A Pennsylvania State University sociology professor argues in a recent academic paper that eating meat perpetuates what she calls “hegemonic masculinity” and “gender hegemony.” Prof. Anne Delessio-Parson interviewed vegetarians living in Argentina, which well-known for its beef cattle,  and found that the plant-eaters there use their vegetarian lifestyle to "push back against the patriarchy." She also found that male vegetarians "seem more egalitarian and respectful."

In the November 14 issue of the Journal of Feminist Geography, DeLessio-Parson argues that “hegemonic masculinity implies an imperative to eat meat” and that supports other power structures as well. She wrote, "Refusing meat therefore presents opportunities, in each social interaction, for the [gender] binary to be called into question."   

The abstract of her paper contend, “In patriarchal societies where hegemonic masculinity implies an imperative to eat meat, vegetarianism disrupts food culture, raising questions about how vegetarians do, re-do, and rework gender.” In 23 interviews in La Plata, one of Argentina’s largest cities, Delessio-Parson found evidence of “conversion and social pushback” that expose “gender enactment and social reinforcement of the binary.”

Delessio-Parson wrote that she found that the vegetarians she interviewed draw on “scripts of femininities and masculinities that uphold difference.” For example, women cook meat while men make “rationality-based claims and demonstrate strength.” She contends that men who reject the “meat-masculinity nexus” also appear to reject “sexism and racism.” Delessio-Parson concludes that “Doing vegetarianism in interactions drives social change, contributing to the de-linking of meat from gender hegemony and revealing the resisting and reworking of gender in food spaces.”

DeLessio-Parson wrote a masters thesis is about vegetarianism in Argentina, which claimed that vegetarianism is a growing phenomenon in the South American republic. In a 2010 letter to the editor of The New York Times, she wrote that "those who do become vegetarian face sharp criticism and concern — often driven by the ill-founded belief that beef is necessary for good health."

Besides beef, restaurants offer a myriad of choices in Argentina. Various oriental, vegetarian, kosher, fast-food, Italian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, and other choices have long been available, especially in Buenos Aires. For example, the Rio Alba -- a famed eatery in the Palermo district near the American embassy -- has offered a meatless salad for decades that has drawn vegetarians in the city for its freshness and variety. The speciality of Rio Alba, however, are its steaks, including a filet mignon so tender that it can be cut with a spoon.

A recent documentary about Argentina's barbeque culture, Todo sobre el Asado, a tongue-in-cheek cultural analysis shows how deep the tradition goes, which binds together Argentines with the scent of flesh meat browning over burning coals of mesquite, oak, and carob wood.
 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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