Established gender roles deter males from pursuing vegetarian lifestyle

Only 3.2 percent of males in the United States considered themselves to be either vegetarian or vegan in 2016, according to The Vegetarian Resource Group. Females led the poll with a slightly larger 3.5 percent. It is obvious that a significant portion of vegetarians are male, yet the negative stigma surrounding male vegetarians is likely stopping many others from altering their diets.

Male vegetarians are often looked down upon by their omnivorous male counterparts. They are seen as more feminine and weaker, simply because of their decision to refrain from eating meat. Society has deemed eating meat as a masculine act, which is not only inaccurate, but also causes male vegetarians to suffer. This old-fashioned notion must be overcome so more men can consider becoming vegetarians, while not having to worry about how others perceive their manhood.

Throughout history, hunting and fishing were considered to be male-dominated activities, so it is not a shock that eating meat can also be referred to as a masculine activity. This does not mean, however, that in the 21st century men should continue to feel that they cannot cut meat out of their diet. 

The notion of masculinity has influenced men in most aspects of their lives. A majority of men rely on and feel the need to fit into the gender stereotypes reserved solely for males. It is the principle reason men are told that showing emotion is weak, while violence and aggression are normal. 

Many men feel they cannot be vegetarians because they will not be viewed as masculine by their peers. This is not only harmful for men who wish to be vegetarians, but also for women who have cut meat out of their diets, further confirming the ‘weaker’ stereotypes the female gender already faces.

 When thinking about the gender roles that pertain to eating, it is clear most fathers fit the masculine stereotype. Most dads do not brag about cooking a mean black bean and quinoa burger, but rather about a steak or other forms of barbeque food. Traditional gifts for men are also often centered around meat or cooking. For example, there are multiple meat-centered advertisements for Father’s Day gifts.

It is time to break away from tradition. Male vegetarians are in no way less of a man than omnivores. Being vegetarian only proves one thing about their character: that they care for both the environment and animals. 

These archaic stereotypes not only hurt men and animals alike, but they also hurt the environment. Raising animals uses 30 percent of the Earth’s land mass, according to the website Choose Veg. Cattle pasture account for 80 percent of the deforested Amazonian land. Producing one pound of meat uses 15 times more water than one pound of soy. 70 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. is used to feed farm animals.

It must be acceptable for all individuals to become vegetarians, no matter their gender. Furthermore, if we create a welcoming atmosphere for male vegetarians, perhaps individuals will feel comfortable trying this diet. This could have extremely positive effects, as the more people who limit their intake of meat, the smaller the environmental burden there will be.