Now Who’s Being Judgemental?

// 14 June 2005

Julie Bindel, the generally fabulous and well respected feminist founder of Justice for Women, has caused ructions with her recent Guardian piece “Why I hate Vegetarians“. In a bafflingly vitriolic article, she brands vegetarians (except, for some reason, those who are for religious or cultural reasons) as smug, self-satisfied, pompous, aloof, naive, humourless, judgemental, and bullies.

Her point about the misogynist way PETA run their campaigns is right on the money. But as Carol J Adams pointed out in her books “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and “The Pornography of Meat”, carnivores aren’t exactly innocent on that score either. What’s more, the people who are most disappointed by PETA’s approach and at the forefront of complaining to PETA are often feminist vegetarians.

Bindel is infuriated that people assume she’s veggie because she’s feminist. Sure, it’s important to break those stereotypes and make sure that people realise you don’t have to behave in certain ways to be a feminist. As a veggie, I’ve sometimes annoyingly had people assume I don’t drink alcohol or won’t eat anything unhealthy; but that doesn’t make me hate teetotallers or Mr Kipling. She also argues that vegetarians are wrong to prioritise animal welfare before women’s welfare, but doesn’t explain how the simple personal act of choosing not to eat meat prevents one from entering fully into feminist activism.

Some feminists may agree with her, but I feel it’s a shame that vegetarians and vegans who are trying to act ethically and morally according to their own consciences to make the world a better place – often in difficult circumstances – are viewed with suspicion and hatred by a feminist who is also trying to do the same thing but in another area of life. It’s also disappointing that despite “agreeing in principle with most reasons for giving up meat”, she throws around the same old insulting cliched stereotypes that feminists have always been subjected to: “humourless”, “judgemental”, “self-satisfied”. Both feminists and vegetarians need to be given more credit.

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