1 a. skinny, oversensitive and emotional person who hates people but loves animals.
b. a member of PETA
c. an unhealthy tree-hugger who lacks protein and muscles
d. a person who only eats salad
Source: The Annotated Dictionary of Stereotype Nonsense
When I tell strangers that I’m vegan, the reactions I get are mixed. Some people don’t bat an eye; these are usually fellow vegans. Others may say “Really?” and unconsciously look me over. I’m a big guy with tattoos and a gut; clearly not a stereotype.
I’m the antithesis of how a vegan is “supposed” to look. I’m also one person, hardly a large enough sample size to draw a definitive scientific conclusion. Most of the components of the scientific method are unnecessary when classifying vegans, as anyone can gather empirical research by simply going to a vegan meetup or festival, where a wide swath of vegans will be fully on display.
Vegans are as indistinguishable from the next person outside of the vegan bubble, save for a cute bunny tote bag or Farm Sanctuary tee. We don’t fit into a mold. It’s imperative that we speak up. Share with people that you’re vegan. Tell them in a gentle, non-threatening way about your beliefs and let them know that we’re not all the same. A New York City construction worker’s veganism may be the only thing he has in common with a feminist professor at Duke University, or maybe not. We don’t know unless a dialogue is established.
I can delve into a diatribe about stereotypes, but I’ll leave that to others more experienced in this area. However, I can say with confidence that if the stereotypes of veganism one day cease, great things can happen. Like most stereotypes, those about vegans are grounded in ignorance and stoked by fear of the unknown. But times are a-changin’! With the aid of social media and great documentaries like Vegucated and Forks Over Knives, non-vegans can witness the diversity of our community and may consider veganism themselves.
Vegans don’t all fit into neat little categories and that’s a good thing, as diversity makes for a better, healthier society. Although stereotypes ring loudly, they do fade over time. If vegan stereotypes are swept away, other ones may follow suit.
Let’s all work at eviscerating the hurtful and inaccurate views of vegan stereotypes. One less stereotype in the world is a step closer to acceptance in the mainstream.
PS: I don’t currently own a cute bunny tote bag, but I’m in the market for one.
Carlo Giardina, VLCE, AKA Artichoke, is one-half of The Food Duo, a blog that celebrates all things vegan. He’s a counselor for people with intellectual disabilities during the day, and a husband to Carmella and daddy to two cats at night. He loves the Yankees, hates traffic, and has been known to dance in supermarket aisles like your everyday vegan. Right?