Recently, a co-worker admitted to me that she would never date a guy that identifies himself as vegetarian or vegan, stating that she was already high maintenance enough and couldn’t fathom the idea of being in a relationship with a partner that “couldn’t keep down his bacon” and was more “fussy” than she. Despite her jovial tone, I could detect an underlying, yet all too familiar, sense of hostility concealed beneath the transparent veil of humor poorly masking her biting words.
Our conversation marinated in the back of my mind for a few days, and was brought to light once again when I found myself discussing the sometimes discouraging prospects of finding a veg*n partner in a world and dating pool dominated by omnivores (Shameless plug-be sure to save your spot at Veg Speed Dating!) with a male friend who happens to be vegan as well. He told me that he is very cautious when sharing that part of his identity for fear of being negatively judged as “strange” and labeled “undateable.”
Mindboggling and even frustrating as they may be, I can understand why such sentiments are so prevalent in our culture. Consider, for example, the ever-growing trend of bacon flavored anything, and the rise in the number and popularity of meat-centric competitive eating shows like Man vs. Food. In our patriarchal and dog-eat-dog society, displays of masculinity are interpreted as strength and are highly rewarded. This explains the encouragement of over exaggerated displays of a stereotypical male trait—aggression. A tough man eats red meat and lots of it, not braised puy lentils with hummus and roasted Brussels sprouts. It can be argued that in our culture, the best measure of masculinity is power; though, in our society, the terms could essentially be used interchangeably. History and current events tell us that power is won through domination; whether said domination is achieved through the suppression of other men, women, or animals. When did veg*nism become synonymous with femininity? What ancient scroll decreed that he who abstains from milk and honey shall be castrated-okay, demasculinized?
It is fortunate that we live in a society where survival of the fittest determines the pecking order and any kind of behavior by males that call into question their masculinity is highly discouraged and frowned upon. So, friends, is there really a big difference between meat-eating and vegetarian/vegan partners? If you’re vegetarian or vegan, how open are you about it?