You don’t have to look too far to find examples of the idea that meat is manly. There was that Burger King ad which took the feminist anthem “I Am Woman” and changed the lyrics to “I Am Man” to equate Whopper-eating with manliness. Hummer made an ad where a guy buying tofu feels so emasculated that he has to rush off to buy a Hummer to “restore the balance.” Or just look at any of the many other sexist ads which promote meat as manly – some of which go as far as to encourage violence towards women.
This notion that meat is manly has consequences. According to this consumer study, men are less likely to try vegetarian products because of this association with meat and masculinity. The saddest thing about this association is that meat is actually anything but manly and could actually be hurting men.
1. Meat Is Linked to Erectile Dysfunction
I doubt that anyone would say that erectile dysfunction is “manly.” So, it is ironic that meat – the food touted as manly and macho – is a big contributor to ED. As the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said in this press release about Meat Week: “Many men who live with the stigma of impotence do not understand its true cause: meat.” How does meat cause ED? It has to do with the high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat. They clog arteries and thus restrict blood flow. Not only is the heart affected, but blood flow can be restricted to the penis as well, resulting in ED.
2. Meat is Linked to Prostate Cancer
Pay attention men: Going vegan can lower your risk of prostate cancer! Approximately 14 percent of men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives, but vegan men have a much lower risk. One study found that eating a vegan diet can cut prostate cancer risk by 35 percent.
Now, I’m not trying to say that having prostate cancer is “unmanly.” It is a condition which should not be stigmatized. But clinging onto a notion that meat is manly at the expense of your health is definitely not manly!
3. And All Those Other Health Issues Associated with Meat…
In addition to erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer, a meat-rich diet is linked to numerous health problems and may be as bad as smoking according to one study.
If we are going by the conventional definition of manliness, then a manly man is someone who can protect and take care of his family. The manliest thing you can do for your family is to stay healthy so you can be there for them when they need you.
4. Meat Does Not Make You Strong
Think that you need to eat meat to be strong? Just take a look at 2014 Mr. Universe Barny Du Plessis or any of the many other vegan bodybuilders and athletes out there. You’ll quickly see that you can be strong and athletic on an all-plant diet. Yes, vegetarian and vegan athletes may have to pay more attention to certain nutrients if they want to maximize gains. However, there are many compelling reasons for athletes to ditch the meat.
As Fuel for the Fighter points out, eating meat can lead to clogged arteries, which means that blood and nutrients won’t be able to get to your body. For athletes, that means less energy and slower recovery. Further, it isn’t food that makes you strong. Your muscles are built by hard and consistent exercise – not eating lots of meat or protein.
5. Real Men Are Brave
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of “manly” includes characteristics like bravery. Well, there is nothing brave about subscribing to societal conventions. If being manly means being brave, then real men aren’t afraid to try new foods. They aren’t afraid to order a salad at a restaurant. And they aren’t afraid to do what is right for their health and the planet.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.