Eating Your Veggies

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Synonyms:
See also: Misogyny in Fandom, dutyfic
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The term eating your veggies is used, often mockingly, to refer to the idea that being fannish about female characters is like eating one's vegetables—you do it (or should do it) because it's good for you, not because you necessarily want to.

The phrase has also been applied specifically to femslash as well as to characters of color.

It has come to be used in two senses:

  • Fans should make an effort to write more/care more about female characters even if they're not at first inclined to, and eventually they'll come to enjoy it.
  • People who are vocal about being fans of female characters or who create fanworks about female characters only do so out of a sense of duty or in order to get SJ brownie points, not because they genuinely care about the characters.

Origin

The origin of the phrase is a 2010 post by Aja, in which she wrote:

I want/need to talk more, think more, & care more about female characters, regardless of whatever excuse I'm cribbing off the fandom misogyny bingo card this week. It's like pigging out on French silk pie all the time when what I really need to do is just stop being such a baby and eat more vegetables until I get to the point where I eat them because I want to, because I like myself better when I do, and, oh, hey, turns out that, wow, real food is actually DELICIOUS, MMMM, and i do not need to indulge myself, 100% of the time, in yummy but ultimately unhealthy desserts![1]

Examples of Usage

The term became infamous and took a life of its own over the years. It is often used to criticise fans like Aja who consider writing about female characters an unpleasant duty.

2010

Well, who fills their Instagram with boring ol’ vegetables when they could have French silk pie there instead, amirite? [2]

2018

Why do my old LJ slasher friends have to so VEGETABLES all the damn time? I cannot get over:

"There’s no quick fix to that–everybody’s gonna keep on reading and writing what they love even if we pony up a Lady Story now and again to keep the wolves of internalized misogyny from the door–but it’s still worth acknowledging."

(In the context of pretending nobody cares about Rey because all Rey fic is ace!Rey in the background and nobody ships her... yeah... Why you gotta be like this, fandom?)
Whaaaaat? Reylo is a huge juggernaut pairing? Why are they even bothering to try and argue that no one cares about Rey? I'm not even sure why someone would argue this if you were a vegetables person. Wouldn't you just instead say something like "see! the popularity of Rey shows that people can and should write more fic about female characters!"
Certain old school LJ slashers have a weird blind spot when it comes to noticing het ships, no matter how huge the fanbase. They've curated their own internet experience to the point of believing Western media live action two white guys slash is what 'fandom' means, and everything else is some niche interest or only happens on ***they shudder*** fanfiction.net. I have been observing this in the wild for nearly twenty years, and it's always funny to watch.[3]

Discussion of the Term

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

2014

If you don't eat your actual vegetables, you run the risk of seriously fucking up your personal health. If you don't eat your fictional vegetables, you don't spend your free time doing something you don't enjoy, in a world where very few adults have infinite amounts of free time to spend on things they do enjoy. Either way, it's nobody's business but yours and your doctor's.

And besides, there's no way of knowing what somebody whose entire fic output is 110% ATG whitecock reads when it comes to original fiction, and it is entirely possible they're getting their daily does of nutritional female and POC characters there. [4]
I don't think people should eat their metaphorical vegetables if they don't want to, and I agree that someone's fic output isn't always indicative of their general media consumption, but the idea that eating them or not has absolutely nothing at all to do with societal change or social justice boggles me. [5]
Eh, first of all, the OP didn't mention anything about social change or social justice. They were all about "it's good for you." Secondly, while I think supporting female and POC creators and works with good representation is important, and reading/viewing media outside your own cultural perspective can be a good way to shake up unquestioned assumptions and prejudices, I don't think framing these things as an unpleasant but healthy necessity is all that helpful for social justice or social change. In my experience as a femslash fan, "everyone eat your vegetables for great justice!" leads to dutyfic, knee jerk rejection, and the widespread perception that anything but white men is boring and that anyone who sincerely likes anything else is faking. If the goal is social change in media, a much better way to go about things is promoting and supporting new or overlooked works featuring/written by women and POC, in fandom and out of it. If the goal is social change in general, there are a billion and one ways to go about it and issues to tackle, many of which have much more immediate and direct consequences than what someone reads in their spare time, and, just like with reading material, you have no idea what someone is doing with their life when not in fandom. [6]

first of all, the OP didn't mention anything about social change or social justice

I'm not sure what else "good for you" would be a metaphor for. Obviously eating your metaphorical vegetables are not literally good for your bodily health; it's just a shorthand for "good things will come of it".

