If it seems like you know more women than men who are vegetarians, it’s not your imagination. A new study by top consumer researchers found that there are strong, unconscious associations between meat and masculinity that make men avoid soy and other vegetarian food options in favor of animal products.
In “Is Meat Male?” published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers “examined whether people in Western cultures have a metaphoric link between meat and men.”
The answer was a resounding YES, particularly when it comes to muscle meat like steak.
In word association experiments, people rated meat as more masculine than, say, carrots. And they found meat-eaters to be more masculine than their tofu-nibbling vegetarian brethren.
Interestingly, the association between meat and machismo is embedded in our language, too; most that use gender pronouns for words consider “meat” masculine.
So how to get men to disassociate from the idea that real men need to eat meat, not quiche? The authors suggest reshaping soy foods into burgers or putting grill marks on seitan dogs. Or better yet: Let’s get macho dudes like Clint Eastwood to go veg! These vegetarian recipes can help with the conversion.