As The Opinioness, I’ve certainly earned that title with my opinionated nature. Yet I try to be as non-judgmental as possible. Really, I do. Part of the reason I’m such a liberal is that I believe people deserve the right to decide for themselves how they choose to lead their lives. But I have to admit that Alicia Silverstone, a celebrity I do genuinely like, recently pissed me off when she revealed to US Weekly that she “sometimes cheats on her vegan diet.”
In addition to starring in ‘Clueless’ and in Broadway plays, she’s known for being a vegan. I was thrilled when she wrote her book The Kind Diet, a guide to living compassionately with some delish sounding vegan recipes. I was even more excited when she launched her blog “The Kind Life” to continue the dialogue she started with her book. It’s a fabulously inclusive way to engage readers – vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, flexitarian, meat-eater/carnist – wherever they are in their eating lifestyle. She’s even gone on Oprah to discuss her fave foods. But Silverstone recently burned some bridges with her “cheating” comments. She told US Weekly,
“If I was at a party and there was a tray of cheese sitting there and I had had drinks, then I might have a bite.”
Veganism is not some passing fad. It goes beyond a mere diet; it’s a philosophy and a way of life. Besides not consuming meat and dairy, vegans don’t wear leather, wool or silk or use animal-derived or tested products/cosmetics. Silverstone’s statement upset many vegans as they’re of the mindset: don’t call yourself a vegan unless you are vegan. And while I admit this did irk me, this is not where she angered me. Silverstone went on to explain that people are human (true) and make mistakes (even more true). But the kicker is when she confessed,
“Being flexible that way makes more people comfortable. If I’m rigid about it and I’m perfect, then no one is going to be able to be like me because I’ll be this icey, rigid thing.”
Whoa, wait a minute. Icy and rigid?! Oh no, she didn’t!! Way to be supportive of all your vegan fans. Silverstone is not the first celebrity to renege their veganism (Hillary Swank, Zooey Deschanel) or vacillate between a vegetarian and a non-dairy diet (Natalie Portman). While she has galvanized many people to ethical eating, she also proceeded to put down many vegans (myself included) committed to leading cruelty-free lives with one careless comment.
Now I don’t tell people what they should eat. People who know me are often surprised that I don’t go around mandating people’s diets. While it would be wonderful if everyone were vegetarian or vegan, I believe that what we put in our bodies is an incredibly personal decision which people need to make for themselves. All I can do is share my experiences and choices…and my fab cupcakes…and hope that people become more conscientious and compassionate in their food choices. But numerous vegan myths swarm around. Joel Stein wrote about the new male “power vegans” like Bill Clinton and Biz Stone in Bloomberg Businessweek. He claims that CEOs, athletes and celebrities choose veganism to be controlling, exclusive and as a “dating strategy.” While employing a satirical tone, Stein still perpetuates pervasive vegan myths. There’s a stigma that vegans go around telling people how to behave and what to eat, as if they are the “Nazis” of the epicurean world. But as I’ve written before,
“Many vegetarians and vegans don’t want to make you feel bad about that hamburger or drumstick you’re eating, they just want to share their knowledge and passion.”
If Alicia Silverstone, or anyone else for that matter, wants to nibble on cheese once and awhile, that’s their business. But to perpetuate a stereotype and alienate the people and cause she claims to be a champion of is bullshit. I wish she had taken the opportunity to discuss the benefits of being vegan or dispel some of the misconceptions out there. But instead she chose to bash vegans and for what? A shout-out in a tabloid magazine? So people will like her?? Her statement allows people who hold stereotypes of vegans to nod their heads and believe that even a vegan thinks that other vegans are crazy. Rather than building bridges, she inadvertently created divisiveness. I hope that Silverstone realizes (and addresses on her blog) the damage she’s done. For someone who’s living a “kind” life, this wasn’t a very “kind” statement to utter.