Written by Donat a/k/a The Vegan Hubby
A brief commentary on the connection between eating a vegan diet and the perception of manliness (or lack thereof).
It is fascinating how much machismo is centered around eating meat. It’s been my experience that refusing meat can be viewed as paramount to refusing manhood. In a typical situation where I am offered a meat dish and I either politely decline or choose a vegetarian option, the men around are first confused and then make jokes. To be fair, most of the time the jokes are fairly mild and predictable, but sometimes they can get surprisingly angry. I always get the sense that I am attacking their identity as men, when in reality I just want something different to eat. The topic of masculinity can be hard to define and means different things to different people but it is interesting how even what you eat is tied in to it somehow. Can a vegan man really be manly? The following is one personal example.
About a year ago I went to a good friend’s bachelor party (a nice manly event right?) where “the boys” went to a nice restaurant. Out of the group of 12 guys, 10 ordered steak, 1 ordered a slightly different variant of steak, and then there was me. Naturally, there was quite a bit of laughter about the lack of “substance” in my food and how “real men eat steak”, leaving me nodding and smiling, which I have found to be the best way to deal with such issues. I felt like they were compelled on behalf of all men everywhere to make the standard jokes and tout their meat eating abilities and their efforts seemed half-hearted to me. The topic continued on for some time and once all of the food arrived, all eyes were on me again. However, this time the tone was remarkably different. Everyone’s plate had the same exact piece of steak on it with a small side while my large plate brimmed with delicious, exotic and filling food (although I don’t remember exactly what it was). All of a sudden jokes filled the air again. Now the jokes focused on how I always have delicious looking food and that they should have ordered what I did, and this time they sounded much more genuine. At the end of the meal several friends noted how I finished my large plate while many of them were unable to finish their smaller ones. So it seemed that while I lost “man points” for eating a meatless meal, I gained a bunch back by ordering good food and eating copious quantities of it. I also thought that they respected the fact that I stayed my path and didn’t give in to the collective pressure to join them (i.e. more man points).
I have found little correlation between what I consider “real” men and the amount of meat they consume. While I will agree that I have encountered many vegan males whose masculinity was desperately lacking, I would also point out that I’ve met countless more meat eaters that are equally deficient in that department. Watching a “nerd” eat a steak does not make him seem manlier. Likewise, seeing an attractive male eat a vegan meal should not detract from his manliness.
Have you had any similar experiences with food tying in with masculinity? What is the female perspective on the issue? Please comment below and let us know!