As of late, conversations about masculinity and meat eating have re-emerged, partially in response to this book and also from a segment on NPR about masculinity and veganism. But this conversation has left a lot to be desired from many vegans, especially feminists.
It’s great to see traditional assumptions about masculinity challenged by veganism, but we can do better. I date a butch lesbian vegan who is training for a marathon, lifts weights, is masculine and also happens to have a pussy. Below are five of the most frustrating aspects of the conversation.
1. Hardcore veganism is feminist.
The idea that there is a real man or that one type of man is a “pussy”* and another is more masculine is a) homophobic and b) misogynist. There is nothing hardcore about reclaiming traditional patriarchal language and behavior in the name of an ethical movement. And remember: If you aren’t sure how to do better please ask a vegan feminist. We would love to help!
2. Ethical veganism is not a diet or about controlling your body.
All people who are vegan eat a plant-based diet and strive to live a compassionate life towards human and non-human animals alike. This extends to varying degrees into all consumer products, as well as different practices one supports. There’s plenty of debate about how veganism extends beyond the plate.
One thing that is not up for debate, however, is that ethical veganism is not about restricting food as a diet or about controlling your body. Unfortunately, with the emphasis on proving vegan diets can also provide for the nutritional needs of those who run ultra marathons and body-build, the conversation seems to have become confused. As the NPR segment argues, men are generally the face of this misconception.
3. Veganism doesn’s need to be saved from feminity.
A lot of this conversation about masculinity and veganism is people reacting to being bullied for being too feminine or behaving like a girl (or a “pussy”) for being a vegan. The basic premise that this is something to tolerate or build a defense against is offensive in its own right.
Eating plants is not an inherently feminine behavior, nor is eating meat an inherently masculine behavior. Anything that encourages either side of this argument is essentialist and tired. This is not to say that being treated as an outcast or ostracized for making an ethical choice many people consider weird is not difficult, just that it’s part of the patriarchy, man. Making ethical vegan choices is something to be proud of for no reason other than the inherent virtue of making the right ethical decision and this has nothing to do with your gender.
4. Veganism shouldn’t need a mainstream male stamp of approval to be taken seriously.
But if you’re going to get media attention for being male and vegan, please say something feminist and mention some of the inspiring feminist vegans who you know and love!
5. Where are my male feminist allies?
It’s very annoying to see instances of misogynistic language promoting veganism get the seal of approval by prominent male vegans. Those in the position to hold the microphone with the most amplification have a responsibility to say something and push our movement to be less homophobic, and more feminist. And if you aren’t sure how, please pass that microphone on to a #feministvegan who does.
*Similar to queer, the word pussy has been reclaimed by some feminists, probably most notably the feminist Russian punk band Pussy Riot. Read more about that here.
Jamie J. Hagen is a Boston-based writer who writes about feminism, feminist security studies, and LGBTQ politics for such publications as Rolling Stone, Autostraddle and RH Reality Check. She tweets @jamiejhagen and you can visit jamiejhagen.com for more of her work.
This definitely could have been written better (my first read-through of it felt kind of jumbled), but here are a few things to take away:
- The idea that there is a real man or that one type of man is a “pussy”* and another is more masculine is a) homophobic and b) misogynist. [I must note that some men can be more masculine than others - but this doesn’t make one man any ‘less’ of a man than another. The point here is for people to stop using femininity/the word ‘pussy’ as an insult just because someone adheres to a plant-based diet. Just…no. That doesn’t make any sense.]
- Ethical veganism is not about restricting food as a diet or about controlling your body.
- A lot of this conversation about masculinity and veganism is people reacting to being bullied for being too feminine or behaving like a girl (or a “pussy”) for being a vegan. The basic premise that this is something to tolerate or build a defense against is offensive in its own right. […] Eating plants is not an inherently feminine behavior, nor is eating meat an inherently masculine behavior.
- Veganism shouldn’t need a mainstream male stamp of approval to be taken seriously.
In a nutshell, being read as feminine for choosing a vegan diet (or a vegetarian diet, in some cases) isn’t something anyone should feel defensive about. Femininity isn’t bad, for one thing, and just because someone ‘insults your masculinity’ or whatever doesn’t mean you should change your demeanor (i.e. act more traditionally ‘masculine’) in defense. People are ridiculous, ascribing gender attributes to others without really knowing them (or as a ‘joke’) is silly, and no vegan individual should have to prove their toughness just because they don’t eat meat.
(I must note here that I haven’t listened to the NPR segment mentioned in the original post; I just wanted to clarify a few things.)