Inequality: gender and race

Research on inequality—most often in terms of race, class, and gender—is a core foundation of contemporary sociology. In addition, obviously, to standalone courses on each subject, the study of inequality remains central to introductory sociology' courses, graduate training in sociology, and scholars of race, class, and gender comprise some of the largest sections of the American Sociological Association. However, within empirical sociological vegan studies, this remains an understudied area.This may be due to the significant theoretical work already done in the area (see, e.g.,Twine, “Ecofeminism and Veganism”; J. Greenebaum, “Questioning”; Nibert, Animal Oppression).

While most vegans are women (“Find out How Many”; Milium), empirical research on gender has focused on men and masculinity. This may be due to the demographic and cultural minority status of men in a culture that equates meat with masculinity and virility. To wit, empirical research on vegan men has reiterated the importance of those dominant cultural discourses about gendered food norms to vegan men, such as their need to engage with the importance of meat as a cultural foundation of masculinity, sexuality, and strength (Nath). Other research has shown that vegan men challenge this narrow definition of hegemonic masculinity, instead redefining their compassion for other animals as an act of courage, and holding up vegan athletes as examples of strength (Greenebaum and Dexter). Thus, while legitimating veganism as a “masculine” endeavor, these vegan men fall short of challenging gender inequalities.

Similarly, while most vegans are white (Milium), empirical research on race has focused on vegans of color. Jessica Greenebaum (“Vegans of Color”) found that vegans of color reported they had to navigate race in relation to their veganism in a variety of ways. Vegans of color had to confront the stereotype of veganism as a white, economically privileged practice. Simply by virtue of their veganism, they were accused of“acting white.”They also had to fight the notion that veganism was incompatible with their ethnic food identity. Vegans of color pushed back against these negative stereotypes and assumptions by focusing on simple, affordable, plant-based foods that aligned with their ethnic cuisines. These acts seeking to normalize and universalize veganism play a role in more than simply facilitating one’s personal practice of veganism—they also contribute to veganism as a social movement.

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