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“Bro Veganism” and “Dude Veganism” are trying too hard to be masculine

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For a small number of men, veganism and masculinity cannot be separated. Ditching the idea of the hunter gatherer, red meat-eating, grill-dad stereotype, there is no shortage of guys who feel the need to continue to assert their masculinity and value after going vegan. In the same vein as the “real men don’t buy girls” anti trafficking campaign that many celebrities took part in, “real men don’t eat meat” seems to be peaking. Is masculinity really so fragile that it must be asserted when a male shows compassion? Apparently. From the Vegan Bros to Durian Rider, super-fit vegan men are seizing the spotlight, and being as Dudely As Possibly is the end goal. Dude Veganism comes so easily, so naturally, that it has me wondering why it hasn’t raged this strongly sooner.

What the enthusiasm of Dude Veganism tells us is that even progressive men have a great terror of being thought of as feminine or gay in any way, and will work hard to maintain their posture as entirely masculine, without an ounce of feminine blood in their veins. I find it to be entirely separate from the Animal Rights Movement at large, where male voices are amplified within the context of academia and organization. Is Dude Veganism really saying anything? Nah, it’s just a tofu sausage fest. Media is partially to blame, as they can’t get enough of this shit.

Joshua Katcher, who hosts an all-male vegan barbeque (NO GIRLS ALLOWED!) and runs a website called The Discerning Brute (lots of beards, very few shirts, crazy amounts of sweat) told NPR in a profile piece that meat eating is a club of sorts, and I couldn’t agree more. “It’s considered a sign of weakness to other men — like you’ve left the club.” Indeed, meat culture is steeped in sexualization, misogyny, and masculinity, as anyone who has so much as flipped through The Sexual Politics of Meat or caught up with Corey Lee Wrenn’s blog can tell you. Meat eating and the violence that comes along with it is an assertion of power, and is constantly used to reinforce strict adherence to gender roles within the western gender binary. One attendee of such a barbeque, triathlete Dominic Thompson, accidentally hit the silliness of it all right on the head; “Everyone always thinks vegans are weak, skinny, frail, pale,” Thompson says. “I get people that think, ‘You’re like Gwyneth Paltrow.’ ” He has a point. For a man, no insult is as powerful, as frightening, as being compared to a woman. The fear of being called a pussy, a f*g, and acknowledging their own compassion has Dude Vegans scared shitless. “To me, compassion is the new cool.” Dominic, buddy, does compassion have to be cool?

Professor Kyla Wazana Tompkins, who studies gender and food, was approached by NPR for comment, and something about her words made me feel uneasy. Tompkins is a meat eater (as is this reporter), but she finds something very masculine about following a vegan diet. It’s ‘total control … of the body,’ she says. Veganism is less about “total control” (whatever the hell that means) as an individual, and is simply about the animals. It puts a strict focus on the “purity” myth of controlling one’s diet, and ignores that veganism is a movement and a lifestyle.

Justin Van Kleeck wrote a piece for Vegan Publishers with his own reaction as a vegan man shortly after NPR published their article. “I do not want my life as a vegan man to be constantly measured against some code of abstract qualities, from appearance to behavior, so that some of my fellow males might not worry about becoming more “feminine” should they decide to live a kinder life and go vegan,” he wrote, adding, “I am sick and tired of how much harm we do to individuals by trying to fit them into the masculine-feminine ideological box or judge them based on their ability to cram themselves in it. I am hopeful that ethical veganism can help us all to see the dangers in oppressive systems, no matter what form they take.”

While I find some agreement with the Dude Vegans mentioned above when they denounce how tightly wound traditional manliness and meat culture is, I find it bizarre that they feel the need to transfer that masculinity to meet their own lifestyle, and grasp at an outdated and tired concept. Dudes, it’s 2016! Gender is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and the frantic attempts at maintaining a proper level of masculinity is entirely unnecessary.

Back in 2010, the Boston Globe made an attempt at creating the word “hegan,” when yet another variation on the word “vegan” is the last thing the movement needs. “Men leave their own mark on veganism,” the piece was titled. Really. How important is it for men to continuously leave their mark on everything? They’re the dominant gender, the world over, and my eyes rolled into the back of my head when I came across the headline. Hegan. The Post and Courier’s “Rise of the Hegans” piece used the word again, and I’m thrilled to say that it looks like the term has begun a slow fade into oblivion. Stop trying to make hegan happen! It’s not going to happen!

While Dude Veganism might just look like an innocuous pain in the ass, at it’s worst, it’s openly hateful of women. The worst possible result of trying to masculinize veganism is visible when you have men like Gary Yourofsky literally wishing rape upon women who wear animal products and PETA continuing to get away with campaigns that eat away at women’s welfare and present them in violent situations. Of course, before anyone gets too fussy, I don’t think that a bro-tastic backyard barbeque has much to do with events such as these. They all just exist in a patriarchal society and whether intentionally or not, can certainly validate one another.

Instead of posturing themselves as DEFINITELY NOT SISSY GAYS, it would be helpful for male identifying vegans to drop the bro-act and educate new vegans on the lifestyle in ways that aren’t so obsessed with gender. Compassion is a wonderful concept that must be stressed. It’s a concept without any gender.

