Note: I’ve included a lot of links on this post! If you want the full experience of the argument, click away! Thanks for reading and supporting ShoutOut!
I’ve gotta say that I’ve met more vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, and locavores through my feminism avenues than ever before in my life. (I’ll note that I’ve been doing environmental work for a couple of years now, and I’m fairly well plugged into that part of my community. I mean, even my web browser plants trees.) So then why am I seeing the more sustainable diets as a part of feminism platforms?
Let’s unpack reasons for being a vegetarian, for example:
- Health (ever seen the documentary What the Health? It’ll blow your mind.)
- Sustainability (i.e. energy, land, and water conservation)
- More budget friendly
- Avoiding processed foods/toxins
- Animal cruelty empathy
- Global and humanitarian empathy (i.e. significantly reduced land use for cattle means enough land to solve world hunger)
So no matter how you rank these, or even if your reasons for your plant-based diet aren’t listed above, you’ve got a lot of evidence and logic to back you up (and also you’ll live a lot longer, so ha).
The question I get most often as a vegetarian is “where do you get your protein?” I’ve had some sassy responses, but it all boils down to this: the animals you eat get their protein from the plants that I am eating. Why not cut the middle man? But I think that this is where a lot of the feminism begins to tie into these diets. We equate muscles and strength with protein, and our western diet has an unreasonable obsession with protein. (there’s always going to be a food trend/superfood to focus on, and we’re stuck on protein for now) This is consequentially making it a lot harder for those hyper-masculine men to feel manly on a vegetarian diet. If you’re a weight-lifter, chances are you drink protein powder. Chances are, you make your rice-broccoli-chicken meal after you hit the gym. If that’s you, then here’s a tip: soybeans have 16.7 grams of protein per cup. 16.7!!!
So if we assert these misconception that these plant-based diets are low in protein, and focus on them being substantially more empathetic lifestyles, we’re missing out on a large chunk of men who believe that their masculinity is somehow derived from what they eat. Since the beginning of time, hunting and killing animals for meat have the undercurrents of skill, finesse, vitality, and human-dominance. Plant-based diets are all of these, minus the dominance. A lot of things about you are influenced by what you eat, but your masculinity is not in jeopardy if you want a more sensible diet.
Let’s stop equating masculinity with meat. As Juliana Roth states, “It’s not just the bodies of other people that men are told to oppress; animals, too, are seen as theirs to dispassionately dominate.” It’s such an interesting notion, but helps me to understand where this misconception stems from. We cannot make meat’s selling point masculinity. Let me say it again – louder, for the people in the back.
We cannot make meat’s selling point masculinity.
Your masculinity can be defined in healthy ways, by various acts, but your diet is not one of them. Your diet is your health, your well-being, your mood, your brain, your existence. I don’t want you to take away my femininity for being a feminist, just like I won’t take away your masculinity for being a vegetarian. (OR, even better – a vegetarian and a feminist.) If you think eating a fat, juicy steak hot off the grill is the route to masculinity, please check yourself. If you truly love meat, great! Although I’d sleep better at night, I’m genuinely not here to persuade you to be a vegetarian, I’m just here to let ya know that it’s okay if you are – after all, real men don’t worry about the constant need to assert their masculinity by dominance, and that is, simply, what the consumption of animals is.