Meat Free Diets: The Gender Divide

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

Many people this year may be attempting to reduce their meat intake or were even brave enough to partake in ‘Veganuary’ and completely give up all meat, fish, egg and dairy products from their diet. If people are able to, committing to a vegetarian or vegan diet is one of the best ways an individual can reduce their carbon footprint. The Independent explains that animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that a meat-based diet is not sustainable. When one considers the current effects climate change is having across the globe, including the horrific wildfires in Australia, it is no surprise people want to do what they can to help slow the disastrous impacts climate change is having on our planet. Also, with so many companies introducing good meat-free options, it’s easier than ever to swap meat and fish in your diet for vegetarian or vegan options.

What’s most surprising about this increase in meat-free diets is the huge disparity between women and men choosing to reduce their meat consumption. As a vegetarian myself, I rarely meet men who have stopped eating meat for ethical reasons. In fact, in the 5 years since I have given up meat, I don’t think I’ve ever met a man who’s reduced his meat consumption for ethical reasons. If anything, I find the people who are most resistant to my diet are men. The best way to describe this difference is to acknowledge that over time meat consumption has become a major part of adhering to stereotypical ideas of manliness. The idea that ‘real men eat meat’ is very much ingrained into society’s thinking.

The relationship between masculinity and meat eating has been shown most adeptly through advertisements for food.  Often when advertising meat-based products, adverts are geared more towards men, and advertisements for things like salads are geared more towards women. It is worth noting that when it comes to the advertising of salads and other ‘healthy‘ foods, this has a lot to do with diet culture and the pressure for women to lose weight. A key example of this gendered advertising is how burger places advertise their food. Adverts for burgers and the like are often overly sexualised. Carl Jr. (an American Burger place) released an advert in 2015 entitled ‘Everybody Loves Big Breasts’, which strangely enough was advertising a chicken burger. Sadly, this is merely the tip of the iceberg for Carl Jr.’s over-sexualised ads, with their 2015 Super Bowl ad for an ‘all natural’ beef burger including a nearly naked woman walking through a marketplace- I for one am still trying to figure out what that has to do with a beef burger. Although the objectification of women is used by many companies to sell products, in this case, it shows how the advertisement of a meat-based product is aimed at men.

So, how then do we encourage more men, who are able to, to try and reduce the amount of meat in their diet? It’s probable that advertising vegan products using stereotypically masculine ideals is the way to go, perhaps something like informing people that vegan diets can be very high in protein, and that there is a significant number of vegan body builders. Unfortunately, until we as a society break down the gendered thinking that women behave one way and men another, it’s unlikely much will change when it comes to the gender divide of meat-free diets.  Sadly, this is a long battle which feminists have been fighting for decades, and considering how pressing the need to help slow climate change is, it’s unlikely to be of help anytime soon.

 

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