Remembering the “Rebel” in TRGK

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There has been a version of this post in my head for a long time. A recent comment from a reader (along with reading some fellow bloggers’ reflections about Vida Vegan Con) inspired me to take this on sooner than later. I want to talk about how this blog may have lost sight of it’s original intent. More accurately, how I lost site of the original intent of the blog.

Before Rebel Grrrl Kitchen there was Rebel Grrrl Academy. Rebel Grrrl Academy was a blog I created to share my critical, academic reflections in a forum that was less restricted than academic journals (a medium with access dependent upon either membership to a university library database, or a shit ton of money). Of course, that’s not to say that I thought the world was in desperate need of access to my thoughts—-(which, I assure you, are no more brilliant than a gazillion other critically-minded scholars, activists, and scholar/activists out there)—-but I was grateful to have a public outlet to keep me writing about things that I thought mattered, even if they weren’t related to an assignment for school or my dissertation.

During my second year of PhD coursework I stumbled into the world of cleansing and “clean eating.” Having been a vegan since the age of 18 and having battled eating disorders and body image issues since the age of 11, I was no stranger to the world of diets and food-talk, but something about this “healthy living world” felt new and exciting. I did my first real cleanse in 2010 and was completely hooked. However, in the early stages, I was hyper-aware of how this lifestyle conflicted with some of my fundamental beliefs. As a feminist, I suspected that this cleanse world was used by some as a way to perpetuate disordered eating habits under the guise of “health.” As a person who is devoted to eradicating class and racial injustice, I noticed the ways in which this world was built for people who were in positions of privilege (and was not surprised to see mostly white faces on the books, blogs, and videos with which I was engaging). I originally wrote this post on Rebel Grrrrl Academy to discuss the complicated path to navigating the practice of self-care with the practice of resisting oppressive systems. It was this post that inspired me to start The Rebel Grrrl Kitchen. I wanted to write about living a health-centric vegan lifestyle as a feminist, queer, anti-racist, anti-capitalist 20-something.

But it wasn’t long before that message got lost. The more I read blogs, the more diets I discovered that promised even cleaner and more detoxified results. My list of “Will Not Eat” expanded—not only was I a vegan, but I was now adamantly gluten-avoidant, soy-free, refined sugar-free, and would flirt with bouts of being both grain and bean free. Some of you may remember that for a while I was 80/10/10-ing, and eating only fruits and vegetables with little to no fat in my day at all. (I’m not bashing that diet, I’m simply saying I was doing it for the wrong reasons).

I wanted to make myself accessible to a wider audience so I stifled my politics and became further entrenched in promoting what some people would come to identify as “orthorexic” behavior. I felt embarrassed to post “What I Ate Wednesdays” if I didn’t eat perfectly (whatever that means), and I became nervous every time I posted a picture of myself for fear that people would judge my body for not being thin enough to be a legit “healthy” living blogger.

Although I continued to sprinkle some political sentiments here and there (and continued to have these politics in my academic work and, for the most part, in my everyday life (at least when it came to other people)), I could feel myself reading and writing more about upholding this “clean eating world” than resisting the oppressive aspects of it.

I’m admitting this first to apologize to anyone I may have triggered or negatively influenced by writing about “bad” food choices or food-induced guilt. And I’m admitting this to hold myself accountable to stay true to my politics and to practice resistance rather than assimilation to racist, body-shaming, classist practices. And to remind all of us that veganism is, first and foremost, about compassion to animals. I am re-committing myself to put the “rebel” back in The Rebel Grrrl Kitchen. And to remember that my tagline is to “reclaim healthy living,” not add to the status quo.

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“riot grrrl’s not dead!”

This doesn’t mean the blog will be radically different. I’ll still post recipes, I’ll still track my workouts, etc. I don’t think healthy practices—-things that legit make me feel good for reasons that are not attached to my history with eating disorders, etc.—-are mutually exclusive from a political approach to self-care. But if you’re offended by overtly left politics and feminist critiques of the racist, classist, fat-shaming “healthy living world,” then my blog may not be for you. Just a heads up.

I hope you’ll still join me. Because in addition to being all about fighting the power, I’m also still also all about cute things, and epic jams, and green juice. Rest assured, If I can’t watch cute animal videos, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.

So….are you with me?

xoxoxo

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29 thoughts on “Remembering the “Rebel” in TRGK

  1. Lou says:

    LOVE this. Love it. Sounds like you have been doing a bit of fruitful soul searching, so bravo, beautiful gal – here’s to balance and happiness, yes?

  2. FoodFeud says:

    Riot on! This is such a wonderful post. I think our politics are very similar and I’m often really conflicted about the privileges I really do have by being white and relatively financially stable, but I refuse to feel bad about being vegan and being “picky” about my foods when sometimes other people have to do without.
    It is really tough to find balance and I think a lot of women are SO tough on themselves. I just read Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity and the book talks a lot about issues that you talk about, as well as “authenticity” and self-comparison, among other issues that really resonated with me. maybe you would enjoy it too (now that you aren’t constantly trying to grind out the work for yr studies!)
    But anyway, I commend anyone who talks about self-care and loving yr body. Throw class warfare and animal rights issues in too, and I’m sold. I’m really so happy to have found yr blog – you always bring up really intelligent issues. And I must admit, I totally originally checked the blog out BECAUSE of the “rebel” title.
    Hugs and high fives.

    • raechel says:

      Maud, my fellow riot grrrl punk rock vegan soul sister, I am so grateful for your words here! I have felt mega connection with you across the blogosphere and am equally happy to have found YR blog! I absolutely must read Homeward Bound. I loved your post from yesterday and will comment on it soon, but I am so interested in all these ideas. It makes me want to have a panel about it. Meet me at Vida Vegan Con next year?!

