Meat is for what now? Marketing veganism the wrong way

the cover of Meat is for Pussies. The cover is pretty minimal, with an overturned silhouette of a cow resting at the very bottom of the page.

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!

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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30 Comments Have Been Posted


"confirming that the book's meant not just to make you the manliest man ever, but assumes you're straight too."

Um, that's inherent in the <i>title itself</i>, if you read it as another kind of "meat." *shudder*

Eat less?

John Joseph's method of marketing veganism upsets me. The cover of his book upsets me. PETA upsets me. But I'm *really* upset, angry, and murderous over that Urban Outfitters t-shirt. "Eat less?" How about "punch the designer of this t-shirt?" I'm a curvy girl, a proud office brownie pusher, and to see a shirt that is specifically designed to make women doubt their bodies (and the nutrition needs of those bodies) makes me very sad. UO, you're not getting my dollars!


go jj!

im not vegan anymore but i was for ten years and fully appreciate and understand its benefits. i also used to be very radically left and the views of the majority of people commenting on this site are what turned me off to all of that. it seems, scratch that, it is obvious at every turn that to be radically left means to be upset by/angry at and offended by everything. add devoid of a sense of humor. im a fan of being sensitive to others, but i dont think that entails embarking on the most impassioned censorship campaign of our lifetime, aka political correctness or as i call it, forced politeness.
body shaming? humans and the utility of their bodies have changed radically over their time on earth. just in the last century or so we have for the most part, become very sedentary and in less polite language, lazy, fat, and addicted to food. look at the prevailing health problems in this country. they can all be attributed to our awful eating habits including the ones that mainstream medicine have yet to admit to such as prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes. shame can be a powerful motivator. if self discipline, education and concern for your own health arent enough motivation, then i say turn to good old guilt. one can only feel shame if they are ashamed. and while we are at it, maybe we can start taking more personal responsibility instead of legislating everything form cradle to grave.

Your Health is more important than your Feelings!!

I'm so sick of all this politically correct non sense going around. Especially when it comes to people that are not at a healthy weight. We are putting people's feelings over their health and it needs to stop RIGHT NOW!! It makes me so upset when I see what parents in this country (and others) have put their kids through. Kids that are not even in high school yet are extremely over weight and it's all because of what they are taught at home. If we don't stop this cycle now then we are condemning the generations after us to a life of sickness and unhappiness. We need to have more healthy body images all around and that goes for being too skinny and too fat.

I think that pushing vegan ideas is always good. There are many many benefits to the vegan lifestyle but as far as this book goes I do not like the title. The term is pussy, when used in this context, is extremely sexist but I would never judge an entire book without reading it first.

You wrote an article about

You wrote an article about the site quotes and because of the cover? You're probably spot on about a lot of the things here, but to not read it is pretty ignorant – that's internet reporting I guess.


Because a book's cover and published reviews are not part of the advertising for the book's content chosen, assembled, and approved by the author and publisher and therefore shouldn't ever be judged separately from the product. Now I'm off to buy some Axe body wash because I refuse to let a companies' poor choices keep me from buying a product even if I know my patronage will encourage more terrible advertising.

Or if you prefer: My old print shop prof. told us never to forget that the cover is a much a part of the book as what's underneath it and will graded on the same standard.

There are vegans who aren't

There are vegans who aren't down with Joseph's book title, the lack of linking oppressions, and failure to recognize certain privileges, etc. Unfortunately, these ideas are often called out as being harmful to a so-called unified movement. Many of his supporters are die-hard cro-mag fans and dismiss any criticism. The typical response seems to be that the ends justify the means and that words don't have power, actions do. Any attempts of discussion and open communication gets shot down. I'm personally over trying to have reasonable discussion with these people -- you can only get called a bitch (and not in a reclaiming the word way) and more so many times.


I'm a straight vegan male who is driven mad by shit like this book title. I have no problem with a "vegans can be athletic, too!" type of message (though it's not my style by any means)...but I am never okay with harming one movement in order to help another.

Books like Skinny Bitch and Meat is for Pussies may make more vegans in the short run, but they hurt all movements in the long run (except the movement to make vegans look like idiots). 1) I have a feeling those who go vegan from books like these don't remain vegan for as long as someone who does so because of a calculated decision based on ethics, and 2) people ARE animals, and so one can't work for liberation for animals if they are degrading women (or men) in the process.

