The Vegetarian Not Normal

By Asha Brogan

I have been a vegetarian for nine years, and amongst immediate family and friends this has been just an easily accepted fact. Yet more often in my life I have run into issues with my chosen die. This consists of people being at a complete loss for how to feed me and thus feeling frustrated which tends comes out as anger or irritation. Another one is people putting down my diet choice, usually for “health reasons”. “You’re too skinny!” is a major comment, “You clearly don’t get enough protein and vitamins” is another. I calmly reply that I am a 5’1 female with petite parents and am in perfect weight and health according to doctors.

This consist fight in my life with the general public seems to stem from public misconceptions about being vegetarian. The media has widely pushed that being vegetarian is “different”. That people who don’t eat meat are automatically weird. Many times they are portrayed as hippies who just aren’t in tune with society. The diet is treated like a disability in so many cases, special provisions must given to those who have eliminated such major food group. When talking about how the media and general public pushes stereotypes in class over the last two weeks I was reminded of the controversy around vegetarianism and how it is a complete perception that being vegetarian is an “issue”. In western culture, it is something that has become a natural part of media proving it’s cultural integration. A rather quirky film featuring Elijah Wood has a scene illustrating this point perfectly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um2p4GlEbKg . In the scene Wood’s character visits the Ukraine and can’t eat anything because not eating meat is such a foreign concept, and while this makes sense in a cultural setting, it’s films like these that emphasis only “odd” people are vegetarian. In the satirical animated comedy South Park there’s a scene that at base level seems to be making fun of vegetarians but is also picking fun at how truly alien the general public makes the diet, considering it more akin to a disease, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTog_NtCEio . While many more films and TV shows have touched on the subject Shark Tale, featuring a vegetarian shark is key. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJvsk7NsZe4 . While featuring something like this is a great push, the vegetarian in the film is considered odd, and a problem, simply highlighting the issue vegetarians face in day to day life, but not helping make it “normal”.

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8 thoughts on “The Vegetarian Not Normal

  1. The concept of being a vegetarian has always been interesting from the perspective of a non vegetarian. I can definitely understand the problems that people have against vegetarians because it is similar to me when people ask why I don’t eat pork. When people put restrictions like this that are uncommon to the general populace, then it is always treated as not normal. The problem is like you said, most people are uninformed and only see what is seen in the media like South Park. It’s all just a matter of perception as well communication about the alternatives to meat.

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  2. It’s interesting that you consistently have to fight off comments about your own health from other people, based solely on your diet, usually disguised as concerns for your well-being. Since you’ve been a vegetarian for such a long time, have you noticed any changes with the general attitude toward your vegetarianism throughout the years, as it’s started to get more “popular” to cut out meat? Also, I had never thought about the general attitude toward vegetarianism being similar to that of a disability, but after reading your post and thinking about it more, it’s pretty astonishing. I feel like some of the language pertaining to vegetarianism and alternative diets can be perceived as somewhat negative – such as the phrase “dietary restrictions,” implying that vegetarianism is not a normal diet. Like that a different diet equates an abnormality, when there are plenty of vegetarians all over the world.

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  3. I was actually curious about how vegetarians typically eat because I was one of those people that thought all vegetarians were basically rabbits or squirrels. I was pleasantly surprised how much variety there actually is in terms of cooking options. Now I’m not a fan of peppers or onions, but there were so many recipes that didn’t involve either of them and it was amazing how good they were.

    I think people just blow it out of proportion to where something that doesn’t fit their normal viewpoint must be ridiculed. I honestly support vegetarians since I don’t view it as abnormal, but I have seen some people like you mentioned that cannot understand that some people want to eat other than a socially defined “normal” way. It took time for me to see that it wasn’t as strange as everyone else put it out to be.

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  4. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a vegetarian but didn’t because of my family’s diet and their views of vegetarians. I have only recently decided to be a vegetarian and I still have to remind them that I don’t eat meat and they still are confused by why I do this. I know that it’s just their definition of normal to have meat in their diets.

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  5. As a guy who eats meat in almost every meal I would find it very difficult to become a vegetarian. With this said I understand why it would be beneficial to cut some of the meat out of my diet. Meat, although very tasty, is definitely bad for you in large quantities and it is really only the past 50 years where Americans have come accustomed to having meat in almost every meal. Prior to industrial farming, families, especially poorer families, would maybe eat a chicken once a week on Sunday. So i commend you for staying strong with your diet and hopefully you can teach some of us meat eaters recipes for all vegetarian meals!

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  6. I actually think the media plays more of a supporting role in this scenario. Values are passed down in families from generation to generation, and with each family comes a different set of values. I believe the negative stigma towards being a vegetarian is something that has been passed down through generations because of each families belief of what a meal should to contain. Growing up I always had something along the lines of meat, potatoes, and a vegetable on my plate. This was almost an exact replica of what my parents experienced growing up, and even though I never had a problem with people who didn’t eat meat, other people may not respond in the same way. This idea of a stigma or belief being passed down through generations can also be seen in things like mistrust in doctors or banks, or even things such as car preferences. The media has supported this specific stigma intentionally and unintentionally by over emphasizing things like the importance of the food pyramid and by selectively showing unsuccessful stories, maybe where being a vegetarian was unhealthy for a few select individuals.

    Halle Van De Hey

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  7. I greatly reduced my meat and dairy intake about 3 months ago, I just got my blood work back from the Doctor yesterday. All of my numbers are normal or on the good side of normal. Just reducing not going vegan has taken by health to new levels.

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  8. I just got back into being vegetarian in June of this year. Before that I had been vegetarian for about 8 years but I began working in the service industry and needed to try some dishes with meat while working so that led me astray.
    I love being vegetarian and watch Conspiracy had a really huge impact on me. I have also seen vegucated and forks over knives, both of which are also huge proponents of Vegan lifestyles. I tried vegan for a month when I stopped eating meat again, but after June I really missed cheese so I’ve added it back into my diet in small amounts.
    I’ve definitely noticed not only pressure from family members, like my fiancés family specifically all eat a ton of meat and don’t understand why I don’t eat turkey at thanksgiving, and it gets exhausting arguing with people about it but I feel joy in the fact that vegetarians and vegans make a difference not only for animals, or the planet, but also have a longer more healthy life overall.
    Vegetarians yay!

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