I just finished devouring a plate of char-lined, grilled sweet corn smothered with pico de gallo oil, mashed herbed potatoes with wild mushroom gravy, and grilled apple-sage grain-sausage kebabs with shallots, apple cubes, zucchini and smokey maple barbecue sauce. The protein, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates and phytochemicals are all surging through my bloodstream, replenishing, building muscle, and sustaining my bones, organs and various tissues – especially the defining male appendage that requires clear, healthy veins and arteries to stand at attention. This is not enough, however, to keep me from being emasculated by my meal.
Growing up, and even as adults, we are often told to do certain things “like men”. Be a man! Act like a man! This phenomenon can basically be summarized as a call to toughen up, hide or mask any sort of sensitivity, and show no signs of weakness. I’ve seen a father reprimand his son for crying over a scraped knee, “Stop crying! Be a man!” I’ve heard the story of a friend who, at six years old, stood sobbing, finger on the trigger, as his father whispered coldly in his ear “Just shoot the goddamn deer. Don’t you wanna be a man?” Stoicism – that invaluable Greek paragon of virtue, could be one of the most sought-after states of existence for the civilized man. Unaffected, unreadable – perpetually poker-faced and methodically effective. And so we must “eat like men“, too.
“Doing it like rabbits” flatters a man’s virility, yet eating a diet that supports that same rabbit’s virility is lampooned.
How do rabbits eat? They carefully chew Vegetation. Strangely, no man scoffs at being compared to a rabbit when it comes to sex. “Doing it like rabbits” flatters a man’s virility, yet eating a diet that supports that same rabbit’s virility is lampooned. Instead, we consume entire animals with superstitious hopes of appropriating their strengths. The cover of September 2009′s Esquire Magazine proclaims “Eat Like A Man” and leads to a sixteen-page cover-story entitled “How Men Eat”. It is a total meat-fest. A cheesy, eggy, frat party wrapped in bacon and bathed in blood. From Coca-Cola Brined Chicken to a three-meat-plus-bones gravy, and even to Jujubes:
“People Whine about some of them being made from dead horses… but they don’t know the Jujube eater’s darkest secret: By consuming dead horses we’re taking their power and virility and making it our own. Eating Jujubes is like eating powdered rhino horn or seal penis without any of the messy sociopolitical ramifications or bureaucratic hassle. Look! It’s just candy…. a candy that can be eaten in pin-drop quiet… without recrimination from wives or healthniks… We’ll eat our jujubes…in determined silence, growing ever stronger, until one day we will rise with the thunder of a thousand of those same dead horses, our bellies hard-packed with their souls and gelatin and out teeth stained by their blood, and we will trample your pesticide-free fields, an army of raging stallions once again. – Chris Jones “The Only Candy A Man Should Eat” Esquire Magazine Sept 2009
So many men are afraid of being seen as compassionate. Because, on a deep level, it’s logic and objectivism that are truly put at risk by emotion – and thus, control itself. At least, this is what is conventionally perceived. Emotions are a far cry from being logical – they can’t be measured or mapped. There is no emotional stock market or well-being index; how would one measure compassion, love, hatred or indifference? As for our food, animals can not be seen by most men as sentient beings – they are units of production; being such they able to be controlled and manipulated, stripped of identity, wholly consumed.
“Vegetarianism may occupy the moral high ground, but among men it’s regarded as, if not a girl thing, then at least a girlie thing — an anemic regimen for sensitive souls subsisting on rabbit food and tofurkey. Meanwhile, meat eating persists as a badge of masculinity, as if muscle contained a generous helping of testosterone, with the aggression required to slay a mammal working its way up the food chain” – Holly Brubach New York Times Blog, 9/3/2008
Is masculinity a roadblock to sustainability? Compassion, mercy, empathy and the like are all red flags, warning others that you cave in under the weight of empathy. Following through and getting the job done are put at serious risk when emotions are added into the equation. Men so often strive to be emotionless in this culture – because a man’s worth is measured by his ability to get the job done. Shoot the animal. Bring home the bread. Launch the missle. Cut open the cat’s head to observe, objectively, the workings therein. Of course women also participate in these activities – on a smaller scale – but living in a patriarchal culture places the source of power in the traditional definitions of masculinity. Few would argue that the stereotype of women as being more in touch with emotions is based in total fallacy, and few would argue that feminists fight incredibly against the discriminatory belief that emotion is a detriment to effectiveness.
Mean eat power. They eat the things that they hope to be: muscle. It is a delusional relationship, and a destructive one at that. To worsen matters, diets heavy in meat and dairy have been linked to erectile dysfunction. Now that’s not too manly. What is manly, is becoming the hero who considers the personal and global implications of raising and consuming animals for food, and who acts to do something about it.
Allan Benton of Smokey Moutain Country Hams (in his interview with Esquire) lastly remarks as a punch line, ” I take my Crestor like everybody else.” Not me Allan. Not me.