Meat And ‘New Masculinity’
Traditionally, meat has been associated with masculinity, especially in Western societies. On the flip side, veganism and vegetarianism are often stereotyped as feminine, or less masculine. However, these associations are based on socially constructed gender roles, which vary across communities and among individuals. Additionally, as times change, so do socially acceptable forms of masculinity. This study, published in the Elsevier journal Appetite, focuses on how individual men’s perceptions of masculinity affect how much meat they currently eat, how they would feel about eating less meat, and how they feel about vegetarians.
The authors of the study utilize something called the New Masculinity Inventory (NMI), which was created and tested in a 2017 study, in order to quantify how much an individual man identifies with “new” masculine norms. These new norms include qualities like being more nurturing or more aware of male privilege. 309 non-vegetarian men were surveyed. All the men were between the ages of 19 and 52, and 70.9% had college degrees or beyond.
The authors found that men who scored higher on the NMI (identified more greatly with new norms of masculinity) and men who had more education generally consumed less meat as breakfast and snacks. However, these groups’ self-reports of how often they ate meat during lunch or dinner did not differ from the men with lower NMI scores and men with less education. The authors also confirmed their hypotheses that higher NMI scores had a positive relation with less meat attachment, more willingness to reduce meat consumption, and a more positive perspective on vegetarians.
These findings indicate that although it may be true that men generally are more pro-meat than women, there is signification variation among men. This variation can partially be predicted by men’s scores on the NMI. The authors suggest that future research on relationships to meat take gender identities into account as well. They also suggest looking more into how meat consumption differs for men who score on the NMI when it comes to breakfast and snacks specifically. The topic could be further researched in other cultural contexts as well.
Furthermore, the authors point out that health organizations and marketers could start to focus more on promoting new modes of masculinity as that could potentially lower meat consumption (though this causal relationship has not been proven). Advocates can help spread greater social awareness about how gender identities can be tied to one’s personal relationship to meat, and they can promote new forms of masculinity that do not include a positive connection with meat.