You’re looking at the cover of a new book by John Joseph, New York native and author of The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon. Besides grimacing, my other first reaction to the book was Malori Maloney’s assessment of Skinny Bastard - the male-marketed follow-up to the “vegan/animal rights manifesto wrapped in chick-lit veneer” Skinny Bitch. Malori wrote, “What could be an awesome vegan manifesto is so rife with gendered language, sexist commentary and an apparent obsession with physical appearance over healthy living that potential positive and/or helpful messages get clouded.” Having not read Joseph’s book, I can’t claim this is entirely true about Meat is for Pussies…but something about that title tells me it is.
The harmful (and unironic) message of “don’t be a pussy,” can be found throughout the book’s website. Take for instance, a featured review of the book from vegan Ironman Brendan Brazier: “John has written the quintessential pussy-transformation guide. Meat is for Pussies is essential for every man who strives to leave pussyism in the dust. Do yourself (and your friends who think you’re a pussy) a favor and read it.”
Another review comes rather unsurprisingly from the author of Skinny Bitch. Rory Freeman’s blurb for the book ends with “Meat is for Pussies will completely transform your mind, body, and life. It’ll also score you major ass with hot vegan chicks,” confirming that the book’s meant not just to make you the manliest man ever, but assumes you’re straight too. Also there cross-promotions with PeTA, who I don’t think I need to remind you also relies on body-shaming and objectification of women’s bodies to sell veganism.
(Speaking of consumption campaigns gone problematic, have you seen this Urban Outfitters tee?)
The book goes over the ecologic as well as health benefits of not eating meat, and it’s clear that veganism is being directly marketed to a sector who might have misconceptions about vegetarianism and food politics, or who think all vegans are skinny, straight-edge, or, you know, Moby. But the hammering-home of “Be a man and get ripped” that appears on the book’s website and infiltrates its every marketing hook seem to indicate that gender essentialism and macho culture is the most important part of rethinking your diet, whereas many others would disagree. As one of Bitch’s vegan interns who was offended the book was coming out of her community put it, “I don’t want ‘vegan’ and ‘pussy’ to go next to one another.”
The book also is a prime example of “single-issue” veganism, where you have the privilege of not addressing gender, trans, ability, class, or race related issues in the vegan discourse. (This is where I direct you to Vegans of Color. Also see Jessica Yee’s posts on feminism and intersection.) With the growing momentum of the food politics movement, it’s more and more important to recognize the numerous intersections of how we eat. For example I’m as much about eating vegetables as John Joseph is, but the fact remains that they were probably harvested unjustly.
The more people who learn how corporate farming is harmful to animals, the environment, and the economy, the better. However, relying on gender essentialism and body-shaming is an awful way to go about it.
I don’t have the strongest background in veganism or ecofeminism, so readers, vegans, and all you “dudes who want to get fit, kick ass and take names” please weigh in!