If you need me, I’ll be at my girls-only barbeque where we don’t make any veggies that are phallic and have decided to call ourselves she-gans.

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  • Troy Gallipeau

    So if it makes a man more comfortable being a vegan what is the harm? Bigger picture is we should really try to support ALL people who are thinking of becoming vegan, I think belittling any method of people looking to change is unfortunate.

  • drew

    It’s frustrating that someone superficially so thoughtful is willing to intentionally take words absent context to distort them. I’m not the biggest Yourofsky fan, but I *am* a fan of rational and precise discourse.

    Yourofsky brought up rape not in the context of rape being an appropriate punishment for women, but in the context of “eye for an eye.” He gave multiple examples of things we do to animals, and expressed an opinion that the things done to animals should be done back to the people who commit the action. He started with murdering animal murderers, and moved on to other crimes we commit against animals. He considers artificial insemination to be rape, and said he wishes those rapists were raped as punishment. He never specifically put “rape” and “women” together, to so say he advocates for rape of women is a half-truth and intentionally sensationalizes his words.

    With that out of the way: I am divided on the essence of your article. On one hand, I *hate* any phrase that begins with “real men…” or “real women…” and completely agree, the entire culture of “this is for boys, this is for girls” just needs to die. On the other hand, macho culture is a big deal for many people, and using macho culture as a tool to bring vegans into the fold, when currently it is an impediment, might produce net good. I guess I’m of the mindset that reducing the torture and murder of animals at the cost of slowing the destruction of the gender binary is a worthwhile tradeoff.

    • Lalasunflower

      We don’t agree- but I enjoy a well thought out response.

      • Lalasunflower

        I will say though, I can’t get over the defense (not the right word, but you know what I mean) of the Yourofsky quote. It’s not the first time he’s said hateful shit about a marginalized group, so I find the quote reprehensible and probably always will.

  • Pratha

    Going vegan has many profound benefits in regards to the psychotropic potentiality of one’s mind. One fond memory comes to mind in particular…

    My friend Srinivas, lady friend Smupa and I were on a small boat in the vast ocean. Suddenly enormous bubbles surfaced just under us, nearly capsizing our tiny vessel. It was then that a profusely foul odor was produced. I began to hallucinate upon a starry midday perch while Srinivas began to vomit all of the frustrations dwelling in his mind and stomach. Smupa began to smile in a most uncontrollable manner while snorting more funny stuff.

    I then immersed mind body and soul into the collage of colors and emotional isotopes surrounding our essence. My mind was transported back to the age of my love’s aquamarine visions, recalling the existential blockage that was soon breached. The quickly vacating negativity of life’s many preoccupations were vanquished, reminding me of the many egomaniacal blowhards and their rantings, whence they were justifiably summoned to another parallel existence.

    I was then transported back to the present, and Smupa then broke wind from the bottom. This served as an epiphany. I then posited that whales must fart. How else could we explain the bubbles that nearly capsized us?

    Within a fortnight, Smupa came to me with her research. Following is a transcript of her findings:

    The short answer is yes, whales do indeed fart, flatus or pass gas depending on how you like to phrase it.

    In fact whales, dolphins and porpoises are all marine mammals belonging to the cetacean species and they are all known to fart.

    Today there are around 80 – 90 known species of cetacea currently in existence and they encompass all of the worlds major oceans from the tropics to the coldest of the northern and southern polar hemispheres.

    When it comes to passing gas, farting is a common characteristic that most land and marine mammals have in common with one another.

    Passing gas allows animals to release air that is trapped inside their stomach, which could lead to digestive problems, stomach cramps or other complications if not removed from the body.

    When an animal passes gas or farts the air that comes out of the body comes primarily from two main sources.

    The first source comes from oxygen that is pulled in through the air either while breathing (inhaling and exhaling) or when consuming food or drinking water; and since all mammals eat food and require oxygen to survive they all take in air.

    The second source of air or gas comes from food that is broken down by enzymes, stomach acids and bacteria in the stomach, which creates toxic gasses that need to be removed from the body to prevent it from doing harm to the individuals digestive system.

    In order to release these gases animals need a way to expel them from the body and for most mammals this means that the toxic gas has to exit through either the mouth, which causes burping or through the anal tract which causes farting.

    The gases that are expelled from a fart are mostly composed of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane.

    The reason some gasses smell worse than others is because of the breakdown of the foods involved.

    Certain foods can cause obnoxious orders when released as gas while others do not.

    From some of the statements researchers have made about whales farting they have concluded that yes, it stinks when a whale farts.

    When a whale farts or passes gas underwater the sound is believed to be suppressed by the surrounding water making it silent or at least quite compared to the gas that is expelled from land based animals.

    In some cases bubbles or clouds can be seen rising to the surface of the water when a whale passes gas.

    Those most likely to experience whales farting are likely to be researchers involved in following whales and researching their dung or gathering information about their gestation period, habitat, social structure and other important factors.

    In some cases this may also be observed by tourists and whale watchers that are hoping to get a glance of these marine mammals in their natural habitat.

    Unfortunately not much research has been done on this topic, however there have been researchers who have experienced and confirmed that yes whales do indeed fart.

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