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Vegan men are being judged as ‘less masculine’

Food

Vegan men are perceived to be less masculine, researchers in Poland have found, but it's mostly other men doing the judging...

A new study has shown that men are still battling gender stereotypes when it comes to plant-based diets. According to a survey and focus groups conducted by the journal Sex Roles, vegans and vegetarians are perceived as less masculine and experience social difficulties as a result.

The study involved researchers asking male and female participants about their attitude towards people on both diets. They found that a significant proportion of them believed these diets to be unsuitable for men, and still associating meat-eating with masculinity. It seems that most of these were men themselves, who associated male vegans and vegetarians with weakness, saying that they were less masculine, and even gay. Prejudices, of the most unpleasant homophobic schoolboy kind, do still exists.

And when it came to relationships, heterosexual women were more accepting of a partner who had a plant-based diet, whereas heterosexual men were not as accepting of it in a partner. Again, we can see that often the thing holding men back from breaking through stereotypes is other men.

Indeed, in another part of the study, vegans and vegetarians testified that they had social challenges to overcome, experiencing a lack of understanding and acceptance. They were judged to be less healthy and even ridiculed. Yet the participants reported no significant challenges within their romantic relationships.

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Dominika Adamczyk from the University of Warsaw, one of the researcher on the project, said, “The main finding of our study is that eating meat is part of how masculinity is performed. The perceptions of vegan and vegetarian men are associated with negative stereotypes about their lack of masculinity, and vegan men themselves experiences exclusion as a result.”

The danger here, of course, is that men are holding back from embracing plant-based diets – which are, after all, more eco-friendly as well as showing benefits for health – purely because they think it might make them seem less like men.

“In a situation where it is men who are mainly affected by a fear of failing to conform to traditional gender roles and for whom this can be a barrier to switching to vegetarianism, it is worth being aware of one’s own beliefs that influence both the perceptions of those on the diets in question and one’s own food choices.”

At a time of great change and stress in society, the social pressures on men need to be lessened, not increased, as we find new ways to live. Clearly, the responsibility lies with us.

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