Friday, September 26, 2008

And now for something completely different

As much as I try to keep this blog on a feminist path, I simply cannot resist commenting on something else. 

I'd been exposed to the word "flexitarian" several years ago, but merely brushed it off as some sort of clever joke. However, I have recently discovered that "flexitarianism" is not a joke. There is a group of people who actually describe themselves as "vegetarians who sometimes eat meat." This was most recently brought to my attention by the recent publication of a "flexitarian" cookbook (not the only one of its genre in existence). 

Once I was able to wrap my brain around this situation, I began fuming. 

Allow me to begin my diatribe by stating that, yes, I am a vegan-- but I am adamantly opposed to proselytizing. The decision to eat or not to eat meat is completely personal, and your diet is your prerogative. I take umbrage with the word "flexitarian" for lexicographical reasons.

A simple syllogism demonstrates the crux of my argument:
Omnivores eat both vegetables and meat.
Vegetarians eat vegetables, but not meat.
Therefore, someone who mostly eats vegetables but also eats meat is an omnivore.

This might distill the definitions down a bit much for some people. However, regardless of the reasons or frequency which someone may eat meat, the fact remains that they still eat meat-- thus making them omnivores. While there are many shades of vegetarianism, the difference between omnivores and vegetarians is a very clear line in the sand: meat versus meat-less.

On the same point, there are many shades of omnivore: people who avoid red meat, people who hate fish, people eat only fish, people who hate turkey but not chicken, etc. This is all personal preference, not precursor to a food movement. But they all still eat some form of meat, be it one animal or a variety of animals.

"Flexitarians" seem to avoid eating meat for health reasons, and not ethical reasons. I have no problem with this idea; if you acknowledge that eating meat is unhealthy, then there is no reason that you should eat meat. But if you just can't avoid eating pot roast at Grandma's or having turkey on Thanksgiving, by all means have a plate-- just remember that you're an omnivore.

On an abstract level, this implies that "flexitarians" feel the need to set themselves apart. They're trying to define themselves as a select group, without having any differences from the majority. 

The most amazing thing is that this has been officially recognized and become part of the public consciousness, with a number of media profiles and scientific endorsement. I am not saying that this is unhealthy or wrong, I am just saying that this is PR-style re-branding in hyperdrive. ("They've gone plaid!") The hip new healthy diet is... what you've always been eating. We just wanted to update our stodgy image to appeal to a new demographic.

It's amazing how we allow the term vegetarian to include eating meat, but omnivores aren't allowed to prefer vegetarian dishes.

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