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dating dilemma

November 24, 2009

Ok, so I lied in that last post, but I will get onto Steiner’s questions tomorrow, I promise. I am diverting because the question of dating seems to keep popping up in my conversations and so I am going to address the dating question I am most often asked…

Do good feminists always date feminists? Can a vegan love a meat-eater?

These are questions faced by everyone really:

Will you date someone without your values?

My answer is no.

Admittedly, in the past I have been guilty of violating that statement, but I like to think that I have evolved since then. In the past I have had a “sliding scale” type of system I use after-the-fact to justify my dating decisions. I have forgiven myself for a gender-conscious partner who didn’t “identify” as a feminist on the grounds that at least he wasn’t sexist. And a vegetarian seems a much more excusable “slip” than a meat-eater. However, in principle, and from this point forward I hope I will not wane.

I have been told that this rejection of non-feminists and non-vegans is too close-minded. The idea expressed to me most often is that I need to be open to other people and maybe they will open up to my ideas. I think that with a choice as intimate as who you date, this sort of openness is not useful. No one would question a devout Christian for wanting to date a devout Christian, and most people would be shocked if an outspoken right-winger hooked up with a liberal activist.  However, my demand to partner up with people who reject sexism and consuming animals’ flesh is often challenged.  Further, the hostility with which my dating-boundaries are met, applies much more heavily to the vegan-only rule than the feminist-only rule.

It is usually more understandable to people that I will only date feminists than that I will only date vegans. Feminism, to most people, implies some sort of ideology about gender roles, so I think it seems more logical to some, particularly in a heterosexual context, that similar gender ideology is a necessary pretext for a smooth relationship. I think the reason the vegan-only rule is less tolerated is that non-vegans (and some vegans too I suspect) see my eating habits as a “diet” or a “lifestyle choice.”  I am sometimes treated as a dogmatic fool to suggest I will not share my body or my heart with a person who eats meat (or uses animals in any exploitative way). However, to me veganism is about my worldview and my moral compass. I honestly, truly, with each and every inch of body know that eating animals is murder. Every hamburger is the byproduct of unnecessary torture, pain and murder. With each slice of cheese I mourn the rape of a cow, the pain of a mother and child at being forcibly separated and the slow, painful death of a “veal” calf. Being complacent in the consumption of animal products would be a must to have a successful relationship with a non-vegan. And to me, that silence and compliance is an abhorrent injustice.

Another hurdle lies in that fact that, in the quest for a feminist and vegan partner, the world of possible partners is limited. In a seemingly slim population (though I am guessing everyone’s list of must-haves makes anyone’s dating population slim), one can run the risk of settling—overlooking other points of incompatibility because one is enamored at a person’s feminist and vegan ideology or fears not finding another feminist vegan. It is important to put these moral imperatives at the top of your list, but not at the expense of all the other things you care about. Standards are standards, not to be sold out.

The choice that seems so clear in principle gets cloudy when, in a society where a marginal world-view can so often leave you isolated, you might be in need of reassurance, support and love. As my own relationship sits on rocky ground and I perceive the possibility I might be moving forward in my life without the feminist vegan that I so love, this dilemma seems more real. Because, while what I want most is acceptance of and love for all life, universally, another thing I very much want is for someone to accept and love me, specifically. And therein lies the dating dilemma…

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:43 pm

    There are two separate things here in terms of partner questioning for me.

    The first regards a partner and feminism. The expectation of someone identifying as feminist seems unnecessarily limiting as it is entirely possible that someone believes the same that you do in terms of gender without identifying as a feminist. If you had a discussion with someone and could not find any difference between the two of you on thoughts regarding sex/gender/sexuality/etc., but they did not personally identify as feminist, would that negate any possibility of dating them? Does a identity label (or lack thereof) preclude someone, regardless of actions and beliefs?

    The second regards a partner and veganism. What about someone who is vegetarian and intends to become vegan, but has been unable to make that step? Are they entirely eliminated?
    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the shock over you not dating a vegan arises from many peoples’ experience(s) with individuals who are formerly vegan, no matter how die-hard, down-for-the-cause they seemed initially. Because of changing identities/behaviors in terms of consumption, this might explain the shock of dietary limits in contrast to sociopolitical ideology as it tends to be relatively stable once once reaches adulthood. And when changes occur, it happens very slowly (and the change is nearly discernible on a day-to-day basis) or can change due to a traumatic event.

