knife

People love to hate Heidi Montag (or Heidi Pratt since she is married to the most hated reality TV villain, Spencer Pratt). She’s been the butt of many cruel jokes revolving the staged ‘candid’ shots of the couple hamming it up for the paparazzi and her failed attempt at a music career. When she went under the knife, it only added fuel to the fire.

The Hills star has transformed before our very eyes. In season one, she looked sweet, bubbly, happy, and natural. Then a few seasons later, she opted for a nose job and breast implants. Then in November, she went through 10 plastic-surgery procedures in a single day and came out looking like this. (Watch the Access Hollywood interview to hear Heidi Montag speak out about her experience.)

I actually thought Heidi looked gorgeous before her surgery – she had this sparkle in her eyes that I can’t quite describe. When she smiled, her whole face smiled.

I’m also not against plastic surgery. I’ve fantasized about having breast implants someday, but threw that dream out the window because I always come back to the same conclusion: I don’t want to rely on surgery to make me happy. I want to become stronger from within and learn to accept myself as is. That is what a real feminist does – deal with hard problems instead of resorting to quick fixes. And I never want to define my happiness solely on the size of my boobs. That would just make me depressed.

Heidi Montag’s plastic surgery got me thinking about how closely a woman’s self esteem is tied to her looks. There’s a suffocating amount of pressure on us to look a certain way – fake.

Even though we know that the photos of those models have been airbrushed and even if we know that there’s nothing real about that woman, we still think, “Wow, she’s beautiful” and then pulled out the mental yardstick as we compare our physical ‘failings’ with her positive attributes. It is this process by which we gradually loathe ourselves and make it our goal to look like someone entirely different.

You could say that we learn to disrespect ourselves.

But it was something Heidi Montag said in the January 25, 2010 issue of People magazine that pissed me off and made me pity her. When asked if it worries her that people will fixate on her large breasts, she replied:

“I hope so. They better! That’s kind of the point. Sex appeal is really important and it’s not saying that you’re only sexy if you have big boobs. That’s not true at all, and honestly the way I got Spencer, I had no surgery. It was my inner beauty that he loved.”

So she wants people now to notice her because of her boobs. Lovely. So many women have fought so that we could come as far as we did since getting the right to vote. But now ignorant statements like this throw the stick in the bicycle’s spokes.

And she claims that Spencer Pratt loved her inner beauty, and that’s what he fell in love with. Well, what about Heidi? Does she also not love herself for her inner beauty? Apparently not since she was quoted as telling someone during an interview that she’d rather die than to be flat-chested. Nice.

Things like this bother me because it’s proof that women still have such problems linking their self worth with how others perceive them. Instead of being happy, you’re happy because someone else is happy.

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