So, this is the post where I come clean about my YouTube obsession.
I am obsessed with YouTube. I confess. Please don't run for the hills and begin doubting any depth you once found in my words.
YouTube, despite the often shallow content, vapid vloggers and non-stop drama, is - at the end of the day - a community. A community of different worlds, perspectives, information, cliques and, I'm gonna be honest, it's fascinating. Fascinating as all hell. I started off only being invested in the vegan community. It was helpful to me as a new vegan getting to see what people were eating, where they shopped, how veganism was discussed and received. This vast, incredible resource at my fingertips - helping me and guiding me forwards.
Then... I discovered the drama. Oh boy the YouTube drama...
Active YouTube watchers and vloggers love controversies. And even more so, they love a good old fight between two YouTubers. In the vegan world different YouTubers are constantly making response videos to each other, disagreeing, going back and forth, sending their followers to go and write mean comments on the other's channel. It's MENTAL. And... addictive.
In any world, there are kings and queens, those who reign above all others. And, like any world, it's quite a mystery how they got there.
In the vegan YouTube world, the queen is Freelee the Banana Girl. Without question. I'm sure many readers will have heard of her, or stumbled across her videos. If you haven't, I would say go and have a watch. Most of her earlier videos are great; she got to this level of stardom from making genuine, raw, inspiring videos about being a healthy, high-carb vegan, living an active lifestyle and promoting and overly positive message.
Freelee started out raw but after about five years on YouTube, made a controversial move to promoting a "Raw Till 4" diet - introducing cooked foods onto her channel and encouraging the (enormous) following, to shun the raw movement and, instead, include healthy, high-carb cooked foods like rice and potatoes.
I personally LOVED this message and it was easy to understand the change in her thinking. Raw ain't sustainable. And it's more important to have VEGANS than it is to have Raw Vegans. In fact, who cares about having raw vegans? That is a (very admirable) personal choice and one that should only be made to enable personal growth or health. In terms of the greater good and humanity - vegan is definitely good enough. Don't add more and more restrictions - get people vegan and give them a lovely long list of foods that are delicious and easy. I was over the moon that Freelee developed her message into something more accessible for the every day viewer.
But then, weirdly, everything went sour. I could sit here for hours and hours explaining the complexities of the YouTube world, which of course I will not do. So, in a nutshell, Freelee....well... she changed.
She came up with a new "strategy". And her new strategy was to target high profile celebrities (and then, high profile internet personalities) to critique their diet and, essentially, tell them to be vegan. And blame their diet habits and fluctuating weight (argh don't talk about women's weight!) on the fact they WEREN'T vegan.
These videos varied in their approach, some were okay... drawing young girls' attention to the implications of their diet choices, and how most celebrities are eating unsustainable, unhealthy, low-calorie diets. However, some were not okay. Some were, well, just AWKWARD. Freelee became a bit of a bully, for lack of a better word.
In her opinion, the animal deaths and implications of eating meat are far more severe than any "hurt feelings" or "poor old celebrity who felt attacked" and I get that thinking, I do.
But, I cannot pretend that I believe attacking people is EVER okay. I can only speak from my own experience, but any positive conversations I have had with an individual about being vegan, changing their diet or animal agriculture in general, have only been positive (even to the point where they've gone vegan!) was when the conversation itself, was positive.
If a conversation feels judgemental, unpleasant, rude, or really, ANYTHING negative, both parties are likely to respond badly. And, well, that's what's gone mental on YouTube over the last few weeks.....
The girl I had never heard of, but with that thumbnail, I just had to click. And, I've got to be honest, I feel like this girl NAILS IT. Of course, there has been Freelee backlash, and she has addressed every claim Tana makes, essentially saying none of it is true. But what she DOES NOT do, is take on board any of Tana's core message.
Which is: please just be nicer. Be more positive.
Now, I get it, veganism isn't about positivity. Veganism is a dark, complex, awful issue, with a whole load of complicated problems and things that make me so sad sometimes I can't get to sleep if I think about them for too long. I'm not saying I want Freelee to be another sunshine and daisies vlogger, going on about how perfect life is. No, I love that Freelee isn't like that.
But, what I cannot condone, and I never will, is bullying. And despite what Freelee says to defend herself, and how she feels that is not the case, I have felt uncomfortable watching her videos, because I've felt that she, at times, speaks with overwhelming disrespect.
If you want to stand up for the little guy (and who is littlier than baby chickens?) you can't really shit on everyone else to do it. Not in my opinion.
You need to embrace that overwhelming message of - we want things to be BETTER. A better place. Feminists who shit all over men, are ineffective feminists. Similarly, vegans who shit all over humans, are absolutely ineffective vegans. Do not perpetuate the stereotype that vegans care more about animals then people. That's stupid, but it's easy to see why people regurgitate that anti-vegan idea. It's because of people like Freelee.
Freelee, I know there is no way you'll ever read this, but, if you happen to - I do respect you. Some of your videos are amazing and I genuinely LOVE that you tell it how it is. You are probably now (along with Gary Yourovski) responsible for converting more people to veganism than anyone else on the planet. And for that, I will always bow down in respect. But, please, I beg of you - go back to doing it without this venom and disrespect.
You can critique and you can "tell it how it is" without shaming people.
Because really, vegans are anti-bullying. We are about speaking for those without a voice. Shunning the ultimate bullies. Any steps we take that make US the bully, are, I believe, a step in the wrong direction.
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