    • November 24, 2009 11:32 pm

      Paul, I think you point out an important question–does it matter what one does and believes or what one calls him or herself? I think it matters most what one does and believes, though I think I would feel someone was degrading the feminist position if they were uncomfortable identifying with it. But who knows, I have rarely met a feminist who doesn’t identify as such if you ask him or her directly.
      I don’t think anyone is “completely eliminated” but I would have a difficult time being intimate with someone who wasn’t vegan. It is kind of like meeting someone who is in the process of learning not to be jealous–it is a gamble to open your heart because you can’t really expect anyone to change–they might always be jealous and never change. You would spend your whole relationship waiting for him or her to be someone different. Furthermore, from my own experiences of having people “go vegan” when they are with me, they tend to do it for me and aren’t committed to it since they “go back” after the relationship. I want a true believer, so to speak.
      This makes me wonder, though, would a non-vegan want to date a vegan?
      I am guessing we all have these qualities that are “a must” for us, but that they tend to be fuzzier concepts like “sense of humor” or “open-minded.”
      And, yes, people change. That is another dating dilemma: can you open your heart up to someone knowing that one day you might be disappointed and your heart might break?

  2. Amanda permalink
    November 26, 2009 10:43 am

    I’m curious. How do these principles and policies apply to friendships?

    • November 26, 2009 4:33 pm

      Amanda, that is a very interesting question and one I still struggle with. I tend to rely on friendships more than the people that I date and so the question you propose is a much harder one to answer.

      I ask my friends to accept me, flaws and all, and so I try to be more open to their flaws. That being said, I cannot think of a single true friend I have who isn’t feminist (but here again, we get to Paul’s point- not all feminist-minded people identify as feminist). However, most of my close friends now were my close friends before I became vegan and they were and remain a very supportive force for me as I grow and change. None of them are vegan. And this has begun to be a problem for me.

      I feel a huge distance, that grows wider with time, between myself and my non-veg family and friends. I expect that ultimately I will not have very strong passionate friendships with the people who I used to and currently do (though this is not my goal) for the simple reason that I know they are culpable for acts that are egregious and irresponsible. The weight of their decisions weighs heavily on me and I feel that not to address their decision to eat animals makes me culpable for those animals’ suffering and death. This repeated conversation is, I am sure, annoying to them and it frustrates me. I don’t understand how someone who truly loves me and hears what I have to tell them about veganism (or feminism for that matter) over and over for years on end can still decide to eat animals. It is heart breaking. Further, as to making new friends, I am disinterested in expanding my horizons past the feminist vegan community for anything more than a casual friendship.

  3. Nicoal permalink
    November 26, 2009 9:33 pm


    I love this posting. So many times I have been asked if I would date a meat-eater, or “non-vegan”. My answer – “no” – is ALWAYS questioned or seen as some form of germ-phobia because I don’t want to be intimate with someone who eats dead animals.

  4. November 27, 2009 7:45 pm

    As a friend of yours for nearly 10 years, I in large part attribute my decision to become vegetarian 6 months ago to your passion and devotion to the very important issue of animal rights.

    However, you were never outwardly judgmental of me when I ate meat, nor did you overtly convince me to give up eating meat. Admittedly, it was a gradual process on my part.

    Your lack of judgment of others will still maintaining your strong personal convictions already inspired one of your close friends to follow suit.

    Whose not to say others may come around as well?

    • December 4, 2009 11:17 am

      I have to say that much of my motivation to be a vegetarian stems from your passion and your very valuable friendship, Veg. You’ve opened my eyes, knowing me as an animal-lover, to the horrors of meat consumption. However, I think there are other, grayer areas on the road to veganism that I’m just not sold on, especially as a girl who grew up in rural Amish country — for example, the consumer choice to purchase local, (“almost too!” as some farmers I know say) free-range eggs.

      I would hope that our differences would spur a stronger friendship between you and I, rather than a rejection of said friendship simply because we do not see though identical life-lenses. In fact, many of the places we HAVE differed has for certain made me a better, stronger me — and I firmly believe the opposite could be true, too!

      We all stem from different cultural, ideological, and historical upbringings, and as a strong social constructivist, I have to say that it would be tough to find an identical you, or an identical me! 🙂

      Most of all: <3!



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