Scholars argue eating meat contributes to “toxic masculinity,” but one sociologist has come to a different conclusion: giving up meat promotes “white masculinity.”
North Carolina State University instructor Mari Mycek – a vegan herself – published “Meatless meals and masculinity,” a scientific article on the “intersectional understanding” of manliness and eating greens, CampusReform.org reported.
After Mycek conducted 20 in-depth interviews with self-identified vegan and vegetarian men, she concluded they “uphold gendered binaries of emotion/rationality and current ideas of middle-class, white masculinity.”
Before starting her research, Mycek thought vegan men would base their decision to give up meat on emotion and receive negative feedback for the switch; however, her findings were the opposite.
“[Vegan/vegetarian] men justify their identities as not only reasonable and rational, but not emotional,” which Mycek argues is a “manhood act” or, in other words, she says they are “redoing gender.”
She argues the meatless men contribute to unnoticed inequality and fall in line with a masculine identity because they used “masculine-coded discourses” by making a rational decision to avoid meat “based on scientific research rather than personal opinion or emotions,” which she argues would be expected from women.
“The men effectively engage in a feminized practice (eating only plants) but masculinize it, rather than feminize themselves and their consumption identities,” Mycek wrote, further arguing “masculinity receives its prestige, privilege and power in the US at the expense of women and femininity.”
Mycek also argues people who eat vegan, paleo, or other alternative diets are predominantly white.
She concludes veganism is a form of “cultural capital” or food choice privilege, where they symbolize social and cultural prestige at the expose of people in less privileged positions.
“It is evident that a certain amount of privilege is needed in order to eat a [vegan/vegetarian] diet,” Mycek said.
Positive media attention towards vegetarians, such as President Bill Clinton and Tobey Maguire, as being “hot” and “sexy” for giving up meat has contributed to vegan masculinity according to her paper.
Mycek admits that her choice to identify as a woman and as vegan may have influenced her data collection interviewing the men for the project.
She argues more research should be done with less economically advantaged people with diverse race and ethnic groups.