Unpacking the detriments of a single-axis framework through everyday vegan struggles…
By: J. from Feminist JAMMS
In her critique of the antidiscrimination doctrine, Kimberle Crenshaw proposes several measures necessary for “demarginalizing the intersection of race and gender.” She explains that a single-axis framework treats race and gender as mutually exclusive categories, leading people to ignore others’ struggles that pertain to a combination, or intersection, of these identifying factors. While Crenshaw emphasizes this ignorance by describing society’s tendency to erase Black women in the conceptualization of race and gender discrimination, I will focus on this issue from a more lighthearted—vegan—perspective.
The problem begins with the very definition of veganism. According to Merriam Webster, a vegan is defined as a “strict vegetarian who consumes no food that comes from animals” and who “abstains from using animal products.” Although this explanation accurately describes vegan habits, it also demonstrates a single-axis framework of thinking that separates veganism into two mutually exclusive categories: diet and lifestyle. By solely addressing veganism in these terms, the definition ignores people’s reasons for being vegan, which may stem from animal right advocacy to environmental conservation. The dictionary writers alone cannot be blamed for this narrow perspective of veganism, as society’s lack of knowledge on the topic results from a failure to embrace intersectionality.
With respect to veganism, intersectionality can encompass: dietary restrictions/allowances, moral obligations, concerns for the environment, as well as other categories. However, despite each factor’s importance in shaping someone’s decision to be vegan, people often reduce the choice to a matter of diet, or more recently, “social fad.” And so, veganism is only understood to the extent that its practices coincide with those of more dominant groups, like vegetarians, environmentalists, or the ever-growing lactose-intolerant population.
Undoubtedly, the struggles of vegans cannot be compared to those of Black women, as veganism is ultimately a choice while physical appearance—and its social implications—is not. While the effects are felt on different scales, both examples highlight the ignorance that ensues from a single-axis mindset that fails to embrace intersectionality. In hopes of eliminating misconceptions (with respect to veganism) and protecting people’s rights (in reference to Black women), society must adopt an inclusive perspective that recognizes the intersections that define a choice or identity.