To many people, it’s just not butch to be vegan.
That’s a bigger problem than you might think.
A recent study revealed that adults find vegan men to be less masculine than their meat-eating peers:
In the first phase of her study, Thomas had 131 adults read two versions of a story: The first featured a woman named Jessica and the second featured a man named Jacob. The stories were identical save for the version where one person ate a “varied vegetarian diet” and the other enjoyed a “broad range” of foods, which included meat products. Afterwards, participants were asked to provide feedback on how health-conscious, independent, and masculine or feminine they thought the characters were.
Next, a second group of 133 adults were asked to read the same stories, only this time Jessica and Jacob were both described as eating a vegan diet or a meat-eating diet. In this scenario, participants found the vegan man to be less masculine than the meat-eating man.
In the last stage of the study, 143 adult participants read scenarios in which Jessica and Jacob were both eating vegan diets, but in one instance it was their choice and in the second instance they were forced due to “digestive issues.” This indicated that it isn’t veganism itself that’s emasculating, but instead the reason why men chose to be vegan. (emphasis mine)
In other words, Thomas found that a guy can be vegan for health reasons and no one will give it much thought. But the idea that a man might want to go vegan because he feels compassion for animals somehow makes him less manly in the eyes of others.
Of course, folks like me shrug and ask, “What’s the big deal with being butch?” But to many guys, being butch or being perceived as masculine is hugely important to their self-esteem.
That’s especially true in the South. Where I grew up in Mississippi, if you didn’t play football and baseball and hunt on the weekends, people looked at you funny. They’d whisper behind your back: “You think he’s got some sugar in his britches?” Declare yourself a vegetarian or vegan, and they wouldn’t even bother to ask. They’d just assume you were a card-carrying boy-kisser. Not that any of us actually carry cards, but still.
What this means, of course, is that veganism and vegetarianism are unappealing to many guys — straight, gay, and bi — who dislike the idea of seeming effeminate. It’s a PR problem that we’ll need to solve if we’re to make veganism and vegetarianism attractive to greater numbers of men.
That solution could come in the form of an organized marketing campaign — or maybe we could just wait it out. The most interesting and encouraging part of Thomas’ study is her discovery that attitudes around veganism and masculinity are changing, particularly among younger people:
When Thomas analyzed the relatively young group of participants (mean age of 32), she found, on average, they did not associate veganism with lower levels of masculinity, leading her to believe cultures have evolved into acceptance; veganism has sufficiently become a mainstream diet for both men and women.