I know there are feminists who have a bad impression about veganism due to some of PETA's antics and these types of books. I hope you aren't swayed away from compassion towards animals because of this nonsense. Feminism is an animal liberation issue, and veganism is a feminist issue.

skinny bitch

I became a vegan after reading skinny bitch and that was several years ago. :) But I get your point. I understand what the author is trying to do...I dated a man for nine years who was insanely obsessed with his body image. I used to have to take weekly photos of him to see his progress with body building. When I started making the transition to a vegan lifestyle, he thought I was crazy and was convinced that he couldn't be a body builder if he didn't eat chicken every night. He was crazy about each and every calorie he put in his body. This book is marketing towards that guy. Still wrong though.


Thanks everyone for your comments an input (except for the anonymous who said that judging a book by its misogynistic title is wrong), I know there's probably a lot more to say about this coming from a vegan perspective.

I also wanted to direct people to one of the Bitch blogs' past guest bloggers Brittany Shoot, whose blog <a href="/profile/b">"The Biotic Woman"</a> covered ecofeminism and veganism.

I just came across this

I just came across this while googling more info about the book. I also read John Joseph's explanation of why he titled the book, "meat is for pussies." I actually think his reasoning makes sense. There are men out there who think not eating meat means you're less manly and I suppose this is his response to that. I haven't read the book but from other reviews he does go into the horrors of modern animal facilities and the hormones/injections/crap they put into the food. If he actually reaches a new audience, I say good for him.

Dear Kjerstin,

Can you imagine if Siskel & Ebert presented a critique of a film and only addressed their displeasure with the the title and how the film was marketed to its audience... without ever presenting synopsis of plot, the cast of characters, addressing the quality of story-line or the value what the film seeks to convey to the audience?

After all that, can you imagine them also noting that neither of them have actually seen the film or perhaps they left after the opening credits?

Do you think this behavior might diminish their credibility as film critics?

I understand that your might identify as an ecofeminist and that you perhaps view being vegan as an extension of gender-identity as well as an expression of environmental awareness and of defiance to blind consumerism that is driven by misinformation and greed.
(I can't state this as a fact. I have never spoken with you on the subject.) However you choose to identify and express your interpretation of "vegan living," surely you can fathom that others approach veganism from their own sensibilities that will differ from your own and that some of these perspectives you will favor more than others? And surely you realize you can maintain your convictions without abandoning your ethics as a contributing writer and web content manager. Maintaining your integrity as a journalist does not diminish your rectitude as an advocate.

If you found the matter so stirring, you could have easily written an essay addressing how you feel veganism is being presented and promoted to a new public in a manner with which you happen to take particular issue. But even then, the validity of the piece would only be proportionate to the effort invested in your research. That means you still have to read the books. To credibly speak on a subject requires more than passionate presumptions about the "likelihood" of a given thing. You must have some direct contact WITH the subject to confirm the notion from an informed perspective. (We [the readers] already understand that you are the world's foremost authority on your own feelings, but we have to know the facts of the matter first, before we can achieve empathy with them. Otherwise, all we can do is take account of HOW you feel, but not knowing WHY.)

You are a graduate-level student in publishing and writing. You are not one of those people who doesn't know any better nor have you been dispossessed of the faculties or vocabulary that enable one to dissect the work of others and explain by what logic you arrive at your conclusions.

It would greatly be to the benefit of your own work if you would convincingly demonstrate these abilities with more vigilance in the future... please?

no more tee?

I can no longer find the offensive tee on the UO website. Does that mean they discontinued it because it was so offensive or that it (do I even say it) sold out? Please tell me it wasn't so wildly popular that it sold out that fast.

Toilet Paper Is for Wiping Crap like This

Promoting one group by putting down another is never cool in my book. Thumbs down to this author. I'm a vegetarian and a feminist, and I'd never promote this book because of its sexist, immature language.

This disgusting book title

I am a vegan, construction worker, body builder and exotic male dancer by night. I find this book terrible, i havent read it either but just by the cover and his photo i can tell hes a jerk and probably not even vegan, ANd come on he doesnt even have a well-defined six-pack so how tough coud he be.

not surprising considering

not surprising considering his band used the word "faggot" in their lyrics


I can understand how and why the title may offend those of particular perspectives and world-views.

But to take a book and dismiss it entirely based on the premise of what it happens to be titled is far from responsible journalism.

Sorry, but this is not a book review. It's a review of a book's title... and as it goes on, it turns into a review of SOME of the content to be viewed on the book's website... which, in turn, becomes a review of someone else's review of the book... and then another. And then I get to hear what an intern thought of the title.

