The other day I told an acquaintance that I was a vegan, and she said: „Oh, how cute.“
As vegans, we‘re used to negative reactions. People call us arrogant and holier-than-thou. They accuse us of wasting our time on animals, when humans are still suffering, and of being a kill-joy. In the company of these sentiments, „cute“ seems like a compliment. But somehow it bothered me much more than the other, more openly negative comments I‘ve received. „Cute“ is disingenuous. „Cute“ is condescending. „Cute“ is dismissive.
And what did she even mean? Was I „cute“ for caring about animals? She was discrediting a whole movement with condescension cloaked in fake endearment. I‘m part of an earnest movement that sees speciesism where others see food chains and cruelty where others see tradition. I may be more empathetic than other people, but I‘m not cute.
Or did she find me „cute“ for being naive enough to put effort into an impossible cause? There‘ve been many „impossible causes“ that today are mainstream. And even if some time traveler from the future told me that our exploitation of animals will never stop, I would still be a vegan. Living in line with your own morality is not about the outcome. You can‘t „waste“ your ethical decisions, because they are about your own personal integrity, in this moment, not in preparation for a future society that shares your ethics.
Vegans are used to criticism and mockery. But I‘d rather be called irritating or a nuisance or plain wrong. At least then I‘m being taken seriously. To be called cute is to be dismissed like a child uttering something in all earnestness that amuses only the adults, who „know better.“ I‘m not a preschooler clutching a teddy. I‘m a grown-up vegan, and I‘d rather be annoying than cute.