Defining Manliness in a Meat-Eating World

Yesterday, I was fortunate to hear a great piece on veganism and Masculinity (I highly encourage you all to check it out).  Of interest, was a quote by Triathlete Dominic Thompson,

“Compassion is the new cool.”

And while there is a bit of Ghandism and cliche in that statement, personally I feel it really defines my interest and core of being vegan.  Not the cool part, (I could care less about being cool) but the fact that being compassionate is in the open.  It’s OK to care for something insignificant.  It’s the new closet us men can come out of.

I remember way back (in my meat eating days) when a fly was drowning in a day old cup of coffee on my desk at work.  I asked a co-worker to quickly grab a fork, while I tried to rescue it with a pen.  My coworker ridiculed me for weeks, for “saving a stupid fly,” calling me “Fly Guy.”

Image courtesy djltaga on DeviantArt
Image courtesy djltaga on DeviantArt

At the time, it was a source of embarrassment and I found myself questioning my actions.  Maybe my friend was right.  Why was I worried about this “stupid fly?”

Initially, my defense was based on karma.  Maybe some day I’ll be drowning and I’ll wish for someone to take a moment of their day and pluck me from the proverbial cup of coffee.  But over time, I realized that saving that fly was good for my soul.  It made me feel good to help something else without placing a value on it first.

I moved on in my compassion journey from insect saving to a fully vegan lifestyle.  Knowing that my diet causes no animals any suffering or death is more nourishing for my sanity than my waist line.

So how exactly can we as a society fall on such polarized ends of this issue?  While mainstream marketing screams at real men to eat beef (It is, after all what’s for dinner) and meats, the other side eats soy and smoked tempeh strips.

A recent google image search for
A recent google image search for “Man food”

Some of my friends actually refuse – flat out refuse – to even try a vegan meal.  I am not sure if this is out of concern I am attempting to “convert them” or out of a fear they might actually like it and would have to think about a lifestyle change.  Ignorance is a precious resource in this world and even harder to get back once lost.

Personally, I feel they worry about their man card.  That someone they know might see them biting into a Veggie Grill Buffalo Bomber and sound the man alarm, agents streaming in, taking them away only to waterboard them with A1 steak sauce and chicken stock while watching all the Rambo movies.

So how do we turn that corner?  How do we show to men on the larger scale that it is OK to be compassionate, healthy, AND actually enjoy good food?

The NPR piece mentioned a new blog that I think is really making headway in this space.  It is called The Discerning Brute and it is a high-end men’s vegan blog.

The home page of TDB.
The home page of TDB.

Another great point of the article was that confidence has always been “manly” in our society.  Ex butcher and now vegan chef Dan Strong stated,

“There’s an illusion that manhood is this confidence that is exuded at all time,” Strong said. “Veganism is that kind of confidence. It really is. It’s a choice that we make that guides us on our lives. I can’t think of anything more manly than that.”

I’d also add that as vegans we must have thick skin.  We need to deal with ridicule and ribbings.  And I think that even makes us more resilient.

And perhaps a little more manly.

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