  3. Sonja says:

    word! I feel like I can relate to much of what you are saying here – although I myself at age 30 am stil very much tangled up in my own private battle of disordered and healthy thinking and must admit I perpetuate that onto my own blog as well. I’m really interested where this renewed vow of disobedience will lead to!

  4. lacy davis says:

    HI!
    Wow. Okay, so I read your blog often and have never commented. My name is Lacy! I love the things you write and I relate to all of it so much. I, too, am first and formost a feminist, I have struggled with disordered eating and body image, I am vegetarian (eating vegan except for eggs from chickens that I know), and am very fitness and “clean” eat-y. I often feel incredibly conflicted about this bundle of identities, and have felt really happy to find your blog, as it seems like it deals with a lot of these issues.

    I get scared when I post my food too, because inevitably people judge. I am in the process of doing (and blogging about) a vegetarian Whole30 (paleo-veg thing) and I think it is extremely important for me to talk about it because there is not very much info about doing it veg on the internet and because I don’t want to be alone in this restrictive food journey! I am not eating a lot of things right now, but also feel like talking about it openly keeps me accountable to what I *do* eat. (I don’t think taking a long or short term break from certain foods has to turn disordered) People have said I eat too much fat, eat too little in general, exercise too much, don’t do the right kind of exercise, blahblahblah. I don’t really care about those people though! Because my blogging is for people like me, who could use the community.

    Anyway! Tangent. Thank you for your writing and helping me to feel understood even if we have not met. You are an excellent role model, in the way that you have been honest about your food and your life and your politics in a public forum, which is super brave! I look forward to the tweaks you mentioned and to continue dialogue about health-blog content in a world that tries to drag women and their bodies through the dirt.
    Lacy

    • raechel says:

      Oh my goodness, Lacy, THANK YOU for commenting, gurlfriend! I clicked on your bloggy-blog and was like “Omg another kindred spirit!” I have been nodding my head along with your posts and it is definitely comforting to know there are those of us out there trying to make sense of our ostensibly contradictory identities as health-focused feminists. Blogging is such a weird, vulnerable practice, but it feels so awesome when we are able to build community with like-minds and to connect with people who have gone through/are going through similar struggles. Empathy is so underrated. <3

  5. Jess says:

    Love this post. I have always admired the way you not just bring up these issues but by the way you actually unpack and explore them. It is so difficult to find balance in our lives and to differentiate between what we’re doing for ourselves and what we’re influenced to do by others. I wish there were more bloggers out there willing to write meaningful critiques of the “healthy living” community. I’m looking forward to reading more of your thoughts :)

    • raechel says:

      Thank you friend! I really admire you for bringing the science into the mix that so many HLBs (myself included) often ignore. Thanks for keepin’ it real, if you will. ; )

  6. Kibby@Kibby's Blended Life says:

    I’m with you, babe! I love that you are honest, authentic and sassy. It’s not always about the food to me – there is more to it and you are going there in such a open and non-judgmental way. I support and encourage you to GO THERE and share with us. XO

  7. Natalia says:

    Hey girly. You KNOW I’m with you, all the way!! I’ve loved reading your blog since discovering it last year – I feel you’re my kindred spirit from across the pond : ) and I’m so glad you linked to your post on self care on your other blog – I can’t wait to read your other posts over there!! Lots of love – you rock xoxo

  8. cre8love says:

    I love this ! I can totally relate as well. I also had an eating/body image disorder for many years starting at 11. I read along some other blogs and couldn’t help but notice you also went to CPY for your TT! I JUST finished my XP on Sunday and I’d love to talk to you more about what it’s like actually working for them! This is my email : lorena@arenafitness.com :)

    hugs!

  9. Caroline says:

    I am really looking forward to the redirection – it’s the politics that you touch on that drew me to your blog in the first place!
    Much love,

  10. twitchysister says:

    GIRL. Love this! Body shaming, lady hatin’ and seriously mixed up priorities abound in the “healthy living world” and we need the riot grrrrrl in you more than ever! You’re the best!

  11. Gabby @ the veggie nook says:

    You are awesome girl! I get really caught up in feeling ashamed for choices at times, simply because of where I go to school. It can be just as beneficial to treat yourself and not stress as it is to eat perfectly (but stress that you’re not good enough!). I just need to be reminding of that! I am so looking forward to the rebel being brought back. You always right the most thoughtful pieces :)

  12. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts says:

    Oh Raechel, you have no idea how grateful I am for this post. I loved your blog before, but did always hold back a little from commenting on the ‘stricter’ aspects of it – I share your beliefs about how healthy eating can mask disordered behaviours and tend to believe in moderation over elimination of too many food groups. It’s a tough line to walk when you do care about health and eat a vegan diet though. So many blogs take a stance I can’t support and when I find one that speaks out against that, as you’ve done here, it always makes me really happy. So thank you :)

    • raechel says:

      Oh, thanks so much Kari! It means a lot to have your respect because I really respect you and your approach to food and living that I see on your blog!

  13. nikki says:

    Awesome post! The REBEL is why I came to your blog. Oh, and the GRRRL. I’ve been thinking about these topics so much lately, and trying to figure out how to do something about it, in my personal life, my academic life, and my blog. I’ve felt the same self-consciousness about not fitting into that perfect “healthy vegan” image, then I re-center myself with “who f-ing cares what I look like, I’m doing this for the animals”. I am realizing that this is a common struggle for vegan women these days. Bravo to you for addressing this. I hope that we are all talking about this more, starting now. xo

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