Editorial in the NY Times on veganism!? Surprise, surprise: it’s controversial! »
What the heck?? An editorial in The New York Times on veganism?! It’s almost like … we exist! And not just for throwing red paint on some toddler’s ice cream cone or calling fat people whales. Vegan.com isn’t impressed, calling it “vegan advocacy at its worst”:
It’s hard to imagine somebody doing a better job of discouraging people from becoming vegan…. I can’t begin to imagine how many potential vegans this article has turned off or frightened away.
I’m sympathetic to their point of view, that vegans get in the media so rarely that we have to use these opportunities carefully, we can’t squander them, and what we really need to do is stay on-message and reassure the meat-eating mainstream with soothing words about how it’s actually not that hard, and hey look vegans can eat cupcakes and sundaes too. See? We’re just like everyone else.
And yet we’re not just like everyone else. Because simply ordering tofu in a mixed-dining situation puts every vegan in the position of being a dinnertime novelty. Whether we want it or not, we end up playing ambassador as friends and family members probe us with questions, then turn around and attack us for answering and maybe even sounding a bit smart. Even when we try to STFU and just quietly eat the tofu, it’s not unusual for someone to chime in with “MMM tasty, tasty ANIMALS!” and flash us that knowing look, like we haven’t heard that one a million times already.
There are a LOT of meat eaters who look at our dinner plate as implicit commentary on what they’re eating, even if we’re not saying a word about it. As if the plate is coming to life with a black robe and a curly white wig and gavel, doing a sinister dance while handing down judgments.
When I read Steiner’s piece I couldn’t help but think “RIGHT ON SISTER!”. Will he change any minds about the Thanksgiving centerpiece corpse? Probably not. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he wasn’t even trying to convince anyone to go vegan. He was trying to convince his readers, in an overtly frustrated way, that being a misunderstood and often despised 0.001%(*) of the population isn’t exactly a great position to be in. Especially in a society organized around eating meat, with a hundred-trillion-dollar(*) advertising industry carrying on like eating dead animals is the most normal thing on earth.
The mechanics of being vegan is getting easier all the time, but let’s face it, we still live in a dead-animal-centric society. Many meat eaters forget that they’re soaking in all the normal, and that the “preachy” vegan over there giving them a hard time is actually the one just trying to get the basics of survival to go smoothly.
All I’m saying is, to the three hardcore meat-eaters who follow this blog after getting linked from Sarah Palin’s enemies list, maybe there’s a reason some of us get a bit plucky at the dinner table. Sometimes we want to talk about something other than our diet. Or, you know, quiz away, but don’t be shocked and don’t take it personally when we come back with a well-formed viewpoint. But most of all, getting pissy and playing the victim when you live in a society organized for your convenience isn’t going to score you any debate club points. And it’s definitely NOT going to get you a second slice of the pumpkin pie that “omg didn’t even TASTE vegan”. More pie for the rest of us.
[Ed.: This wonderful post was brought to you by one of our newest contributors, Steve Simitzis! Steve stopped eating dead animals in 1993 and has been described as a crazy cat lady despite not being a lady. Nowadays he follows climate change, vampire stories, and technology, but usually keeps it on Twitter. When not thinking longingly about Twilight bars, he can be found building social websites and acquiring too many useless kitchen gadgets.]