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This Study Says We’ve Finally Stopped Questioning Vegetarian Guys' Masculinity

A new study from researchers at Earlham College, Indiana claims that vegetarian men are no longer judged negatively compared to their meat-eating counterparts.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user Stacy

As bartender Al Sotack reiterated to us this week, drinks don't have a gender. Sipping a Cosmo won't make you a Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte, or Miranda, and if you have to check with the bartender that your order doesn't come in a coupe glass, you probably don't deserve to be consuming alcohol in the first place. Even the bros are down with drinking rosé, nowadays.

Despite what advertisers would have us think, the same goes for food.


And it seems that society may be closer to fully acknowledging this. A new study from researchers at Earlham College, Indiana claims that vegetarian men are no longer judged as being less masculine.

Because, as any plant-based diet-following dude will know, the stereotype that "real men" must devour hunks of animal carcass is a pervasive one and can put some men off adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.

READ MORE: Why Men Are Afraid of Going Vegan

Published last month in Appetite journal by Earlham College psychologist Margaret Thomas, the study agrees that previous research has shown "inconsistent patterns in the association between vegetarianism and masculinity." In the three-part study, Thomas set out to find out exactly why we're so intent on stereotyping people for what they put in their mouths.

First, she instructed 131 adult participants to read two versions of a story, one featuring a woman named Jessica and the other a man named Jacob. The stories were identical—save for the details that one ate a "varied vegetarian diet" and the other a "broad range of foods," including meat products. After reading the stories, participants provided feedback on how independent, health-conscious, masculine, or feminine they thought the characters were.

Following this, a second group of 133 adults read the same stories, this time with Jessica and Jacob described as following a vegan or omnivorous diet. In this version of the story, participants found the vegan version of Jacob to be less masculine than his meat-eating counterpart.


Finally, Thomas had a group of 143 participants read scenarios that saw Jessica and Jacob both eat vegan diets. In one version of the story, this was their choice and in the second, the eating regime was forced due to "digestive issues." Comparing participants' feedback indicated that veganism itself isn't seen as emasculating, but the reason why men chose to be vegan is.

Analysing the three groups' results, Thomas found that on average, people did not associate veganism with lower levels of masculinity, which led her to conclude that society may now be more accepting of plant-based diets for both men and women. This could also be linked to increasing rates of obesity and heart disease in the US, making healthy lifestyle choices such as veganism more socially acceptable for both genders.

READ MORE: Advertisers Still Don't Get That Not All Women Love Chocolate

Commenting on the results, Thomas added: "Participants may have stereotypes about vegans as being effeminate. Alternatively, masculinity may be cumulatively calculated, such that the absence of things traditionally associated with masculinity (in this case, meat and high fat foods), may dock targets' levels of masculinity in the eyes of perceivers."

If you need further proof that forgoing meat won't dock masculinity, look no further than Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent call for people to go veggie at least once a week.

If The Terminator himself isn't manly enough to make you eat tofu without feeling like a pansy, we don't know who is.