This letter from a mother to her vegan daughter made me think. For probably most vegans, it is difficult to stand by and watch people put their health at risk and contribute to animal cruelty etc. but the disintegration of a relationship like this is quite sad.
As I sit here googling ‘how to ask for no presents’, I stop and wonder how we got to this point. How is me having basically everything I need and not wanting (or trying not to indulge in) new things something I should be scared to tell people? I will spend the next half an hour carefully researching how best to word my request without seeming ‘ungrateful’, ‘rude’ or ‘judgey’.
I’ll be honest. The adverts and the frenzy have crept into my mindset recently, and I’m not yet strong enough to resist it completely. I have treated myself a few times and I have given my boyfriend and mum a couple of ideas of things I’d like. For me at least, it is inevitable that I will end up gaining a few possessions over this period, and I’m okay with that. At least this way (by asking for specific items) I know I’m going to use them.
The presents I’m not at all keen on are the ‘for the sake of it’ ones. And what I mean by that is the ones where the thought process has gone something along the lines of this…
I need to get them something… That’s cheap, that’ll do.
That present doesn’t look like enough on it’s own… I’ll pick up a few other little bits too.
These are the kinds of presents that I have no time for. They’re the novelty gifts, the mugs, the slipper socks, etc. I appreciate that they don’t break the bank and they make the recipient feel special because you did make some effort, but they’re also the first things that end up sitting in a drawer for years, going instantly (or eventually) to the charity shop, or if they are actually used they die an early death due to poor quality.
A few years ago I would’ve said ‘What’s the harm in these little gifts? Gifts just show you care, and it’s not the end of the world if you just donate it afterwards’. The crucial difference was that back then I didn’t think material things had value. I would cycle new clothes in and out of my wardrobe without a care because ‘it’s harmless’. I would put things in the bin and think they were ‘gone’ and ‘dealt with’. I would send something to a charity shop and go ‘I’ve done my bit’.
Since then I’ve learned that when you buy something cheap, the person who made it had to pay for it with their freedom and quality of life. When you throw something in to landfill, it causes health problems for the people that live nearby, and you contribute to the destruction of the planet and increasing natural disasters. I’m still not perfect, but I recognise that even apparently small decisions like this have an impact.
I know that getting every friend or family member a present that 1) they want 2) they’ll use 3) was made sweatshop free 4) is eco-friendly is just not possible. And that’s why I want to opt out of as many present-exchange (but mainly receiving) opportunities as I can.
HOWEVER! I also know that it’s not that easy to just say you don’t want anything. Sometimes that’s not enough. I will be posting in a few days about other alternatives, not to worry 🙂
Hi there! I’ve been doing some thinking recently (help us all!) and it occurred to me that through this new way of life I’ve been living the last few years, I’ve been able to participate in my own acts of resistance against things I wasn’t even aware of before. Here are a few ways I’ve been sticking it to the man…
cosmetics- don’t use shampoo, and only use 3 makeup items
I am resisting the advertisement industry that lies and profits from women’s insecurity, telling us that we need an eye cream, foot cream, nail cream, and a different soap depending on whether you are male or female. My hair and skin haven’t been softer since I ditched the products which whilst doing a job, make your body reliant on them for something it can do naturally.
clothes- buy only a few items of clothing as needed, from ethical brands and charity shops
Spanish brand ZARA for example churns out a crazy 52 (micro) seasons a year, averaging 12000 styles (the retail average is 3000). It’s just irresponsible to think you can produce so much and encourage people to buy more and more with the situation already in dire straights. I am resisting the over over over-consumption and prices so low that people pay for your clothes with their lives on the other side of the planet.
veganism- I choose not to eat animal products
I’ve had people personally offended that I don’t eat meat. I’ve even had people ask me how I can call myself Jamaican. I am aware that in some cultures meat is very embedded into the every day, but there is no reason why someone should have to condone an act they consider wrong to be a part of a culture. I’ve also been told that I am being rude or fussy when refusing food that someone of another culture has made for me because it has meat in it. I understand that for a lot of people, they don’t see or think about the process and simply see meat and animals as food. My intention is not to reject your generosity but rather to live by a principle that I think matters.
Also, something I haven’t had to experience as a woman, but that I have witnessed happen around me: the association of manliness with meat-eating. Who knows where it stems from; cavemen ideology, the preoccupation with protein and muscle-building, I can’t really comment. But as weak as the argument seems from someone liberated from the need to fit in with gender stereotypes, I have seen that in many people the need to perform their gender and what they consider to be essential components of their gender is a really strong pull.
I am resisting the association of meat-eating with culture or by being a mixed-race British person of Caribbean heritage who does not eat animal products. And as a woman I do not perpetuate the myth that to be strong, healthy, happy or fit in, it is necessary for any gender to do so either.
Yeah, so we got a little bit political today, but that’s okay! It’s important to remember that often things that are worthwhile and right, are not easy. Being aware of underlying influences in society is crucial to breaking their power and realising that they do not need to control you. Thanks for reading 🙂