The vegan male has been trending recently. The March/April issue of VegNews is called “The Man Issue,” and the cover is a spin off on Esquire. In fact, the Editor’s Note of the issue is a love letter to the man’s magazine, in which editor Elizabeth Castoria begins by confessing her adoration: “From the rugged jawlines of your studly cover subjects to the whimsy with which you banter, you get so much right.” Castoria then goes on to say the one thing that she doesn’t think Eqsquire gets right—and it’s a pretty big one. Castoria writes “I don’t think you know what a man is.”
The idea of what makes a man is changing, and the newest issue of VegNews is dedicated to just that: the new man. It explores the emphasis our society has always put on meat, and its role in manliness! No more!
In the issue, Joshua Katcher, the founder of the Discerning Brute (who I had the pleasure to meet at the Wildflower Super Bowl party this year!) writes a terrific feature about the stereotypes of men and how they are changing. The feature, located on page 42, is called the evolution of man and discusses how compassionate, inspiring and strong vegan men are redefining our cultural ideals about how a man should look, think and act.
The article also mentions the way society markets meat to men. Examples include the 2011 Wendy’s commercial: “Real Bacon. Only for Real Men.” Or how about the Weight Watcher’s ad geared towards men which reads “Eat like a man. Not Like a Rabbit.” Katcher makes the terrific point that no men would be upset by saying he does it like a rabbit, but “eating a diet that supports that same bountiful virility is the subject of scorn.” Right on, Katcher! I smell what you’re stepping in, and it smells damn good.
There has been a sexy stir in the media following PETA’s violent sexual campaign about how vegan men are better lovers, and a blog post by Jason Mraz stating veganism has helped his sex life. Plus all of the manly male celebs going vegan can’t hurt the cause.
But it isn’t just sex or fame that’s selling veganism to men. In 2010, Men’s Journal published “The Rise of the Power Vegans,” which showed powerful, influential men in our society who are choosing to ditch meat and dairy for moral, ethical and health reasons. Bill Clinton, anybody?
And of course, we can’t ignore the athletes. The idea of meat-free men as scrawny, pale, waifish guys growing their own wheat grass and wearing hemp button-downs is quickly displaced when you take a look at some of today’s most impressive vegan athletes.
This issue got me thinking about what exactly I think a man is, or what a man should be. I don’t think a man can be made by what he does or doesn’t eat and I don’t think a man needs to be vegan to be a man; to get rid of one (meaty) stereotype just to replace it with another wouldn’t be good. But I do think that there are values an ideal man should possess, and these values also happen to be present in many vegan men. Here is what I have come up with:
A man is…
Confident: He knows who he is and what he wants.
Hard working: He is ambitious. Don’t you remember that ‘98 hit, “Can I Get A” by Jay Z featuring Amil? “Ambition makes me so horny…”
Strong: Here I am talking about what I like to call soft strength; a strength in character and morals, not chest-banging muscle strength. A man with soft strength stands by his beliefs, and hopefully those beliefs are good ones.
Caring: Toward loved ones and the world around him. He is connected and involved in things outside of himself, but at the same time, he takes care of his own needs.
Emotional: Men are people, and people have feelings. To me, a man feels comfortable talking about their feelings. It doesn’t need to happen ad nauseum, but it does need to happen.
There are many different types of men. But I do think that many vegans (both male and female) choose the lifestyle because they are compassionate and in touch with the world outside of themselves. They can think beyond how good a steak might taste and how their dietary choices will affect the world around them.
Their morals and character are strong, they are caring and they aren’t afraid to show it. Unfortunately, this does not include all vegans. I have met some pretty self-centered, arrogant and elitist vegans. And, again, I am not saying that meat eating men can’t be the above (my boyfriend eats meat, remember?). But I am happy to see the stereotype that “real men” eat meat is dissolving, and I am excited to see more vegan men sprouting up. Well done, VegNews!
Have you read the VegNews man issue? Who is your fav vegan guy? What is a man, to you? I would love both male and female takes on this.