How often do advertisements and social media posts generate discussion not about the cause of the post or advertisement, but because of the way the message was delivered?
Over the weekend, Moby, an American DJ and well known vegan activist, posted an image of two men grilling an assortment of meats with the caption, “I wonder when it became manly to eat defenseless vegan animals that were killed by underpaid immigrant workers?” While it appeared Moby intended to dismantle the typical association our society has with manhood, grilling, and meat consumption in the promotion of a vegan lifestyle, the commenters were focused on the appearance of the two men featured in the photo.
The photo became abundant with comments regarding the appearance of the men, particularly through body-shaming and fat-shaming. Other comments made a point to remind Moby that he could have easily spread his message about veganism with the use of a different photo, and while Moby didn’t explicitly body-shame the two men, the relationship between the photo and the caption said enough, and it didn’t take long for commenters to ignore Moby’s message and focus on the image instead.
Body-shaming advertisements are, unfortunately, common in our society. Ads that promote veganism from advocates such as Moby and organizations like PETA have often found themselves at the forefront of backlash from the public for their occasional use of the body to promote veganism and healthy living. Back in 2015, many vegans took to Twitter and Instagram to remind PETA that vegans come in all shapes and sizes in response to a number of body and fat-shaming ads that had been circulating for the organization. In the media, vegans are often portrayed as the ultimate promoters of “healthy living”; that they have a very specific body shape and size. For those that don’t meet the stereotypical standards of what a vegan “should” look like, it’s difficult to break out of those assumptions and prove your dedication to the cause of being vegan. The food you consume, the lifestyle you live, and the way you look do not determine your wealth or importance as a person.
Bottom line: It is never acceptable to body or fat-shame in the name of generating awareness for a cause.
There are a number of ways to generate attention regarding a cause that you are passionate about, but putting other people down as a way to elevate yourself and your beliefs is not cool. The lifestyle that we choose to live is our own choice, and we should never be put down for it. We can’t tell people that they are “wrong” or “unworthy” because they don’t follow the same lifestyle that we do. Promote your cause by educating people about what good can come from it instead of humiliating those who don’t follow.
As the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Vegans come in all shapes and sizes. Body and fat-shaming have no place in the promotion of this cause, or in any lifestyle cause for that matter. If the main point of promotions from Moby and PETA is about making a lifestyle choice to improve the well-being and treatment of animals, then why are they focusing on humans and their physical appearance?
Grace Bradley is a senior at Connecticut College majoring in dance and sociology. Working with the Active Minds chapter at Conn College and NEDA, she is an advocate of mental health and eating disorder awareness after personally dealing with both. Grace is dedicated to raising awareness about both of these issues, specifically within the dance community.