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 EatLikeManNotRabbita 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.Picture 1

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.campbells_soup_formenonly_1940s1

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.

18 Responses to EAT LIKE A MAN.

  1. Matt says:

    This is a problematic view that needs serious attention from multiple sides, really. What we eat is mostly socially-determined and if we want to change what people do eat we need to address these societal norms.
    What’s also interesting and I’m attempting to bring this up without value judgment, is the opposite, very masculine approach from veganism originated in the hardcore scene. How did that come to be and what is its effect?

  2. Andy Stepanian says:

    I once was booked to speak with Russell Means of the American Indian Movement & hearing what he had to say was real inspiring. He said that native culture although warrior-oriented was in fact a matriarchal society, as opposed to the patriarchal world we all know. He said that by viewing the earth as your mother, and by viewing all women as sacred forbearers of life it yielded their communities to have a great deal of respect for the earth one of cohabitation and admiration, like one would admire their mother. This in tern lead to respect for animals, nature, women in their communities etc.

    Patriarchy today rears its ugly head in the hyper-utilitarian exploitation of the environment, on billboards with objectified women, in excuses people make for advancing farming margins through factory farming practices, in rape, in a lot of seriously fucked up shit. I think our culture would benefit exponentially if we acted in a matriarchal manner. All these “like a man” isms really need to go.

    Or, if they must stay, how about this one, AS A MAN I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY OWN ACTIONS AND THE WAY THOSE ACTIONS AFFECT THE WORLD AND LIVES AROUND ME, this leads me to be vegan.


  3. Jason says:

    I believe in time this hegemonic masculinity will die; it simply doesn’t contribute to the evolution of mankind. It relies too heavily on the subordination of the “Beta” male, the homosexual (or such perceived traits), and women.

    Furthermore, the very diet consumed by men seeking to prove their virility is the very diet that destroys their virility.

    However, my only fear is that those who are a little less “boorish” or even a little less stereotypically “macho” may, as with other causes, be encouraged to keep things at a duller roar–or to sing in the tenor section of the chorus as opposed to having a solo, which is oft-preferred to be a strong baritone voice in the debate.

    It’s a matter of how to approach the issue. What, exactly, should be the crux of the argument? We can say, “You can be just as manly and eat a cruelty-free diet. Just look at these guys.” Or, we can attack the idea of hegemonic masculinity itself–particulary because it’s a social construct that has very notable differences between varying societies, cultures, eras, etc.

    I usually fall back on making a snarky quip when someone (usually a male friend) says something like, “You need to eat a hamburger.” It’s hard to know which angle to take on the issue–especially when you’re talking with a guy who values his (false) sense of masculinity and sees no harm in killing in order to keep up that pretense.

  4. Andy Stepanian says:


    I really appreciate what you wrote. I agree that the social construct needs to be challenged, however I’m not going to be a p.c. hypocrite and say that I myself at times don’t act like a macho stooge. I do, and therefore from where I stand I don’t strictly see severance between these two options. I guess we as a movement in favor of total liberation, animal, social, gender equality, should try to find a balance between using the stereotypes to sell ideas (like this one) while being vigilant as to not enforce those negative social constructs while we do it. (sometimes easier said than done)


  5. Ari Solomon says:

    I wasn’t aware of the Esquire piece, but there is a big difference between eating “like a man” and eating like an asshole. Hummer-driving, hunting, meat-eating machismo bullshit is really pathetic and worse, it’s destructive. These “men” either need to grow a dick or suck a dick, not be a dick.

  6. Jason says:


    I agree with you. Finding that balance is key to affect the necessary volte-face without giving way to hypocrisy. Using stereotypes to sell ideas can be incredibly useful and very compelling; making sure we never belittle, silence, or try to detract attention from individuals (or groups) who may epitomize another stereotype but still hold our core values is, likewise, important in maintaining our sincerity.

    Essentially, I think it’s cool to say, “Hey, you can be vegan and still be masculine” so long as we don’t herald perceived notions of masculinity as superior and alienate members of our own compassionate group.

    (Note: In no way did I see this blog entry or anyone’s comments doing that. I’m simply voicing my own unease around this particular approach to the debate, which may not actually be warranted.)



  7. timmy says:

    Here is a good video on the subject:

  8. […] friends over at recently published a piece examining how masculinity plays a part in the diet of the average […]

  9. Adnan Y. says:

    What irks me is a reliance on historical precedence as a justification of eating meat, as well as “proof” in terms of our canine teeth.

