Sociologist claims veganism promotes 'white masculinity'

A sociology instructor at North Carolina State University (NCSU) is warning in a new academic article that vegan men are guilty of perpetuating “white masculinity.” 

Meatless meals and masculinity” was written by Mari Mycek, a doctoral candidate and teaching assistant in the NCSU sociology department, who argues that vegan and vegetarian men have reclaimed their “previously-stigmatized consumption identity” to wield power over women by framing their lifestyle as a rational, rather than emotional, choice.

Though some scholars claim that eating meat causes “toxic masculinity,” Mycek came to a different conclusion based on interviews with 20 vegan men, asserting that they actually tend to “uphold gendered binaries of emotion/rationality and current ideas of middle-class, white masculinity.”

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Mycek argues that vegan men use their diet to bolster their masculinity “by explaining their choice to become [vegan] in ways that evoke logics of rationality, science, and reason, concepts that also traditionally get coded as masculine.”

Observing that “these performances of masculinity are aligned with white middle-class social norms and expectations,” she contends that middle-class men are uniquely poised to take advantage of this status-building strategy. 

Mycek also frames veganism as a privilege for the elite, explaining that it symbolizes for men “a form of cultural capital and a symbolic resource, a way to align oneself with those who have the privilege of choice when it comes to food decisions.”

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Men are especially guilty of perpetuating white masculinity if they frame their choice to become vegan as “rational” as opposed to “emotional,” Mycek asserted.

Lucas, a 29 year-old who works in technology, was one example. “I try to stay under the radar, but it might come up. Then, I just explain it matter of fact,” Lucas told Mycek when asked to explain his veganism. 

Another student accused of being “rational” was Tyler, a 22 year-old who chose veganism after learning about environmental issues. 

“I started being more interested in environmental issues and I realized that my diet could have a lot of effects on the environment,” Tyler recounted, adding that “I realized I had to at least do something to like walk the walk or whatever, so that’s what I did.”

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Mycek also argues that men who cite expert research on the benefits of veganism are enacting white middle-class masculinity, since “facts” conflict with more feminine sources of knowledge such as “value” or “opinion.” 

To illustrate this, Mycek cites the story of how one of her interviewees, Hector, became vegetarian. 

“There’s this book that made a lot of sense to me. It was written by this guy who is actually a molecular biologist. What he says makes a lot of sense,” Hector told Mycek, who explains that Hector’s comments are evidence of how men value science over emotion. 

Understanding how men transform “feminized activities” into acceptable masculine practices is “important because it bolsters the gender binary, maintaining the idea that men and women are distinctly different,” Mycek contends, declaring that “this is not just about maintaining difference between genders but ultimately [retaining] a gender hierarchy and structures of power and inequality.”

Campus Reform reached out to Mycek for comment, but did not receive a response.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen