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Vegan Kingpins: Is Being Vegan the Ultra Masculine Thing to do?

Vegan Kingpins: Is Being Vegan the Ultra Masculine Thing to do?

I saw Bill Clinton this summer. Not because I wanted to, and not because I really cared to, but because we crossed paths when he was visiting my, sometimes sleepy, Hudson River town for his daughter’s wedding. There was a throng of people around him, most of which were onlookers, fans, and ex-presidential enthusiasts that presumably wanted to feel the glow of Bill. And I have to say, he looked much better than I had remembered him ever looking. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I happened upon some bit of news cycle detritus that claimed Clinton had recently revitalized himself by becoming a vegan. He had dropped all of that McDonalds weight he had been carting around since the 90s, as well as dropped his omnivorous habits of yore to embrace veganism with abandon.

Had he made this dietary change, say, back in the 90s, during his administration, he would have either sent shock waves through the country ushering in a new era of ethical and healthful eating, or he would have branded himself as a total kook and as the ultimate lame (faux) duck president. Remember, just ten years ago Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich was largely laughed out of his presidential run because of his adherence to vegan ideals, among other things.

Now, according to a trend piece in Business Week, vegans are the new black, at least if you are a powerful white male. Steve Wynn, Mort Zuckerman, Russell Simmons, and, as mentioned above, Bill Clinton are now all part of the vegan elite, along with boxing powerhouse Mike Tyson, who is better known for munching on an opponents ear, rather than a flank of tempeh. As the article asserts, “It shouldn’t be surprising that so many CEOs are shunning meat, dairy, and eggs: It’s an exclusive club,” and to some degree, It affords them the opportunity to control their own health with the same manic id with which they control everything else.

While only one percent of the U.S. population (and probably less than that are wealthy moguls), veganism is gaining traction, and quickly moving from the feast of the freaky to the regimen of the rich. Beyond the difficulty that many have in giving up animal proteins, being vegan is difficult for many because it can be very expensive to maintain (depending on your approach and your adherence to meat substitutes).

Nevertheless, vegans are gaining power through this advocacy by association. But is this association with the elite hurting the cause, or helping it? Isn’t any advocacy, especially along the lines of health and the ethical treatment of animals, a good thing? Or does this sort of trending (especially with such a group of “power vegans”) run the risk of trivializing the politics and ethos of veganism? Does news like this make you feel more empowered to eat ethically, or just more cynical about all the reasons people eat to impress?

Read more: Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, Vegan and Delicious, , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

117 comments

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2:08PM PDT on Apr 23, 2013

Thanks

12:30AM PDT on Apr 23, 2013

Vegans rules

4:09PM PST on Feb 20, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:24AM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Aliha/Hello:
I think veganism might even be unhealthful for males--the male body needs tons more zinc and protein for to build the males' muscles. Red meat is one of the best sources of zinc and iron.

5:01AM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

Thanks for the article.

2:29PM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

Do not care if someone quits for their health or for the love of animals, the animals benefit either way.

10:42AM PDT on May 10, 2011

who is going to get this message out to all cultures? like people who live off the land and eat everything in Africa

6:46PM PST on Nov 27, 2010

I'm only 13 and being a vegan has changed my life in many great ways, I'm just sick and tired of how some ppls stomachs require poor innocent animals out there being murdered and torchered

5:01PM PST on Nov 24, 2010

Influential people are OK when they happen to be transmitting what agrees with us. Why bother with what some publicized stuffed shirt wants us to think? We should have enough psychological independence left to independently decide what we eat. This sort of thinking is the source of the consistent control of the 'sheeple,' that omnipresent hoard of gormless eyeballs staring placidly at adverts, or entertainment on the screen, unconscious of the difference. Being a somewhat cantankerous old curmudgeon, I am glad to see Bill C. embrace the ways of the rest of us rather than try to set a trend. A good example of worthless publicists would be whats-er-name Hilton's mouthpiece. Approached by a cop for smoking something chargeable, she just chewed and swallowed the whole thing. When the cop asked what she thought she was doing, again, her publicist piped up declaring that Miss H. had just started to be a vegetarian! The cop, now busy swabbing up some residue from inside the movie-famous 'Paris pie hole', asked for substance ID. The publicist opined that it looked like oregano, then excused herself claiming it was time for her shot of insulin.
Ridiculous? Of course! Pointless? hardly! Many times it is not what is publicized about a celebrity which is really the truth. Rumors are another thing people groove on. Take Bill Clinton. Rumor has it all the weight loss is due to getting caught again, and Hillary drastically adjusted his diet to "Bill's gonads on toast!"

6:21PM PST on Nov 16, 2010

Interesting thought.

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