A vegan Youtube influencer recently came out as occasionally consuming animal products, and (as ever) the apology tour has begun. Several people have passionately argued on her behalf, but here is what is not addressed by the the Youtuber herself nor the people who have written lengthy defenses of her—the fact that this whole conversation is centered around the [perceived] victimhood of white women. We can debate about the politics of purity or what meaningfully constitutes veganism all day long. But that, for me, obfuscates the power dynamics that have been at play. With a Youtube channel that has over one million subscribers, this is a person who has traded in gaining a tremendous amount of social (if not financial) currency through veganism. And then not long after she amassed this capital, she made this 'confession' video and immediately assumed the role of victim, thereby displacing the animal victims for whom she claims to advocate. To that end, this illustrates another example of what’s known as white savior complex, a phenomenon explored by such academics as Dr. Breeze Harper among others in which the emotional experiences of white people overshadow the reality of the cause du jour itself (be it animal rights, voluntourism in impoverished countries, or more). Perhaps I would feel differently if she framed her confession in terms of brokering an honest dialogue about how privilege operates. A conversation in which she examines how and why she centered (centers?) her own convenience when she actively chooses animal products. A conversation that explains the complex social, psychological, and emotional triggers that instigate these choices.
After all, every one of us falls short when it comes to consuming products made from violent exploitation of the vulnerable. That said, electronics, clothing items, and other major purchases are not the same as food (the primary way in which we interact with animals on a daily basis) because nobody buys a cell phone three times a day. However, this young woman did not approach the conversation like that. Instead, she made this confession centering her fear of [well-deserved] critique and then promptly made a follow-up video in which she talked about being attacked. She used the now familiar trope of white woman tears to garner sympathy from people who are all too quick to defend her because the power of white woman victimhood is so vast. And as demonstrated...it works every time.
White women need to understand that people holding them accountable for doing something they know is wrong IS NOT AN ATTACK. And crying those white tears only reinforces the social capital that is granted to them by existing power structures. It does a disservice to all the humans and animals involved in this hierarchy. And all the white men who immediately and valiantly rushed to her defense need to understand that they have laid bare where their allegiance lies. And it is not with the animal bodies being exploited. All these calls for "coming together" echo the calls for false solidarity that white people make whenever black voices demand accountability for anti-black racism. It's not divisive to name violence for what it is.
If anyone wants to learn more about the ‘weary weaponising of white women's tears’ to avoid accountability, the DEFINITIVE piece on it is written by Ruby Hamad, Australian feminist and longtime vegan. Quote Hamad
To put it less poetically, it is the trauma caused by the tactic many white women employ to muster sympathy and avoid accountability, by turning the tables and accusing their accuser.
Give her piece a read in The Guardian, and then give it a share. And while you're at it, share this too along with your thoughts!
[Author’s note: I deliberately did not link to the original video or any of the defensive think pieces because I have no desire to drive more traffic in that direction. Readers can easily google them for further discussion.]
Did you like this blog post? Find it useful? Share it with your friends? Consider making a $5 contribution to my Patreon.