Monday, June 22, 2009

Stereotypical Backlashing

I'm currently experimenting with veganism. Honestly, the most frustrating thing about this dietary lifestyle is not the diet itself but the intolerance and, occasionally, the blatant contempt and hatred vegans face from meat-eaters. I've been researching the dangers of this lifestyle for about three weeks now, and have come across some pretty vitriolic spite in the process. All you have to do Google "stupid vegan" or "veganism unhealthy" to get a sample. There are hundreds of bloggers who feel compelled to publish a "stupid vegan" diatribe. Why? I'm not sure, really. I think they actually think vegans are stupid. I think we irritate them, and I also think that "veganism" is automatically linked to every excess and piece of violence perpetrated and/or approved by PETA.

I won't go into arguments for veganism now, although I may desperately want to later. There are thousands of defensive comments, blogs, articles, books, and lectures out there. What fascinates me the most is the rampant contempt.

A few months ago, a friend of mine offered to buy me a Starbucks frappucino. I said "no, thanks very much"--which was odd, because I used to be a Starbucks addict. He insisted, and I explained that I was a vegan. I don't think I will ever forget his response:

"Wow, and I used to respect you."

If people choose a dietary lifestyle that is different from yours, and if they are not hurting anyone by doing so, why should it matter to you? Why do people feel compelled to impose their beliefs onto other people who are very happy as they are? It isn't only veganism--this interesting attitude has a very wide umbrella encompassing practically every religion, liberal and conservative political viewpoints, alcohol-drinkers, mothers who choose to abort, people who don't watch TV, people who eat meat, who have sex before marriage, who wear certain kinds of clothing, and men who take their wives' last names. I do not think that there is anything a person can do in this world that someone else does not object to, including breathing.

With that in mind, why?

Mostly, I believe, we dislike en masse on the basis of stereotype. Vegans are extremist, PETA-loving, unhealthy health nuts who want to eradicate steak. Religious conservatives are ignorant sheep, bleating "God!" instead of opening their eyes. Liberals, religious or no, are God-hating, country-damning, Socialist home-wreckers. Any woman considering abortion is a murderess. Anyone opposing abortion believes that women are inferior beings who abort as a form of birth control. Women who show a lot of skin are whores. Men who are vegetarians are hen-pecked pussies who will die from lack of protein. (Seriously? People seriously think protein is only present in meat and dairy? Weird.) So what does this make us?

It means we're judging people based on stereotype. I grant you that sometimes it's necessary; waitressing comes to mind. But in general, we're spewing out dislike without knowing the whole of what we actually dislike--which, when researched, very often turns out to be a reasonable outlook. It means that we're walking around every day being critical of people who are smart, valuable human beings and who don't deserve stereotypical dislike. It means that we're a target of someone else's dislike. It means that whenever you crack open the opinion page of any newspaper, you will find a letter to incense you and make you unnecessarily furious. It means that we will be targets of the same contempt that we are showing other people.

Ladies, we are so much more than stereotypes. We are human beings, and as such never fit one particular picture. We are ten times as multifaceted as a hyper-dodecahedron. None of us deserve a mass blanket of contempt. You and I are better than that.