I can't blame anyone for having misgivings about the title, but I do expect the reviewer to put-forth the effort to intelligently confirm such notions with information from actually having READ the book in question.

I'm rather shocked that such word-phobia would be exhibited from a body that calls itself, "Bitch." (and I am already aware that it's about "reclamation, so you needn't remind me.)

C'mon, people. It's a WORD... male genitalia and other body parts are also commonly used for negative labeling. I can't help but wonder how the response would differ if the book were titled, "Meat id for Dicks" or "Meat is for Assholes." Would the book have actually been read had that been the case?

And the intern's statement hasn't much levity. ""I don't want 'vegan' and 'pussy' to go next to one another." (?) Really? So, when I hear my vegan/lesbian friends express excitement over a love-interest who also happens to live the same dietary/sexual lifestyle and they jokingly comment with one another about "hot, vegan pussy" simply as a matter of expressing cheeky humor or general desire, am I supposed to tell them that they shouldn't because an intern at one of their favorite magazines doesn't care for that particular phrase?

Sorry, but I think regulating language is a BAD idea... definitely the wrong way to get one's point across and definitely more threatening and dangerous than a legion of bro-ish frat boys getting into veganism because they think it might get them laid.

So, at the very least, offering a book review where suspicions aren't confirmed from actually HAVING READ THE BOOK is rather a "dick move."

I think Johns book will

I think Johns book will reach a lot of people who know his career as a hardcore singer, not so much as a vegan. If more people actually read the book and understood where John comes from, and the tough life on the streets of NYC he's lived...and being Vegan for as many years as I've known of him(since the late 80's) they would respect his efforts at spreading the word the way he knows best..HARDCORE!

Read It.

I don't know that someone should give a book such a biased review before reading it. I consider myself a feminist, and I am in the middle of this book and have not been offended at all...

I understand the angle that he's coming from, it's ridiculous but effective. The book doesn't have a lot of new information but it's a book that will help a lot of different people to veganism that may not have come to it other wise. It's written from intolerance of peoples excuses in a no bullshit way...

Thumbs up.

not only is he sexist, he is

not only is he sexist, he is also pro-life. i may be a vegan hxc dude, but john joseph doesn't speak for me. keep lifting weights and stop writing books, john.

Judge the book by it`s cover .

Why don`t you read the book first before slamming it .

First of there is a lot of talk about animal rights and spirituality in there to

Second the name of the book is a reaction to the remark if you go veggie you become a pussy, and get get in shape (something i hear a lot in to ).
Whe do we fall over words , in the end the goal of the book just like the goal of your site is to emprove this world for all living beings .
And trust me john is not a sexist , just check the discusion @ girla army and see a lot of feminist vegans havings his back as well .

We all speak to different crowds .

I am in a metal hardcore band , and i teach the same message in 1 way on stage .
When i stand in front of classroom of 6 year olds i bring it in a different way .

And in the end , it`s not who we bring our message , but if it has an effect .
And the message John has been sending for over 20 years in his new york hardcore lots of fuck`s other curse words and loud screams , has been reaching a lot of people and saved a lot of lives , both human and animal .

So God bless him for that .

So give yourself a break and read the book .

And people out there support John and his work .


Being a vegan is not about feminism, being P.C., or fitting into any title.

If you had read the book, you would know the title of the book plays on a struggle that many vegans, myself included has with the rest of the meat eating population. That problem is, if you eat meat, then you're a pussy.

Mr. Joseph is not pushing a "bro-dude" agenda by any means, he is simply stating that his lifestyle is improved by being a vegan, more energy, power and health.

By not reading this book, and putting your worthless "2-cents" in, you are just as bad as the morons he writes about in the book. You are literally judging a book by its cover.

Read the book and open your mind. Maybe he should have called the book, "How to be a super happy fun ray of sunshine"

Because of people like you, damning a great read and possibly life saving advice, we will never progress and keep ourselves in a "single minded", selfish way of life.

He states that this book is for guys who want to go vegan and still be healthy at the gym, but also mentions anyone can take away great things from it.

