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Veganism and Masculinity


Veganism is good for humans, animals, and the environment, as evidenced by the following:

  • -Vegan diets are associated with health benefits such as lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and obesity as well as increased longevity.
  • -The American Dietetic Association says that a vegan diet is healthy, nutritionally adequate, and appropriate for people in all life stages.
  • -Studies show that slaughterhouse workers suffer from physical and mental health issues, such as injuries, pain, trauma, substance abuse, violence, and crime.
  • -Studies show that various animals are sentient and intelligent.
  • -“… Cutting out meat and dairy is the single biggest thing you can do to lessen your impact on Earth.”

 

Despite the aforementioned facts:

  • Men consume fifty-seven percent more meat than women. (The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey)
  • Thirty-seven percent of vegans are males while sixty-three percent are females. (The Vegan Society)
  • In a 2019 Twitter poll by user Meman Mevegan, men listed that the biggest barriers to being vegan are the perception it is not masculine (thirty-nine percent), social stigma (forty-five percent), the perception it is not healthy (twelve percent), and fear of women not being attracted to them (four percent).
  • In a University of Southampton poll, men who were open to veganism or were actively eating vegetarian/vegan diets at home expressed not being comfortable doing so in public due to social pressures.
  • A poll by the journal Appetite showed that vegan men are seen as thirty-five percent less manly.

These polls indicate that one major reason why many men eschew veganism is because of fear of being perceived as not being masculine. This fear might be related to the confusion between toxic masculinity and masculinity.

Toxic masculinity vs masculinity

Toxic masculinity refers to cultural norms and stereotypes that perpetuate the idea of males being dominant, self-reliant, and repressing emotions to an extreme. Dominance implies that one must either be the dominator or the dominated. It promotes aggression and violence (including sexual assault and domestic violence). Extreme self-reliance and repression of emotions correlate with increased stress, depression, and substance abuse in males. Therefore, toxic masculinity harms people of all genders.

Toxic masculinity also harms animals. The concept of dominance has traditionally led men to believe that eating meat, and in some cases hunting for their meat sources, is masculine. In addition, the protein found in meat is traditionally associated with muscles and strength, and omnivorous men thus tend to view vegan/vegetarian men as weak or feminine. Thus, animals continue to be killed and exploited for the sake of maintaining toxic masculinity.

Things to consider that challenge these views:

  • Meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products have long come from factory farms instead of hunting or maintaining one’s own farm.
  • Present day men who might be considered alpha males are usually seen as socially or financially strong, not necessarily physically strong.
  • Even when it comes to men who are concerned about physical strength, vegan diets are healthy as mentioned above. There are plenty of vegan sources of protein (e.g. legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, etc.). They have more nutrients in fewer calories, especially fiber, and contain less saturated fat than meat.

Regarding repression of emotions, toxic masculinity rejects vulnerability. This means that some men think caring about animals or acknowledging that they are sentient beings is weak or feminine.

Some healthy traits of traditional masculinity and how they relate to being vegan are:

  • Confidence, as opposed to dominance. One can be powerful without having power over others. It takes confidence to deal with people who are critical of one’s veganism.
  • Courage. Aligning one’s actions with one’s morals, standing up for a cause, displaying will power, and doing what’s right instead of what’s easy are all part of being vegan and require courage. It also takes courage to be kind when it is easier to be self-centered.
  • Compassion and protecting others from harm. Harming others, including defenseless animals, is hence viewed as cowardly.
  • Being responsible. This includes recognizing that one’s choices affect other people, animals, and the environment. It also includes taking care of one’s health. This is the positive aspect of self-reliance.
  • Being an independent thinker and challenging the status quo.

Advice for men that are vegan or interested in being vegan

  • Share the above reasons why veganism is masculine.
  • Share that there are several vegan athletes who are healthy and represent the traditional image of a masculine man. Some examples are Patrik Baboumian (strongman), Nick Squires (powerlifter), David Carter (NFL player), David Haye (boxer), and John Joseph (singer, author, and Ironman triathlete). There are two recent documentaries with this theme, The Game Changers and From the Ground Up.
  • Educate people that veganism is good for people (physically and mentally), animals, and the environment.
  • Educate people that veganism is more than just a diet by wearing vegan clothing and accessories. There are many options for shoes, belts, wallets, phone cases, etc. that do not contain animal products such as leather, wool, or silk. Be a role model by showing that one can still look good with vegan clothing and accessories.
  • Surround yourself with likeminded people for support, even if only through technology. Work with a mental health professional for extra support, especially if you can find a vegan therapist to work with.
  • Give yourself credit for having the courage to challenge the status quo.
Veganism and Masculinity


Krista Verrastro, MA, RDT

Krista Verrastro, MA, RDT is a Registered Drama Therapist. She received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from New York University. She is currently in private practice in Reisterstown, MD. She has worked in a variety of settings, such as outpatient mental health clinics, schools, and nursing homes. She specializes in helping people of all ages who feel used, abused, neglected, and rejected transform from surviving to thriving. She presents nationally and internationally about drama therapy and mental health issues. Click here to visit her website.


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APA Reference
Verrastro, K. (2019). Veganism and Masculinity. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/veganism/2019/08/veganism-and-masculinity/

 

Last updated: 7 Aug 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.