Why do we roll our eyes at vegan women but applaud vegan men?
Earlier this year, a Netflix documentary cheekily titled “What the Health” made waves and sparked controversy by exposing the unethical practices of livestock consumption.
Previously, in 2011, a similar documentary, “Forks Over Knives,” also gained huge recognition. Some could argue that these are two of the biggest films centered around the social push towards veganism. The Boston Globe gave the film three out of four stars and suggests that “what ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ did for global warming, Lee Fulkerson’s persuasive documentary does for a vegan diet.”
The biggest similarity between these two films? They’re both directed and produced by cis men. And we couldn’t help but notice that this critical acclaim differs hugely from what happens when women preach the benefits of a vegan diet.
Back in 2005, former modeling agent Rory Freedman and former model Kim Barnouin published “Skinny Bitch,” a book containing the exact same advocacy for a plant-based diet as these documentaries do.
The book underwent extreme criticism, and its concept was immediately brushed over as being a diet book. Daily Mail critic Ursula Hirschkorn wrote that all the book did was explain that the secret of weight loss was just to eat healthy food. “Oh, if it were that easy, we’d all be size eight,” she wrote.
The book was never granted the same credit as “What the Health” or “Forks Over Knives” because people became quick to brush off the book’s proposals as an extreme women’s weight loss book, rather than an important source of information that anyone could follow.
And if you read the book, you’ll see that despite its catchy title, weight loss is barely even the focus. “Skinny Bitch” goes to great lengths to cite sources about the meat and dairy industries’ impact on the environment and our health. Again, it provides much of the same information found in “What the Health,” but it came out 12 years earlier.
According to an infographic from TopRNtoBSN out of the 1 million Americans that are vegan, 79 percent of them are women. Why is that? Well, as proven by the infamy of “Skinny Bitch,” women have always been at the forefront of the vegan movement. But this female advocacy for plant-based living has never been taken seriously, because, due to gender stereotyping, it has been branded as shallow and vain. Just think about how kooky everyone thinks Gwenyth Paltrow is, or why one immediately associates healthy habits such as juicing with LA princesses.
The bigger picture here is that women have always struggled for respect in the predominantly male space of social movements. Speciesism, in itself, is a patriarchal concept. Protesting the exploitation of non-human animals is, regardless of gender, a feminist action, because it challenges the concept of dominance and power. However, inflicting social change and shaping a culture, as history explains, remains a masculine endeavor.
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Whats even more fucked up is that only position in which women have gotten credit for is being the primary food purchaser, according to the patriarchal notion that women are the consumers and men are the breadwinners. Ever notice that organic and vegan products are packaged all cute-sy and feminine? Like “Organic Girl Greens” for example. Or vegan restaurants like by CHLOE.
Since men became repulsed by the girly nature of veganism, it became another feminine thing that could never achieve major social influence. That’s why it’s so grating that these documentaries get all of the credit. To reach a male audience, these directors had to aesthetically incorporate masculinity, because everything thats feminine is inherently silly and not worth taking seriously.
At the same time, we can’t help but wonder whether women on average live longer because we tend to pay more attention to healthy eating. So at least we’ll have the last laugh in some way, right?