You think you’re a man
I have been toying with the idea of writing a blog post challenging the trend of showcasing vegan men as tough, virile and strong but then the fabulous Jamie J. Hagen wrote this and used words to teach everyone a lesson with much more effect than I ever could.
But I would still like to give some personal insight.
Vegan living is an informed choice based on compassion and shouldn’t be a battleground to injure individuals who don’t (or do) fall in line with a prescribed image of a man. ‘Dude’ culture and physical prowess is now often being presented as the ideal for vegan men and this works to alienate people who do not fit the mold, as well as perpetuate vile notions that being anything other than a tough man is second best or even completely undesirable.
Telling people they are less of a man for any reason is ridiculous. The title of the book ‘Meat is for Pussies’ is up there with some of the classic Peta campaigns when it comes to trying to humiliate humans in order to promote veganism. Vegans telling men they are effeminate for eating meat is so messed up I don’t even know where to begin.
Years ago at university, I performed a one person presentation that now seems incredibly cloying. I stood in the glare of a stage spotlight with an audience of 25 people on the floor in front of me. Around my neck were 40 or so oversized swing tags (the kind of label used to price a garment) that I had made from cardboard, paint and string.
Each swing tag had a word painted on it. Each word had at one time in my life (or on multiple occasions) been used by another person to shame or upset me. The words included sissy, girly, faggot, weak and even vegan. I stood in silence and lifted each tag from around my neck and dropped it to the floor in silence. Once I had finished, the room went dark and I asked people to visualise themselves stripping away labels that had been used to shame them.
It was all suitably dramatic and overblown but I honestly found great comfort in performing the piece (Fat Gay Vegan as a blog title eventually was informed by this experience).
Years later in 2014, I find myself being confronted by similar terminology and sentiments as the trend to show vegan men as ‘real men’ gains momentum. How many other vegans like me are being confronted and hurt by words like pussy? How many people are outraged that the word pussy is being used to denote weakness? How many people are getting the message that acting like a woman is undesirable? How many queer people are being left out by the mainstreaming and dude-ifying of veganism?
These acts of aggression are not being levelled at us by people who don’t care about animals, but by other vegans.
It is clear that misogyny, sexism, homophobia and all forms of bigotry do not exist solely outside the vegan realm. We need to actively resist the attempts to use tools of divisive language and imagery to sell veganism.
Get the message back on track. Speak out against the reduction of people to damaging stereotypes. Let friends know when they are using hurtful language. Veganism is about improving outcomes for non-human animals. It is not about perpetuating the exclusion of huge chunks of society based on themes of male superiority.