And I never interpreted the vegetables metaphor that way. People usually like vegetables when they try them, or at least they'll find out that they like some vegetables. The reason we don't eat our vegetables, either literally or figuratively, is that we have become complacent and lazy. Media featuring women or PoC or LGBT people can (and do) get popular. People just don't make them or tune into them as often as other media, because they're lazy and complacent and think they want more of the same old, same old. When, in fact, this is not true for most people.

widespread perception that anything but white men is boring

I think this argument is too close to the "fandom thinks het is boring, wah wah" thing that some people keep pushing. General media does seem to think that anything but white males are boring, and "ugh white dudes" is merely a very small, very local pushback, not a widespread opinion.

anyone who sincerely likes anything else is faking

This is true, but again, a very local problem in fandom. A more widespread, mainstream opinion is "When a piece of media about women, PoC, or LGBT people get popular, it's a fluke. When it doesn't get popular, it's the natural order of things." What you have in fandom is a pushback, just like the pushback against "everyone is heterosexual".

As I said, I agree that you can't judge a person for the small sliver of their lives that you see in fandom, and you can't make judgements about individual fans. But I don't think "eat your vegetables" is about individual fans, or at least it shouldn't be; surely no one will disagree that a lot and lot and lot of people consume chiefly media about white dudes? It's a general issue. [7]

I'm not sure what else "good for you" would be a metaphor for. Obviously eating your metaphorical vegetables are not literally good for your bodily health; it's just a shorthand for "good things will come of it".

Well, obviously not good for your body. I'm not stupid. I took it to mean morally improving, or good for the soul.

This is the aspect of the "eat your vegetables" metaphor that I have a problem with: The reason we don't eat our vegetables, either literally or figuratively, is that we have become complacent and lazy.

Because on one level I agree with a lot you say here, especially if we're talking about group level trends and the fact that fandom's general focus on the white dudes to the exclusion of all else is a real thing and an indication of deeper group-level issues. And I agree that people like their vegetables when they find them in genres they like, and the thing to do is support those canons and encourage people to give them a try. I'm also sick of people who really do (or claim to) want more diverse fiction but conclude it's impossible, because "there are no good female characters." But hate this idea of attaching a moral judgment to what media people consume for fun, for a couple of reasons. 1) People shouldn't feel compelled to treat their relaxation time as another chance to pass or fail the social justice test. 2) Consuming and supporting media by/including women and POC is absolutely not just about passing or failing the social justice test, but talking about people being complacent and lazy for not seeking those works out is absolutely the worst way of getting anyone to realize that. It's the wrong tactic.

I think this argument is too close to the "fandom thinks het is boring, wah wah" thing that some people keep pushing. General media does seem to think that anything but white males are boring, and "ugh white dudes" is merely a very small, very local pushback, not a widespread opinion.

I think you misinterpreted the point I was trying to make. I'm not talking about the "ugh, white dudes" thing at all. I didn't say "people concluding anything with white dudes is boring. I was trying to say that trying to get people to expand their fictional horizons by telling people that they need to "eat their vegetables" - a phrase that really does have connotations of "suck it up and force that nasty shit down your throat, it's good for you" even if veggies in real life can be delicious - does lead to people concluding that the only way anyone would want to read about women or POC is if they have to, because that stuff is all issuefic. And yeah, that assumption is kind of ignorant, but it's self-reinforcing, especially at the community level unfortunately, and especially when people are feeling continuously preached at and berated for liking what they do like. [8]

Seriously. Also, how do you tell if someone really supports social change through their fic? If you write a fic with a female main character but she's portrayed as being married and having kids, does that get you less social change points than if you portray her being single, even if she's married in canon? What about a disabled female character who's able-bodied in canon? A trans character who's not trans in canon? Is fic for canons with POC and female main characters automatically more progressive even if it doesn't include those characters except in minor roles?

There are too many impulses for writing fic, and except in the very blandest of mushy issuefic, you cannot tell how much people care about their vegetables just from the way they write. [9]

I never bought the "m/m slashers are misogynistic" thing until the "eating your veggies" accusation toward femslash became popular.

The "eating your veggies" insult is basically saying that male characters (and relationships between male characters) are inherently interesting, while the only way that someone would be interested in female characters or f/f relationships is because of some external thing (in this case, fandom or SJ "points"). And if you think that the only reason that someone might be interested in relationships between female characters is to earn "points," then, yeah, that is straight up misogyny.

[Note: I don't think that all m/m slashers are misogynistic, but I do think those who call writing femslash and/or writing about women is "eating your veggies" are.] [10]

I think at least some of the people who talk about f/f as being veggie-eating do so because they only get exposed to a certain subgenre of f/f in which everything is moody and dreary and characters spend more time gazing at their navels than doing anything, let alone having passionate tropey sex.

