Apr 21, 2015

Pushy Vegans: How do we deal with this stereotype?

Pushy vegans. You know, those vegans who make condescending remarks to the non-vegans around them. Those vegans who let you know what’s up within five seconds of meeting them. 

Maybe I’m lucky, but in my decade and counting of veganism I think I’ve encountered maybe a handful of those vegans. Yet they’re still a favorite topic of conversation among vegans and non-vegans alike.

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So that got me thinking: Oh God, am I a jerk vegan? Is it like that theory that says if you can’t point out the loser in your group then you’re the loser? Am I a jerk??

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I’ve spent many years trying to avoid being that vegan, but on some days, at some get togethers, with some people it seems almost impossible to respond to everything with sweetness. I usually do, but it’s hard.

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I don’t believe that the stereotype is warranted. That doesn’t mean I think all those concerned about it are wrong. This post from Oops, I’m a Vegan is really awesome with lots of great advice. It’s just that in my experience vegans tend to be extra easy going out of the same fear that I have.

Usually I try to avoid the subject all together. 
I think people expect a certain attitude from vegans, and put themselves on the offense. I’ve gotten less patient with it over the years. It can be exhausting defending your choice for compassion over and over again.

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I’ve spent more time than I’d like having to defend myself to people I’ve just met. There’s usually a lot of deflecting – awkwardly coming up with non-serious responses for “But BACON”, and laughing off the degrading jokes for fear of being rude. This isn’t because I’m not strongly rooted in my beliefs, it’s because I don’t want to look like a jerk. I don’t want to appear preachy, or make anyone around me feel uncomfortable. I mean after all, I’m the weirdo in the room, right? 
Does that seem backwards to anyone else? 

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I’m not naive or without empathy. I’m aware that there are many complicated reasons that people have for not choosing veganism (yet!). However, every little bit helps, and I want to be welcoming to those interested in a more compassionate lifestyle. I also want to be encouraging to those who aren’t there yet – especially to those who aren’t there yet. 

It’s incredible when people start to understand that their choices matter, that their daily decisions can and do affect the world. I’ve seen many unlikely people choose compassion over cruelty. Everyone’s kindness matters, and no one’s choices are insignificant. 

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Sometimes it’s difficult though. It’s hard to always be warm when the attitude you’re often faced with is the opposite. I wonder how many of those jerk vegans are just not awkwardly laughing off “But BACON!”. I wonder how many judgmental vegans are just answering questions honestly. 

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There are rude, preachy, know-it-all people in this world, and some of them happen to be vegan. I just don’t know if this is a fair stereotype when it regularly feels like we’re just trying to make it through conversations.

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So, how do we balance this? How do we speak openly and truthfully about our lifestyle without appearing judgmental? How do we speak up for animals while remaining, for lack of a better term, easygoing about it? Sometimes it feels like an impossible task.

How do you feel about this stereotype? Have you come across these vegans? Are you afraid you may be one? Would you care if you were?

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