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The two sides to calling a vegan a hipster

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Have you noticed how difficult it is to be vegan today without being labelled as a hipster? I might brew my own kombucha, refresh Instagram hourly, and have more than my fair share of tattoos, but my veganism comes from morals and not from a desire for popularity. So when people link the two labels together, there’s good and bad that comes from it.

What’s a hipster?

Okay, so everyone is picking on hipsters, but what makes a hipster isn’t always so clear.

It’s loosely defined as someone who follows the latest trends, but is also outside of the mainstream. It’s often portrayed as the friend with the greatest music collection, but the hardest appetite to appease when pizza is being ordered for a group. Moreover, people like to use the label for anyone young, with piercings and tattoos, and any hobby that isn’t settling down and having kids. So naturally, lots of fun loving vegans got tossed in to the bunch. Our thirst for social media, farmer’s markets, and cute animals pictures seem contagious, but no one mentions how education and activism is a necessary part of the vegan recipe. Likely, because that part isn’t so cool.

Where do the two worlds collide?

Eating overnight oats out of a mason jar, drinking PBR, and Instagramming every designer vegan donut you’ve ever had (including more than one on the same day) blurs the lines between doing it because it’s cool, and doing it because it’s vegan. Truthfully, the majority of hipster vegan tendencies lean towards food. That’s not to say I don’t wish faux leather was the new plaid shirt, but it’s still not trendy to care if anything but your meals are meat-free. I like it when vegan restaurants have good press, or when adorable, vegan etsy-style crafts are the topic of a Buzzfeed article, though. Basically anything that talks people in to choosing the vegan option over the alternative is awesome with me. ANYTHING to get bacon culture to go away.

So what’s wrong with being called a hipster?

That depends who you ask, I suppose. Trying to be outside of anything mainstream, being shoved right back in to a box can be hard for some who are trying to be hipster to swallow. But the insult “that’s so hipster” to a non-vegan is basically like saying “you’re paying attention to trends and following them too intently.” It’s not that different from what calling someone cool used to mean. For a vegan to be called a hipster, however, there’s a connotation that our choices are temporary, a fad, or something that’s no more integral to us than our shoes. It’s ability to belittle our efforts to change what’s happening in the world as being a shallow, self-centred choice, is perhaps the most offensive.

What’s wrong with it being trendy to be vegan?

When people aren’t trying to insult me with the label, I take being called a hipster pretty positively. For the vegan movement, being considered trendy can be a good thing. With mainstream attention, our opportunities to spread education and awareness is heightened. The only fear is that as this trend is replaced with another, veganism can have the same fate. I actually think a big part of the confusion with the vegan title stems from the hipsters who apply it only when publicly brunching. Despite what we’re shown in “valencia” filters, there are still vegan situations that require a tough skin, education, and ethics to back it up. So if someone rocks a “cruelty free tee” because they saw a celebrity doing it, they won’t be the best advocate for someone looking to understand the vegan movement.

So, unless you’re commenting on my plaid scarf, thick-rimmed black glasses, or penchant for axe throwing, I’m not instantly a hipster for choosing to be vegan. Making the choice to abstain from using animal products is not something that should be deemed “hot” or “not” in the moment. It’s a much more important choice that deserves to be rooted in ethics. Go ahead and enjoy the popular vegan food truck, and let it be an example of how easy it can be to go vegan in our modern society. Just don’t let it be your only reason for trying the diet on, because you’ll end up helping people continue to profile vegans the wrong way.

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