Sunday, 19 June 2011

'Pies for Guys': Is meat a gendered issue?

It was like a scripted miracle. Perusing the shelves, I said to my boyfriend, “wouldn’t it be crazy if I could find a feminist vegan text in Waterstones? It would be as good as that time I found a Milton text with an introduction by Philip Pullman.” (For reference, that was a moment of almost transcendental joy).

And there it was: The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams. As soon as I had found it, however, I wondered how on earth one might pull off a text linking feminism and veganism; I expected some tenuous connections and perhaps even some dangerous stereotypes (women are better vegans because they care more!)

Honestly, it’s not a bad attempt. There was one statistic that stood out to me: 80% of animal rights activists were women at the time of writing (1999). Adams puts this down to a spurious affinity between animals and women – one oppressed group liberating another oppressed group – which is interesting but ultimately unprovable.

Instead, it prompted me to think about vegetarianism and veganism; specifically male vegetarians and vegans (I’ll just use the word ‘vegan’ to include both terms). There is no doubt in my mind that meat-eating is invariably linked to masculinity in our culture; male vegans I know or whose experiences I have read about seem to encounter the accusation of effeminancy or over-sensitivity regularly. Meat-eating is a man thing.

Today is fathers’ day. Browsing the BBC website this morning, I came across their ‘Fathers’ Day Recipes’ feature called ‘Pies for Guys.’ Clicking on the link confronts you with a huge picture of a meaty pie (the picture slide offers a huge meat steak next, and finally a nice picture of some fairy cakes). Suggestions for the main course for daddy? Lamb burgers, pizza, shepherd’s pie, steak pie, or rump steak and chips.
Mothers’ day? By a strange twist of fate, the huge image on this recipe page is of the lovely fairy cakes which were relegated to last place on the Fathers’ Day page. Mummy likes baking (so why not bake for her?) Also on offer: some champagne, salmon and a tiny breakfast egg on a muffin. Also, when mummy eats meat, she doesn’t want shepherd’s pie, or rump and chips. She wants ‘Pork tenderloin with rosemary, prosciutto and apple cider sauce’, or ‘Lamb with dauphinoise potatoes and sticky port sauce.’ A simple steak pie just doesn’t scream ‘mummy’ quite as much.
I anticipate accusations of over-analysis. However, fathers’ day and mothers’ day provide an interesting study for anyone interested in gender. And for someone interested in gender and meat, there is a wealth of opportunity for garnering some evidence for our society’s mental link between meat and masculinity. It worries me that a man might be considered somehow deficient if he chooses not to eat meat, as does the fact that some defend their meat-eating by saying ‘but I’m a man!’ (I’ve heard it done, folks.)
So, there you are. Just a little thought for those of you perusing any fathers’ day menus today.


  1. Here via Feministe :)

    I haven't read Adams' book, does she address the practice of hunting at all? That always seemed like one basis of the man/meat connection to me.

  2. Not that I remember, I could be wrong though. I read a good critique of the 'men were hunters, women were gatherers' theory and how it relates to gendered psychology in Cordelia Fine's 'Delusions of Gender.' Could be of interest x