There are a variety of sometimes contradictory stigmas around veganism and vegans.

Vegans, like vegetarians, are often assumed to be women. Researchers actually found that it wasn’t being vegan that made people view men as more feminine, it was their decision to be vegan. [1] In other words, rejecting meat – especially bloody, red meat, the most masculine of foods – can make men seem to be lacking in some fundamental, masculine trait.

In what may be linked to notions of masculinity, vegans are also commonly viewed as “hippies.” Other popular stigmas that emerged through my research include that vegans are: “extreme” — extremely healthy or extremely unhealthy or following a diet that is just way too restrictive; wealthy / privileged; or “awkward” / difficult / fussy.

There are two facets to this issue. One is the need to portray veganism and vegan food positively. In his research, Richard Twice describes the need to “perform” veganism. [2] Any vegan can probably relate to this: going out to eat with omnivorous friends, getting some plain lettuce on a plate and having to smile and be happy because you don’t want to be “difficult” and want veganism to look fun and easy. Mm, no thank you this is DELICIOUS! I do love a plate of plain lettuce!

Secondly, we need to address WHO is seen as a potential vegan and, perhaps more importantly, who isn’t.

The solution isn’t simply to show that vegan men are just as masculine and macho. It’s to question this narrative in the first place and to embrace many different ways of being male and vegan. The same applies to other areas: vegans don’t have to be hippies, nor do we have to be overly health-conscious. There are many ways of being and doing veganism and we need to better represent these if we want to have more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming vegan communities.

Some people may be excited about trying pulled jackfruit. Some people may not or may not have the time or money to go find the ingredients they may not be used to eating. Culturally-relevant foods can also be important. For instance, the Food Empowerment Project has a project specifically promoting vegan Mexican food. People have different habits, they have different amounts of time and money available, and, importantly, they have different identities and backgrounds that shape their relationship with food and meal-times. We need to be better about showing the diverse range of ways one can be vegan.

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