A look at an ad that’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth, as well as how our relationship with what we eat is spoiled by outdated recipes of gender.
I decided to try going Vegan on Sept 4th.
It was a moment of either congratulation or crisis intervention for some friends. “Is everything ok??” or “Whoa, why are you giving up meat?!?” My reasoning was to instill more mindfulness in my life, starting with the planning and preparation of what I eat. Turning vegan would cause me to become very present in choices.
*Let’s pause for a second so I can say this: It is okay if you do or do not like to eat meat. It’s cool. Right now let’s talk about what we give men and boys ‘permission to eat’ based on what is called ‘manly’ or ‘girly’. Cool? Cool!
Katherine McGregor of University of Toronto Scarborough shared an article she read reflecting on gender assumptions in Western society (i.e. meat = how to have a strong body, strong body = masculinity). I mean, are the East Indian men who are vegetarian less manly? We can see how western philosophy played out during Gandhi’s era when notions echoed about that British men were stronger than Indian men because they ate meat.
Of course, we have our Pakistani brothers who have a …soft spot for …um …eww.
Anyway, this past weekend, my friend Kate was in town for a few days. So to celebrate her return to Toronto and a last-minute catch up, I took her to the Keg Mansion. This chain offered a fav entree of mine: their delicious sirloin steak. I had stumbled in my vegan-ness the week prior (cheese and dairy here and there, and a gross ‘slider’ mini-burger at an event). So, I declared myself a ‘social vegan’ as I would not fight the urge to order a juicy slab of red meat. In discussing my exploration of a Vegan lifestyle, Kate questioned why I had such a binary concept of what I can eat, why did it have to be one or the other? To which I said “hmmm” as I chewed my meat.
The next day, my friend Emma Brooks tagged me as she tweeted a scrumptious snapshot of gender-policing:
Bad taste in your mouth? In 2013, the traditional recipe that advertising continues to cook up to sell ‘manhood’ is to ‘prove you are not a woman’. Hey Guys, Eating a salad is for girls! Don’t be a pussy, order a hamburger! Yawn. Reactions to Emma’s picture reminded me of how old this recipe is…
In addition to the contaminated status this gives to anything considered feminine, where does this recipe really leave men? Can we please stop with this stale ‘Real Men’ nonsense? When we as men join in on cooking up narrow ideas of what men do and don’t do, we deny ourselves the ability to be a full person. A healthy person. A complete person. Why can’t I have the option to eat a quiche as well as a steak?
And WHAT does limiting myself to a insecure, adult-boy menu of ‘man-food’ have to do with being a man? Sometimes you just have to make like author Stacey May Fowles, and try to fix the statement…
I was having brunch with Laura Reid, who is part Anishnaabe (Ojibwe), German/Mennonite and Scottish, and a Artist Educator and Yoga Instructor who’s philosophies on body esteem, movement and diet challenge western messages. I was talking to her about my exploring Veganism when I saw Emma’s tweet of the above pic tagging me. I showed Laura, who reacted with disgust. We then we talked about her love for buffalo and venison meat, sharing an effective way to approach what she ate: “our Ancestors ate it, so it is okay for me to eat it.” She then went onto to agree that what is right for one person, is not necessarily right for another, and this is key.
Reinforcing a ‘my way or no way’ idea of gender (or anything really) is never good for anyone. Laura’s advise regarding what we put in our bodies was to learn to listen to your body and what is right for you. What is truly okay for you, is okay. Men eat meat, Men do not eat meat. Men can be anything that is healthy, wholesome, respectful and true to themselves and others.
Chew on that next time a friend or advertisement tries to police you into a narrow idea of what you can be.