A Pennsylvania State University sociology professor recently argued that eating meat perpetuates “hegemonic masculinity” and “gender hegemony.”
In the most recent issue of the Journal of Feminist Geography, professor Anne DeLessio-Parson argues that “hegemonic masculinity implies an imperative to eat meat” and that this helps reify other power hierarchies as well.
To study the link between masculinity and meat, DeLessio-Parson interviewed 23 vegetarians who live in Argentina to probe how they deal with their country’s “meat-centric” culture, finding that being vegetarian itself is a political act.
Vegetarians also contribute to the destabilization of the gender binary, she argued.
“The decision to become vegetarian does not itself destabilize gender, but the subsequent social interactions between vegetarian and meat-eater demand gender enactment - or resistance,” DeLessio-Parson discovered.
“Refusing meat therefore presents opportunities, in each social interaction, for the binary to be called into question,” she said, noting that women, for example, may not consider dating men who eat meat, while male vegetarians might end up spending more time in the kitchen as opposed to outside on the grill, all actions which can destabilize gender norms.
In an interview with Campus Reform, DeLessio-Parson explained that her interest in the issue arose after spending five years as a vegetarian in Argentina, where she worked with community organizations and as an English teacher.
There, she realized that vegetarianism isn’t just a lifestyle choice, but a feminist act.
“Women, one of the ways they push back against patriarchy, they say, 'This is my body. You don't get to tell me what comes in and out,’” she told Campus Reform, explaining that vegetarianism is a way women can assert their agency and autonomy.
She also noticed characteristics unique to male vegetarians, asserting that although many men in Argentina “still have these very hegemonic masculinity traits,” male vegetarians “seem more egalitarian and respectful” and “more open about talking about how sexism exists.”
DeLessio-Parson concludes that vegetarianism can help “destabilize not just gender, but also other hierarchies, and drive social change.
“If we can pay more attention to what we put in our bodies...we can create a better sense of peace in the world. Vegetarianism is a part of that,” she writes.