New study challenges the narrative that meat is 'manly'

New research suggests some men identify with a new form of masculinity that values authenticity, domesticity, and holistic self-awareness.

man holding meat burger woman holding salad concept of meat is many

Societal norms have been feeding us the narrative that "meat is manly" for decades.

Photo by Master1305 on Shutterstock
  • Media and societal norms have been feeding us the same "meat is manly" ideology for decades, maybe without many of us realizing it.
  • A new study questions the stereotypical narrative that real men eat meat by taking a look at the variation in how men identify themselves and their values.
  • The psychological link between meat and masculinity will likely remain alive and well, however, this study (and others that follow suit) can continue to challenge the narrative.

The idea that "meat is manly" has been peddled for years - in commercials, on advertisements, in stories passed down the patriarchal line for generations. In 1999, Carol J. Adams released what would be the most well-known stab at this ideology with her book "The Sexual Politics of Meat", which is an in-depth assessment of the relationship between masculinity and meat, often pointing to American media as a primary source of meat pandering towards "masculine" society.

Society’s psychological link between meat and masculinity

male barbecuing meat while female watching concept of masculinity and meat

One 2018 study found that men routinely incorporate more red meat in their diet to preempt the negative emotions that are caused by threats to their masculinity.

Photo by bbernard un Shutterstock

With the release of her book in 1999, Adams was able to highlight the idea that meat has become something of a symbol of masculinity, mainly by companies attempting to promote meat sales. Putting that theory to the test in today's society, one simple search for "making salad" on a stock image site will give you countless photos of women making salads in their kitchens. Another search for "barbeque" will show dozens of men grilling meat outdoors.

This association between meat and masculinity is something that has been deemed a societal norm for decades, perhaps without many of us even realizing it. One 2018 study found that men routinely incorporate more red meat in their diet to preempt the negative emotions that are caused by threats to their masculinity.

A 2013 study argued Adams' original theory on the sexual politics of meat with results that suggested men associate eating meat with animals being lower in a hierarchy system than humans, whereas the majority of women who eat meat try to disassociate animals from food and avoid thinking about the treatment of animals.

Alongside the narrative that meat is masculine comes the stigma around vegetarianism or veganism. These are both things that society deems "soft", "sensitive" or "whiny".

According to this Vegan Society survey, while the number of vegans is rapidly increasing (there were three and a half times more vegans in 2016 as there were in 2006), there is still a massive gender gap, with 63 percent of participants identifying as female and 37 percent identifying as male.

Researchers on this survey theorize that the main cause of this gap is the psychological link between meat and masculinity that is seemingly everywhere in today's society.

Some men identify with a new form of holistic, self-aware masculinity

businessman in dress shirt and tie eating a salad at work

The results of a new 2020 study reveal that there are new forms of masculinity that are linked with less meat consumption and a more positive attitude towards vegetarianism.

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A new study questions the stereotypical narrative of carnivores by taking a look at the variation in how men identify themselves and their values.

In the study, 309 male meat-eating participants were asked about their self-identification with new forms of masculinity, their attachment to eating meat, their willingness to reduce their meat intake, and their general attitudes towards vegetarians.

The results of this study suggest that men who identify more strongly with new forms of masculinity tend to consume less meat, have a weaker attachment to eating meat, and have a greater tendency to reduce their meat intake when possible. These men also showed more positive attitudes towards people who choose to be vegetarians.

This study is the first of it's kind to underscore the idea that not all men think alike and that biological sex differences shouldn't be taken into account when studying the consumption (or lack of consumption) of meat products.

Changing the way researchers conduct studies like this can help turn the tide.

Modern studies such as this are leaning more towards different tools that place less of a stigma on various types of masculinity. This study, for example, used the New Masculinity Inventory (NMI), where high scores can suggest holistic attentiveness, questioning of male norms, authenticity to self, and sensitivity to male privilege.

Studies like this, where not only the results but the tools used to conduct the study take into account the varying types of masculinity in the participants, can only offer more accurate results due to being more inclusive and less stereotypical.

Does vegetarianism stand a chance against meat-eating masculinity?

The sheer amount of information surrounding vegetarianism and all the attached benefits is astounding - so why is society having such a hard time keeping up? Why are men still less likely to decrease their meat consumption?

The "meat is manly" ideology will likely remain alive and well in today's society due to advertisements and societal norms, however this study (and others that follow suit) can continue to challenge the narrative. We can continue to promote the idea that vegetarianism isn't feminine and eating meat isn't masculine - they are simply choices that we make based on our unique views and how we feel about the information that is presented to us.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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