If that was all I had to read all day, I'd certainly be complaining about the writers only doing it for SJ cookies rather than because they genuinely found f/f sex hot or f/f relationships interesting. [11]
Why should passionate tropey sex be the only thing that counts as "real" and not "eating your veggies". Some people are actually interested in things other than porn and tropefic. [12]

Actually, as far as I can tell, it's mostly femslashers complaining about a sudden influx of people writing half-hearted femslash stories for SJ points.

Whenever I've heard the phrase from slashers, it's been in relation to direct, active nagging to read or write femslash for SJ reasons. As in, people literally being accused of misogyny for not doing it.[13]

Whenever I've heard the phrase from slashers, it's been in relation to direct, active nagging to read or write femslash for SJ reasons. As in, people literally being accused of misogyny for not doing it.

(NA) DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER!

Where I was, "Slashers are misogynist!" came first, and only then did "Eat your veggies" become a thing.

What was really laughable was, in my fandom IIRC it was mostly other entrenched BNFy m/m slashers doing the nagging and throwing the "but internalized misogyny" accusation around. So there was a nice juicy element of "We haven't been doing nearly enough for the cause" self-flagellation to go with it all.

And didn't the "veggies" thing actually start with a BNF who wrote this whole thing about how writing female characters who didn't actually interest you, was like eating broccoli or something? Good for you and eventually you'd learn to like it? The message was, stop having that junk-food fun you're having RIGHT NOW and turn your fannish activities into work for a better society.

I remember actual femslashers responding with "Please get off our side."[14]
I thought the 'eat your veggies' accusation came from m/m slashers being accused of being misogynist because they apparently weren't focusing on female characters instead of men,basically creating the idea that you had to write female characters, not because you enjoyed writing them and wanted more of their story, but because it was the right and expected sj thing to do. [15]
Also, for my (unpopular? or at least uncommon) opinion: I wish the original "eat your veggies" argument and all its children had focused on reading and commenting on fic with female characters, rather than writing it. Then maybe people would have discovered that there are lots of people out there writing female characters, enjoying it, and writing things that are enjoyable for other people. And also the the people who already enjoy writing the female characters would get more feedback and the encouragement to do more of it. [16]
I associate the "eating your veggies" thing mainly with fandoms that have very few major female characters, so that you pretty much only have one or two potential pairings if you want to write F/F. I think in cases like that, it can be more likely to feel forced. But that's not to say that M/M pairings can never feel forced, or that everyone who tries to force an interest in an F/F ship is doing it for SJ brownie points. I think some of it is people good-naturedly looking for women to ship together, and that's cool. But it can still feel forced sometimes. [17]

Yeah, I don't know what fandom you're in, but in mine it's all the angry obnoxious het martyrs and bitter femslashers who use the phrase, specifically to refer to slashers who have f/f ships. It's an accusation of the slashers not really caring about f/f, only doing it for cookies and because they don't want to be called misogynist.

Which usually ends up a misogynist accusation in itself because way to assume the worst of a group that's mostly women. [18]

NA

Agreed! Though I think there's a difference between the "eating your veggies" accusation and the "eating your veggies" argument.

"Eating your veggies" accusation: 'The only reason people write about these female characters is because they feel obligated to! There's no way they could actually care about them!' Cynical and often rooted in misogyny, like you say.

"Eating your veggies" argument: 'I know female characters might seem kind of lame, but guys, if you try and read/write them they are actually pretty awesome! And good for you! Just like vegetables.' Arguably a misguided argument in its own way (mostly because it does encourage the production of dutyfic), but I think it was useful in a particular time and place, because there really were a lot of people in slash-heavy fandoms (at least the ones I was in) who decided female characters were lame without really thinking about it, and who treated them like disposable props in their m/m fics, and who casually bashed them because it was the accepted thing to do, and who went out of their way to avoid reading about those female characters ... but who, if they actually did sit down and read fics about female characters, actually came around to liking (at least some of) them. I think that argument was a useful wake-up call for some parts of fandom, and I do think it's resulted in the decrease of some of the more blatant female character-bashing in the fan spaces where I hang out, though I don't think it's useful when taken to its furthest extreme ("You must write female characters, even if you don't want to, or you're sexist! Fandom is for social justice, not for fun!").

[19]

What everyone else has said about the history here.

But beyond that, you're misconstruing the insult. It isn't directed at all fic or meta about female characters or f/f relationships, and it isn't saying that male characters are inherently interesting and female characters inherently aren't. "Eating your vegetables" is specifically directed at the situation where there's pressure to read or write something that you're not interested in, where most of the fanwork that's being produced feels like it's being produced out of a sense of duty or desire for political performance, and the proponents seem to be saying (or in some cases actually are saying) that you owe it to the world to be participating because it's good for you.

