I'll admit it. I occasionally eat meat, but only because I'm a weak-willed person. For the sake of my health and the well-being of the environment, I wish I could adhere to a strict vegan diet. I honestly prefer veggies to meat, and as a kid I subsisted almost entirely on a diet of canned peaches.
That being said, I'll never be able to turn down sushi, and don't put a fried chicken sandwich in front of me unless you want me to inhale it. I'm a flawed, self-loathing human after all.
But whenever I explain this to dudes, a funny thing happens. The response I get is usually some form of “That's my kind of vegetarian,” or “I was worried you were one of those girls.”
Uh, what girls exactly? The kind of girls that eat whatever the f*ck they want?
The optimistic side of me wants to believe these dudes aren't really at fault; it's this ingrained, arbitrary sense of masculinity where meat-eating equates to being a man.
"Manly" diets spawn from the pressure we put on men to cling to a fabricated sense of masculinity at all costs. The burger-eating tenet of that social code is just one in a number of other ridiculous stereotypes some men feel obligated to subscribe to -- ex. leaving a buffer seat at movie theaters, not asking for directions, suppressing emotions until they're buried so deep inside, etc.
Surely, we should be evolved enough at this point to understand -- at least on an intellectual level -- that the foods we eat have no bearing on gender or personality traits.
Still, any stock image catalogue will show you lone women psychotically laughing while eating salads and men chowing down on burgers and steaks. Clearly, the ideology behind these images is as silly as the photos themselves.
Molecular gastronomist and James Beard award-winning chef Gran Achatz, scoffs at the idea of gendered foods, saying,
What is a masculine presentation? Is it a giant chunk of roasted meat? What makes that manly – the caveman connotation? Dig into periods of time or age, geographical location, ethnicity and urban versus rural areas and you will find a separation in cooking familiarity and perhaps skill. But that has more to do with society's control over gender in general than the genetic makeup of people.
That societal pressure is further exacerbated by idiotic "guidebooks" like Bruce Feirstein's "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" and Esquire's "Eat Like A Man." FYI, eating like a man or eating like a woman means eating like any normal person who wants to survive.
But surely men need meat, right? Wrong. As any staunch vegan athlete will tell you, you don't need a steady diet of animal products to maintain a lean, strong physique. Vegan men also happen to be insanely hot...
Sexy, vegan, masculine and they all have long hair. See what I mean?
And let's not forget that chocolate, while currently marketed as a feminine indulgence, once kept soldiers alive during World War II.
Isn't it about time we put these outdated expectations to rest? For all the ladies and men hitting up the BBQ circuit this Memorial Day weekend, don't give in to the pressure to eat meat because of nebulous social norms or a lingering need to seem "chill." You can still be totally chill -- hell, even more chill -- for standing firm on your beliefs and loading up on mac salad instead. Isn't that the best part anyway?
On the flip side, if you're actually a meat lover, you should probably feel sh*tty in a gender-neutral way. As everyone knows, meat consumption is unequivocally horrible for the environment -- and our souls.