    Yes, our ancestors did indeed eat meat – but this was generally dictated by survival necessity. Meat consumption – via hunting or otherwise – was a source of sustenance when the usual suspects – berries, roots, etc – were not readily available, the Ice Age being a good example of this. Our canine teeth were/are used to primarily rip away husks/chunks of more solid root vegetable/fruit foodstuffs, not to make like T -Rex. If an early human – male or female – was able to track down food in any form – veg or meat – for the rest of the clan, then that was great. It wasn’t about machismo, but about being able to survive the seasons.

    (Incidentally, In The Ancestor’s Tale, Richard Dawkins relates how the ability to be “lactose tolerant” is a mutation, and not normal for humans, whatsoever.)

  10. Andy Stepanian says:

    Historic context,

    Oddly enough, although some genetic traits take hundreds of thousands of years to embed themselves in a community, some also pop up quite quickly.

    An example of a small and rapidly developed change in widespread human genetics can be found in asian facial features. It has been determined that while migrating across the himalayas many people from the south suffered sever frost bite, many of them were frost-bitten on the eyes, went blind, and died before they finished the journey. The only survivors were people with extra tissue around their eyes which served as insulation, this once recessive trait now became dominant in the people of the surviving community.

    There is unquestionable evidence that outside of the sudden short-term adaptations that humans have made that the human body was built to be a herbivore. This is not however to say that we are not omnivores, we are capable of being omnivores, but simple indicators like hypertension, heart disease, and colon cancer tell us that being an omnivore is not something our body is well adapted to doing.

    I think the best example to undercut this “natural/real man” diet is this. Think about how meticulous someone has to be when they eat raw meat or eggs. The risk of transmission of parasites makes all the establishments that serve raw meat make excessive preperations just to avoid this transmission and still it happens.

    A tiger has a 4 foot intestinal track (less surface area for parasites to root in) and has a ph count that is 10X more acidic than human digestive acids (kills most parasites) this is a creature naturally designed to eat raw meat.

    Humans on the other hand have to burn the flesh of an animal to kill the parasites that may be there prior to eating, the density of our teeth is about 1/15th that of the tiger, the acidity of our stomachs is at about 1/10th that of the tiger, and because of our long (26-28foot) fiberous digestive track gummy meat matter sticks to the colon walls and over years can lead to cancerous sections of the colon.

    Being omnivores may have been a historically rushed and temporary adaptation to survive a less hospitable climate, but it’s our culture that continues to perpetuate this less-than-sustainable diet not need.

  11. Franni says:

    This is a really good article. I just loved reading it!
    I know of one topic that you could talk about in another post. There is this new book called “The Vegetarian Myth.” Ever heard of it? It’s written by an ex-vegan who claims that her veganism brought her her current illnesses. I just wanted to know what you would think of it.

  12. […] EAT LIKE A MAN. The most attractive trait to me is being compassionate. Vegans & vegetarians are sexxxy. […]

  13. jordan says:

    I can see how at one time, eating meat was an incredibly sexy trait.

    It meant that the guy eating it would most likely survive the winter, and so would the woman that had sex with him.

    “If you f me, i’ll let you eat this whale fat so you don’t starve.”

    But as time continues on, that relic of masculinity has slowly ebbed in its usefulness.

    It’s not like you can cozy up to the most beautiful person in the room by saying “You know what, I could give you more… calories… than you’ve ever had in your life.”

    The act of eating meat is still somehow associated with sexiness, but the consequences?

    Thank you for stepping up and REMINDING, not reinventing, how a real man should eat.

  14. jordan says:

    Just one more thing.

    As far as making decisions based on how one feels…

    The very choice of making a logical decision is based on the fact that it improves how the person feels about themselves; so isn’t every decision, ultimately, an emotional one?

  15. dreamcrusher says:

    I’m glad this discussion is coming up. I hate the idea that I have to kill something and eat it to make myself look more masculine than someone like you (discerning brute) and me.
    With my luck, I actually have very few carnivore male friends around me, for that reason (among others).
    When I was in high school, I started listening to Prince a lot more– he has a song called ‘animal kingdom’ which inspired me to become a vegetarian (every veg-head should listen to it)!

    My father never ate salad when we had dinner, out of fear that he would ‘become a rabbit’– as a result, he had several strokes and now has dementia…

  16. TravelingVeg says:

    For what it’s worth, there is nothing sexier to me than compassion. Sure, I like long-haired hippie creative types anyway, but finding out a hot guy is vegan? Just try and hold me back!

  17. […] like a man. We often hear about all the things we should do “like men“. But now, you can really walk like a man, by raising money to benefit Farm Sanctuary! Click […]

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