The only reason you hear it about femslash, and don't hear it a lot about a/b/o or mundane AUs or anything else that not everyone wants to read is that femslash is the only thing (that I know of, anyway) that we keep being told we should be participating in because it's good for us, or because it's the only way we can show we're not misogynists, or for some other reasons of great justice. [20]
I like writing and reading about women and I like writing and reading f/f, so sometimes when people vent about those things, it's a downer, probably just because the responses are often phrased in a way that implies something like "yes, women are disgusting vegetables, and yes, men are delicious junk food, but I'm here in fandom for fun and fun is men and non-fun is women, and you have no right to tell me what to do!". ...But, well, rather than misogyny, that may well just be an unfortunate side effect of the fact they're responding to people who are assuming those things, so that ends up inadvertently tainting the responses to their argument as well. It's quick and easy to say "fuck you, I won't eat my vegetables" and in doing so appear to accept, but perhaps not actually accept, the premise that women are inherently distasteful. [21]

2015

I'm just glad that my wacky femslash fandoms are too far off her radar. Though I still resent her for her role in the 'eating your vegetables' BS that rears its head on occasion. [22]

Yeah seriously. I've spent most of my time in fandom reading and writing about female characters and mostly femslash ships, but I've never felt like I was eating my vegetables. Usually I feel like I've got a really good dessert.

The idea that some dudeslashers have that no one writes about women unless it's out of a sense of duty frustrates the fuck out of me. Some of us are just as much in it for the porn as the m/m side. [23]
The "eat your veggies" essay managed to do to female character fic what dudeslash never managed: it made writing women a reason to be suspicious instead of fun. [24]

2016

I feel like that phrase has done so much damage, by basically implying that people who read and write femslash don’t actually like it, and also that any corner of fandom would benefit from people writing out of obligation instead of love.[25]

I don't want white fans to write fic with characters of color like they're eating their damn vegetables.

I want them to ponder why they think eating vegetables is so unpleasant to begin with.

If you think it's a chore to eat them, yr not going to learn to make them properly, and you'll think they taste gross coz you don't know how

But if you ask somebody who knows how to make vegetables taste good, and listen to them, you'll have a better chance at making them right!

And yr probably not going to do it completely right the first time. You need practice, and adjustment, and probably more advice. That's OK!

I know that metaphor got a little out of hand, but I don't understand why eating vegetables or writing non-white chars has to be difficult.[26]

References

  1. bookshop at LiveJournal. 1. Subtext. 2. Fandom misogyny. 3. coverfail.; Wayback link (22 January 2010). (Accessed 17 March 2015.)
  2. musicforsinglebeedad, March 12, 2015
  3. Anonymous on FFA. Thread on DW, 31 March 2018.
  4. comment at Orange is the New (and only) Wank Level - FFA Post #303 - Fail. Fandom. Anon. Re: Unpopular Opinions, Archived version (05 March 2014)
  5. comment at Orange is the New (and only) Wank Level - FFA Post #303 - Fail. Fandom. Anon. Re: Unpopular Opinions, Archived version (05 March 2014)
  6. comment at Orange is the New (and only) Wank Level - FFA Post #303 - Fail. Fandom. Anon. Re: Unpopular Opinions, Archived version (05 March 2014)
  7. comment at Orange is the New (and only) Wank Level - FFA Post #303 - Fail. Fandom. Anon. Re: Unpopular Opinions, Archived version (05 March 2014)
  8. comment at Orange is the New (and only) Wank Level - FFA Post #303 - Fail. Fandom. Anon. Re: Unpopular Opinions, Archived version (05 March 2014)
  9. comment at Orange is the New (and only) Wank Level - FFA Post #303 - Fail. Fandom. Anon. Re: Unpopular Opinions, Archived version (05 March 2014)
  10. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  11. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  12. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  13. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  14. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  15. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  16. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  17. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  18. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  19. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  20. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  21. comment at Things You Wouldn't Admit Unanon; WebCite (07 June 2014)
  22. comment at Re: "In defense of Gyllencest and incest fanfiction"; WebCite (17 January 2015)
  23. comment at Re: "In defense of Gyllencest and incest fanfiction"; WebCite (17 January 2015)
  24. comment at Re: "In defense of Gyllencest and incest fanfiction"; WebCite (17 January 2015)
  25. buffer-overrun on Tumblr. Eating Your Veggies - Fanlore, posted 10 May 2016. (Accessed 15 May 2016.)
  26. Waldorf Rey (‏@pearwaldorf) on Twitter. series of six tweets, 11 May 2016. (Accessed 15 May 2016.)