I recently read an interesting article on the Vegan Feminist Network about the sexual politics of veganism. Now, you may be thinking, “wtf does veganism have to do with sex?” Well, that’s exactly the piece’s point. That sex and veganism do not belong together, and that by marrying them, we are hurting our credibility.
The article says that by sexualizing veganism through PETAish antics of lettuce-clad ladies, and vegan cookbooks touting the sex appeal of the movement, and male-targeted books like “Meat is for Pussies,” etc, we’re actually hurting ourselves by diminishing our own integrity and turning something that should be about compassion and equal rights into something about commodifying the movement and selling sex.
It also argues that the sexualization and feminization of veganism devalues the women behind it, making us the target of a patriarchal society instead of a collected band of strong veg-friendly females.
The article, written by sociologist Corey Wrenn, details “Essentially, it is the co-optation and erosion of a women’s movement. Instead of empowering women on behalf of animals, these approaches disempower women on behalf of men.”
I’m not really going to get into that last one, because I don’t like anyone telling me what makes me feel empowered. If I want to flaunt my sexuality, I can do that for myself, and I can feel empowered by it, regardless of who is watching, enjoying, or scrutinizing.
I do agree that veganism has been sexualized by the media, and by some of us vegans—myself included. Just look at my blog. But I’m not so sure that it’s a bad thing. Clearly, I’m biased, but I believe that the more people we can make aware of the movement, the better. If that means getting people interested by talking about how eating plant-based can increase libido, or by focusing on svelte vegan bods, then so be it.
Then, once they’re paying attention, the will hopefully become educated about how veganism also saves millions of lives, the planet, and the body. It’s the old bait and switch, and it’s going to start a movement faster than handing out pamphlets at macrobiotic restaurants, where the majority of the patrons are already into veganism as is.
I have often used the same argument whenever people get their panties twisted about the glamorization of veganism. Celebrities go vegan for a stint (whaddup, Beyonce?) and suddenly everyone is talking about it. And that’s a complaint because? It’s about spreading and growing the movement, and if this is what it takes, then so be it. I really don’t think that says anything bad about veganism, but perhaps about society; it takes some (vegan) boobs to harvest our attention. Do I wish we could just open up a conversation about stopping animal cruelty and have the entire American society break into applause? Yes. But has that happened? Hardly. So maybe it’s good to sneak in the back door.
I don’t care how the word “veganism” gets into someone’s mouth. As long as it stays there—or better—it spreads into the mouths of others, it’s all good with me.
What is your opinion? Are vegans selling themselves out by sexualizing the movement? Do you want to tell me I’m the worst kind of vegan, and the worst kind of woman? Go ahead, you won’t be the first.