Thursday, June 21, 2018

Manliness and meat: why is compassion not seen as masculine?


Let’s just imagine the salads are vegan.

Going vegan was simple enough, though not without its challenges. One of those challenges is facing some ridicule. Becoming a vegan has helped further my understanding of feminism, it has opened me to more empathy than I have experienced in my life. It has also shown me another way in which misogyny manifests.

“You’re vegan? That’s for girls, mate.”

A relatively common thing to hear as a vegan male. I even heard it as a vegetarian.

Common as it is, it incites outrage in me. As if somehow being a girl is weak or any less deserving of respect? The fact that any person that has taken the step to improve the environment, save a life (or 200) and look after their health gets called ‘a girl’ or ‘a pussy’ is actually deplorable. Every vegan should be praised for their efforts and not degraded.

Calling a vegan ‘a girl’ is insulting for a number of reasons. The biggest one is the fact that they are using “being a woman” in the pejorative. I wish I was as strong and inspiring as half the women I know!

If we follow the social law of common discourse, hunting and fishing are both considered masculine activities. Meanwhile emotions, compassion and a sense of caring are “for chicks”.

A fisherman catches fish in the upper waters of the Malinau river, Malinau, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Malinau is an important resource for food in the region.

Hunting and fishing have a long history of being associated with masculinity all over the world.

Setting aside any views around the nomenclature, masculine is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as: “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men.”

Why can’t we change that? I want to see compassion and love become masculine. I want to see men standing up for the oppressed rather than being the oppressor. I self-identify as a feminist, but I still have so much to learn. Knowing how to be a better feminist is something I strive for every single day.

As a cis, 20-something, white male, I am pretty lucky (read: entitled), but sadly my brethren are one of the main reasons that veganism/vegetarianism is considered effeminate. As a demographic, we men ridicule our male friends for not eating meat. We call them ‘pussies’, ‘girls’ and ask degrading questions like, “Does your husband eat meat?”. This shit needs to stop.

Being a vegan is pretty badarse. We save lives, protect the planet, and if you believe Scott Pilgrim, we even have superpowers.

With the recent announcement of Liam Hemsworth’s move to veganism there was a mass swoon amongst the vegan community. Hell, I even swooned a little. But there was also another side to the announcement that highlighted the toxic masculinity that is rife throughout social media, mainstream media and pretty much every aspect of society.

Negative, hateful and derogatory reactions to the news of Liam’s veganism could be found anywhere the news was spread. One Facebook commenter even suggested that Liam change his name to Caitlyn – a reference to the Bruce Jenner’s recent transition.



One commenter’s reaction to Liam Hemsworth’s veganism proves how the idea of masculinity is tied up with the idea of meat-eating.

This not only degrades vegans, but also women and trans-women. Any decent human being should have learned as a child: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Let’s face it, this kind of degradation is all too common a behaviour.

The World Health Organization’s recent announcement about the carcinogenic properties of meat has sparked the horrendous #Freebacon hashtag (don’t look at it, it will just make you cry). Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration announcement about cutting meat consumption pissed off a lot of people in the United States. The comments on this article were just as disgusting.

Womens health

“Real men eat meat” is a toxic idea of masculinity that is damaging to more than just men.

I won’t go into the reasons why this behaviour is deplorable because really, most people understand it isn’t okay to be a bigoted misogynist, and I am no authority on feminism.

But something needs to change. You can affect change by speaking up about this kind of behaviour. Don’t get into a flame war on Facebook but when you hear this crap in public, call them out. They’ll probably get embarrassed and you’d be surprised at the support you will get from others. Consider taking part in some kind of activism, and let’s make veganism ‘manly’, and absolve restrictive stereotypes of gender while we’re at it.

Healthy by nellies78 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Catching fish by cifor is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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