Thats my "2-cents"

Have you ever been that

Have you ever been that skinny hardcore guy in college who decided to go vegetarian?
I was. I didn't really know what I was doing and my diet consisted of more pizza and veggie burgers than truly balanced veggie nutrition. You're not really getting a good balance of nourishment, but hey, at least you're not eating quarter pounders anymore, right? Then you decide you also want to get into great shape, and you go to the gym...and as soon as you tell anyone you're a vegetarian, they tell you that you will never develop good muscle tone without beef and chicken in your diet. And yes, they tell you "Only pussies do that salad-eating thing". So I continued on like that, for ten years, never quite feeling so hot about it. Then I gave up. I was eating chicken and turkey for the last five years, always wanting to get back to being a vegetarian but not knowing the right way...then I heard John Joseph (who I knew from the NY hardcore music scene) put out a book about growing up the hard way in NYC in the 70's and read it. It was great, and he talked a bit about eating right, but it wasn't til MIFP that I got the real info. Yeah, the title is a bit much to some, but I knew the book would be filled with good info based on his first. This is a book I am very thankful for, and I haven't bought meat since reading it. I got to meet John at the book release party in NYC and he was funny, warm and sincere. I encourage anyone to read it. Thank you, John.

Thank you!

Thank you so much for covering this and articulating what I could not. The rise of the author and his disgustingly titled book have infiltrated the community and good activists have lost their sense of the social justice that is integral to veganism. It has been so frustrating! But, I must point out that your comment, "For example I'm as much about eating vegetables as John Joseph is, but the fact remains that they were probably harvested unjustly" is somewhat misleading. Vegans are responsible for exponentially less plant harvesting than those who choose to consume animal products. To produce 1 pound of beef requires 12 pounds of grain. Omnivores indirectly consume more grain than vegans because the animals they eat require feed themselves whereas vegans directly consume plants. Therefore the consumption of the unjustly harvested plants, which I must point out is dwarfed in number by the injustice of factory farming to the animals, workers, and environment, is mostly carried out by the 10 billion animals killed in the United States every year and not the small population of vegans (whose diets include much more diverse meals than salad).

I think this book is

I think this book is indicative of the schism within the rights movement. The problem is that we view animal rights, sexism, homophobia, and racism as separate entities and we should not. If our veganism was interwoven into the universal fight against oppression then we would see the problem with objectifying women to convey our message (PETA), and also with the attempt to overcompensate and fit into gender norms.

This book plays into the fear of emasculation, and that same fear is why many straight men oppose or fear homosexuality. In Michael Kimmel's "Men, Masculinity, and the Rape Culture," article featured in the book, "Transforming a Rape Culture," he details the four traditional rules of American manhood. The first rule is, "No sissy stuff. Men can never do anything that even remotely suggests femininity" (p. 142). He goes on to say, " Homophobia...keeps men acting like men, keeps us exaggerating our adherence to traditional norms so that no other men will get the wrong idea that we might really be that most dreaded person of all: a sissy" (p. 146).

With that said, Joseph's dichotomy of men as either men or pussies, reinforces rape culture (no matter what's on the dinner plate). Rape culture not only supports violence against human females, but also against non-human females who are repeatedly raped, abused, objectified, and killed to support tradition. By labeling omnivores as "pussies" the author is actually undercutting his own ethics.

I also think the title plays into the stereotype that men are vegan to win female favor (or submission); by labeling omnivores as "pussies" he is embracing the alpha-male identity. This book is about maintaining the power of men, except this time it is redefined as vegan male power.

Meat is for those who refuse to recognize the right of non-human animals, whether it is due to religion, tradition, or selfish epicurean reasons.

a few things

1. To be clear about some of John's other book titles, his hardcore band's name is "The Cro-Mags" so, that explains one thing.

2. John is a krishna devotee, and he is not vegan unless it is extremely recent. It may seems silly to non-vegans, but John eats ghee (clarified butter) and cheese made with vegetarian rennet.

3. This kind of sexism in the animal rights community is not new-- it's of the same kind that fuels various PETA campaigns. Meat is for pussies, naked women in a cage. Same shit, different day.

4. As some other commenters have already mentioned, John's politics don't represent everyone who is interested in animal rights, animal liberation, or veganism. I've hated his campaign since it began with just stickers, and most people I know also really hate it. I think there is a lot to be said about the way a society treats non-human animals and how they treat other people. However, the torture and barbarity inflicted on non-human animals does not justify misogyny and sexism-- that John is part of religious sect that institutionally subjugates women is telling in this instance.

I hate this book

The title alone is very sexist , demeaning and bullying .
It is unbalanced books like this that brings vegetarianism down .
The author needs to grow up . I would be embarrassed to have this on my book shelf .
There are plenty of strong " macho" men in the world , I'm looking for intelligent men and women , who respects all people and animals,
that to me is strength .

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