Gray Area: You are more than what you eat

Gray Timberlake, Editor-in-Chief

“This is Gray. She is a vegan.”

While I do not reveal my diet to people when I first meet them, others often bring up that I do not eat animal products, whether it be to poke fun at my diet choices or simply to start a conversation. Many people often do not consider the impact of labeling people, even the seemingly insignificant label of being a vegan.

Vegans are viewed more negatively than atheists and immigrants and are just slightly more tolerated than drug addicts, according to a study by psychologists Gordon Hodson and Cara McInnis. The least attractive food label is “vegan” and sales of food products go down 70% when the label is added, according to a Morning Consult survey. 

Putting a label on someone immediately after they are introduced forces them into the stereotype of that label and does not allow for further expression of other aspects of their identity. My eating habits may be one aspect of my identity, but so is my socio-economic status, race, religion or sexuality.

I am proud of being vegan and it is my choice, but I choose not to tell people I am a vegan because I know this label will inevitably trigger judgement from others. 

Most people, though, do not have the luxury of hiding parts of their identity. Something as simple as a person’s name — which cannot be hidden — can alter the perception of their identity from others.  

Men with stereotypical black names receive significantly less responses to ads on Craigslist for apartment rentals than men with stereotypical white names, according to “The New York Times”. 

Oversimplified stereotypes are often automatically generated about a person or community through one “single story,” which is a narrow opinion or stereotype of an individual or community. Even if this single story does accurately portray this person or community, it still may be how they are remembered by others, according to novelist Chimamanda Adichie in her 2009 TedTalk “The danger of a single story.” 

When Adichie left Nigeria to go to college in the United States, she discovered her roommate had a single story of Africa being a place of catastrophe. The single story did not include that Nigeria’s official language is English and that Adichie listened to Mariah Carey instead of tribal music and knew how to use a stove. 

Judging an individual based on one perspective or piece of someone’s identity creates a block in discovering more about that person. 

Yes, I am a vegan, but I am also so much more. 


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