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Societies 2014, 4(2), 127-147; doi:10.3390/soc4020127

You Are How You Eat? Femininity, Normalization, and Veganism as an Ethical Practice of Freedom

Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University, 215 New North Hall, 37th and O Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20057, USA
Received: 5 March 2014 / Revised: 27 March 2014 / Accepted: 2 April 2014 / Published: 10 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Alimentary Relations, Animal Relations)
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In this paper I argue that the practice of veganism is, or can be, a Foucauldian ethical practice of freedom. I begin by sketching out the problematization of alimentary practices within a normalizing patriarchal framework, which some feminists argue is dominant within contemporary North American society. Within this problematization, eating—for many women—is a way to manage the body’s appearance and bring it into conformity with feminine norms, and also an ongoing opportunity to exercise the will over unruly bodily desires. I then consider the narratives of women who claim that veganism helped them to relinquish disordered eating habits, temper the emotional and psychological turmoil that surrounded their alimentary practices, and mitigate antagonism toward their own bodies. In short, the practice of veganism appears to have reproblematized eating for these women. Thus, I suggest, veganism can be an ethical practice of freedom: it can loosen the tight grip of patriarchal normalization as constituted in and through disordered eating habits, and constitute subjects that are “a little less governed” by this form of power. I conclude by considering objections to this thesis, and in particular, the concern that veganism is linked to healthism, another worrying form of normalization.
Keywords: normalization; femininity; eating disorders; Foucault (Michel); diet; ethics; feminism normalization; femininity; eating disorders; Foucault (Michel); diet; ethics; feminism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Dean, M.A. You Are How You Eat? Femininity, Normalization, and Veganism as an Ethical Practice of Freedom. Societies 2014, 4, 127-147.

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