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On Mainstreaming Veganism

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you, then you win.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

It appears that we are somewhere between being ridiculed and violently opposed, but one thing's for certain: we are no longer being ignored.

Vegans are now on the mainstream's radar, and unlike some vegans, I do care about what goes on in the mainstream. I don't pay as much attention as I should by watching regular television networks or reading newspapers or magazines that reflect the zeitgeist, but I do get snippets.

And last night I volunteered at an event benefiting the Office Depot Foundation (which provides backpacks for kids loaded with school essentials, among other things) and someone asked me if there were any vegan desserts! I had no idea there were any desserts, as I was at the entrance table all night. But of course she asked the right person and we went on a quest (and found nothing vegan) and ended up chatting about veganism. And then two other women joined the conversation and soon we two vegans were bombarded with questions from the two genuinely interested women who then swore they were going to run out and buy Skinny Bitch (that wasn't my suggestion, by the way). This was a "lifestyle" event that had a "health" angle (both in parenthesis because they promoted a certain country-club lifestyle and the event was held at a country club, and a certain definition of health), and it was pleasantly surprising to have anyone asking about veganism.

I've commented before that Twitter is very useful ( because of the visible, steady stream of conversation about veganism. It was there that I learned about The Goodes a couple of weeks ago . . .

And it was there that I learned about "Dating a Vegan" at Koldcast TV. Both are heavy on mockery, but when you look at the process of the acceptance of an idea, that period of mockery is a sign that things are moving along. We might not like the mockery, but why not look at it as an invitation to demonstrate that not all vegans are neurotic or hostile, and not all of us think we're freaks or want to perpetuate that image?

Finally, you know that veganism is being mainstreamed when Matt & Nat handbags are now available at Bloomingdale's.

Though of course I want everyone to go vegan, if the women in my neighborhood each bought one Matt & Nat bag instead of a Gucci one this season, or a piece of Jane Marvel luggage (or a wallet or storage bags) rather than Louis Vuitton, I'd be thrilled. Part of the resistance I hear to veganism, which is thoroughly ridiculous but I hear it nonetheless, has to do with the perceived culture of veganism as alien to mainstream, and most people have a deep-seated need to conform (then there are those of us who have an aversion to conforming).

Though I don't think a wallet or a handbag or a television show can change the world, and I certainly don't think consumerism is the answer, I don't think any of this hurts the long-term process veganism must go through to get to acceptance.  

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lui #

    Wow. "Vegan" or not, that Matt and Nat bag is ridiculously expensive. In my opinion, putting the label "vegan" on something so pricey only reinforces the popularly held idea that veganism is something for upper middle class privileged people. I guess that's a price you pay to "go mainstream". Ugh.

    May 16, 2009
  2. Mary Martin #

    "Expensive" is relative, though I certainly understand what you're saying. The Jane Marvel bags are very affordable. And English Retreads are, as well (and handmade in Boulder!). Remember the target market for Bloomingdale's, too. The Matt & Nat products I have were inexpensive and I bought them online and at Mooshoes. I'd bet that this line was made specifically to appeal to a particular clientele, at an intentional price point. For some people, the more expensive something is, the more desirable it is.

    May 17, 2009
  3. Nick #

    "…not all of us think we're freaks…"

    I'm not sure if you were referring to Bob and Jenna of Vegan Freak Radio, but I think the point is that until veganism becomes mainstream, we're freaks whether we like it or not.

    May 17, 2009
  4. Mary Martin #

    I was actually thinking about an article I was directed to on Twitter that never mentioned Vegan Freak Radio. That's not really on my radar.

    And I disagree that we're all freaks whether we like it or not, but I suppose that depends on your definition of "freak." I don't think that if you don't have mainstream beliefs you are a "freak." But that's me.

    May 17, 2009
  5. If a "freak" is one who is markedly unusual… I've yet to find anyone that is "normal". I think we all *pass* to different degrees; or not. And it's sad that so many struggle to "fit in" to whatever standards they think everyone is judging them by.

    That said, the majority of other "un-normal" people choose an antiquated view towards ethics and animals as their standard. How unsocial and *weird* to not grill/consume dead animal parts – right? But this makes vegans atypical. I think shows like The Goodes is going to exaggerate every possible extreme… clearly it's a defense mechanism; art imitating life. I don't think this Goode vegan family will have many "animal rights" issues. It's mostly going to be environmental ones. This will keep it light, entertaining and non-threatening. But it will chip another layer away… even if through laugher.

    And chic fashionable ladies will always want an expensive status purse… It will either be Coach, Dooney or another – But if the other can be vegan, and fill that niche – that's fine too. There's still the others of us left to tout the many economic virtues of a diet based in thrifty beans instead of priceless flesh.

    Ridicule. Violent opposition. Acceptance. Oh happy day!

    May 18, 2009
  6. Andrew #

    Not sure if you realise this but that Vegan 101 video was actually written and produced by a vegan. Joanne Rose is her name. Not sure if that video is doing veganism a service or not.

    May 26, 2009

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