My eyes rolled so hard I thought I might pull a muscle the first time I heard my partner recap the comments he received about his veganism when I wasn’t around. Because he became vegan after we had started dating I got to witness the same, understandable questions and curiosity from his family and friends that my own circle had expressed when I transitioned years ago. But, there’s an extra layer that vegan men have to deal with that reeks of belittling both sexes.
“C’mon, Katie’s not around. You can eat that [non-vegan product].”
There is so much going on underneath this statement, I barely know where to start. This not-so-innocuous comment can only mean one of two things, as far as I can tell. One: there is an assumption that my partner is only doing the vegan thing to pacify me or because I’ve nagged him nearly to death to do it. His diet is something he puts up with, but secretly he rolls his eyes and sighs “women…” under his breath. It’s like being dragged along to the flower show or endless hours of shoe shopping; he does it to keep the peace instead of because it’s something he actually enjoys.
Two: There’s an assumption he’s acting vegan to trick me. If not because I’m forcing him or because he actually wants to, then it must be to portray some facade of a compassionate “nice guy” to lure me into – or keep me in – a relationship. And how unbearably creepy and predatory – serial killery, even – is that?! That other men don’t bat an eye at the thought that a guy might be lying about his core beliefs to create a false sense of security for an unsuspecting woman? Uh uh, no, and NOPE.
Finally, let me point out an obvious option that these comments blatantly ignore: that my partner has autonomy and has decided for himself to be a vegan. Toxic masculinity runs rampant when a male chooses any endeavor that even hints at being compassionate toward others (that’s “girl stuff,” if you weren’t aware). The only way for men brainwashed by toxic masculinity to understand another man being vegan is to make up some kind of macho ulterior motive. Pause and consider that. That is a very sad state of affairs.
But, for men and male-identified people everywhere, there is hope. You DO have autonomy. You DO have the choice to express your compassion, rather than burying it under bravado and bacon culture. You CAN challenge these ridiculous comments and start a dialogue with men who are more than likely knee-jerk reacting to a system that has told them being empathic is “bad” since they were first able to talk.
All hail autonomous vegan dudes everywhere!
Photo credit: Scott Webb