The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
For Ottilie’s first opinion piece with us, she analyses the gender stereotyping involved in the marketing of meat, and other animal products, drawing upon historical attributes directly associated with ‘manly men’, as well as today’s cultural stigma around meat-eaters.
The concept of associating meat with masculinity is perpetrated by mainstream media. As evidenced by the 2012 McDonald’s advert, which broadcasted in China, epitomising the stereotype with the advert’s slogan, ‘100% manly man. 100% pure beef’. This cliche is confirmed in society by statics, highlighting the fact that there are considerably more female vegans, and vegetarians, concluding that only 24% of vegans are men (US study in 2014).
Aspects of gender politics contribute to this, as the culture and media behind ‘dieting’ is considerably gendered. Meat is seen as male, whilst salads are geared towards women. This association began in the nineteenth century when societal shifts meant that women were spending more time in the workplace and eating out – without the company of men. Thus, mainstream media began to create a division between male and female tastes. By the late twentieth century, women’s food was described as ‘dainty’ such as salads with artistic decoration. Diet and healthy food ‘fads’ such as kale and quinoa were targeted towards women, whilst meat was targeted towards men, amplified by cooking books with loaded titles such as 1925’s ‘Feed the Brute!’. These reinforced the stereotype that meat is associated with masculinity and power.
It is also important to note feminism and animal rights have long been conjoined, as the refusal to eat meat is associated with an act of rebellion against the patriarchal status quo.
Historically, meat and gender have always been linked. The hunter-gatherer roles of men and women meant men went out to kill, whilst women collected plant foods, and therefore, ate smaller proportions of meat. The better hunters were more likely to survive and reproduce – allowing meat to become directly associated with strength. The longevity of the association between meat and strength is supported by a 2018 study, which concluded that concepts of ‘power’ and ‘virility’ are part of the relationship we as a species have with eating meat and conventional standards of masculinity.
It seems that societal pressure and engrained gender politics play a large factor in male attitudes towards veganism and vegetarianism. There desperately needs to be a shift in societal attitudes, so men do not fear ostracization by being viewed as less ‘manly’ for their dietary choices. A recent study conducted by the University of Southampton revealed that the more men who take the leap to a meat free or plant based diet the easier it gets. Therefore, it becomes vital we break the gender standards prescribed by the capitalist consumer patriarchal society which perpetuate and facilitate a culture that is detrimental to the environment.