Culture  The meat doesn’t make the man

A meatogyny exposé

“He handled my breast as if he were making a meatball.”

– Mary Gordon, Final Payments

The stage is set. The Mrs. has concocted some pansy-shit koooos-Goose for the girls and Brady-sympathizers. And the pièce de résistance for any fourth of July celebration – the bloody Angus burgers sizzling under the dominion of Joe six-pack.

Determined to make the date a success, she orders her “usual” – the garden salad with only half the dressing. Unabashedly, he orders a T-bone – the perfect accomplice for his beer.

This isn’t you. You did not attend University of Texas. You aren’t an ex-homecoming queen. Your father doesn’t have a gun room. But before you turn the page, ask yourself: have you ever not ordered a steak for fear of looking butch? Or have you ever found yourself boasting to some friends about the number of hamburgers you have consumed? If your answer to either is yes, you, my friend, are a meatogynist.

Since industrialization, meat has become an appendage of the West’s patriarchal society. The sexualization of meat can be traced to the emotional responses triggered by meat production.

“Meat’s recognizable message arises from patriarchal attitudes including the idea that the end justifies the means, the objectification of others is part of life, and that violence can and should be masked,” Carol J. Adams states in The Sexual Politics of Meat.

The sheer concept of meat shines a light on man’s primeval core in its links to the “sport” of hunting. In this display of either camaraderie or sheer stupidity, men are able to show their “strength and virility” by the “conquering of beasts,” Deborah Lupton explains in Food, Body, and the Self. Thus, Adams concludes, meat is merely a symbol for “patriarchal control of animals.”

The concept of hunting as a stereotypical male sport should come as no surprise to anyone, and it is no shock that meat continues to register as “men’s food” – though this doesn’t make it justifiable. Meatogyny is intensified by the proclamations of meat being “too heavy” or “too strong” for women at times. This fallacy is only exacerbated by taboos against women eating meat especially during “hyper feminine times, such as menstruation or pregnancy,” as Frederick J. Simoons writes.

So why does it seem that women often steer (mind the pun) away from food that too closely resembles live animals or fish (examples – raw steaks, lamb, octopus)? Perhaps this stereotype is founded in shared experience. Women can sympathize with the oppression, aggression, and follies of male dominance since they too have been in that situation – not too long ago. By seducing her with “honeyed words,” Zeus subdues, rapes, and swallows Metis in the classic Greek myth. He then claims to receive her counsel from his belly, where she will remain. Feminist theorists certainly have a lot to say about this.

Subsequently, alongside the masculinization of meat arises the feminization of vegetarianism. Within Western society, only 30 per cent of vegetarians are male. This is not new; according to James C. Whorton’s article, “Muscular Vegetarianism,” in 1836 – in response to Grahamism, the vegetarian movement of the time – petitioners proclaimed, “emasculation is the first fruit of Grahamism.”

Personally, I do not see a correlation between feminism and vegetarianism. On the contrary, I attribute the high female percentage of vegetarians to a hesitancy from men. Mostly out of fear of being labeled a “sissy,” a “fruit,” or worse, an over-the-top hippie.

In the 1980s, The New York Times published an article on the masculine nature of meat consumption. Instead of the “John Wayne type,” Adams says, the “epitome of the masculine meat eater,” the new male hero is “vulnerable” – they “might eat fish and chicken, but not red meat.” It’s been over 20 years and it seems this ideology may not have completely vanished.

Nothing says Thanksgiving like a Tofurkey… right?