According to a paper in an academic journal, male vegans and vegetarians are guilty of "upholding the gender binary" and perpetuating "white masculinity." North Carolina State University sociology instructor Mari Mycek wrote that men become vegan or vegetarian in ways that are "traditionally get coded as masculine" and align with "white middle-class social norms and expectations."

Titled “Meatless meals and masculinity,” Mycek’s article asserts that vegan and vegetarian men are reclaiming what she said was their “previously-stigmatized consumption identity” by framing their lifestyle as a rational, rather than emotional, choice so as to dominate women. "These performances of masculinity are aligned with white middle-class social norms and expectations."  

While some scholars claim that the consumption of meat is a cause of “toxic masculinity,” Mycek argues -- after interviewing 20 vegan men -- that in reality they “uphold gendered binaries of emotion/rationality and current ideas of middle-class, white masculinity.” According Mycek, male vegans use their choice of diet to shore up their masculinity “by explaining their choice to become [vegan] in ways that evoke logics of rationality, science, and reason, concepts that also traditionally get coded as masculine."

Mycek observed that “these performances of masculinity are aligned with white middle-class social norms and expectations,” while writing that middle-class men are alone in being able to use this means of bolstering their status. Veganism, argues Mycek, is an elite privilege and explained that it is for men “a form of cultural capital and a symbolic resource, a way to align oneself with those who have the privilege of choice when it comes to food decisions.”

By framing their choice for veganism as “rational” as opposed to “emotional.” Mycek asserts that men are guilty of guilty of perpetuating white masculinity. The paper cited the example of Lucas (29), who explained his veganism to Mycek: “I try to stay under the radar, but it might come up. Then, I just explain it matter of fact.” Twenty-two-year-old vegan Tyler explained his choice, saying, “I started being more interested in environmental issues and I realized that my diet could have a lot of effects on the environment.” He added, “I realized I had to at least do something to like walk the walk or whatever, so that’s what I did.”

Men who cite research on veganism and its purported benefits, wrote Mycek, are fostering white middle-class masculinity, because “facts” conflict with more supposedly more feminine sources of knowledge such as “value” or “opinion.” 

Among those who assert that meat fosters masculinity is Pennsylvania State University PhD candidate Anne DeLessio-Parson, whose article in Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography sought to analyze Argentina’s “meat-centric” culture.Asserting that eating meat is at the foundation of a society noted for “hegemonic masculinity,” DeLessio-Parson, wrote in her article, “I contend that in such a context, we cannot separate the ways people ‘do vegetarianism’ from how they ‘do gender.’” Finding politics in Argentines’ choice in meals, she wrote, “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.” She theorizes that vegetarianism in Argentina, where ranching and eating meat is part of national identity, is a political act that can destabilize gender identities. “[V]egetarians defy attempts to hold them accountable to gendered social expectations,” she wrote. “Women, for example, assert authority over their diets; men embody rejection of the meat-masculinity nexus by adopting a worldview that also rejects sexism and racism.” DeLessio-Parson, a vegetarian, lived for two years in Argentina.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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