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21 Aug 2009Man and His Meat

As a part of what he calls “the rare species of male vegetarians” 17-year-old high school student, Blair McVicar, says he commonly experiences comments that question his masculinity once his diet choice is revealed.
“Far too frequently I am fed comments such as ‘get a bit of meat into you’, ‘you’re very thin…probably because you don’t eat any meat’, and my personal favourite: ‘eat some meat so you can grow some muscle’,” Blair muses.
The teenager was so struck by the differences in social attitude towards meat eating by males and females the he made it the basis of his HSC Personal Interest Project, ‘Man and His Meat’.
Blair sees his abstinence from meat as an important part of his personal identity and a backbone to his social morals and values. He has found that others, however, perceive it as a threat to his masculine identity, placing him almost like a second-class citizen in some situations.
In his paper, Blair used not only his own personal experiences, but questionnaires, study groups and online focus groups, to gauge attitudes towards male vegetarians, as well as the role of media in influencing public perception.
Blair noticed that people’s attitudes toward meat consumption were quite concrete, with one of his focus groups yielding such remarks as ‘We are meant to eat it (meat), ‘Look at the food chain…we are at the top’ and ‘We need meat to be healthy’.
In one focus group, one of the male respondents even claimed that he ‘thought about going vegetarian but he didn’t want anyone to think that he was gay’’.
Blair reports that society has developed the idea of meat being associated with providing energy, of which males supposedly needed plenty. Australia has happily grasped this notion and has valued the idea of ‘man and his meat’ as a part of one’s ordinary lifestyle.
During Blair’s research into the 1970s ad campaign ‘Feed The Man Meat’, one interviewee reported: ‘The ad took hold everywhere. It had a catchy phrase and was on billboards, in newspapers and magazines, was on the television and even outside butcher shops. Even today, people who were around when that ad was shown remember the catchphrase.
Blair found that the media has stressed the importance of meat being a symbol of a man’s power in society.
One of his online focus group respondents claimed: ‘meat and gender are very important to the family structure. [In my family] the oldest male is the one usually in charge of the meat, whether it be the barbecue or carving the roast. This task always falls to either my father or grandfather. They take the role very seriously; they are almost territorial over it. Once the meat is cooked or carved it is also up to them to serve it out to people. The meat therefore almost represents their maleness and the fact that they are in charge of its cooking and its distribution confirms to them that their maleness is intact’.
Blair also cited excerpts from an article in the British tabloid, ‘The Observer’ which included the following comments: ‘pity the male vegetarian who needs real courage and fortitude, as he is battered from all sides by the incomprehension and ridicule of the world around him’ and ‘if it weren’t for Paul McCartney, the male vegetarian would be right up there with Lembit Opik as The Guy No One Wants To Be’.
Blair concluded that as long as this gender bias is continued, it is unlikely that the institutionalised gender values surrounding meat consumption will change and thus the idea of ‘man and his meat’ will remain a continuity.
“My research has found that society continues to regard meat as a necessity to the male diet in order to produce the ‘strong, brooding men’ society needs,” he said.
“This perception highlights the social stereotype of the weak, effeminate, outcast male vegetarian, and leaves us as a minority. If my future predictions are correct, this stereotype will remain for some time,” he concluded.
Do you agree with Blair, and do your own personal experiences back up his research? Post your comments below.
Blair McIver is a student at Wollongong High School of Performing Arts. His full Personal Interest Project, Man and his Meat can be found by clicking here.

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Heath JohnsonWe (Vegetarians - Male & Female alike) will only grow stronger in numbers, as the REAL information about our body's needs becomes MORE well known. Add to that, the present trend towards a "greener environment" =) I'm thinking maybe "man" (sorry ladies) will slowly begin to see the similarities between himself and his TRUE surroundings, instead of between his taste buds and what's in the Fridge at Coles...?.

Mollie K - QldWhen it comes to explaining my vegetarianism (as in abstention from red meat eating), I say to people to look at it logically. If I were meant to eat meat, I would be fast enough on my feet to run down my prey. I'm NOT but lions and tigers and dogs etc ARE. Once I had caught it, I would need the teeth structure to tear it (RAW !) off the bone. I do NOT. Lions etc DO and a jaw bone to deal with it highly efficiently. Then I would eat it and here the big difference is in the length of the intestines - ours are very long versus the lions etc who have very short intestines. The point here is that by the time this meat (raw or cooked) has passed down our intestines, it has putrified. Not so the 4-legged animal kindom. Red meat has been proven to be very acid-forming and has no fibre. These factors alone are enough to be cancer-forming. There is a vast amount of cancer in the world !!! As a little aside from the point, we know that HUGE amounts of land have been cleared of trees to make way for beef grazing. How very sad. Good luck to Blair McVicar - keep up the brave and sensible work. You are very manly to stand against the majority, especially at your age.

AndrewI believe that Rob DeCostella really enjoys eating meat these days...... so perhaps drop him from your list. Might I suggest Carl Lewis as a suitable alternative?.

Terry DDon't ever let anyone tell you that a well balanced vegetarian diet won't support a high level athlete. Just a few of the notables include the great Olympian Murry Rose (3 gold @ 1956 Olympics). Tony La Russa and cricket great Greg Chappell, Marathon runner Rob DeCostella, Tennis greats Martina Navratilova & Billie Jean King. Not to mention the legendary strength trainer and body builder Jack La Lane. Should I go on.....

RhonaThe same kind of questionable ideas can prevail when talking of men who are not beer drinkers. I once said that my son in law was not into beer to another (unfamiliar ) male - who immediately asked if he was Gay!!!!.

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